How to Make Students Innovation Ready, Not Just College Ready


The job landscape is changing rapidly. Ever-evolving technology, the rise of the gig economy, and dwindling job stability mean that students can’t always anticipate which career they’ll be pursuing a few years down the road. In order to make sure they are “innovation ready” rather than “college ready,” students should be taught to think outside the box and learn fundamental modern tools for creating their own companies, i.e. becoming entrepreneurs.

Digital citizenship is part of any modern entrepreneur’s life and business skill set, and includes social media, blogging, networking, collaboration, and crowdfunding. Creative teachers can incorporate these skills into their lessons in fun and engaging ways using some of these simple tips:

Blogging

Blogging and content marketing are skills that every entrepreneur or founder needs to master these days. Fortunately, blogging is also very easily integrated into classrooms. Language, literature, history, economics, arts, and even maths can incorporate blogging into their curriculums.

Blogging teaches students various skills, like writing in the digital age. Forget five-paragraph, third-person essays; students need to learn writing skills for the web. Blogging teaches students how to use hyperlinks, comments, media, metadata, embedded code, calls to action, opinions, feedback, and proper citing of data. Platforms range from simple Blogger or Tumblr blogs, to self-hosted WordPress or the education-specific Edublogs platform.

Classroom Blogs

An easy way to get students blogging is to set up a collaborative class blog. Each week, two or three students are made responsible for updating the blog with lesson notes, events, and important announcements. They could collect handwritten notes from their classmates and collate them into a blog post each day. A collaborative blog is also a great way to curate resources and tips for helping each other with projects, such as using a detailed resources page for each subject.

Individual Student Blogs

The second option might take more individual effort, but provides even greater practice for future entrepreneurs by allowing students to decide on their own branding, design, content, and tone of voice. Students will be able to share their homework and essays on the blog for teachers and classmates to leave feedback and discuss their work. Furthermore, a blog on a self-hosted WordPress site can be turned into a full-fledged website, which teaches students crucial basic web design and content management skills.

Social Media

Most businesses, even in conservative industries, now understand the power of social media. Few tools have changed the way we engage with and perceive the world as much as social media platforms. Students should be taught how to harness the power of social media to achieve meaningful goals, connect with influential brands and communities, and spread their message to the right audience. While Social Media 101 classes in schools are still a dream of the future, there are many creative ways teachers can teach students how to do more than just share selfies or cat videos.

Presenting ideas, products, or data is part of an entrepreneur’s everyday life. Social media can be an excellent tool to present results and data in a school setting. A math teacher in Singapore’s Ngee Ann Secondary School asked her students to tweet the answers to set questions and then projected the tweets onto a screen in real-time. The kids liked it because it made them feel less self-conscious about their answers and allowed them to get real-time feedback.

The power of storytelling has now been harnessed by every major brand, and social media plays a big role in delivering and framing these stories. Students should learn how to create a hook that draws a reader in, how to write for social media, how to use visuals to enhance a story, how to use the right type of media.

Stories in Under 140 Characters

A biology teacher at New Milford High School in New Jersey challenged his students to discuss the various stages of meiosis using Twitter. Using a shared, custom hashtag, they had to describe each stage in under 140 characters and then discuss their results.

Visual Storytelling

Traditionally, book reviews are boring summaries of titles, dates and characters. A great way to liven them up and teach digital storytelling is to create video book trailers instead. Students can either record their own footage or use stock footage and images, which teaches them about creative commons and copyright issues. They can then post their trailers on YouTube and discuss them in the comments or share them on their classroom blog.

Facebook History Lessons

US History teacher Sara Romeyn uses Facebook pages to teach her students about important historical figures. Instead of writing essays, students set up mock Facebook fan pages. They create photo albums, pin important locations on Google maps, post status updates ‘in character’ as the historical figure. Students went above and beyond the requirements, interacting as their figures even during weekends and in evenings, even creating polls in Survey Monkey to quiz their historical peers on important topics of the time.

