PBL

The Eduneer: From Silicon Valley Engineer To K12 Educator

by Howard Chan @socratech

InnovationsOver the last few years in education, I have seen an explosion of branded “innovative” ideas that have many of its guiding principles rooted from engineering. Selfishly, it has been a validating feeling that my so-called “rebel” ways of teaching in the past, is seen as now necessary for the future of education. “Innovations” such as Design Thinking, PBL, Deeper Learning, STEM to STEAM, Makerspaces, NGSS Engineering Practices, Blended Learning, FutureReady, and most recently from the White House pushing Computer Science for All, the shift is finally happening.

I grew up in the heart of the Silicon Valley during the roller coaster period of the .com bubble of the late 90’s. Despite my family’s heavy education-career focused background (it was in my blood), I geographically gravitated to the “cool”, fast-paced and high-paying career of engineering. While there were plenty of rewards being an engineer, there were just as many difficult times living the “high-tech” lifestyle…but I will leave that for another post.

I spent a good decade applying my engineering practices as a network engineer, systems engineer and ultimately sales engineer. While the job titles rotated, it fundamentally was based on a key engineering principle: designing solutions for customers. It typically focused on how we can design, sell, train and support customers in their particular business…pretty simple conceptually. But we all know very few do it well, and I quickly learned to embrace failing forward as a key motivating principle to survive in this field. In short, I have failed many times…

Fast forward a decade, I made the leap of faith and became a 6th-grade classroom teacher. I was one of the few engineers that received grant money from the city to become a teacher. The city made a considerable effort to entice engineers to become teachers and paid for credentialing/graduate programs to make it happen. Fortunately for me, I was already soul searching, and it couldn’t have been more timely. I made the teaching leap but never let go of my engineering fundamentals.

The Silicon Valley days continue to stick with me, and it is inspiring to see education embrace many of those principles in modern day pedagogy and curriculum. Below are my guiding reflections in what defines the beautiful marriage between Engineering + Education into what I call the hybrid “Eduneer.” I look forward to seeing how these Eduneering principles continue to manifest in our classrooms and schools all over the world.

7 Guiding Principles: From Silicon Valley Engineer To K12 Educator = Eduneer

  • Asks the Right QuestionsEduneering
  • Continuous Improvement Cycle
  • Relationships Matter
  • Systems Thinker
  • Seeks Technical Expertise
  • Outcomes Driven
  • Humility

Asks the Right Questions

  • What problem am I trying to solve?
  • Who are my users? audience, customers, stakeholders?
  • Did my original question get answered? Or did it evolve to another question?
  • Who provided input on the question? Intentions?
  • What is the better question?
“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.” -Albert Einstein

Continuous Improvement Cycle

  • Constant reflection
  • Risk taking while working in vaguery
  • Failing is just fine as we learned something from it
  • Fail forward
  • Quick iterations
  • Design Thinking
  • Engineering Design Process
“People who fail forward are able to see errors or negative experiences as a regular part of life, learn from them, and then move on.” -John Maxwell

Relationships Matter

  • Show love and demonstrate integrity
  • Socially Intelligent
  • Building a network – Who do you know?
  • “You can’t sell anything if you can’t sell yourself”
“Change happens at the speed of trust” -Covey
When I was in sales engineering, I was often partnered with a regional sales rep whose quarterly sales report meant life and death. They were typically driven by the bottom line and were not so concerned about solutions, but product sales. It was that two-team dynamic where I found customers naturally gravitating towards the sales engineer, whose role was to support the solution, not the product sales. These relationships were driven by two things; Can I trust this guy, and is he competent? When trust is built in the relationship, things tend to get accomplished.

Systems Thinker

  • Understand connections
  • Things don’t happen in isolation
  • Systems influence one another within a larger system.
  • Understand the bigger picture
“A bad system will beat a good person every time. Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.” -W. Edwards Deming

Seeks Technical Expertise

  • Know your stuff 
  • Surround yourself with people who know their stuff
  • Constant learning
  • Build a personal learning network
“You must continue to gain expertise, but avoid thinking like an expert.” -Waitley

Outcomes Driven

  • Project management mindset
  • GSD – Get “Stuff” Done
  • Measuring success, improvement and growth
  • Celebrate and reflect

“Vision without execution is hallucination.” -Thomas Edison

Humility

  • Work in progress mindset
  • Be gracious
  • Quiet confidence
“Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” -C.S. Lewis

 

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