The latest episode of the National Podcast of Texas features media scholar and University Of Texas professor S. Craig Watkins. His latest book, Don’t Knock the Hustle, explores how millennials are using technology and working outside traditional centers of power to build what he calls a “new innovation economy.” The book stems from his work with the Connected Learning Research Network, a research collaborative funded by the MacArthur Foundation. Meanwhile, Watkins has been named the founding director of the just-launched Institute for Media Innovation, what the University of Texas is describing as a “boutique hub for research and design located inside UT’s Moody College of Communication.”
Three takeaways from his appearance on the National Podcast of Texas:
1. Watkins’s research contradicts the notion that millennials are antisocial.
“It’s a myth that because they’re interested in technology, they’re disinterested in being social and the world around them. What I tried to argue is that millennials are what I call ‘inventively social.’ They’re improvising and figuring out ways to meet up, to participate in Hackathons, to participate in startup weekends and in a variety of other kinds of efforts that allow them to come together, to see each other, to have conversations, to share an idea, to share an aspiration, to connect, to build social networks, and to pursue their creative aspirations. Not only aren’t they antisocial, but they in fact understand that in order to innovate you have to be social, you have to have a network, you have to have an ecosystem that supports that.
2. Watkins believes what he calls “social entrepreneurship”—millennials’ desire to inject civic engagement into their technological business enterprises—has been one of the key ways millennials have disrupted Silicon Valley.
“One of the mantras that came up over and over again in the research was ‘doing well by doing good.’ They wanted to innovate, they wanted to create enterprises, but they want them to have social impact. They’re the emergence of a generation where this idea of the pursuit of personal wealth, fame, and celebrity is just not the priority. Now, that’s not to say they don’t want to get paid, because they do. But they’re also motivated to have impact and innovate in a way that’s much more diverse and inclusive than the model that we’ve seen emerging out of Silicon Valley.
3. Watkins says his research suggests that public educators in Texas and around the country may have put too much emphasis on technology in the classroom.
“The challenge that Texas and the nation as a whole face is rethinking its educational system and designing classrooms and learning that actually prepare young people for the 21st century. The presumption is that by making classrooms more advanced with the technology that’s available you are somehow creating a learning environment that prepares students for a knowledge economy. But the outcome suggests that’s probably been the wrong approach. It’s not so much the acquisition of technology, but the design of instruction and a curriculum that really allows students to engage in deep, high-quality learning. So we have technology-rich classrooms that are curriculum-poor. And I think that’s the real challenge.”