“Curriculum design and the next big thing”, Maria Ocampo

As I mentioned in my previous post, from time to time, mεlite will host the stories of other friends that are also passionate about Education. After November’s monthly story around “Teamwork. Creativity. Learning” by Xenia Mastropetrou, this month’s story comes from Maria Ocampo, a friend, who apart from speaking fluently 5 languages she is one of the few people that I know that masters HR and IT, two areas that for some are considered the exact opposites. She gives a very different perspective on some very typical education questions. Enjoy!

Maria is an experienced professional and leader in the non for profit and private sectors in the Management & Professional Services and ICT industries in organizations such as AIESEC International, Accenture and Google. She is an expert in the design scaling, operation and roll out of large projects around, recruitment strategy, organizational change, multi-sector partnerships, leadership development initiatives, large group innovation processes, marketing and communications campaigns, complex programs sales and adult learning projects.

Her aim is quite simple as she says: “Do interesting and challenging work and be inspired by the people around me. I get to do this every day at ThoughtWorks one of the leading tech firms in the world, a social and commercial community whose purpose is to revolutionize software creation and delivery while advocating for positive social change in the world.”

Maria, if you could build the curriculum of your dream-school, how would it look like?

I believe classrooms and curricula should aim at working like top consulting teams to maximize the learning experience; Learn from multiple approaches of project and lean management to become truly agile and adaptive to the complex and ever fast changing environment we face day by day.

I believe the dream curriculum evolves constantly based on continuous feedback from a wide range of people (students, professors and scientists, industry leaders and mid management…). I am a strong believer of failing fast to learn fast. The key is to pursue your learning efforts as a discrete set of experiments designed to learn certain things, and instrumenting each phase in such a way that the desired learning is achieved.

The central question should always be:“What do we hope to learn from this effort?”

The ultimate goal of a ‘learning fast’ approach to innovation in education is to embed in people the ability to extract the key insights from all pursuits and the ability to quickly recognize how to modify your curriculum to take advantage of unexpected learning, and the flexibility and empowerment to make the necessary course corrections.

The faster you get at learning from unforeseen circumstances and outcomes, the faster you can turn an invention into an innovation by landing on what the student and the market finds truly valuable (and communicating the value in a compelling way). Fail to identify the key value AND a compelling way to communicate it, and you will fail to drive mass learning and adoption.

Let’s look at a quick example of learning faster what the keys to market success are from the technology industry:

Apple launched the iPod 2-3 years before they launched the Windows version of iTunes. Apple launched the Motorola ROKR two years before they launched the iPhone. The iPhone came out one year before the AppStore was launched. And finally, it took Apple only about three months to move from talking about the iPad using the tagline “Our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price.” to showing people to lean back using the iPad. All of the solution components lists unlocked mass adoption of an Apple solution, but took Apple time to discover and learn and it is becoming shorter and shorter.

I believe curriculum designers should focus their energies on uncovering how they can instrument for learning and accelerate their ability to learn and adapt whether a curriculum succeeds or fails instead of focusing on the one structural change that will make it all better.

Technology has been disrupting typical models of Education day by day globally. What do you think is the next big think?

I think when going into this topic most people will go into topics related to virtual education, advantages or disadvantages it may have, but I will go a little behind the curtains to what I imagine is shaping the world as we speak.

Let me use the next big buzzword (drum rolls): Big Data.

Wikipedia claims “Big data is a term applied to data sets whose size is beyond the ability of commonly used software tools to capture, manage, and process the data within a tolerable elapsed time. Big data sizes are a constantly moving target currently ranging from a few dozen terabytes to many petabytes of data in a single data set.”

Regardless of definition, the big data concept centers on huge amounts of data that are not only increasing in volume, but also in velocity and variety.

According to MGI and McKinsey’s Business Technology Office, “The amount of data in our world has been exploding and analysing large data sets—so-called big data—will become a key basis of competition, underpinning new waves of productivity growth, innovation, and consumer surplus…” and implicitly I hope, knowledge. Leaders in every sector will have to grapple with the implications of big data, not just a few data-oriented managers. The increasing volume and detail of information captured by research centers and institutes, enterprises, the rise of multimedia, social media, and the Internet: Things will fuel exponential growth in data for the foreseeable future.”

