Why We Need TechCrunch in the Classroom

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This guest post is by Naimish Gohil, an Assistant Headteacher at Henry Compton School in London, UK. Gohil is also the founder of Show My Homework, an assignment calendar service.

Over the past two years, I have been teaching Information Communication Technology (ICT) at secondary school. During this time, I have made it a point to share with my students, stories reported by Michael Arrington & the crew at TechCrunch. To give some context I work within a inner London School called Henry Compton, based in Hammersmith & Fulham, London, UK. It is a typical inner London school with challenging students aged between 11-16.

So why has sharing TechCrunch stories been a must for me every Wednesday morning?

To put it simply, my students just get blown away by the world-changing, crazy, interesting, money-making adventures and businesses that come to life by entrepreneurs that start them!

In my school, I have entrepreneurs everywhere I look.

Many have already started building their mini empires, from selling sweets and drinks in the playground at premium prices, to selling computer cheats on eBay and making money via affiliate websites by reviewing computer games. I really love this entrepreneurial spirit young people show – it demonstrates the hunger, the desire to get up and go and do something with their life. It also shows an element of risk taking as school rules state quite clearly that selling snacks is not prohibited in school.

I’ve noticed how using sources of information like TechCrunch can make for a really jaw dropping, inspiring and engaging curriculum for ICT in school. TechCrunch touches base on almost every level as it captures the essence of business, innovative ideas, ICT, stories of rags to riches, failures, humble beginnings in garages and geeks turning into CEO’s.

The list of topics that can be applied is almost endless. To name a few they include social networking trends, e-safety, productivity tools, games/platforms, clever ways to backup data, create websites, blogs, handle email problems and so on.

When I teach from textbooks, they often talk about ICT projects that happened in the 90’s. I prefer to give examples that are happening right now in the present. For example, how Blockbuster became bankrupt because they didn’t maximize the use of technology and let players like iLovefilm/ Netflix take over or how Zynga took took advantage of Facebook’s growth. I believe the curriculum should adapt and evolve like the beast of information that is the Internet. What is the point of teaching ICT and the topics surrounding it if it is based on ancient ideas and concepts?

I remember in the early days showing a presentation to a group of students. The PowerPoint displayed a photo of Steve Jobs, Larry/ Sergey/ Mark Zuckberburg / YouTube founders, MySpace founder and Bill Gates on each slide, without revealing what companies they were running. With the exception of some students recognizing Bill Gates as the founder of Microsoft, none of my students had any clue as to what companies the other gentleman operated. When I revealed the company name next to their photo, they were amazed! For the first time, they actually thought about the person behind the company, behind the products and service they so love and use on a daily basis.

The reaction I received is still vivid in my head.

This was the start of TechCrunch, becoming part of the furniture in my classroom. The inspiring stories behind these entrepreneurs need to be told at every opportunity.

I often encourage my students to think about how they can serve, what they can do for others – That is often a route to become successful and make millions. Richard St. John put it very nicely in his speech at TED when he talked about the 8 secrets of success. Serve others, love what you do with passion and the money will come.

For homework I often put links to articles on Techcrunch via Show My Homework for students to read, explore and discuss at the start of lessons. Projects I teach, usually have to be put into context with real life examples. Instead of using the usual blue chip companies, I use starts ups I discover on Techcrunch, it is a lot more fun and interesting.

I really believe there is a place for TechCrunch in the school curriculum we deliver. In this recessions ridden time that we live in, teachers alike and students need to be constantly aware of the positive, amazing things that are happening in the start up world where boot strapped individuals are fighting to change the world and turn their ideas into real life ventures!

Who knows, one of the students I teach could one day be the next Zuckerburg, Jobs or Gates….

Thank you TechCrunch.

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