A number of experiments across the country have demonstrated that entrepreneurship and education can prove mutually beneficial.
This is especially so when cutting edge entrepreneurial ventures and lesson plans are introduced into classroom settings at the K-12-grade level.
The Empowering Nature of Entrepreneurship
As entrepreneurs increasingly enter the educational setting, either through the introduction apps and other technology or via the creation of charter schools, there’s an opportunity for gain on both sides of the equation, education policy experts say.
“Entrepreneurship is about empowering individuals, doing away with bureaucratic middlemen, promoting personalization and giving individuals more control over their time and money,” Frederick M. Hess and Michael McShane wrote in a piece on education and entrepreneurship published in U.S. News & World Report. Despite the benefits, Hess and McShane acknowledge that friction has existed in educational entrepreneurship and so has “a whole lot of self-impressed hype.”
Times are beginning to change though, McShane and Hess point out. While educational entrepreneurs may not have always embraced the roles of educators, they do now and they’re focusing much attention on helping teachers do their jobs.
Examples of solid unions are found across the country. An event in New Orleans, for example, brought educators together to pitch ideas for educational apps and school designs. MasteryConnect and ClassDojo also serve as strong examples of educational entrepreneurship at its best. These free online tools are used by millions of teachers around the world to help streamline classroom efforts.
As entrepreneurs delve more into education, Hess and McShane offer advice to ensure a more perfect union. That advice includes the need for entrepreneurs to remember that educators are allies. With that in mind, they recommend against being “evil” by avoiding apps that might lead to micromanaging. They also remind that entrepreneurship at its heart is about empowering and building, not destroying.
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Advice for Teaching the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs
While entrepreneurial innovations can help educators in the field, more creative curriculum designs may help better equip the next generation of business leaders, some say. K-12 curriculum in particular, Steve Blank, author of “The Startup Owner’s Manual,” asserted in Inc., should do more than teach kids to run a lemonade stand. Blank advocates for teaching true startup entrepreneurship using the Lean LaunchPad/I-Corps class model.
Blank asserts that teaching small business entrepreneurship, the common model in K-12 education, is fine but that it doesn’t go far enough to reflect the realities of the modern business world. The old model “does real damage when students leave entrepreneurship classes thinking they’ve learned something about how entrepreneurs who build scalable startups think and operate.”
Instead of the singular approach, Blank advocates for a more multifaceted, hands-on curriculum design, such as the one pioneered by Cleveland, Ohio’s Hawken School. Teachers from that school attended a Lean LaunchPad for Educators seminar back in 2013 and were inspired to create a whole new approach to business education.
The Hawken School’s approach involves teaching entrepreneurship like the scientific method. Students are required to work on real world problems and learn outside the classroom. The model requires students to formulate hypotheses and then conduct interviews to test them. Through the process they learn more about innovation, analytical approaches in research, problem-solving and more.
The Hawken approach has been deemed so successful, it now serves as a model for other schools. The school has developed its own workshops to train educators about entrepreneurship and problem-based learning.
As Hess and McShane concluded, “Entrepreneurs have a crucial place in education today.” Whether it’s helping develop crucial technology or setting the focus for a more well-rounded entrepreneurial curriculum, a better working relationship between educators and entrepreneurs is a win for all involved.