In the words of education expert Ted Dintersmith, recent trends in society and the workplace are making one thing clear: “If kids don’t come out of high school today being innovative, they will come out being unemployed.” What can you do as a teacher, administrator, or school leader to start bringing innovation to your campus? Here are five easy tips from SEED SPOT Co-Founder and CEO Courtney Klein:
Design Think Everything. Design thinking is an incredible process that takes you to the root cause or inspiration of an issue. A traditional approach to problem solving would look at a problem and ask, “how can I make this go away?” while a design thinking approach would ask “what are the root causes of this problem? What can I do to address these root causes so that the problem is addressed sustainably?” When implementing an idea or new approach, always actively ask questions, seek feedback, and continue to make iterations towards improvement.
Have any upcoming professional development trainings? Consider bringing in an expert in design thinking! Looking for the tools to do it yourself? Check out the resources offered by IDEO!
Embrace Failure. Robert Kennedy once said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” As any entrepreneur will tell you, people learn much more from failure than they do from success.
In an industry dominated by high stakes tests and performance reviews, it can be hard to think of failure as a good thing – but it is! In an era that increasingly demands innovation, schools must encourage staff and students alike to celebrate and learn from failure. Instead of pushing a student, teacher, or administrator to the side who tries something new that fails, praise them and encourage them to learn to grow from this experience.
Become a TED Talk Junkie. The tag line is “ideas worth spreading” for a reason! These short, inspirational videos raise and answer questions that can help you learn to approach issues in a way you never though possible before. SEED SPOT NEXT’s award winning social entrepreneurship curriculum integrates TED talks into several units – encourage your teachers to do the same!
Bring the Community In. It takes a village to raise a child – and the same is true for cultivating ideas! Any organization, whether a school or entrepreneurial venture, is only as strong as it’s network. Encourage parents and community leaders to engage with your school as mentors or guest lecturers.
Embrace Experiential Learning. Ask any five year old if they have a dream of what they want to do when they grow up, and chances are they have one. Embrace the five year old inside you and encourage your staff and students to do the same. Encourage those around you to learn by doing and through experience. Simply listening to the dreams of those at your school and encouraging them to follow those dreams can be a powerful motivator.
What does CTE mean to you? Does the acronym make you think of vocational education or technical schools? By and large, we often see CTE, or Career and Technical Education, as being rooted in the vocational education schools of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These systems centered around agricultural education and trade schools. The Vocational Age as it’s known unfolded from 1876-1926 as detailed in this document.
Two institutions emerged during this time and served as models for future programs: the New York Trade School and the Hebrew Technical Institute. Founded in 1881, the New York Trade School provided trade training and education to students and workers. The Hebrew Technical School was founded just three years later and focused more on an overall technical education.
Both the New York Trade School and the Hebrew Technical School sought to provide students with high-demand skills to obtain and maintain employment. Today, the concepts behind CTE are changing as its purpose has shifted from knowing how to use machines to building machines, which meet the needs of society.
Certainly, not all existing programs are obsolete. However, there is an incredible opportunity to mold the future of CTE into programs that are aligned with where the world is truly heading. (Think: startups, for profits for good, and young entrepreneurship.)
How can CTE meet the needs of the up and coming workforce while preparing students to embrace innovation? The answer to this question includes multiple, overlapping layers.
First, it’s vital for CTE programs to embrace the career aspect of their title and provide students with the opportunity to explore potential career paths in-depth. Students should interact with mentors, the community, and potential employers. These face-to-face connections offer more than a chance to network; they allow students to obtain insights regarding which skills, certifications, and educational programs best suit their potential careers.
By its very definition, CTE programs need to prepare students for the future, a future that looks very different than it ever has before. Many of these students will need to create jobs for their own futures and are eager to explore their entrepreneurial sides. In fact, a 2014 study performed by Northeastern University revealed that 72% of Generation Z students want to design their own major. Also known as the Internet Generation, Gen Z’ers are eager to make things better and start their own businesses.
While entrepreneurship is now considered a part of CTE, few schools are actually teaching it. Too many programs are preparing students for jobs in which they do not have to think. CTE programs must celebrate the innate desire of these students to ask why while bringing their career goals ever closed to their education. Seed Spot NEXT does just that by guiding students to unearth problems they are passionate about, assess vast amounts of information, try, fail, rise, triumphant, articulate their ideas, and create real-world solutions.
