Last year, my Business Enterprise and Innovation faculty designed a four-day Minimester. This Minimester was based on the idea of a multidisciplinary entrepreneurial learning event for students to create a product that they would present to the school community and mentors as a business idea.
With this entrepreneurial learning experience as a background, when I recently had the opportunity to meet Yong Zhao at AISSA, as part of The Rudolph Group, there were a few key concepts that I wanted to explore such as:
- How to give students agency?
- How important is the end product and entrepreneurship?
- How can creativity be encouraged?
Yong stressed the importance of student agency and suggested ways for students to make decisions in the school community. One way is for students to have a public forum where they could share their passions and the products that they have created or have peer review groups that could lead to research papers being published.
This idea of student control connects with the Wilderness School’s Digital Technology Committee’s Help Desk website that publishes student digital skills and interests. Although I started the Help Desk’s website, two members of the Digital Technology Committee felt that they wanted to have editorial control and designed a logo for the header. These students are now editors and are planning a promotional campaign about their Help Desk to raise awareness of girls and technology in the school community. Their interest and passion led to their desire for control of their learning.
In contrast to Project Based Learning (PBL), Young pointed out that the product that students make in Product Orientated Learning (POL), should be polished.
What opened up my thinking was Yong’s suggestion that students can polish their product over time. For example, although our Minimester only lasted four days, there were some products that the mentors and the school community saw as socially worthwhile and had marketing potential. Students could follow their interest in an expeditionary style of learning to polish their product in other subjects and in other year levels as their passion and self-directed learning continued.
Young suggested students form a club where other students could get entrepreneurial advice to develop their products. This group could have links with the local business community mentors. When I asked about the idea of the students’ products making a profit, Yong saw ‘profit’ as an act of creating value for others and identifying a real need in the world rather than a selfish business product that for example, used sweatshops.
Yong linked creativity to the ability to see needs and problems in the community, to see what matters and for students to develop their own passion. This is connected to social awareness and observation both locally and globally.
The relationship to a student’s passion and interest is also important. The product could be art, music, writing, research papers. The ‘profit’ could be an exhibit in a museum or publishing a research paper, it could be an app or a product. What is important, is that the final product is polished and that it matters to society.
This video from Connected Learning Alliance is an example of how a student’s interest, passion and observation led to social action.
What can I do this semester to foster student agency, creativity and entrepreneurship?
In my Year 9 Design Technology class, I am using MOD’s Waging Peace Machine Project. This project uses the design process to develop student creativity by making connections with technology and social awareness. Students use their design skills in 3D technology to produce a polished object that matters to society and that will be publically displayed in the MOD museum.
Through the school’s Digital Committee I hope to promote student agency and mentor the development of their Help Desk website. The Help Desk could become an exciting space led by students where they can share their passions, their tech ideas, design objects and apps that matter.
And most importantly, in this year’s Minimester we will have a focus on creativity, student agency and passion and on projects that matter.
Books by Yong Zhao