Innovators: can we be optimistic?

Last week I visited Microsoft’s STIC (School Technology Innovation Center) here in Brazil. STIC exists in several different countries and works to stimulate research on the use of technology for educational purposes. While at the center, I attended a lecture by Professor Resnick, from MIT, who works on the Scratch project.

The Scratch project is a fascinating tool which has made programming more accessbile for Digital Natives. What I find most impressive, however, is how DNs have been working on it to develop their own animations, publish their pictures, ideas, and how they have been working collaboratively in different ways for unique results.

Born Digital states that:

Digital Natives themselves are often the innovators who develop the “next big thing” that their peers, in turn, make wildly popular. The innovative spirit of some Digital Natives, mixed with their technological acumen, represents one of the biggest areas of opportunity for societies that want to create jobs and establish growth businesses. We should find ways to tap into the upside potential of this entrepreneurial spirit to do good things for economies and society at large. To do so, we need to figure out what it is about Digital Natives that make them likely to be good innovators.

Palfrey and Gasser write with an optimistic perspective and I understand that along with the digital era, come several problems that need to be thought of – many of which have already been mentioned in this blog!

But how about being optimisic? This is an example of what a very young DN can do with the right tools. Naturally, these means will be the way through which DNs will be able to create things that will enhance our lives in society. Along with this, another aspect that enables innovation on the Internet is the possibility of working together with other youth, connecting DNs to one another in new and creative ways.

Palfrey and Gasser note that the combination of working colloboratively with others, having the tools to do various types of things in an environment that is relatively cheap, and the entrepeneurship these tools offer DNs, may result in new jobs and new activities that can, and are, changing means of production: ways people relate, consume and produce goods.

There are three types of innovation where Digital Natives can excel. First, as entrepreneurs, Digital Natives are creating new firms and new models that, in a few instances, are transforming entire industries. Second, Digital Natives innovate in their role as customers, in ways that help to improve specific products offered by firms that they have not started. Third, Digital Natives as employees of firms may help to point the way toward enhanced forms of workplace productivity.

When it comes to innovation, I believe it’s especially important to remain optimistic, as digital tools are empowering a wide range of possibilities, with new ways of thinking, and producing things. Digital tools are providing exciting opportunities for individual innovators, regardless of age.Would you have any examples of how DNs are using digital technologies in new ways to improve their society?

– andré valle