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Amy Peach

Director of Instructional Technology, Fontbonne University, St Louis, MO USA

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What does it take to become an educational entrepreneur?

In the rapidly changing world of education, it is important (as I've recently heard a wise man say) not to think outside the box, but to create a whole new box. How do we encourage (or even perhaps teach) recent high school or college graduates to become the kinds of educational entrepreneurs we need to bring our students the education they truly deserve?

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    Jun 26 2012: Students who seek careers in education or more temporary forays into education through a Teach for America or Peace Corps program do so in the hope of using their hearts, skills, imagination, and content knowledge to teach students. All these aspiring educators, i think, have that sort of entrepreneurial image in mind! No one goes into education out of enthusiasm for delivering heavily scripted lesson plans.
    Teaching programs such as Teach for America but also others draw huge number of applicants. In my observation, teacher training programs focus on preparing students to do what it takes, with imagination and ingenuity, to reach students, even if the jobs teaching students later get turn out to be more regimented because of school district or administrative preferences.In my experience, teachers are trained to be more innovative and resourceful than administration welcomes or permits
    On a broader level, each student must be prepared in his schooling to be an entrepreneur in designing his own continuing education. I would call this entrepreneurial because for each of us who wants to learn through our lifetimes, planning our own continuing education is a design problem for us and by its original, client-tailored aspect entrepreneurial.
    Moving to a third category of what students might prepare to do, they might choose to become designers of educational tools outside the system. Normally I would see some value in becoming an actual teacher before becoming such a designer, but everyone who has been a student has some ideas for what methods and tools might be more effective for students like they are or were. This, it seems, remains a great interest for large numbers of people regardless of primary field once they become parents.
    Are you seeing a shortage of people interested in becoming educational entrepreneurs, or are you raising the question of whether those drawn to the field are appropriately prepared for generating, developing, evaluating, and implementing?
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      Jun 27 2012: These are great reflections. Thanks, Fritzie. To answer your question, I really don't see a shortage...I see an abundance (of the spirit, anyway). As you noted, most teachers are trained to be innovative but that does eventually die out in them if the administration is heavy-handed.

      My observations of late, though, are showing a group of young professionals far more likely to use the many tools of our digital age to make the job work well for themselves and their students than ask their administrators what they should do. At my institution, we're looking for a way to support this spirit in a unique way. We're at an interesting point in our history in St. Louis. More groups are looking to support entrepreneurial endeavors in general, but there's not a consolidated effort to encourage pre-service teachers to either use these skills in their classrooms or find a new way to support education.

      I recently read about a huge spike in funding for education start-ups and, when I look at my recent graduates struggling to find work, I wonder "why not"? We have way more teachers than jobs in this town and when you grow up here, you're less likely to leave as an adult. Is there a way to keep these incredibly talented and well educated students in the area and encourage them to push our thinking as a society about what it means to educate our public?

      I think we're on the edge of a changing model for K12 education, but I'm not sure what it is :) I want to support this independent, innovative spirit through either specific events, community outreach, educational programs on campus...who knows? That's essentially what I'm asking.
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        Jun 27 2012: I understand. Where I live it isn't that teachers ask the administration for guidance. It is that standardization of approach is in some districts strictly enforced. Things have become very top down, to the displeasure typically of teachers.

        My experience is that there is expressed support for innovation and entrepreneurial gambits but in fact administrations often want to be the ones to choose pedagogies and train teachers in the technologies and approaches the district favors.
        Technology is, of course, the rage in terms of educational innovation, and technology-specific levies guarantee that technology is a big tool districts favor.
        So the issue here is not that pre-service teachers lack opportunities for training in new technologies. In fact, I fear that teachers are courted all the time (for example, through school district email by educational entrepreneurs who want to show them new technologies. As a department chair I used to be approached frequently with offers to support piloting things and so forth. There are so many of these offers, teachers come to shut them out.

        This may be different in different parts of the country.

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