Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Disruptive Education

I encourage entrepreneurs to look at industries that haven't changed much in decades to find ripe opportunities for new, more sustainable approaches. Our education system certainly qualifies. What are the skills and experiences that our citizens will need to survive and prosper in this world? Innovation, Languages, Creativity, Cultural awareness... Was our public education system designed to deliver these skills? No. It was designed to make sure farmers could read. Then modified after WWII to teach math, science and engineering. Now, I am not really sure what it is designed to do (but will observe we need to import students to actually do upper level math, science and engineering).

So, I'd encourage students to take responsibility for the content of their education. In the immortal words of Mark Twain, "never let your schooling interfere with your education." Pay attention to the advice of mentors and professors whom you trust, but understand that the curricula which shape your education didn't come engraved in stone. You probably have a better sense of what you need to know than the professional educational establishment does.

In other posts, I have discussed the book Medici Effect, which does an excellent job of discussing how innovation is fostered by intersections of cultures and disciplines. These can be random or intentional. This is what at least part of your education should be about. Sure, you need to build some expertise in a discipline, but don't confine yourself. Seek out the random intersections. Go to those seminars that don't have much to do with your field. Put your mind on "open" and see what occurs to you. This is what is going to lead to the disruptive innovations that will change the world. Innovation comes from inspiration and perspiration, but also combination.

What got me going on this? Well, I saw a few students skipping class today to attend the Focus the Nation events at Colorado State. And last week I encouraged a student to attend a session with Susanne Jalbert about entrepreneurs in Iraq, in lieu of her regularly scheduled classroom activity. I'd encourage students not to feel guilty when they do this- don't think of such activity as "skipping" a class, but rather as "leapfrogging' a class. Right DC and Chex?


Anonymous said...

Paul, how right you are. Education is ripe for change. As a former teacher and now an administrator I wonder if we are truly doing what we need to do to prepare our students for the world of the future.

Many of us in education worry that the changes we are attempting to make in education revolve around one thing. That is to help students do well on a test given once a year.

That is simply not going to provide students with the skills necessary to be creative, collaborative, innovative, and culturally aware.

I to was inspired by the Medici Effect. It lead me to bring in all sorts of ideas from outside of education into the classroom. When teaching writing I used Made To Stick and taught my students to principals of marketing, as an example.

Our students are not going to be able to solve the issues of aiding BOP countries unless we can get more creative.

Bopreneur said...

Thanks, Ron. Educators need to be more entrepreneurial, focusing on the opportunities for their students, rather than constraints. Sounds like your students are lucky to have you for a teacher. Are you able to integrate real projects (so called "service learning") into your classes? It's great to see the spark when students do something (good) that they aren't expected to be able to do.

Bopreneur said...

BTW... several people have mentionned that it is "easy for me to say" this about education. Because I am a tenured professor. WRONG. I am not tenured, and I don't believe in it. I am an adjunct faculty member at CSU, which means I am on a short term contract. Same deal at Bainbridge. So, I say these things because I believe them, not because I have some lifetime employment. Tenure is a good idea for Supreme Court judges, but not so clever if you want educational innovation.