01 September 2017

The National Summer Teacher Institute: How the US Patent and Trademark Office trains Teachers to teach Kids about IP

US Patent and Trademark Office
Author Coolcaesar
Licence Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Source Wikipedia

In What do Start-up Entrepreneurs need to look for in a Good IP Lawyer? 23 Aug 2017 NIPC News, I wrote:
"The first thing to say is that intellectual property is far too important to be left to IP lawyers and patent and trade mark attorneys. IP should be on the curriculum of every business school in the country. Every entrepreneur, investor, business owner and manager should know how the law protects his or her brands, designs, technology and creative output and how to leverage such protection for the benefit of his or her business."
Several readers agreed.  One added that IP is underestimated by so many businesses and that can be their undoing.

I was therefore interested to learn of an initiative in the United States that introduces the public to intellectual property very much earlier. In a post to his blog entitled Training Teachers to Educate the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs 31Aug 2017, Joe Matal, the acting US Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office), the equivalent of Comptroller here, wrote:
"As students are starting the school year, teachers are heading back with new lesson plans, some of which include intellectual property concepts. Last month, more than 50 K-12 educators from across the nation took part in the 4th Annual National Summer Teacher Institute (NSTI) on Innovation, STEM, and Intellectual Property. This year’s NSTI was hosted by the USPTO’s Office of Education and Outreach in Denver, Colorado in collaboration with the University of Denver’s Project X-ITE Team. NSTI is a week-long innovation and entrepreneurial boot camp designed to help teachers unleash the innovative potential of their students."
The course is open to science and maths teachers at the equivalent of primary and secondary schools or sixth forms colleges or to teachers of practical subjects like wood and metalwork and design technology. They must have some teaching or child mentoring experience and intend to spend at least another year in the profession, They must also intend to incorporate into their lessons plans, curricula and resources "student activities related to making, inventing, or innovating as part of school year curriculum". Finally, their attendance on the NSTI must be approved by their head teacher or other relevant authority (see FAQ on NSTI on Innovation, STEM and IP).

Fifty teachers may not sound much given the enormous population and the massive land area of the USA but one of the conditions for attending the programme is that they agree to share their experience with other teachers so the potential cascade experience is considerable. The USPTO's goal in providing this training is to give "opportunities for educators to explore the concepts of intellectual property creation, development, and protection as it relates to science, technology, engineering, mathematics, art, design, invention, and innovation."

The objectives of the programme are to:
  • "Increase public knowledge about the significance of intellectual property and innovation, especially as it relates to STEM, art, design, and entrepreneurship;
  • Help increase the number of students actively pursuing making, inventing, innovation, and STEM fields of study and careers;
  • Offer tools and instructional strategies to encourage student learning about STEM, innovation, and intellectual property; and
  • Highlight the accomplishments and contributions of inventors and the advances realized as a result of invention."
The course will be taught by "USPTO experts, National Science Foundation-funded researchers, experts from other Federal agencies, representatives from the Maker Education community, and distinguished faculty inventors from U.S. universities." Those attending the course can expect to learn how to:
  • "Apply the principles of intellectual property and innovation to help further motivate and engage students in authentic project-based learning in STEM;
  • Experience how innovators invent new things, improve upon old ones, and apply the creative design and engineering process;
  • Explore resources designed to encourage student inquiry using a strategy modelled on the research-based science writing heuristic to help meet Next Generation standards in science and engineering;
  • Gain experience in methods to implement the “Science of Innovation” materials in the classroom; and
  • Become part of a national network of education professionals at the cutting edge of integrating intellectual property, innovation, and STEM into the K-12 education curricula."
Like the United States, the UK is a country that ought to perform a lot better than it does in the OECD PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) tests in maths and science. This seems to be an imaginative and effective way of motivating teachers to attract more children and young adults into the STEM subjects. This is the sort of initiative that we would do well to follow here.

Should anybody wish to discuss this article or how to set up a similar programme here, call me on 020 7404 5252 or send me a message through my contact form.

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