Bijal Damani
GLOBAL FOCUS: Product competition fills learning gaps, lets learners apply the ISTE Standards

As a business teacher in India teaching grades 11 and 12, I’ve realized there are many gaps between the curriculum and real life.

The major gaps include: once students choose the business major, they don’t have access to STEAM subjects; all subjects are taught in a compartmentalized matter with no integration; skills training is completely missing from the business curriculum; at the end of grade 12, students face National Board Exams, which are primarily based on rote learning; and there’s very little opportunity to use technology for creation.

Seven years ago, I introduced a competition for business students called the Innovative Product and Marketing Competition (IPM). Students create their own teams and, after a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats), they learn the first real life lesson – you need people who complement and supplement your own skills to make a great team, and that may not include your best friends.

In this competition, students have to look around their communities, spot a problem and come up with an innovative product to solve that problem. They also have to create an entire marketing plan, including newspaper, magazine and TV ads, radio jingles, websites and social media plans.

The first 15-18 days are crucial. When teenagers think of innovation, they don’t think of anything less than a car that flies, a time machine or a device that can clean their room with press of a button. But since they actually have to make the product, many fancy ideas like these go down the drain. Students have to create functional, innovative and socially useful products, and a lot of STEM concepts are explored at this level.

This competition helps students better understand their surroundings, making them empathetic toward various stakeholders in the community. It’s important that the innovation come from the students as a solution to the problem they or their community members have faced. For example, one team devised a ScanPen that, when focused on the QR code in a book, reads and explains various stanzas of one of Shakespeare’s plays in their teacher’s voice.

In the process, students explore many subjects depending on their product design requirements. They also try out many tech tools to fulfill project requirements,
including recording, editing, publishing, communication, collaboration, productivity and presentation tools. The list is endless!

Throughout the process, students have a lot of fun and often don’t realize they’re learning so many subjects that otherwise would be outside of their curriculum
boundary.

I have a “Wall of Fame” in my classroom where we display photographs of students and connect them to their product demo video through Aurasma, an augmented reality tool. This wall truly inspires the next batch of students.

In this competition, everyone is a winner and every learner is exposed the ISTE Standards. Students are knowledge constructors, innovative designers and creative communicators, while educators are facilitators, citizens and designers.

Bijal Damani is a globally connected educator who has been widely recognized for her innovative classroom practices. She’s the winner of the 2010 ISTE Outstanding Teacher Award, ASCD OYEA 2009, Forbes Philanthropy Award and two Presidential Awards. She was also Top 50 Finalist in the $1 Million Global Teacher Prize.

 

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