The Seed Spot Program maps to CTE standards, ensuring that students leave the program with skills that uniquely qualify them to work in the startup and social change fields. It also allows educators to focus on ready-to-implement training materials and out-of-the-box solutions to minimize downtime.
The future of CTE is best represented by career-ready students who are eager to learn and explore new concepts whether that’s in high education or on the job. It’s no longer the so-called “non-academic track” but a pathway to success, which intersects with academic subjects. It’s highly relevant to workplace trends while simultaneously prioritizes rigor and innovation.
At its heart, the CTE of today embodies the core NEXT generation values highlighted on Seed Spot Next’s website:
A perfect example of these values in action can be found in the Phoenix Union School District. Through SEED SPOT NEXT, the Future Business Leaders of American, and DECA, Inc., Phoenix students are working alongside their CTE instructors to put entrepreneurial skills in practice and network with local professionals. Amanda Yocum, a Phoenix Union School District CTE Curriculum Specialist, explains the value of this experience, saying, “It’s a great opportunity for students to make connections to the real world application of content they learn in class. This experience affords educators and students to look at classroom learning differently and allows students to be creative and innovative. As students learn to “build the new machine” of the future, they also learn to build an engaging and fruitful career for themselves.
By: Courtney Klein, Co-Founder & CEO of SEED SPOT
Today’s educators face a number of challenges when preparing students for life outside the classroom. These challenges are centered around one universal truth; the nature of work and success has changed drastically in our society. The focus has moved away from hard skills and rote material as these sorts of tasks are easily and readily automated. Instead, employers eagerly look for candidates who are excellent leaders, team players, communicators, and problem solvers.
By that same token, today’s students are hungry for creative methods of instruction, which allow them to collaborate with peers, solve big problems, and change the shape of society. It’s no secret that technology is critical to the engagement and participation of many students. After all, information is our most vital resource, and technology can be employed to access that information and develop knowledge.
Thus, the need to facilitate and foster the development of 21st-century skills is certainly real. However, educators also need a framework that is both flexible enough to meet the interests of individual students and comprehensive enough to suit today’s educational climate.
Such a framework does exist, and it can be harnessed to make changes in and outside the classroom. Enter social entrepreneurship.
What Is Social Entrepreneurship and How is It Disrupting Education?
Social entrepreneurship can be characterized by a desire to develop and bring accessible, tangible solutions to real-world problems through innovation, technology, and optimism. Social entrepreneurs focus on the greater good of our global society rather than the bottom line.
Why does this form of entrepreneurship matter in education? When employed correctly, social entrepreneurship allows for the development of 21st-century skills and falls in line with real world, hands-on educational methods.
At their core, these entrepreneurs are excellent learners and demonstrate a desire to understand the full complexity of an issue or topic in order to discover a solution. More than an educational trend, social entrepreneurship offers value to students as it reflects the needs and status of today’s society while allowing them to provide value to others in their community as well.
How Social Entrepreneurship Can Galvanize the Community
Community involvement is one of the most critical aspects of successful social entrepreneurship. Community mentors have the potential to transform student learning by demonstrating to students how what they learn in the class truly connect with the world outside those walls.
Consequently, it’s important for students to have more than a basic understanding of how a business operates. For the biggest return on investment, students need connections with mentors, advisory board members, and potential partners. These professionals can provide them with roadmaps and guidelines of business culture.
Become a Center of Excellence in Innovation
This entrepreneurial journey begins by transforming your high school into a center of excellence in innovation. While it may sound like a tall order, schools across the country are doing just that with the help of our social entrepreneurship training program.
The cross-disciplinary curriculum, teacher training, online resources, and access to national mentors provided by our program guides educators and students while they tap into those 21st century-skills and values.
Watch the concepts of leadership, teamwork, communication, and problem-solving come to life in these recent Demo Day pitches. As you’ll see, these students pinpoint real, identifiable problems in society and skillfully highlight solutions to benefit the greater good.
If you’d like to learn more about how SEED SPOT NEXT can bring innovation and educational excellence to your school district, reach out to our team today.
