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Middle School Students Can Make a Difference: Designing Inventions for People with Special Needs Dr. Ronit Ashkenazy Science and Technology Department, Israeli Ministry of Education, Tel-Aviv Dr. Sherman Rosenfeld Department of Science Teaching, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot World Future Society, May 2008
Dr. Sherman Rosenfeld
Outline of Presentation • • • Rationale and Background Program Goals Program Implementation Program Outcomes Contributions to Technology Education
1. Rationale and Background Science and Technology for Middle School Harari Report (1993): “Science and technology are part of the general education needed today and will be required even more in the future by any person capable of contributing to society. ”
Science, Technology and Arts (STA) Centers Purpose: to integrate science and technology for middle school students along with art forms (e. g. , music, dancing and the fine arts); to serve the community Each STA Center is well-staffed and well-equipped: advanced laboratories; art workshops; a large auditorium and a lobby (mini-museum). 80 exist in Israel
“I Can Do It!” Competition Who? Middle-school science and technology (S&T) students, their teachers, project advisors – and people with special needs What? A student design competition in “assistive technologies” Where? The STA Centers (about 35) How? Either as part of the formal S&T curriculum or as an after-school program. How Long? 10 years … and counting!
2. Program Goals • Bring middle-school students closer to the world of people with special needs; • Promote student development of basic design/technology skills; • Promote student learning about basic scientific concepts and principles; • Develop the capacity of Israel’s STA Centers to offer on-going support to develop the culture of technology and innovation.
3. Program Implementation a. • • • Introducing the Program Speakers Visits to advocacy organizations Lessons on the design process b. Defining Needs of People with Special Needs and Developing Products to Meet these Needs
c. Competition Stages, Criteria and Awards Ceremony • Local competitions • “Judging Days” throughout Israel • National Competition: Prizes to student design teams Prizes to the STA Centers Certificate for each student
Evaluation Criteria For student projects: (1) product’s adaptation to the stated need, (2) technological level, (3) creative level, (4) usefulness and (5) aesthetic level. For STA Centers: Quality of educational support programs for the student design teams
4. Program Outcomes a. Enthusiastic Participation. Thousands of participating students and people with special needs; 40 -50 participating STA Center directors and staffs
b. Development of Creativity and Inventiveness Examples of student design projects: Outdoor Suduko game for the blind - Device to help a person with shaky hands to eat a pita and falafel sandwich. - Aid for women with shaky hands to apply lipstick. - Device for person in wheelchair to walk dog. - Playing board games, such as backgammon and chess, without use of hands - Phone with GPS which can be activated by guide dog for epileptic patient
c. Development of student sensitivity to people with special needs. (Answers to Question: “What was the most important thing you learned in the competition? ”) “The handicapped people aren’t so different from us. Even if they need special devices to help them, they’re aren’t so different from us. ” “I learned that it’s important to invest your time to help others that weren’t blessed like you and that the act of giving provides great satisfaction and pride. ” “We learned that there are people who can’t do things the common way, but that there are products which can help them. ”
d) Development of student design skills (Answers to Question: “What was the most important thing you learned in the competition? ”) “You need teamwork, along with creative and technological thinking, in order to invent a product that fits perfectly to a disabled person. ” “We learned how to determine the design criteria for prototypes for a certain target group and what’s the simplest way to determine which of these prototypes is the best. ” “I learned that in order to invent a device, you have to think of the need and then it’s possible to invent things that even scientists don’t think about. ”
e) Development of culture of technology and invention in the STA Centers. Competition acted as long-term catalyst to develop and sustain the culture of technology and invention in many of the STA Centers. Response of STA Center directors when asked to discontinue the program: “No! We want this program to continue!”
5. Contributions to Technology Education Advancing design education: • Use of authentic context • Real-life opportunities to define real needs and to meet those needs by designing novel products • “Bridging the Gap” between formal and informal science & technology learning
Serving as a platform for addressing pedagogical dilemmas: • How to support students in the design process? (e. g. , testing and upgrading their prototypes) • What habits of mind underline design, invention, and good teamwork? • How can these habits be nurtured? • How to develop intrinsic motivation in a competition with external motivation (prizes)? • What kinds of professional development can prepare teachers to engage their students in technology?
Summary The “I Can Do It” Competition is: an educational program in which students help the disabled do common things in uncommon ways; effective in motivating students to develop design skills; a catalyst for empowering middle school students to make a real difference in the world. “When you can do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world. ” George Washington Carver (inventor)
Thank You! Acknowledgements: Participating teachers, STA Center Directors, students, MILBAT Judges of the Competition: E-mail: shermrosenfeld@gmail. com