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К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №1 - 2005

Автор: Митчел Патрик


The business of education is similar to any other business. Whereas Intel Corporation [1] produces products and services, a university produces graduates and services. The primary “product” of the Kazak-American Free University [2], therefore, is its graduates. The key to success, for any business, is distinguishing itself by its outstanding products. Intel Corporation delivered amazingly innovative and competitive products for 20 years, from 1980 to 2000, and their record continues still. In the KAFU Computer Science curricula, we declare as a value [3], “Deliver innovative and competitive graduates.” Our goal as a university is to enable our graduates to energize and change Kazakhstan in the same way that Intel Corporation has energized and changed the world.

In this paper, we will investigate how teachers can create and deliver the capacity and desire to be innovative. This will enable the graduates to successfully face the future’s unknown challenges.


Innovation is defined as something introduced which is new or different [4]. A person is innovative if he or she creates a new, unique solution or product, which solves a need. Without innovation, people can only do what they have done before, with the products and tools which they already have and know how to use. Without innovation, we would still live in caves, cook by fire and go to bed at dark.

In today’s world, change is essential, and innovation enables change. Government, education and business all share a basic need for constant innovation. This need is met only by hiring innovative people. But, are all people innovative? Clearly, some people exhibit more of a knack of being innovative than others. Were they born with this innovative knack? Or, was it developed? In this paper, the author will show that being innovative is both inborn and developed.


Being innovative is a trait of the human race. The Bible [5] says that God created everything, including man and woman. By this very action, we see that God himself is creative. But it says something revealing about the act of creating people. It says that God created them in his own image [6]. Each person is therefore made with an element of creativity built in. Creativity is the ability to be innovative. For some people this may not be a dominant trait, but it exists at some level in each of us. Innovation is inborn.

However, innovation is also universally resisted. This comes from the idea that all men and women seek their own comfort. Immediate comfort is in many ways a hindrance to innovation. To innovate, one must be willing to set sights on a greater good beyond what is deemed possible today. The innovator will take risks and desire change. While the seed may exist, many people and cultures do not value risk and change, and thus do not support and encourage the innovative seed.


Innovation is also developed. Every time a child tries something new, it is a step in building confidence in innovation. The early steps will not be true innovation, as the steps have been learned by many others, i.e. they are not new. In time, however, the person develops to the point of expanding on steps that have been done before; the person “boldly goes where no man has ever gone before [7]”. In the 1960’s, Americans heard about innovation on their TV; General Electric (GE), until recently the largest corporation in the world [8], televised many commercials which always ended with their corporate motto: “At General Electric, Progress is our most important Product”. The fuel of progress is innovation. This kind of thinking brought them to the pinnacle of all corporations. Another corporation which has thrived on innovation is Hewlett-Packard. HP’s motto in the past was, We never stop asking 'What if?

This paper does NOT describe the important first steps to build innovation into a person’s life. These important steps occur in the early years of each person’s life, starting before school age and continuing through high school. There is much attention given to this time of development [9], [10], [11] but we must continue to build each student’s capacity to innovate through his or her university years.

If a student has the knack of innovation, it hurts both the student and society if that knack is not developed to its maximum potential. Like a rose, its full value is not realized until the flower bursts into bloom. Inside the university, we have the opportunity to nurture our budding innovators into full bloom, or not. How can we do it?


Innovation happens inside the mind. The students’ minds are contained in their heads, which are sitting in the university classrooms several hours of day. This is the teacher’s opportunity to impact the future by teaching and modeling innovation. What can the university provide to stimulate the students’ innovative interests?

In the past, the idea of creativity was fully contained within the schools of art. Artists and poets were creative. Perhaps the schools of architecture first brought together engineering and art. Buildings need to be structurally safe (engineering) and pleasing to the eye (art). At Washington State University , this was recognized by restructuring several departments into the College of Architecture and Engineering [12]. But the word innovation is not so restricted and should be a cornerstone of every discipline. David Baugh [13] made this statement in 2004:

When we think of creativity we automatically think that it is restricted to what are called the creative arts but with the emergence of easily accessible digital media and flexible software tools to manipulate these media it is becoming increasingly evident that anyone can be creative given the right guidance and opportunities. [14]

Here is one inexpensive idea. Use wall decorations in the classroom to demonstrate examples of current and past innovation. The posters can also ask currently unsolved questions. These can be highlighted during teaching but they also give the students’ eyes something to see during breaks between classes.


Innovation has long been difficult to recognize. And some of the best innovators of all time have been terrible students. Thomas Edison (1847-1931, inventor of the light bulb, phonograph and motion pictures) was declared to be a poor student. When his teacher called him addled (mentally confused), his furious mother took him out of the school and taught him at home. His mother recognized what the teacher did not.

