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.


  1. I think your program is doing just that!

    I liked your post the other day about your Social Media manager. My first though in reading that, was that job around 5 years ago? It sounds like a job a smart business might value.

    I always say to all my students(even the ones who find they don't like art) find something you love doing and just get on with it. Maybe in doing and achieving that goal we see some people as entrepreneurs?



    1. Thanks Rob! I hope we're helping prepare them for the world 5 years hence in a few ways at least. And maybe by giving them things that aren't all nicely packaged with perfect task sheets we're helping them develop some resilience at least!

  2. Sam, I agree with what you say about "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." Sorry for the massive quote - holiday brain:)

    However, I'm not convinced about the use of the word "entrepreneur". I'm not sure if it's the cynic in me, but I can't not see the connection between entrepreneur and business. At the same the time I'm not sure I can come with an alternative that fits your definition. Something to think about over the holidays!

    Those qualities you mention - perseverance, seeing challenges as opportunities (optimism?) and connectedness - are very important. I think we (educators) can teach students those qualities by building them into clearly defined and understandable learning intentions. Something of challenge I know:)

    Anyhoo, I hope that all makes sense and I'm stoked to see your project is growing.


    1. Good to hear from you Tony. Will we see you in at school some time soon?

      I've heard the term "intrepreneur" used to describe an innovator within an organisation, but maybe that's still too business driven. I'm interested to hear if you come up with another more appropriate term though.

      Your learning intentions point is an interesting one. While I know presenting clear learning intentions is good pedagogical practice, when working in an 'authentic' situation like ours a significant part of the learning is defining problems, and identifying what we need to learn to solve those problems. I guess that's a case of co-constructing the learning intention with the students? I find I'm thinking less about learning, and more about problem solving and content producing with this project.


  3. No problems, Sam. I think that defining problems & identifying needs is absolutely co-constructing the learning intentions. Not to mention the success criteria. I wonder if you are thinking about learning when you work at solving problems & actually produce something? I suspect you're actually tricking your students into learning! :)

    I'm hoping to get into Fraser on Friday at some stage. Not sure how long but will definitely will try to catch up, even if briefly.


  4. Sam 1 - Part 1:

    Kia Ora Sam,
    I dropped out of school at 15. I returned to education doing theological studies (of all the crazy things!) at 21. At 25 believers backed my to try at university. I went on to become an A+ student with the help of excellent lecturer mentors and a supportive community of friends in entertainment and law. From the lawyers I learned 10 hours a day work ethic. From the entertainers I learned to try and display ideas (intellectually even) in a fun and entertaining way if I could. I also had a grandma who wrote me letters every week from Tauranga and posted them to me when I was in grade (primary) school too. Writing to her helped improve writing skills in the family, as a kid. An intermediate school teacher (Brian Cohen) who was a Jewish Kiwi and a total sports mad psyched up physed teacher, used to read my stories out in class as English lessons. Had it not have been for amazing Kiwi primary (grade), Intermediate and High School teachers, I would not have loved learning and school so much. I was raised in church too, so was used to hearing thinkers from all over the world, outlay their thoughts in a 40 minute lecture styled format from since when I was born. Going to university at 25, took me back to those days of doing lots of listening and understanding concepts communicated that could then inform thoughts you wrote down.

    Five years spent in the social media (celebrity-entertainment driven) vast 50 states of the USA taught me these things:
    1. Kiwi students (college) can formulate new thoughts and convey them onto paper a lot quicker than many U.S students.
    2. USA learns and sees the world a lot in pictures, images, or in 'pop cultural' sayings, soundbites, phrases of thought that informs their thinking.
    3. I.T keywords driven and directed media platforms also shapes a lot of thinkers who think online (the Ads, the types of people social media's computer think tank directs thinkers way etc).
    4. Interactive education at being entrepreneurial is something that is taught, something that is conveyed by encountering (seeing) entrepreneurial role models in life too who impact a students imagination and thoughtlife. Yet edu-entrepreneurial education is also a desire in students to want a different world that is better (more useful or more fun) than what they have experienced. Out of a frustration/ or a desire to be more fun, or smarter - students then seek ways to educate along areas of interests that they'd like to improve on. We must never underestimate a student's own spirit as a great teacher in being entrepreneurial to create with creative spirit (eg: intelellectual knowledge informing EQ intelligence that together incite the drivers of imagination, that then informs conceptual abilities, that then create new thought, or new products in some cases of edu-entrepreneurial environments).
    5. Edu-entrepreneurial teaching (eg: my teachers said the word 'creative' to me lots when I was in New Zealand schools, so I always sought to listen and be creative as they hoped - or it was their version of edu-entrepreneur encouraging teaching style. A style I responded to as it was 'kiwi can do' attitude in a learning situation) - is good.

  5. Sam - Part 2:

    6. I like edu-entrepreneurial teaching pathways for akonga (students) as it helps the student to problem solve. It allows the student to problem solve in class, thus students take responsibility for any problem presented to them and they are less dependent on clinging to leaders, seeing themselves as leaders no matter what, or no matter how young they are.
    7. I know that there is nothing wrong with the quality of education in New Zealand. All stages of the learning path are needed to get students (currently taught) are needed to contribute to a student's edu-entrepreneurial learning thought. If anything it's about dropping the right words into a student's (or citizen's) thoughtlife of education to incite thinking around the most relevant ways, business areas in the world need development in.
    8. When that happens, and you say to students "come up with good ideas," the chances are Kiwis will and do.
    9. I prefer the NZ environment of education over the American style of educating. Yet, I like the way America does treat children, youth, students as you would an adult, when it comes to honouring thought. It helps back the student voice a lot younger and that is needed to create and drive entrepreneurial thinking, an area that is highly competitive and (i.p competitive) in a world where all I.T devices are capable of gathering information from tablets/ pcs/ phones etc at ANY time to collect that I.P.
    10. Thus a safe I.P and I.T connected/ protected country, really is the right environment (classroom) to create the right edu-entrepreneurial environment that is safe to create, with the right incentive in place to reward students I.P and ideas for what they create at school.
    11. It is then about the right mentor pods of experts helping rising talent earlier to be more entrepreneurial and thus edu-entrepreneurial teaching is having good dialogue with inventors/ science/ business community too, if and where needed.

    (Excuse rough notes/ yet I trust that adds to your korero there). All the best Sam and rock on!