Eduporium Weekly | Teacherpreneurs Teaching Students Entrepreneurship Skills

  • Posted on: April 15, 2017 - 5:14am
  • By: alarmand

The innovation in contemporary education is increasing every day. Schools are using advanced technologies, like 3D printing, laser cutting, and even drones to help impart the necessary skills for the future on their students. Among these key 21st century skills is entrepreneurship since the current gig economy is filled with new opportunities all the time. Teachers are also embodying the entrepreneurial spirit and have even sparked their own movement of teacherpreneurs, which has stirred up a bit of a revolution in how students are taught.


Teacherpreneurs Could Help Save Education


Like entrepreneurs, teacherpreneurs have similar goals and go about achieving them in similar ways. While entrepreneurs want to find the next biggest thing and cash in on it, so too do teachers. Year after year, members of the education community complain about the need for change in education, but few ever really act on getting anything changed. With the goal of improvement at the forefront, teacherpreneurs are those educators who strive to use modern techniques to improve the educational experiences of their students. Teacherpreneurs are not afraid to eliminate something that isn’t working and is only still in play simply because “that’s how it’s always been done.” Teachers need unique PD opportunities tailored to their specific needs and those of their students, which they can gain inspiration for by following the paths blazed by other teacherpreneurs.


Teacherpreneurs are valuable members of the school community because of their ability to create. The best teachers are always looking for new ideas and new resources to use to make their teaching more effective. Teacherpreneurs are the teachers who are actually creating these resources, making them effective learning tools because they know what they need in order to be effective. They create an inclusive culture based on the continuous sharing of insights, tools, and ideas, which does a whole lot more to improve education than forcing teachers to attend stagnant PD sessions and ranking their performances. Teacherpreneurs know that, when teachers work together, everybody wins - students, teachers, and the school system.


Teacherpreneurs also recognize and act on the importance of keeping learning materials fresh. Students can’t truly prepare for all the modern world is going to throw at them if they are using outdated methods and materials. Many teacherpreneurs design their learning resources with the belief that they will be used around the world - not just in their classroom. So, they’re constantly thinking of ways to make these resources adaptable and customizable, which is exactly what makes them valuable in 21st century education. This is how teacherpreneurs differentiate themselves from the grain. While huge textbook companies are creating books that are the same for all students and politicians are trying to continue with a one-size-fits-all approach, teacherpreneurs know there needs to be a different method - and they know how it should be tackled in order to innovate with impact.  


Teaching Invention and Entrepreneurship to K-12 Students


Entrepreneurship is a legitimately useful skill to possess in this day and age - and not just for teachers. While teacherpreneurs are great resources for teaching students an entrepreneurial spirit, kids must also draw on innovation to learn some of the same tricks in order to be sufficiently prepared for their next step. Many colleges now offer students the opportunity to major in entrepreneurship, which encompasses a very wide range of skills. Due to the gig economy and the constantly changing nature of the workforce, students with entrepreneurial skills will be better served to survive and move on to the next thing. In fact, many K-12 schools have already recognized the importance of entrepreneurship and have created classes and curricula that help students develop these skills earlier than they would if they waited until college.


Of course, most school districts do not have it within their curricula to include entrepreneurship classes for students on top of their current set of requirements. There was a new acronym created, however, with I and E added to the end of STEM to create STEMIE, which includes invention and entrepreneurship - two increasingly important skills needed for future success. By adding these extra to letters to STEM classes and preaching the importance of what they stand for through hands-on opportunities, educators are helping prepare their students to succeed in an unknown work environment. Being able to invent new solutions to age-old problems or having an eye for a new product or service to accommodate some voided niche in the world is a skill worth having a definitely a skill worth teaching.


Not only do programs that highlight invention skills help children build those skills, they also offer a way for them to showcase their work with tangible results. Students can include photos or videos along with their resumes or college applications, for example. Adding these elements to 21st century education and drawing on the popular TV show “Shark Tank,” has been a fairly well-received approach by students, who enjoy the chance to get to work with their hands and embody the inventive spirit of entrepreneurship. They’re learning the importance of endlessly innovating until something entirely novel is created and that’s what’s going to benefit them down the road. Education that includes entrepreneurship and invention is what students need now in order to be able to make things happen in the future.


Adding an Element of Entrepreneurship to Makerspaces


Makerspaces are already wildly beneficial for all students who partake in open-ended creation inside them. Using the versatility of makerspaces and hands-on opportunities of Maker Education, teachers can prepare kids for any challenge they’re met with by preparing them to use any materials they have to creatively solve problems. Since they are so versatile, kids can also learn valuable entrepreneurship skills in makerspaces as well. While inventing, they could stumble across a more efficient solution to a problem or even create an entirely new tool they could patent! It hasn’t been discussed much, but makerspaces and entrepreneurship are a pretty perfect combination for helping kids become in tune with innovation.