By Krista Gypton
One of the greatest lessons I have learned is that I don’t need to know how to do something before giving it a try, or allowing students to have a go at it; I just need to find someone who does. This lesson has freed me from feeling like I had to be the expert in the room at all times. It has freed me from feeling like I had to always be the one in control, and it has allowed all of us to experience and learn new things that I never thought were possible.
The problem is that in order to be freed to those experiences I had to first let go of the fear that was gripping me, and then to reach out to others. I had to let go of the negative “what if” scenarios that played in my head, and see them as the amazing “What IF...” opportunities they really are. On top of that I had to be willing to make myself vulnerable enough to admit what I didn’t know, and ask for help from others, often strangers.
I never imagined that my brief time as a telemarketer would provide me with the perfect skill set in becoming a pretty good networker. But months of cold calling strangers, asking questions, getting hung up on and not taking it personally really prepared me for what I needed to do to start building my network of experts. So many people I talk with, not just teachers, all people, limit themselves in what they can get done because they “don’t know someone who does that.” I say, so what, go find them. So I get online, post on my social media outlets and start sending emails, get on the phone and show up on front doorsteps. Ok, maybe not doorsteps, but I’m not averse to the idea. My good friend Carolyn Hill from the Boomerang Project always says, “If you don’t A-S-K you can’t G-E-T!” So ASK I have. And the amazing part is that the majority of the time I get a positive response. People want to know they are useful. They want to share their story, their skills, their time. I know I was just as shocked as you might be right now, but it’s true. Once I was willing to dive in and make that first call, I started realizing the snowball effect it was having. The more positive responses I received the more confidence I built in asking more people.
When I took on SEED SPOT NEXT this year, a Social Entrepreneurial class for teens that I had absolutely no experience with at all, I was convinced that the students would be at a huge disadvantage because I had absolutely no business background at all. I didn’t know the language; I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I just had the foresight to know it was good and the courage to step out of my comfort zone. The wonderful part is that since the beginning of the school year to now we have had a variety of incredible adults step into our classroom to lend a hand. Local entrepreneurs have shared their stories, and business professors have helped understand the lingo. Lawyers have helped us understand the law. Pitch coaches have helped hone students public speaking skills. My students and I went from knowing nothing at all to being surrounded by people willing to help us learn, grow and also support us along the way. My students are now ready to launch their own businesses and I finally understand what they are talking about thanks to dozens of experts who have been willing to teach me.
Networking doesn’t have to be scary. It doesn’t have to be hard. And you don’t have to know all the right people to get started. It helps to start with who you know, then discover who they know and move out from there. These easy steps have led to incredible results in my world. First I post on my social media outlets to see who has skills I’m looking for, or knows someone who does. This has been an amazing and fruitful resource. If you are not on social media, don’t fret. Look through your contacts list on your phone and email, send out an SOS there. Next, get online and ask your old friend Google who is in your area with the skills you need. Then kindly call and ask. I promise you will not be disappointed. Some people say no, of course. But the majority of your requests will be met with an enthusiastic “yes!”. So go ahead- go A-S-K and see what you G-E-T.
By Peter Boyle
They say you never forget your first love. Having unceremoniously dumped my first love years ago, to which I later returned, I can confirm the veracity of this old adage.
For me, academically speaking, my first love was entrepreneurship. The promise of entrepreneurship, of identifying a problem in the world – whether grand or mundane – and then using innovation, creativity, and business best practices to create and lead a venture to solve it, is certainly seductive. Entrepreneurs in the 21st century are leveraging technological gains and innovative business practices to solve innumerable problems, from the accessibility of taxicabs after a night out to ensuring clean water in the world’s underserved communities.
That promise – and the ensuing belief that I could do something about the world’s problems – led me to pursue a concentration in entrepreneurship at the University of North Carolina. Professors like Ted Zoller provided proof that, with the right combination of disruption, innovation, and grit, ventures could do anything. Why not unleash the destructive creativity of the market for good, and solve society’s ills?
