Education + The Sharing Economy


A Reflection on Education Marketplaces

I recently had the pleasure of speaking on a panel at 1871 about how marketplace models (think Uber, TaskRabbit, AirBNB) are making waves in education. Expertly organized by Educerlerate, Inc., and generously sponsored by Pearson, the panel featured some heavy-hitters in the Chicago ed tech scene, including Admissionado,, WyzAnt, and Mntors. I was honored to partake! My fellow panelists and I had the opportunity to give insight into our businesses, discuss the potential of the “sharing economy” on the future education landscape, and answer some important questions around what it means to be an education marketplace and where to go from here.

In recent years, the sharing economy has come under attack for a whole host of reasons. Critics claim it’s largely unregulated, disrupting existing industries, displacing conventional jobs, eliminating labor protections, and trivializing the concept of “sharing”, to name a few! What quickly became evident when listening to the panel, however, was that these companies were decidedly not the “Ubers of education”. In fact, the panel uniformly rejected that association. For the companies mentioned above, and for The Graide Network in particular, a guiding principle is the use of technology to create meaningful, mutually-beneficial, human-powered connections, networks, and relationships that never previously existed. The end result is additive, not dismissive or diminishing.

Moreover, it became palpably clear that the education marketplaces on the panel differed from traditional marketplace models in another meaningful way: the scales are balanced. When you think of the average marketplace model, you tend to think of companies who connect individuals with disposable income to individuals who need disposable income, and most of these companies, at their core, are far more focused on the former. Of course, you need both sides for a marketplace to function, but when it comes to company mission, value proposition, sales and marketing efforts, and customer service, the focus is (almost) always on the paying party. What I heard time and time again from the panel was a resolute belief that both sides of the market are key stakeholders, deserving consideration and support. This certainly holds true for The Graide Network. In every decision we make, we consider the impact on and needs of our teachers, our Graiders, and of course, the students, and we work tirelessly to support all three. It is the foundation of our business and critical to our mission. I felt especially proud of The Graide Network that night. For many education marketplace models, it is a constant and ongoing challenge to work towards closing the education gap. Hiring private mentors and tutors is not an option for most low-income households, where oftentimes the student need is greatest. Companies providing these private-pay platforms have come up with creative and thoughtful initiatives, such as flexible pricing and scholarship opportunities to support and reach these underserved communities. The Graide Network, however, operates in almost exclusively Title I and high-needs schools, where urgency to build college-ready skills is critical. We give support to the teachers who are at the greatest risk of burning out, and we empower students who don’t have access to private support outside the classroom. To us, the sharing economy is a democratizing force and we are excited to be pioneering new and meaningful applications in education.


Elizabeth Nell is the co-founder and Chief Revenue Officer of The Graide Network.

It's Finals Week!


It has been an exciting quarter for The Graide Network. We are about to cap off a successful thirteen-week pilot with 34 assignments graded, or ~180 hours, with positive feedback all around. Most importantly, our gallant pilot participants--both teachers and Graiders--provided wildly helpful input. We ♥ feedback (obviously!) and are already putting our users' feedback to good use. We are making a series of upgrades to the platform over winter break and will launch a bigger and better pilot in January. As the entrepreneur, I tend to think The Graide Network is not only amazing but quite intuitive to use. "Au contraire", said users (predictably). I learned A LOT from the pilot about effective onboarding techniques,  user friendly design, and how to better anticipate process challenges. Fortunately, the patience of our gracious teachers and Graiders got us through these learning opportunities.

Oh, and we are launching a new (temporary) blog, too! Currently, every last minute of our developers' time is dedicated to the new platform. So until they have the time to build a custom blog, you just get me. On Wordpress. Enjoy!


Blair Pircon is the founder and CEO of The Graide Network, a new platform to support some of the most influential people out there—middle and high school teachers. She enjoys learning about launching and growing businesses, K-12 education, education technology, and how schools attract, retain and develop great teachers. 

Welcome to The Graide Network!


Today, we are excited to announce the launch of The Graide Network blog! Our blog is intended to be a resource for teachers, schools, universities, education students, parents and anyone interested in the service we offer as well as the rapidly expanding role of technology in education. What is The Graide Network?

The Graide Network is a gift for the entire educational community.  We provide busy teachers with an extra hand for grading and providing thorough feedback for their students in the form of college-level education students, eager for the experience.  For teachers, the resource we offer gives them more time to focus on the most important aspects of their job that only they can do: plan innovative lessons, implement differentiated instruction, and interact with their students.  For education students, this tool allows them the unique opportunity to engage with and critique actual student work in preparation for student teaching in a classroom environment.

Our Proven Formula

This past spring, we ran our first pilot program. We connected teachers from Arizona, Colorado, New York and Virginia with teaching assistants from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Education and the University of Michigan School of Education.  Of the teachers who used The Graide Network, 100%  gave our “Graiders” perfect scores on depth of feedback, said would refer us to a colleague, and either already reused our service or expressed interest in doing so when school resumes in the fall.  On the other side, the Graiders in our pilot praised the valuable, hands-on experience that will directly impact their future careers. These motivated aspiring teachers loved seeing what students can do and helping them learn.

Join the Network!

Learn more about The Graide Network by signing up for our email list on our homepage.  Follow us on Twitter, Linkedin, and Pinterest, like us on Facebook, and be sure to stay updated on our blog for the latest in The Graide Network and edtech news!

How My Struggles as a First Year Teacher Inspired Me To Start a Company


Five years ago I became a high school biology teacher in a small public high school in Brooklyn, NY. I remember being really excited before the start of my first school year. I didn’t have much experience prior to starting – I was part of the NYC Teaching Fellows, an alternative certification program – but I had learned some interesting teaching techniques during the summer training courses. I was eager to try them out in my own classroom, and to make an impact on the lives of my students! Then the school year started and I quickly realized that I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I was completely overwhelmed and my classroom was a disaster. My students refused to do any of the work I assigned and paid little attention to the lessons. On a particularly memorable day I gave a unit test and my students banded together and refused to take the test, spending the test period chatting about their weekends instead. I couldn’t even begin to think about the things I had learned during my training – things like differentiating lessons, heterogeneous grouping, and all of the techniques for effective classroom management.

Looking back on that first year of teaching and what made it so difficult, I realized a big problem is that new teachers are often overwhelmed with so many different tasks they have to manage simultaneously that they can’t focus on doing any one thing particularly well. In my previous job as a management consultant, we would spend a lot of time working on one deliverable, the move on to the next. As a teacher, I had to juggle many tasks daily, such as planning the next day’s lesson, creating classroom materials, making copies of said materials, conducting parent outreach, attending staff meetings, grading student work, and putting up bulletin boards, just to name a few. This prevented me from focusing on some of the key things that a new teacher needs to learn in order to be successful – effective classroom management and planning good lessons. My students and I both suffered as a result.

This experience is what started the idea behind The Graide Network, a service that eases the burden for new teachers so that they have more time to dedicate to working on the things that are going to make the biggest immediate impact on their students. The Graide Network creates a marketplace that allows new teachers to find online, on demand teaching assistants, or “Graiders,” to grade and provide feedback on student work. By freeing up this task that takes up many hours each week, teachers might be able to dedicate this extra time to finding ways to actually implement the tools they learned during training into their classrooms. Rather than feeling constantly overwhelmed, they can actually improve as new teachers and do what they became teachers to do – make an immediate impact on the lives of their students.


Chen Liu spent four years as a New York City high school science teacher. Chen also trained new teachers for The New Teacher Project.