Never underestimate the value of peer support and connections. It’s one of the things that makes services like Switchboard so compelling. And now they’re using that same power of connectivity to help innovative folks get more connected to their peers—in the real world. Introducing the Switchboard Higher Education Innovation Fellowship, a structured year-long program with both real world and virtual collaboration.
While there is no single noisy startup industry in Portland, there are any number of quietly growing areas of focus in town. One of the ones that shows a great deal of promise—thanks to a combination of experienced and established companies and new upstarts—is educational technology or edtech. And now, folks who are curious about that sector have the chance to experience it firsthand with Portland Startup Weekend EDU. Read More
It’s an interesting time in education. Models are changing. New ways of learning are being developed. And technology is impacting the learning environment as never before. So if you had the opportunity to start from scratch with a new building designed to educate high school girls—and it was smack dab in the core of Portland—what would you do? That’s the very question St. Mary’s Academy is asking. And you’re invited to join in the conversation. Read More
It’s a common complaint. Folks need talent. But they also need talent that has applicable knowledge—not just a theoretical understanding. In order to gain that type of knowledge, however, they need opportunities to get hands on with technology. Which is what makes programs like SuperGenius Academy so awesome. Read More
Portland tends to be a town of more imports than locals. But thinking that the technical proclivity of our region isn’t affected—and buoyed—by the kids coming up through the school systems is both myopic and dangerous. Especially when it comes to assessing the strength of our community as a tech hub, both now and in the future. And yes, I’ve ranted on the topic of K-12 education before. Read More
While we all find a great deal of satisfaction and entertainment in mucking with technology day in and day out, every once in awhile, it’s nice to actually do something with it. Yes, yes. Even if it’s that shiny new mobile technology.
A few weeks back, I wrote a rant about the abysmal state of Oregon’s tech education in which I encouraged anyone in tech—but especially those folks at startups—to consider his/her potential role in helping to resolve the issues currently plaguing our educational system.
Talk, as they say, is cheap.
So how can we act?
Well, admittedly, this is an awfully big problem, but to wax—and perhaps unintentionally slaughter—more platitudes, the journey of 1000 miles begins with one step.
And, I’m proud to say that we, as a burgeoning collective, have already taken two:
- Oregon Tech & Education is an online discussion group designed to gather interested parties, encourage discussion, and facilitate action. If you are at all interested in helping, participating, or just watching what’s happening. I encourage you to join. Even if you just lurk. And I encourage you to invite the teachers and administrators in your life to join, as well.
- Silicon Florist internship/mentorship challenge is a call to all Silicon-Forest-based startups to consider offering a summer internship for high school or college students in your area. No one knows more about what you do than you. And teaching someone who knows nothing about what you do could be one of the most rewarding things you ever accomplish as an entrepreneur. If you’re interested—not even yet to the “willing to participate” phase, just interested—please throw your hat into the ring as one of the participating startups.
From time to time, I’ll keep you posted on these steps, and other steps that the resourceful folks of the Silicon Forest are taking to resolve this issue.
I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish.
A week ago, I went off on a little rant about the sorry state of Oregon’s technology and education mix. And how I hoped that all of us startup types could use our creativity to figure out how to fix the problem.
And while all of this was inspiring, it suddenly meant that I actually needed to do something.
The problem is a big one. And we’re not going to solve it tomorrow. But if we take small steps, we’ll get there.
But, we need to get the ball rolling. And quickly.
So I’m happy to report that I think I’ve come up with one of those small steps. I think.
I was going to announce this on Tuesday, but given the date, I was concerned about the announcement being perceived as a joke. And then I saw the hubbub about April 3 being Good People Day. And that seemed like the perfect day to announce the idea.
You let me know if this sounds feasible and we’ll go from there.
The Silicon Florist Internship Challenge
Summer break is right around the corner. And at the same time, most of the startups to whom I’m speaking are crunching on more work than ever.
Let’s see, underly busy people and overly busy people. What could we do with some of those smart kids and some of those startups needing help?
That’s right. Internships.
Just think. What if you had had the opportunity as a high-school or college student to shadow an entrepreneur like you? What if you had had the opportunity to learn some of the secrets of business or coding or planning or writing or whatever? How cool would that have been? How much better prepared would you have been to do what you’re doing now?
I think the value to the students is pretty obvious.
So, I’m suggesting that we all work to take on some interns this summer. Could be paid. Could be just a learning and experience kind of thing.
I don’t really care how you structure the compensation arrangement. I just want to see you do it.
Set up an internship. Make it 6 weeks or so. Get a few kids to spend 5-10 hours a week learning about your work.
You can do it. I know you can.
Oh, I hear you. “That seems like a lot of work. What—besides warm fuzzies—is in it for me?”
Well, you get some help doing some of your work for one thing. You get a fresh viewpoint, for another. You have to explain what you do and why you do it to someone else. You get to validate your reasoning. You get to teach. And, perhaps best of all, you get someone who actually wants to listen to you blather on and on about your project.
But, I’ll also work to throw in some other benefits. I’m not exactly sure what they are yet. But every company that volunteers to participate in the Silicon Florist Internship Challenge will receive something along the lines of:
- A dedicated Silicon Florist article featuring your company and your internship program. Maybe I even let your interns post some entries about why your startup is so cool.
- A mention in the press release I plan to put out when I pitch this program to the traditional media and schools. As well as my help flacking that release and your company to the best of my abilities.
- A free post on the Silicon Florist Gig board to advertise your internship, and just for good measure, I’ll throw in a free job posting for use whenever you like. (I know that your company is going to be growing.)
- Some cool Web graphic that helps you promote your participation in the program.
- My promise to promote your internship opportunity, to help you find the candidates to get it filled, and to continue to support your program throughout the summer.
- Oh, and of course, there will have to be some Silicon Florist swag.
… and probably some other things that folks more creative than me will suggest. As I said, I haven’t really thought through your fabulous prize package, yet. But I will.
So what’s next?
Well, first, you need to tell me if this is even a good idea. I’m going to work to hire a couple of interns this summer, one way or the other. But I’d like you to join in the fun. If you think it might work.
And while I’m really interested in seeing what the small Web startups and individuals are capable of doing, I’ll more than welcome the big tech companies around town if they want to join in on the fun.
I just need to know if you’re up to the challenge. We can discuss specifics later.
So let me know, as quickly as possible. We’ll plan on doing the heavy outreach and promotion of the program and its participants on May 1, 2008. That gives you a few weeks to get your ducks in a row. And it will give me a couple of weeks to help formalize the internship guidelines.
I’m looking forward to this. I hope you’ll join me. This could be really good for both the kids and companies of Portland, Eugene, Corvallis, Bend, Vancouver—the entire Silicon Forest—in a number of ways.
Let’s get going on this.