One example we recently heard about was an upcycling initiative that was launched in a school makerspace that ended up having an important element of entrepreneurship. Students were constantly taking apart old electronics with the goal of bolstering their technical skills by putting them back together. While they still learned a lot about the make-up of the devices, they often failed in getting them back together properly and wound up with a bunch of metal components they were forced to throw away. Students and teachers at the school decided to turn these junk pieces into art and created a ‘Parts to Arts’ initiative for kids to repurpose the old components into displayable art - a pretty ingenious idea if you ask us!


Not only did this help build their maker skills, but the ‘Parts to Arts’ program was a pretty great example of entrepreneurship. Much of what happens in school makerspaces leads to inspirational ideas being formulated and carried out by teams of dedicated students. The next step would be to take the program mainstream, which you don’t have to do if it is just serving as an example of entrepreneurship, but you may certainly try if working with older kids. Teachers could launch a Kickstarter page with their own entrepreneurial project and try to secure funding to make it a reality. You never know who might think it’s a great idea and never know what kind of entrepreneurial ideas can be born during a little afternoon tinkering in the makerspace!


Doing More as a Teacherpreneur


Making the decision to become a bonafide teacherpreneur is a great move for educators and the students they serve. By adopting the mindset and actions of a teacherpreneur, teachers can have large-scale impacts on many of their students. The goal, however, is to bring about change on a grander scale. Teacherpreneurs have the most impact when they lead innovation that spans the entire school and catalyzes a continuous culture of creativity and hands-on learning. Teacherpreneurs, by definition, are those teachers who lead from their classrooms by incubating new ideas and teaching strategies and sharing the results with the rest of the teachers in their school community. They even build school-wide encouragement for breaking away from the traditional and trying something new.


Teacherpreneurs are the ones who are regularly doing more with less and finding efficient solutions to pressing problems in their school, enhancing instruction and helping their students grow. They must be willing to take some risks and put themselves in some vulnerable spots in order to create an ideal learning environment, which is similar to what entrepreneurs do - chasing the greater goal. At the same time, teacherpreneurs must keep communication with school leaders open and gain their support when taking these educational risks to empower their students. In order to lead true innovation, teacherpreneurs should start by defining their school-wide mission and goals clearly so everyone is one the same page. This may include developing curricula and teaching materials while challenging the norm and consistently finding novel ways to help students build academic achievement, 21st century skills, and engagement.


In order to succeed as a teacherpreneur, they must also know how to track success. The factors they are measuring are important for another reason too since they must incorporate them into their teaching so that students have the opportunity to achieve what’s desired. Not knowing what constitutes success in their efforts will limit a teacher’s ability to be innovative in their lesson plans and activities. Finally, teacherpreneurs should strive to obtain different points of view so they have the opportunity to combine approaches to create the best possible learning. The best teacherpreneurs know where to look for encouragement and inspiration - something that should not be overlooked when creating a culture of innovation.


Teaching Students to Think More Like Entrepreneurs


Entrepreneurs who are lucky enough to be successful in introducing their ideas to the world have some certain characteristics in common. Whether it’s their willingness to embrace new trends, eye for innovation, or knowledge of their target market, there definitely is a science behind their success. With so many successful entrepreneurs making up the business world these days, higher education institutions are actually weaving entrepreneurship courses into their class selections and even offering entrepreneurship as a major. It’s classes like these that help students see what it means to think like an entrepreneur with a greater focus on the subtle tendencies that will make them successful.  


Becoming a successful entrepreneur involves a good deal of luck, but there are some things high school and college educators can do to help students develop certain skills that will help them succeed. Teaching a successful approach to entrepreneurship involves lots of project-based learning and real world experiences, so giving students real-life situations with specific parameters is ideal. In these kinds of classes, students can experience everything they need to know, including developing a business plan, determining the need for their product or service, and identifying their target market. After forming this foundation, students who really see a future for themselves in entrepreneurship should actually go out and create this company as if they were really managing it.


The goal is to get students thinking like innovators and directing learning outcomes towards them building the skills that entrepreneurs possess. Unlike a lot of STEM education, learning how to be a successful entrepreneur doesn't require having a whole lot of technology skills, but certainly does mandate students develop other key STEM skills. Among these are a tolerance of ambiguity, calculated risk taking, persistence, reasoning, and self-direction. Using the skills they’ve learned as teacherpreneurs, educators can find creative ways to create learning that gives students the chance to work together or by themselves to develop these skills. They can even be combined to create more in-depth learning as long as the goal remains the same and students come out on the other side ready to make a difference with their entrepreneurial prowess.


For the latest EdTech, STEM and 21st century news, follow Eduporium on Twitter and Instagram, like us on Facebook, or sign up for our newsletter for announcements on the best EdTech deals around! Have an idea for the next Eduporium Weekly theme? Send us a message on any of our social media accounts!


Image: © Wake Forest University