Then, I like to say, things took a turn somewhere. I fell in love again – this time with education. Entrepreneurship was soon out of the picture. Teaching English language arts in a middle school classroom in underserved west Phoenix holds much of the same potential for impact as launching a venture. Supporting the leaders of tomorrow as they unlocked the themes of Hawthorne, Orwell, Anne Frank, Gary Soto, and Harper Lee – and determining how they could unleash the power of the English language to be leaders in the world – certainly creates the positive societal change found in the best social entrepreneurship endeavors. And, the impact is visible and instant. There’s nothing like the feeling of accomplishment at the end of a school year after a student enters your classroom unable to write a paragraph in English and leaves having made over four years’ growth in his language arts skills.
There must be a way to combine these two passions – entrepreneurship and education – which both exist to positively transform our world. Turns out there is. Actually, there are two.
I was searching for ways to expand my impact after I made amazing academic gains in my classroom with my teammates in the classrooms next to me and in close concert with our supportive family and community. Reaching 100 students a year is excellent. Reaching 600 is a movement.
School administration is a logical next step for teachers looking to expand their impact. But what about entrepreneurs looking to expand their impact through education? There’s a path for that too. In the fall of 2014, my brand new school opened – the culmination of my educational and entrepreneurial passions. Western School of Science and Technology: A Challenge Foundation Academy serves about 400 7th to 10th grade students at the same west Phoenix intersection where I started six years ago. We had the highest state test scores for any high school in our neighborhood and are looking to be the first A-rated high school in our community next year.
But you never forget your first love. Last year, being a school principal was rated the most satisfying career in the country. It is. But ask any administrator, and they will tell you: you miss the classroom. If entrepreneurship was my first academic love, then education certainly was my first career love. After three years outside the classroom, I had to get back.
If I had thought I had found a way to combine education and entrepreneurship previously by founding and leading a successful public charter school, when the opportunity arose for our school to partner with the SEED SPOT NEXT program, an extension of Phoenix’s renowned SEED SPOT social entrepreneurship incubator, I jumped at the chance.
Now I am taking the role of Professor Zoller and helping to support not just the learners of tomorrow, but also the entrepreneurs of tomorrow. Entrepreneurship and education have molded in such a way that I am not only able to explore both in my own career, but I can support students to do the same. Students have already launched ventures to combat a lack of women in STEM-based fields, and to do something about the dark and unsafe streets here in Phoenix’s urban core.
I never forgot entrepreneurship – my first academic love. And, luckily for the benefit of my students’ game-changing ventures, I never let go of my second – education.
By Peter Boyle
When a high GPA and extracurricular activities aren’t enough – preparing high school students for real life
By David Levinson
I grew up in a small suburb in sunny South Florida and attended a local high school where I consistently ranked at, or quite near, the top of the class academically. By my junior year, I was hungry to become the valedictorian, make a big speech at graduation, win the presidency of a half dozen clubs while founding a few others, and pretty much make my application to any college a shoo-in for acceptance.
I found myself checking off the boxes. Straight As? Check. A ton of extracurricular activities? Check. Some solid recommendations from my teachers? Check. In all, I had the tools, the drive, and (what I had originally thought) the knowledge and skills to crush it at the college of my dreams.
I ended up getting into a private university that was one of my first choices. However, when I got there, I realized just how far behind I was on the skills that matter. Even though, on paper, I lined up well with my classmates, my experience knowing the world lagged far behind. I was new to many social issues, unfamiliar with important details in global and national conflicts, and unprepared to face the harsh realities of a world that did not care about my GPA.
I realized that my upbringing in a suburban “bubble,” through no fault of anyone in particular, had done little to prepare me for life outside of my neighborhood. I found myself playing catch-up, not only in understanding these key issues, but also in communicating, debating, and leading alongside my peers. My problem-solving skills relied on calling up my parents for advice. Pretty alarming for a student at an “elite” college. And I wasn’t the only one. All around me, I saw professors frustrated by the caliber of writing their classes produced, organizational recruiters disappointed by the array of skills in their candidates, and local partners uninspired by the leadership of student activists.
So what went wrong?
Although I eventually grew in my four years in college, I often think back on my high school experience and wonder how I, along with my classmates, could have done this growing up much earlier. It got me thinking about the importance of education, not as a precursor to college, but as a true institution that emphasizes growth of the mind and prioritizes developing real life skills. High schools need to place as much focus on the way we learn as they do on what we produce. We need exposure and access to all that is around us, and we need to produce in response to what is occurring outside of the four walls of a school building.
