Friedman, mentioning Olin College: again about inventing your own job

Tom Friedman, quoting Tony Wagner, describes what he thinks should be taught today (that isn’t really being taught:)

““Today,” he said via e-mail, “because knowledge is available on every Internet-connected device, what you know matters far less than what you can do with what you know. The capacity to innovate — the ability to solve problems creatively or bring new possibilities to life — and skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration are far more important than academic knowledge. As one executive told me, ‘We can teach new hires the content, and we will have to because it continues to change, but we can’t teach them how to think — to ask the right questions — and to take initiative.’ ” (from NYT – Need A Job? Invent It!

You know, what’s amazing, this is exactly what the philosophy at Olin College of Engineering is! I’ve been teaching there for the last several months, a course in entrepreneurship, and as I’ve gotten to know the students and the other faculty, I’ve begun to understand their unique approach there.

Another quote:

“We teach and test things most students have no interest in and will never need, and facts that they can Google and will forget as soon as the test is over,” said Wagner. “Because of this, the longer kids are in school, the less motivated they become. Gallup’s recent survey showed student engagement going from 80 percent in fifth grade to 40 percent in high school. More than a century ago, we ‘reinvented’ the one-room schoolhouse and created factory schools for the industrial economy. Reimagining schools for the 21st-century must be our highest priority. We need to focus more on teaching the skill and will to learn and to make a difference and bring the three most powerful ingredients of intrinsic motivation into the classroom: play, passion and purpose.” (from NYT – Need A Job? Invent It!

If this interests you, you should read the whole article. And don’t miss the end:

“In the U.S., 500 K-12 schools affiliated with Hewlett Foundation’s Deeper Learning Initiative and a consortium of 100 school districts called EdLeader21 are developing new approaches to teaching 21st-century skills. There are also a growing number of ‘reinvented’ colleges like the Olin College of Engineering, the M.I.T. Media Lab and the ‘D-school’ at Stanford where students learn to innovate.” (from NYT – Need A Job? Invent It!

Preparation needed

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what kind of preparation college students need as they graduate to pursue their futures. Thomas Friedman writes an excellent column in the New York Times where he says:

“Look at the news these days from the most dynamic sector of the U.S. economy — Silicon Valley. Facebook is now valued near $100 billion, Twitter at $8 billion, Groupon at $30 billion, Zynga at $20 billion and LinkedIn at $8 billion. These are the fastest-growing Internet/social networking companies in the world, and here’s what’s scary: You could easily fit all their employees together into the 20,000 seats in Madison Square Garden, and still have room for grandma. They just don’t employ a lot of people, relative to their valuations, and while they’re all hiring today, they are largely looking for talented engineers.

Indeed, what is most striking when you talk to employers today is how many of them have used the pressure of the recession to become even more productive by deploying more automation technologies, software, outsourcing, robotics — anything they can use to make better products with reduced head count and health care and pension liabilities. That is not going to change. And while many of them are hiring, they are increasingly picky. They are all looking for the same kind of people — people who not only have the critical thinking skills to do the value-adding jobs that technology can’t, but also people who can invent, adapt and reinvent their jobs every day, in a market that changes faster than ever.” (From The New York Times: The Start-Up of You)

This is really true. If your life’s ambition is to pursue an advanced degree then often a college degree is great preparation. For many though, their life’s passion is to join or create a startup and have a really big impact on the world.