Sunday, 17 March 2013

Educating Entrepreneurs?

Yesterday I got into an extended discussion on Twitter with Tom Peters, Mark Bradford, Jeni Little and a few others about how teacher training needs to be modified so that it is in step with the world that our students are graduating into. The discussion was sparked by this blog post by Tom Peters, which I recommend you read.

Anyway, it's got me thinking about how as an educator one can develop an entrepreneurial spirit in young people. The reason I think this is so important is because, as far as I can tell, the world that our students are going into is full of uncertainty and unpredictability. If they are to thrive in this environment they will need to be highly adaptable, and able to make the most of any new situation they find themselves in. In this context I'm defining an 'entrepreneur' as someone who is able to use their networks and practical and intellectual abilities to make the most of a situation, rather than just someone who launches new business ventures. I'm thinking social and educational start ups, not just money making.

So, that leads me to considering the role that this project is playing (or perhaps is not playing?) in developing entrepreneurs.

There is a school of thought that says that students will learn better if they are aware of what they are learning (eg having a written learning intention on the board for each lesson). We are not explicitly teaching entrepreneurial approaches through the project, and I don't think I've ever talked with the students about what they're learning in terms of them becoming entrepreneurs. But I do hope that the attitudes they're developing in relation to learning (perseverance; seeing challenges as problems to solve, not walls; making connections with others out in 'the world') are setting them up for the lives they're going to live.

Is this enough though?

I'd love to read your thoughts.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

UPT Digital

On Thursday four members of our teaching team had a Skype hui with Renea and Rachel from UPT Digital in Christchurch. UPT Digital is part of Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti, a very student focused state high school in Christchurch, NZ.

UPT Digital began four years ago as an ICT class that was looking for a more inspiring name and way of operating, and now operates with a flexible structure that allows students to spend 3 or more hours a week working on self-directed IT projects in small teams with input from local and international mentors.

It was fantastic to meet with some others who are using a similarly project based approach to us, and we were simultaneously affirmed and challenged by the approach they are taking. We covered a lot of ground in the 30 or so minutes we talked, but two of the things that stood out to me are:
  • UPT Digital is tailored very well to the particular context they are working in, both in regard to the students at the school and the commercial environment (IT industry) they are working with. Their projects are student-passion driven. They collaborate with industry, and are building a direct route for students to move from the school to the workplace. This lead to some interesting discussion with our teaching team after the Skype session as we considered how this approach could be applied in the context of visual arts and music, which are in some ways quite different to the IT industry.
  • Renea Mackie (the project director) takes an admirably up-front approach (I hope you don't mind me writing this Renea!) to making contact directly with industry for the benefit of her students. "We were Skyping the other day with Rod Drury about Pacific Fiber"; "We were working on an event, and school wasn't open, so we talked to Vodafone and used their offices". These industry contacts act as both mentors and collaborators, and are a central part of the UPT Digital approach. This has provided great encouragement for us to strengthen the our current contacts with people in the commercial world, and work to develop many more relationships.
If you are interested in what UPT Digital are doing, and think it might be something you'd like to bring into your own school there are already a number of 'pods' operating in New Zealand and overseas. 

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Students stepping up

One of the student leadership roles we have as part of Passionfruit Magazine is the Social Media Manager. This is a key role in terms of building our audience engagement within the target group. It's interesting to note that although the role might be viewed from the outside as a chance for the student in charge to play on Facebook all day, the task of engaging an audience is actually a really complex challenge. We've had a number of discussions over the past couple of weeks about the type and frequency or posts, and have tried out various approaches.

On the weekend of 2/3 March Ezra, our Social Media Manager, hit a good balance of engaging content and frequency of sharing. It's been impressive to watch how her engagement with the role has increased, and how she's becoming increasingly savvy and analytical about how she goes about the role. This was confirmed this evening by several posts she spontaneously made in our project Facebook group sharing and commenting on data from the 'Insights' section of the project page, and relating the current Facebook audience to our magazine's overall target.

It's so rewarding to see students taking control of and responsibility for their own learning!