"Shark Tank" in the Classroom

One of the most highly rated TV shows on ABC has students in a Journalism and Media class at San Diego State University going wild. It's Shark Tank for students.

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The formula seems simple. It's having a class -divided into groups-brainstorm the best way, indeed all the ways, to tackle Innovations in new media including apps for the smart phone etc.

Shark Tank in the classroom is the brainchild of Dr. Noah Arceneaux who has been teaching a course on "Creative Uses of Emerging Media" for a number of years but decided to have the students explore ideas for new innovations; and then, after a period on research, interviews and contemplation, have them present their business plans in writing and defend them orally where the best will be chosen.

Now being adopted by high schools and universities in across the country is a new technique called Design Thinking (although Stanford pioneered the concept over 10 years ago). Another related teaching tool, called Project-Based Learning is also being used, and although it requires the teacher to literally redesign their course, has gained in popularity.

Together these teaching techniques get students to think outside the box, usually in cooperation with other students and to solve real world problems. It is the way teachers can get their students engaged, involved and working together, as it is in life, to be successful in the workplace and as a valuable employee.

The American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU) advocating the use of Design Thinking in the curriculum, stated: "General education sits at the intersection of an array of demands facing higher education--demands for more intentionally scaffolded, integrated, and engaged approaches to teaching and learning; more campus-community partnerships; more mentoring and advising; more multimodal learning experiences; and, above all, more meaningful assessment of student learning across these efforts."

The D School at Stanford has become an example for Universities everywhere. As they define the process, it "draws on methods from engineering and design, and combines them with ideas from the arts, tools from the social sciences, and insights from the business world. The process provides a glue that brings teammates together around a common goal: make the lives of the people they're designing for better."

As Sir Ken Robinson, international expert on creativity and education has said, "We are all born creative...(but) creativity gets squeezed out of us" about the 4th grade. Education systems need to find ways to nurture that creativity back again and find ways to engage our students to give them the thinking skills to succeed in the new economy, one that values creativity and innovation.

Twenty years ago it was fashionable to blame foreign competition and cheap labor markets abroad for the loss of manufacturing jobs in the U.S., but the pain of the loss was softened by the emergence of a new services industry. Now, it is the service sector jobs that are being lost. The New Economy, a whole new economy based upon creativity and innovation needs a workforce with new thinking skills to succeed.

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We don't know how many jobs are lost from outsourcing or offshoring. But add in the tremendous number of jobs lost to automation and it is clear that this shift of high tech service jobs will be a permanent feature of economic life in the 21st century. We urgently need to redesign our K-12 and college curricula to focus on preparing students for this new competition.