One of the great things about technology is its potential to do almost anything – sometimes outside the boundaries of what it was designed for. It’s at the core of what we do, and we generally perform better when we’re aware of its limits and where they can be pushed.
Teachers are all about harnessing potential and with every new school year, they solve the riddle of what makes a child tick and what they can do differently to cater to a student’s needs.
Technology is one of many tools they have to engage their students, and this week we’re hosting a group of teachers from across the country to hear how they’re using tech in the class room. It’s all part of the company’s Innovative Education Forum, which gives teachers the opportunity to share their ideas with one another. (You can follow their presentations on Twitter, using the hash tag #MSFTPIL.)
I had a chance to read descriptions of the entries and some of the ideas almost make me wish I was back in school. One that really stood out was from Doug Bergman, a high school teacher in South Carolina. There are a few things that I especially liked about Doug’s class:
- The class killed two birds with one stone. Students learn how to develop a business idea and how to problem solve and transform their idea into a video game (using XNA Game Studio, C# and Xbox).
- Students could personalize their work by focusing on an area that they’re passionate about. For example, two students developed games that were focused on world history and used maps of the ancient world, and two others combined their love of the ancient Pharaohs and trebuchets.
- They had the opportunity to push themselves. Doug talked about one student who challenged herself by learning how to develop games in 3-D, even though it wasn’t necessary and would prove more difficult.
- Students gained exposure to the local business community. The class culminated with each student presenting their idea to business owners, teachers, parents and their peers.
According to Doug, one of the biggest strengths of his class is its focus on experimentation. He says that “If you have some software code on your screen, you’re going to compile it 35 times during class until you get that one success. I think that’s what computer science is all about, this iterative process of experiment, failure, learning and modification. So the students get used to that it’s ok to not ‘get it’ every time, that it’s ok to have these mini failures until they get that one success.”
Valuable lessons for any career