Communicating With Parents

How many parents ask their kids how school was every day, just to hear them answer ‘fine.’ By setting up an Instagram account, parents will be able to follow along as their kids document their field trips, science or art projects, or group assignments in pictures and videos. Teachers can create a classroom Instagram account and let their students take it in turns to share posts. They can learn about photography, composition, and visual storytelling while keeping their parents in the loop.

Networking

Aspiring entrepreneurs need to build a thriving network of peers, influencers, brands, and innovators. No matter what industry you’re in, from software development to retail, building a solid network is crucial to success and growth. The rise of social platforms like Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter has put powerful networking tools at the fingertips of our students. Teaching them how to connect meaningfully is an important skill.

Connecting With Other Classrooms

Wouldn’t it be cool to find out what students in the same age group are learning in other classrooms in a different state or even a different country? To help their students become global citizens, teachers can take part in programs like Mystery Skype. Mystery Skype is a global educational game in which students must guess the location of another class by asking them geographical yes or no questions.

Research

Encourage students to use social media as a research tool. Platforms like YouTube and Pinterest are much more than social networks, they have become search engines in their own right. Help students find relevant Twitter hashtags to source articles for projects and to follow interesting accounts. They could create a collaborative Pinterest board to curate images and articles and pin interesting videos they found on YouTube.

Funding

Crowdfunding is a relatively new way to raise seed funds for new businesses. Platforms like Indiegogo, Kickstarter, and GoFundMe have helped thousands of entrepreneurs around the world realise their business dreams. New platforms have been created that cater directly to students and schools. There are numerous ways in which teachers can help their students learn how to run a successful crowdfunding campaign.

Crowdfund a Field Trip

For example, a physics teacher who wants to share his passion for astronomy with his students could use crowdfunding to raise money for a field trip to an observatory. The students would be responsible for the whole process. They could come up with an idea for the campaign, set goals, film the promotional video, and share it with the world. After a successful crowdfunding campaign, students could document their trip on their classroom blog via social media updates like Instagram stories or Facebook Live to thank their donors and keep parents up to date.

Find Investors

The stereotypical lemonade stand is a thing of the past as young entrepreneurs have access to increasingly clever fundraising tools. Students who want to raise funds for, say, new PE equipment, could organise a fundraising event and use Twitter and Facebook to reach out to local sports shops for event sponsorship or kit donations. They can learn how to create different sponsorship packages and add sponsor logos to their event images.

Collaborate Using Innovative Tools

Collaboration is an incredibly useful skill for a young, aspiring entrepreneur to learn. Students already collaborate on projects and coursework, so an easy way to help them understand modern tools for global collaboration is to introduce them to relevant digital tools. Teachers can create shared Trello boards to manage their students’ group projects. This tool will teach them how to divide and delegate tasks, create a project timeline, track progress, give each other feedback and move the project forward.

Learn From the Pros

If your school doesn’t have the budget to invite successful entrepreneurs to give talks, you can still inspire your students through videos. Khan Academy has recorded interviews with famous entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Richard Branson. Watch the interviews with your students, or set it as their homework, and then discuss the interviews in a flipped classroom-style lesson.

Shark Tank

Last, but not least, a fun way to teach entrepreneurship is by hosting a Shark Tank competition. Just like the TV show, groups of students will come up with business ideas and products, create their business plans and pitch their ideas, with the best winning a prize. This could be a great end-of-year activity incorporating many of the tools and skills mentioned above.

While entrepreneurship doesn’t yet have its own class in most schools, an incredible amount of resources and tools are available to teach your students entrepreneurial skills and help them navigate the modern working world. Do you have any tips for entrepreneurial lessons? Please share them in the comments.


About 

Jennifer is a freelance writer for Open Colleges. She earned a Ph.D. in chemistry at Imperial College and now travels and works location independently. Her interests lie in travel, personal growth and development, and the future of work. You can follower her @nomadgirls or at http://digitalnomadgirls.com

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