Joumana wanted to create smartphone applications with her peers, but she also wanted to work with peers from the US. Elizabeth, along with her colleague Bruce Kutz, reached out to several local community organizations and ultimately worked to connect Joumana with the IT Club at Rockville High School in Maryland. Students in Gaza collaborated with US peers in a month-long MIT App Inventor Program.
“At Nokia, we strongly believe in the power of networks, whether human or technology networks, to solve some of the greatest challenges in our society. Empowering Joumana to accomplish her vision of a global technology exchange with other students was the best opportunity to implement this philosophy, in line with our company’s ambition to increase the pipeline of women and girls in STEM to reflect the world around us, which is 50/50 male/female.” –Elizabeth Rojas Levi
App Inventor 2 was completely new to Joumana’s teacher, Mrs. Odah, but that didn’t stop her. Mrs. Odah saw that there were little resources online in Arabic so she made her own how-to videos for her students. With the aid of these videos, the students were pretty self-sufficient during the creation phase. Mrs. Odah was so impressed, she introduced AI2 to her other students and encouraged the IT club participants to take on a mentorship role. Students from both sides, even those who were initially uninterested in coding, ended up having fun.
Life in Gaza requires creativity so Mrs. Odah and her students had a special incentive plan which included students sharing laptops, coaching each other and finding time in their busy schedules. To the surprise of all the teachers at the school, 140 students were highly engaged. Now students are talking about studying IT in college.
Here is a sample of some of the apps created: https://sites.google.com/site/sjodahclass2016/ai2competition
At the time of this blog, apps are still being judged. Stay tuned to hear more about the winners.
Through collaboration, anything is possible.