Teaching innovation in two hours

Misleading title. I’m not really doing two-hour stints. But India was a start, and there’s a bit in previous posts about that workshop. I’ll write more when I recover my camera from its solo global adventures and can share some of the great pics of excited students diving in.

But I’m giving a talk at the Snohomish School District next week, and I’ve decided to start the lecture (part of their Vision Forward speaker series on the future of education) with one of my Hackademia hands-on activities. (ps — if anyone knows a good inexpensive source of 2032 batteries, let me know!) The 50 or so adults showing up for this will not be anticipating glue sticks and scissors, but hands on is a game-changer.

Their previous speaker was talking about online education, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to explore alternative models for innovative education.

A big chunk of the soul of Hackademia is acknowledging that acquiring technical skills is a complicated mix of learning. Actually picking up the material technical practice is actually the easiest part. It’s ushering in shifts in self identity, motivation, and acquiring social capital to continue learning that are the harder parts. I’ve got a paper that was published last summer at the Participatory Design conference on this, and the constellation of supporting skills that are essential for STEM success are what I’m going to emphasize in the talk next week.

The difficulty in getting this perspective represented in actual educational practice highlights one of the most frustrating aspects of how we craft disciplines in universities. Pretty much all employers report that the lack of soft skills is what inhibits employee growth. Yet we jam our technical curricula with so many courses that teach the crucial technical stuff that students have no time for the classes that could complete their education and help them make meaningful change in the world using those technical skills. That’s not especially a trend I see reversing.

Someday I’ll write about when I stopped being a professor in an English department and moved instead to being a professor in an Engineering department. It’s all part of the same story.

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