Saturday, June 12, 2010

Points of Pain Exercise for Spanish, Entrepreneurship and Service Learning Students

by Ann Abbott

I always look forward to receiving the Entrepreneurship Educator newsletter, but I was doubly pleased with this issue because it features an activity developed by my friend, Tony Mendes.  Tony was the Executive Director of The Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership at the University of Illinois, and I was one of his the Faculty Fellows.  Tony is now the Director of the Murphy Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of North Texas.

The activity is pasted below.  When I teach my Spanish & Entrepreneurship course again I will ask my students to go through the exercise to find "points of pain" for the Latina/o community members they meet in their community service learning (CSL) work and their community partner organizations.

Points of Pain Exercise
This first exercise was developed by Tony Mendes, who is the Director of the Murphy Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of North Texas.

Many entrepreneurial ideas come from technological breakthroughs, flashes of insight and revolutionary concepts. However, the reality is that most entrepreneurial ventures are created out of frustration, disappointment and discomfort of one sort or another. "Points of pain” is an exercise that Tony Mendes uses in his entrepreneurship class at UNT.

The purpose of the exercise is simply to broaden the students’ perspectives on opportunities that can come out of flaws in products and services. It has students seeking opportunities out of the frustrations, or points of pain, in day to day living.

Students are assigned to take time between class meetings, usually a day or two, to look around and assess opportunities for improving or developing new products and services that solve or minimize pain in the marketplace. Possible things to look for:
  1. Complaints they have or gripes they hear from friends or people in the community.
  2. Inconvenience they experience when purchasing a product or in acquiring a service.
  3. A product or service “flaw” that is difficult to deal with, such as packaging that takes way too much time to unravel.
  4. The pain that comes from paying way too much (i.e., getting “ripped off”) for a product or service.
  5. Money that seems to be “lost” with little value returned.
  6. Something that can make life easier.
  7. A product or service that can contribute to health or well-being (literally removing pain of one kind or another).
  8. A simpler way to access a product or service (less hassle).
    Students come to class with a list of at least 10 items they have identified (the lists will likely be much longer).
    Then they conduct a mini competition with 5 points extra credit going to the best “point of pain” as voted by the students in class. Often time the ideas developed by the students in this exercise will result in the next phase opportunity assessment or product/service conceptualization.

    Saturday, June 5, 2010

    Journal Review: Foreign Language Annals 43.2 Summer 2010

    by Ann Abbott

    I have five complimentary copies of the latest issue of Foreign Language Annals sitting on my office shelf. (If you want one, let me know!)  It's always very exciting to see your work published.  Here is the reference:

    Abbott, Annie & Darcy Lear. "The Connections Goal Area in Spanish Community Service-Learning: Possibilities and Limitations." Foreign Language Annals 43 (2010): 231-45.

    The issue includes another article pertinent to Spanish community service learning (CSL):

    Polansky, Susan G., et al. "Tales of Tutors: The Role of Narrative in Language Learning and Service-Learning." Foreign Language Annals 43 (2010): 304-23.

    It describes an interesting curricular project at Carnegie Mellon University in which students studying any foreign language (including ESL) enrolled in the same service learning course.  I encourage you to read the whole article to see how "narrative" played out in the students' reading, writing and understanding of their experiences in the community.

    I am interested in the example it gives of yet one more structural model for foreign language service learning.  Whereas our Spanish CSL program at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign involves two separate courses ("Spanish in the Community" and "Spanish & Entrepreneurship") and an average of 100 students per semester, this article described a seven-student class with one community partner.  My students meet in class 100 minutes per week; theirs met 50 minutes.  My students work in the community an average of 2 hours each week of the semester; theirs worked 4-6 hours per week.  All my students' work is done in the target language; their work (it seems) was all done in English.

    Obviously, there are many structural differences in our two programs.  I think it is good that we are building a practice of foreign language CSL that holds many possibilities.  That makes it easier for each institution to find and tweak a model that best fits their unique context.  However, I do think that we should be having a dialogue as a field (are we a field yet?) about some sense of standardization and adherence to best practices.  

    As always, please look on the left hand navigation column of this blog to find an up-to-date bibliography on Spanish CSL.  I hope that this is a good resource for all of us teaching and researching foreign language CSL so that our work can build on each other's and so that our bibliographies refer to each other's work.