With a new Ministerial Order on Student Learning (Alberta Government, 2013) highlighting entrepreneurial spirit and the rise of interest in the macker movement, I felt it best to explain how inspiring the maker in children can help foster entrepreneurial thinking in our learners. To support colleagues in their endeavour to meet the needs of curriculum redesign in their classrooms, I finish this post with an opportunity from a group I recently started volunteering for in Calgary – an opportunity for both teacher and students: StartupWeekend.org.
Entrepreneurial Spirit and Education in Alberta
Identifying the need to better prepare learners for both future challenges and opportunities, a new long-term educational vision for the province of Alberta, Inspiring Education, highlights the need to prepare learners through the effective and innovative use of technology as engaged thinkers and ethical citizens with an entrepreneurial spirit, valuing opportunity, fairness, citizenship, choice, diversity, and excellence (Alberta Education, 2010). Furthermore, the Ministerial Order on Student Learning emphasizes the need to develop learner competencies in communication, critical thinking, complex problem solving, and the application of multiple literacies (Alberta Government, 2013). Competencies require an educational shift away from the dissemination of information to a process of inquiry and include the ability to know how to learn, think critically, identify and solve complex problems, manage information, innovate, create opportunities, apply multiple literacies, communicate, and demonstrate global and cultural understanding (Alberta Education, 2010).
The Ministerial Order on Student Learning defines entrepreneurial spirit as “motivated, resourceful, self-reliant and tenacious” (Alberta Government, 2013, para 10).” Characterized by taking risks, setting goals and persevering through adversity, this spirit is competitive, determined, explorative, and “ready to challenge the status quo… to transform discoveries into products or services that benefit the community and, by extension, the world” (Alberta Government, 2013, para 10). This spirit , defines the idea of a maker.
What is a Maker?
Recently, in the Learning Commons at my school, Keeler Elementary, the debut of student maker kits occurred. One of the first stations to be tested was balloon animals. Not knowing how to make these creatures myself, I left it up to the kids to discover – instead of me showing them how. The station was popular, but not as easy as students thought. This resulted in one young boy in particular coming up to me and asking me to “show him” (or do it for him) on his balloon… I am sure many teachers can relate to this. What happened next, forced this grade 4 student to make a decision: to be a maker or to not. I explained to the student I didn’t know how myself, but was willing to explore and F.A.I.L. with him. The student grew frustrated and I asked him if he wanted to quit or keep trying. His response was, “I think I want to quit”. I encouraged him to not take that path. Two minutes later, him and I came up with a plan to make twisted sections of balloons stick together. I then turned around to check on other groups. When I returned, I was the happiest teacher in the world – I found that same student with a finished dog balloon animal. His smile was gigantic and his confidence was high. When I asked him how he felt, he said “proud”. Of course, we made a big deal of this accomplishment and showed it off to everyone else.
What Makes a Maker?
A maker believes that if you can imagine it, you can make it. More than consumers, makers are productive and creative, believing that our world is what we make it. Independently learning to do new things, especially through hands-on DIY interactions, makers surprise those who see their projects; created through perseverance and determination – even if the projects are a bit rough-edged and messy. Open, inclusive and generous in spirit, makers create communities to help one another, thus benefiting the greater whole.
How do we Foster Entrepreneurial Spirit Through the Maker Movement?
Incorporating maker spaces to foster the growth of entrepreneurial spirit in education can be accomplished. A maker is someone who tinkers, creates and innovates through trial and error. In a maker space, tools are provided for students with simple projects to help ignite imagination. This can be as simple as duct tape are or as complex as robotics. Exploration is encouraged through building and tearing apart of objects to understand just how things “work”. Through this process, makers F.A.I.L. (first attempt in learning) constantly and persevere to reach a goal. Working in groups or community, ideas are bounced off one another, built upon, and reinvented to create new and unthought of ideas. This creates an environment for entrepreneurial spirit to be nurtured and fostered as students are encouraged to think outside of the box and try new approaches in a safe environment. These students learn to grow up in a culture that encourages risk taking, goal setting and perseverance – integral qualities to the entrepreneurial spirit (Alberta Government, 2013).
To enrich my learning with engaging learners on entrepreneurial thinking, I have began to volunteer for Startup Weekend – Education Edition (Startup Weekend EDU). This event is an example of how to combine both the maker and entrepreneurial thinking in education. A hands-on event aimed at youth, educators, business developers, designers, and technologists, Startup Weekend EDU runs from Oct 17-19 on the SAIT campus in Calgary. Hosted by StartupWeekend.org, this event features embodies design thinking and entrepreneurial spirit through learning alongside professionals in the fields of entrepreneurship, business, and technology. 54 hours of entrepreneurial innovation, participants pitch ideas, form teams, design and build prototypes, and present to a panel of judges in a single weekend. Along the way, participants receive coaching from experienced technology designers, business mentors, and industry professionals, with the chance win prizes that will help take ideas to the next level. The kick-off speaker, Rami Ghanem, is a grade 11 entrepreneur who was featured on CBC’s Dragon’s Den. Educators and youth can select a focus:
- Edu Track – bringing entrepreneurs, developers, designers, and educators together to pitch and develop education-related solutions (max. 60 participants)
- Youth Track – bringing youth entrepreneurs in grades 9-12 together to develop their ideas with the support of experienced mentors (max. 60 participants)
I strongly encourage checking out this event and how it can support both teacher professional development and student success. More event details can be found at: http://www.up.co/communities/canada/calgary/startup-weekend/4292
Alberta Education (2010) Inspiring education: A dialogue with Albertans. Alberta: Alberta Education.
Alberta Government. (2013). Ministerial order on student learning. Retrieved from http://education.alberta.ca/media/6950988/mostudentlearning.pdf