Innovation Week #3 – Entrepreneurial Spirit, Day 1 & 2

 

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Our third Innovation Week is underway with the theme of “Entrepreneurial Spirit”. This wasn’t the easiest topic for our students to grasp, so at first we turned to the Alberta Education material on the topic, since it was part of the “Inspiring Education” work that came from them. This quote outlines their idea of Entrepreneurial Spirit:

“Entrepreneurial Spirit: who creates opportunities and achieves goals through hard work, perseverance and discipline; who strives for excellence and earns success; who explores ideas and challenges the status quo; who is competitive, adaptable and resilient; and who has the confidence to take risks and make bold decisions in the face of adversity.”

– from the “Framework for Student Learning” – Alberta Education

To help further explain the topic to our students we turned to a quote from Yong Zhao:

“a process that results in creativity, innovation and growth. Innovative entrepreneurs come in all shapes and forms; its benefits are not limited to startups, innovative ventures and new jobs. Entrepreneurship refers to an individual’s ability to turn ideas into action and is therefore a key competence for all, helping young people to be more creative and self-confident in whatever they undertake.”

– Yong Zhao

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Once we helped our students understand where they could go with the theme, they took off in a way even we didn’t expect. The first two days had a calm feeling that seemed almost eerie. Gone was the chaos and numerous questions and in its place was a feeling of focus and determination. In our third Innovation Week our students seem no longer surprised by the freedom or intimidated by the task, but rather excited, engaged and ready to get to work.

While the benefit to our students has been there throughout all three Innovation Weeks, it seems in this one we have found our groove and now our job turns to maximizing the potential of the experience.

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We are being very purposeful with our collecting of feedback from our students including multiple ways for them to express themselves. We will again conclude the week with an open house showcase of their learning, but to this we have added a “Speakers Corner” where students can go and share their thoughts on some well crafted questions, and we will also have our teachers interview each individual/group taking part on Thursday.

While not all of the 450 students are engaged in earth-shattering projects, they are all engaged. From jumping in to the experience, to finding purposeful themes to drive the learning, we have been trying to find ways to make the experience a valuable one for our students. Now with Innovation Week 3, we are starting to see just how powerful this can be with each improvement we make and each week we bring to our students.

We can’t wait to see how this week unfolds, but as you can see in the pictures, there are a lot of happy faces busy at work on projects they are very excited about. It’s going to be an exciting next few days, stay tuned…

The New Lemonade Stand


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Steve Gasser

Recently, our government in Alberta came out with the Framework For Student Learning and the subtitle of this document was:

Competencies for Engaged Thinkers and Ethical Citizens with an Entrepreneurial Spirit

The Three E’s, Engaged thinkers, Ethical citizens with an Entrepreneurial spirit, are all great key words for many of us who want to push our students towards a meaningful and thought-provoking education.

The one that really sticks out for me is that “Entrepreneurial Spirit”, clearly a set of skills we want our students to develop, but also a clear direction towards educating employable members of our communities. The reason this component of the framework excites me is the immense amount of potential in where we could go with the learning, trusting that we will have a lot more freedom in how and what we teach. There are so many ways we can engage our students with “real world” contexts and meaningful experiences when it comes to the world of business.

The one that immediately came to my mind was this relatively new world of crowd-funding or crowd financing. It is defined on the Wikipedia page as:

 “…the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their money, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations”

My first experience with crowd-funding was just recently when I joined a site called Kickstarter. This site provides entrepreneurs and innovators an opportunity to seek outside funding for a project they are looking to complete. The people posting their projects usually provide their backers with incentives that get better as the amount donated increases. I became a backer of a movie project by Zach Braff, donating $50 in exchange for an ongoing production diary and a fancy T-shirt.  Had I been able to afford $10,000 I could have had a walk on scene in the movie, maybe next time. The project set a goal of 2 million dollars and in 30 days raised over 3 million.

My thoughts, as I surfed the site checking out other projects, immediately turned to students. Why couldn’t our students utilize a site like this? Why couldn’t we embrace this interesting phenomenon and use it to get kids excited and engaged in active learning and exploration of the “Entrepreneurial Spirit” in a completely authentic manner? Why couldn’t this be the new roadside lemonade stand?

One of the new ways I decide if an idea is within reason is by a simple test – Could students already be doing this independently without us? Of course the answer is yes, so why not find ways to get this in our high school classes, or maybe even in our middle school classrooms?

Kickstarter offers members a page called “Kickstarter School” where it defines 8 steps to making the site work for their projects.

Kickstarter School
01. Defining Your Project
02. Creating Rewards
03. Setting Your Goal
04. Making Your Video
05. Building Your Project
06. Promoting Your Project
07. Project Updates
08. Reward Fulfillment

Just think of all the places students could take their learning in these 8 steps. Now if a project doesn’t get the funding necessary, NO money goes to the project. So if a student wanted to build a rocket powered skateboard (probably not the safest project) and had a goal of $10,000 to develop it, but only had supporters pledge $200 by the time limit, then the project gets declined and the backers don’t contribute at all.

Now maybe you don’t want to get into the money side of things, we all know things can get messy when money is involved, so maybe you take the idea and put your own spin on it. Maybe you run the same system where students have to make proposals for their projects but they present to you, or maybe a panel of local business owners. Maybe they are vying for seed money, and maybe you find people willing to donate that seed money. Maybe they have to present to their classmates and win their approval rather than financial support. There are a lot of ways this could go, but I would show students the actual site, because there is always that chance that you have a budding entrepreneur sitting in your classroom just looking for a way to get started.

With limited research I found this information and felt like sharing, but by no means am I an expert on crowd-funding. I am sure there are many sites out there that could be utilized in a similar way, and I hope if you know of any you will share them here with your comments. What interesting, innovative or unique projects have you come across that speak to this entrepreneurial spirit? What ways do you plan to grow these skills and understandings in your students?