John Seely Brown’s keynote from the recent DML conference is worth the watch if nothing else for his overview of “entrepreneurial learning.” I could summarize, but I found this snip from Sarah Vaala to be a more than adequate overview:
Entrepreneurial Learning. The morning began with a keynote address from John Seely Brown (University of Southern California; Deloitte Center for the Edge) entitled “Cultivating the Entrepreneurial Learner in the 21st Century.” An entrepreneur, he contended, is someone who is constantly looking around at their environment for new and innovative ideas and puting those ideas into practice. In the context of education, then, entrepreneurship should take two forms.
1. Students should be encouraged and enabled to learn through an interest-driven process of ‘thinking’ and ‘making.’ Entrepreneurial learning is the point at which thinking (about ideas and interests) and making (context and things) meet. As examples he pointed to wikis, fan fiction sites, blogs, and online game discussion boards that allow kids to practice writing skills, knowledge production, and knowledge dissemination while making their own content in an inherently motivating way.
2. Practitioners and educational policy-makers must become entrepreneurs as well, by scaling up the innovative ideas and practices that enable students’ learning in the 21st century. Kids are engaging in very profound learning experiences outside the classroom through production and remixing of digital media. Institutional learning needs to begin to incorporate those experiences inside its formal institutions as well. If the typical 20th century learning institution was a steamship plodding along at a consistent speed on a set course, explained Brown; then the optimal learning institution of the 21st century should be a white water raft moving quickly with the ability and agility to traverse whatever direction or waves the immediate environment dictates.
What I especially like in this description is the idea that it conveys a real sense of the flexibility our kids are going to have to have to succeed. They will need to adapt to many different opportunities, be self-directed and creative, and transparent in the ways they share their work. All of which is brought home in a short but relevant article in the New York Times today titled Our Workplace: How Three Companies Innovate. Google, General Electric and Dreamworks all expect this type of entrepreneurial learning disposition.
At Google, it’s about getting outside the box:
Google provides resources — infrastructure, money, time and people — but most important, a vision that tests most entrepreneurs to think bigger than they ever have before. We believe in big bets, and in high-risk and high-reward projects such as driverless cars and Android. By encouraging people to think bigger, we often achieve far more than what we initially imagine.
At GE, it’s about encouraging people to take risks:
…We literally measure employees based on their capacity to take risks in championing ideas, learn from the experience and drive improvement.
And at DreamWorks, it’s about supporting failure:
We feel it is critical to empower employees to take risks, move boundaries and test the limits of their imagination. Simply put: individuals must be allowed to fail in order to innovate.
Thinking outside the box, taking risks, learning from failure…how much of that happens for students in today’s schools?