By Neicole Crepeau, Contributing {grow} Columnist

One of my children attends a private school that is offering a new class called “The Evolution of Society.’  I recently had the opportunity to sit in on this class and if the kids in this course are any indication, watch out!  The next generation of entrepreneurs is going to rock the world!

The idea was to create a class that would give students the tools to understand the current baseline for technology and where technology could take society in the next 30 years.  As the instructor pointed out, when we were growing up, “The new ideas weren’t so different from what our parents experienced. Now, there are big differences between the lessons our parents learned, the concepts they understood, and the current world.” In other words, what kids see as de facto, we don’t.

Among the topics covered in this class of ninth through twelfth graders:

  • The freemium economy. You can get a lot for free these days, like a gmail account or an online game account. To kids, free is just part of life. They still need to understand the hidden costs, like advertising or the inevitable upsell. Likewise, while free, distributed media is their main source of content, ideally, they understand how that content is shaped and what influences the messages it conveys. Why do companies give you these free services? What’s the business model? When and where does it begin to cost you?
  • The class went through, in detail, the recent Netflix letter apologizing for their pricing change, to analyze the real agenda behind the letter. They asked questions such as was it preplanned, and what were the business and marketing strategies behind it?
  • The history of open source and how open source techniques are being used.
  • The new currency of the web: attention and reputation.
  • Social media tools. What originally attracted me to learn more about the class is that students were required to open a Twitter account and tweet daily as part of their homework. The last third of the trimester, these kids are exploring social media, including specific social networks like Facebook and Twitter, how they are changing, and how they are used by business.

The final class project is to propose a solution, using social media and technology, for the question “How might we redesign the work students do outside of class time to be more interesting, balanced, effective and engaging?” (a question the kids came up with). To do that, the students work in groups of three to create personas of their target users, do research to understand the users’ goals and needs, and then brainstorm solutions to come up with a proposal.

Let’s think about what these kids are learning in high school:

  • That you start designing solutions by gaining a deep understanding of your customers and their goals and needs. That’s a lesson that many of today’s marketers are still struggling to learn.
  • How to conduct user research and develop personas: the basics of user-centered design taught in college programs.
  • The most current and cutting-edge economic models for online content and programs. I.e. how to make money on the internet.
  • How companies target customers, how they gather information about people via their actions online, and how they shape and distribute their messages to reach those customers.
  • Social media and the directions the various networks are evolving.

If you could design a class for young entrepreneurs, this would be it.  These kids are going to walk into college understanding how businesses design and market products.  They’re starting their college career with the basic tools of the entrepreneur. I can’t wait to see what happens when these students hit the marketplace!

Neicole Crepeau a blogger at Coherent Social Media and the creator of CurateXpress, a content curation tool. She works at Coherent Interactive on social media, website design, mobile apps, & marketing. Connect with Neicole on Twitter at @neicolec

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