Education Innovation Ecosystems

This summer I read a book about ecosystems, and my parents bought me a fish tank to learn about responsibility and see an ecosystem in action. I learned a lot about how community interaction can help everyone in the tank prosper, so I was excited to learn that community, education, and business can be thought of in the same way.

The University of Pennsylvania’s Dr. Barbara Kurshan and Dr. Rachel Ebby-Rosen define innovation ecosystems as a network of partnerships between educators, students, businesses, entrepreneurs, and researchers that is “constituted by the individuals in those institutions, their ties to one another and the resources they exchange.” In Colorado we have a few examples of these types of relationships–institutions such as CareerWise and the Routt County CEO program have innovated education and created friendly and prosperous relationships between business, tech, and education right in our backyard.

On the tech side of things, the integrative approach of innovation ecosystems creates opportunities to address problems in education without bureaucracy and offers a feedback loop of constructive criticism from the teachers and students that benefit from the tech, directly to the engineers perfecting the product. Just as with other tech industries, this means that the technology builds upon itself and is constantly in a state of dynamic improvement.

Unfortunately, Drs. Kurshan and Ebby-Rosen believe that the relationships between education, tech, and business necessary for these ecosystems to thrive are not being built as well as they could be. We are in the age of technology; we can print tools, watch people think through brain scans, and launch cars into space for the sake of marketing, yet our education system’s technology is stale and struggles to keep up with the pace that engineers are setting. With such amazing potential for efficiency, it seems like the education system should be more eager to work with the businesses creating these advancements.

Educators, business leaders, and community members interested in bringing these advancements to the forefront of education are encouraged to organize and participate in local workshops and incubators where technology can be displayed. Business and technology has boundless potential to improve teaching methods and bring resources to students who would not have them otherwise, but it will not succeed without healthy community relationships.