In the future imagine kid learning to read through a computerized software program, the computer constantly measuring and collecting data, linking to websites providing further assistance, and giving the student instant feedback.  At the end of the session his teacher will receive an automated readout on this kid and the other students in the class summarizing their reading time, vocabulary knowledge, reading comprehension, and use of supplemental electronic resources…

And if you are weary of this idea, you are rightfully so. The rush to collect and use data should focus on how it could help school administrators, not teachers; Tracking systems improve accountability in the educational arena. They take information that already exists in most schools, integrate it into a simple user interface, and graphically display trends in an easy-to-analyze manner. This could help education managers understand what is happening within their districts and policymakers assess the links between content(input) and learning (result)… This increases learning, transparency, and accountability, and makes it easier to evaluate trends in educational institutions.

How relevant is it to be ready to catch up with this trend?

There will be a shortage of talent necessary for organizations and institutions to take advantage of big data. By 2018, the United States alone could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions.

Education as a way to Work (employment or entrepreneurship). What are we doing well as society and where are we failing miserably?

CHALLENGE ONE: Entrepreneurship education in campus is mostly behind what is happening in the start-up communities in most metropolis of the world.

Laying behind…

We have seen plenty successful start-ups rising from US campuses; How often do academic programs in Europe or the rest of the world achieve success in the generation of SMEs? I am not able to say if and how entrepreneurship education and infrastructures influence the number of successful start-ups, but based on my experience of higher education in a couple of countries, I feel safe to say most business studies will provide students with the opportunity to have a glimpse to entrepreneurship in one way or another.

Having taken part in the classic university education I was provided with three basic opportunities to explore entrepreneurship: a. Entrepreneurship as a course, b. Business Plans competitions and c. Academic funds.

In my opinion their main challenge is that they were considerably traditional in their approach to start-up an own enterprise. The methods they utilized for instruction or selection belong to management studies from the late 50’s.

The cutting edge…

I believe accelerators such as Y Combinator and Excelerate Labs, events such as Startup Weekend and 3 Day Startup, and growing movements such as the The Hub, Lean Startup Circle and Uncollege are nipping at the heels of university provided entrepreneurship structures even those provided by Ivy league.

There is a new trend to award the best up and coming start-up, and I am curious to see the impact of such initiatives.

 CHALLENGE TWO: Are universities offering spaces for students to really reflect on the nature of their talent?

About seven years ago, before the fad of entrepreneurship started one of my mentors (a true global maverick of talent development) told me in the middle of breakfast as we discussed my future:

Everyone these days thinks they should be a CEO. They start companies too soon. They barely learned anything about an industry and they already started a company. The chances to fail are high and justifying a failure in the beginning of your career is much harder than doing so later on.

The wisdom of his 50 years long trajectory coaching global business and government leaders was simply palpable; One can argue that his point of view is traditional and strongly influenced by the ways careers developed one or two generations ago, but his point is valid none the less.

The still evolving result of this conversation has brought me to some conclusions:

1. Not everyone is an entrepreneur straight out of university and that is not a bad thing. An idea may need longer to “cook”, maybe joining a larger organization gives you the right practical learning in the beginning… be open to take your time. An example? Look at Marissa Meyer. Larry and Sergei founded Google, but Google simply wouldn’t be Google without her.

2. Some people are not made to have a C in their work title. Many forget to realize that their talent lies on being the right hand or the muscle of the big C. A “C” only becomes as great as their right hand is or as strong as their muscle allows them to be. Being a great right hand or a strong muscle is also priceless.

A great example for this category is Stacy Smith from Intel who spent time as the chip maker’s chief information officer and the general manager of its EMEAP operations. He carries a large part of the success Intel has had in expansion from the PC and servers into the mobile market by managing a staggering investment of more than 18 billion USD.

And the question remains… are universities providing young entrepreneurs with the space and opportunities to figure these questions out for themselves?

Free space. Write something you would like to share with the world:)

Just 5 final points:

  • Schools and universities should foster collaboration between students and professors to the limit.
  • Classrooms, physical or virtual should enable conversations on theoretical knowledge that are meaningful and carrying personal stories of learning.
  • In my dream the lines of hierarchies have disappeared and the connection between teacher and student is much more formative than reading a textbook.
  • Professors with great human quality will lead to students with a great human quality by acting as mentors rather than sources of knowledge.
  • Learning is no longer measured by how much you can memorize facts or mechanize processes but on the ability to extract knowledge and experience, to take something that already exists and apply it to something new.

Thank you Maria! That gives us some food for thought doesn’t it?

You can reach Maria here:

LinkedIn: de.linkedin.com/in/mocampomercado/

ThoughtWorks: http://join.thoughtworks.com/profiles/maria-ocampo

WordPress: http://mariaocampo.wordpress.com/

Mail: m.ocampo.mercado@gmail.com


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