“Innovation” Presentation at the Middle East and Africa Microsoft Innovators Forum in Jordan

I was honored to have been one of two invited to the MEA forum held in Aqaba, Jordan Sept 7-10. It was 2 1/2 days full of discussions, conversations, sharing, and presentations from innovative teachers and schools from over 20 countries from the Middle East and Africa. The Ministry of Education of Jordan, Microsoft, and the team of professionals who planned the event provided for a truly world class experience. I’ll talk more about that experience next week.
We were asked to present a 5 minute talk on innovation.

To start the presentation, I showed a slide, which said
1) I ask you to consider Computer Science
2) Making innovation work
3) 21rst Century Evaluation

here is the talk I presented.

Good morning. Thank you so much for inviting me as a guest to your conference.

The digital world is such a dynamic area. That’s what I love about it. But how can we possible know, or even imagine where the world will be 10 years from now. So, how can we possibly prepare our students for that world?
Regardless of what country we come from, what culture we grow up in, and what economic conditions we live in…we all must solve the problems in our world……our local world…and our global world. We need tools in order to do that. And the tools of today are digital. The ones who are in command of those digital tools will be the next leaders of academia, research, business, politics, and philanthropy.
We’ve got to teach the students how to learn to design and build their own digital tools, so they can solve those problems
One of the greatest digital tools available in our world today is Computer Science. It is central to all subject areas and almost every known industry. It is the cross-curricular by definition. And solving problems is what it does.
Computer Science teaches students how to use build something, maybe a new tool, using technology, computation thinking, and creativity. That might be a new game to teach difficult concepts to kids, a mobile app for the Blackberry to help better manage your business, a new data analysis software program on the PC for the medical research lab , maybe….. even designing an entirely new device. It gives people the power and ability to build the digital solutions to solve their own problems.
And what’s great about many of the Computer Science development tools…they are (mostly) free. Many international level companies, including Microsoft provide almost everything FREE of charge. So, schools with limited economic resources can actually design and implement a pretty good Computer Science program.

What have we done? What can we do?

Recognize what Computer Science is and consider Computer Science as a fundamental component of education.

Applications such as Microsoft Office and photo & movie editing are excellent tools in the various subject areas we teach in our schools. Look at some of the great projects your presenting about here. Those applications must be taught in subject area classrooms, not in the Computer Science classroom.
We start early. In my school, we’ve got Computer Science introduced formally in the 6th grade and informally as early as the 4th grade. If they choose, students can take Computer Science every year until they graduate high school as part of our Accelerated Program in Computer Science.

Crucial to our success of our Computer Science program were the partnerships that were made from the beginning: with our college counseling department, our division head, school head, scheduling registrar ,parents, students, technology companies such as Microsoft, and even our local college. Classroom innovation could not, and can cannot happen without that team approach.

In July, I was honored to have been one of 9 selected to represent the United States at the Global Innovators Forum in Washington , DC . In that project, we brought together some leading edge technologies, such as the Xbox 360, Computer Science, and we worked with the students to write computer programs , games, and simulations that teach about such global issues such as animal testing in labs, cancer treatments in children, and the exploration of Egyptian pyramids. But, fun games and ideas are not enough for a complete class. So, we brought in Entrepreneur curriculum which gave students a new vocabulary and skillset to be able to take an idea (such as their Xbox game) and go through a process that leads them to turning that idea into a real product , and then taking that product to the marketplace. That’s a skill that is real and is needed by every industry in any country.

Inside the classroom, class is multimedia, multi-tasking; it’s all hands-on projects, student are out of their seats working together every day, lots of guest speakers from the business world. Evaluation is different: In this class, if your robot is able to interact with an environment; if your Xbox simulation accurately interprets your motion; If your ecommerce websites actually processes an order and updates the SQL database, that’s success. (Pause) We use Blogging to allow students to evaluate and reflect upon their own projects, as well as those of others. For one class, the final exam is students presenting and demonstrate one module of class to room full of adults; in another class, students lead a workshop tutorial for adults on making mobile apps. And in another class, they presented their business plans, which they spent all semester writing, to a panel of professional judges. That is how the real world is going to evaluate our students.

Schools must prepare students for the world they are going into, and that world is digital. Program or be programmed.

About Doug Bergman

Head of Computer Science at Porter-Gaud School in Charleston, SC
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