December 15, 2010

Ottawa High School Tech Program continued

Good day every one, this morning I was at a demonstration of the fall session of the Ottawa High School Tech Program. I felt this urge to write about it, I'm thrilled by what was accomplished this fall. I look forward this program becoming bigger, I'm very bullish.

I have been involved with OCRI for the last four years in this program, and Macadamian for three years with volunteers. Our goal is to increase the rate of enrollment in post secondary in Technology programs, to ultimately increase the number of kids choosing a career in the technology sector. As you might realize in a town like Ottawa, where Nortel was king, this is a great challenge. Many of those kids their parents used to work at Nortel, they are not likely to recommend their kids to choose technology careers anymore.

We've been experimenting for three years, constantly tweaking with this program. Always trying to find a recipe that will work and engage the kids. This semester thanks to the input teachers, and Jen Gina at  Earl Of March, we modified the  formula slightly to make it real for our high school students. We gave them real tough customers, 3rd grade students! The goal was for our students to create games, that would help 3rd grade students in their learning.

For example:  at the end of Grade 3, a student is to be able to read the time from an analog clock. A team of two high-schoolers went out to create a game called MathTime that would help their 3rd grader customers get better with the concept telling time, adding minutes and figuring the resulting time.

There are many more things the curriculum calls for that can be learned through playing games, and being involved into designing the games. Our high school students went through the text books and topics to see how they could help their 'clients' learn through playing. From Biology to Math, the results are fantastic.

The most amazing thing about this evolution of the program is:

  1. High School kids are creating solutions using technology and games to help 3rd Graders, doing something useful with technology.
  2. 3rd Grade kids get to be part of the process of technology creation, opening their mind more to technology possibilities at a young age.
  3. Our High School kids get to integrate a very important skills part of the technology field - first understanding the business problem, then use whatever technology is available to address it. 
We're on the right track with this project. I was speaking with the teachers at both levels afterward, and they were both raving at how engaged were the kids to work together, and how easy it was to engage them. We have more tweaks to do, and we're making good progress. I believe we have a success story in the making right here in Ottawa. I thank all the partners, I thank all the volunteers so far. I also thank Kelly Daize at OCRI for  connecting us all, partners, volunteers, teachers and students. I also thank Kelly and OCRI, for persisting and always be looking for ways to make the program better by listening to our feedback.

We're not done, we need more help. We're at a point now if we want to make a dent in the universe we need to scale. We have an opportunity to scale through programs that are now available. We will know more in the new year about how big and how fast.

Call to action - We will need industry, high-tech companies in town to participate in bigger numbers, we need volunteers from the industry to step up, and roll up their sleeves. It's about making sure our labor of tomorrow gets into technology career, this is our investment to make. I'm challenging you to jump in with us, it's with projects like the High School Tech Program that we will make a difference.

Come on now - Drop an email to Kelly Daize at OCRI to let her know you're interested in supporting us when the time comes.


Robert said...

It is a great program! Glad you made it out Fred and sorry I missed you.

There are so many more real world skills being learned by the high school developers by inserting their student customers - it is amazing and hilarious to see.

The other thing I think it does is bring home to the younger students that this is something I could do some day - here are these high school students from me the high school I will be attending making iPod aps that I am helping to design.

Let's grow it - absolutely. RobL

Frederic Boulanger said...

Hey Rob, thanks for the note. You summed it up very well, right on!