My thinking revolves around three main principles for schools to consider, and ultimately, act upon:
Schools should emphasize knowledge and skills, not just outcomes.
Results matter, don’t get me wrong. However, the other side of the educational coin is the process, and rarely, if ever, do we acknowledge, teach, or coach students through that process. What’s the point of a student memorizing our past presidents if they can’t describe and analyze what each of those presidencies stood for? Yes, much focus from local, state, and the national government focuses on the results of our students, but even if we can’t change the way students are evaluated at the legislative level, we can at least change the way we acknowledge the journey in our classrooms. Programs like SEED SPOT NEXT prioritize not just the outcomes that are produced, but also the knowledge, skills, and especially the passions that are developed by undergoing the course.
Knowledge and skills are becoming increasingly more important. A report by the National Center for Education and Economy stated, “The best employers the world over will be looking for the most competent, most creative, and most innovative people on the face of the earth and will be willing to pay them top dollar for their services.” What won’t matter in the future is the “A” we earned on the exam, but it will be the knowledge and skills that got us there that will take us even further, and eventually, into employment.
Schools should de-emphasize conformity.
Most of what we do in K-12 education emphasizes conformity and adherence to a specific set of guidelines and principles. In fact, in an interview with a USA Today columnist Steve Strauss, he emphasizes that the current education system was created around the time of the Industrial Revolution, which emphasized a focus on memorization and predictable results, building employees and not thinkers. This is what makes us strong workers but stifled innovators. What is needed instead is a focus on exploration and understanding – a way for students to leverage their strengths and their interests to change the world. Social entrepreneurship is one sure way to make that possible. Helping students explore and own their strengths is another. Which brings us to the final principle – individual strengths.
Schools should prioritize individual strengths.
As Wang Zhao writes in World Class Learners, “For too long, students have been passive consumers and recipients of whatever adults give them: books, facilities, knowledge, tests, and disciplines. Schools have been built to facilitate effective consumption, rather than makers, creators, and entrepreneurs.” How often do schools explore student strengths? How much do we value what students are passionate about and what they want to do? Our students need a way to put what matters to them as individuals to good use.
Emily Anatole recently wrote about how the next generation of learners, “Generation Z,” are well aware of the world around them, and are already offering suggestions and solving problems in this uncertain time. How much are our schools facilitating that conversation? What kind of impact can our schools have if they tap into this potential, and lead each student to his or her own strength in the classroom?
Our schools, therefore, face a choice: hold on to the status quo, continue to produce students with inflated GPAs and little real-world understanding, or emphasize skills through global exposure and social entrepreneurship – skills that will impact not only their students, but strengthen society as well. In the short-term, our students will struggle with such a dramatic shift in educational approach, and their grades and test scores might reflect that, but in the long term, we will produce the kinds of thinkers, innovators, and citizens that our country needs, and we will ensure all students are ready for that first step on the college campus, and, ultimately, that first venture into the real world.
Be sure to RSVP for the DEMO DAY highlighting our current schools and the students who will pitch on the big stage on April 27: http://www.seedspotnext.org/demo-day.html
Our CEO Courtney Klein was recently presented with the honor of the Young Alumni Achievement Award at Arizona State University's 2016 Founders Day. Courtney's story embodies the mission of the SEED SPOT NEXT program to encourage the next generation to solve problems through innovation and entrepreneurship. As part of her award, ASU captured her story on video here. Watch the videos to hear more about Courtney's vision as well as her entrepreneurial journey!
School has not been set up for students to struggle. There has always been one right answer, and teachers have always been there to show the right answer. There’s no right answer to this. I don’t know the answer. I remind my students to be okay with possibilities. Be okay with the struggle. It is okay to struggle. In fact, it’s good. You have to be okay with being uncomfortable.
You know what’s so awesome about this class? It doesn’t matter what level you’re on. I have one student who’s in all Special Ed classes and has a brain tumor, and he is flourishing in here. It’s where he sees his success. I don’t change or modify anything for him. When you give them autonomy – when they have a say of what’s going on, or are bought in… they rise. - Krista Gypton, NEXT Teacher, Walden Grove