In 1899, Mr. Charles Duell, a commissioner of the United States Patent Office (which gives official recognition and legal rights to innovative products), said, Everything that can be invented – has already been invented.

In the 1960’s, three budding, innovative engineers, Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore and Andrew Grove, wrote and delivered a proposal to top management at their electronics company. They had an idea to build thousands of integrated circuits into one electronic chip. Top management did not approve the idea, so these three men quit their jobs and formed a new company, Intel Corporation. Today’s Pentium® Processors have billions of transistors on one chip. This example shows that innovation occurred in spite of top management’s lack of innovation and vision.

Innovation is needed in every aspect of government, education and business. A person who is innovative in one area may not be innovative in another area. Unites States President Rutherford B. Hayes said in 1876, “That’s an amazing invention, but who would ever want to use one of them? after Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated the telephone to him at the White House.

Why has innovation in the classroom been like oil and water? Because the classroom has traditionally been the place of teaching only what is known. This is good, of course. But what is known today is just the starting place for innovation. Innovative teaching of innovation can occur with any subject, but it requires the teacher to both admit and assert that what they are teaching is just a beginning for what is possible. When teaching innovation, the instruction must include a challenge to move beyond the status quo.


Should the best teacher of innovation be a drill sergeant, or a dreamer? The teacher who plans to enhance each student’s innovative skills must be both. We must drill into the students the basics of what is known today, and we must dream about moving well beyond that place.

There is a similar distinction between the words instruct [15] and educate [16]. To instruct is to furnish with knowledge, especially by systematic methods. This teaches the student about currently known methods and solutions, or what is “inside the box.” “Educate” comes from roots that literally mean “to lead out of.” To educate is to develop the faculties and powers of a person. This teaches the student to use the tools from inside the box but look “outside the box” to discover solutions and lead the way beyond today’s best methods.

The word “instruct” implies drilling, whereas the word “educate” implies equipping to dream. Innovation is dreamland, and dreamers tend to be “shut down” by pure drill sergeants.

For example, in Computer Science classes at KAFU, the first half of the semester is used in drilling in the basics. After the midterm exam, the teacher compares computer programming and database technology to driving a car. The “basics” is like learning which is the gas pedal, the brake, the clutch, the gear shift and the rules of the road. In the second half of the semester, the student is challenged to “go somewhere.” This is the switch between drilling and dreaming. The students are now expanding their innovative capacity. They are, in fact, still learning new things about programming and databases, but now their vision is beyond memorization and repetition.

To model innovation, teachers must believe and communicate that what they know is just the beginning of their field. A teacher of innovation will freely admit that he or she doesn’t know everything. In Computer Science, the teacher also tells the students that he can make unintentional mistakes. He challenges the students to watch for any errors and gives recognition and awards extra credit when mistakes are shown. Many times, when a student points out an “error,” it isn’t a mistake at all. This helps the teacher understand that a principle is being wrongly applied, and it becomes a superb teaching opportunity to correct the student’s thinking (and likely, other students’ thinking). At no time should a student’s inquisitive challenge be ridiculed; if that happens, the student will stop trying to be innovative. However, the teacher must be able to discern between an inquisitive challenge and an intentional disruption, and deal differently with the latter. The teacher must also keep in mind that any student in the class has the potential to surpass what the teacher knows.

TESTING INNOVATION (Homework, Projects and Examinations)

To demonstrate that they are becoming innovative, students must be able to demonstrate their ability to apply the principles they have learned in new or different applications. Rote memory has a place, but only to establish a foundation to learn creativity. For example, suppose the students have learned the following information:

The function to determine a random number greater than or equal to 0, and less than 1: Rnd
The function to truncate any fractional part of a number x (e.g. 1.5, 2.3, …), and return the number as an integer (e.g. 1, 2, …):

Int (x)

The formula to determine a 1 or 2 (flipping a coin – numbers in {1, 2}) is: flip = Int (2 * Rnd) + 1

A normal question to ask the student is, “What is the formula to determine a 1 or 2, as in flipping a coin?” A question to test their innovative thinking is, “What is the formula to determine a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6, as in rolling a die?” The “rote memory” mind will be stuck; the question about a 6-sided die has never been asked before. But, the innovative mind will see immediately that 6 sides is merely an extension of 2 sides, and discover the solution,

die = Int (6 * Rnd) + 1 .


Innovation is something introduced which is new or different. Frequently it is an extension of information and experiences that people have had in the past. At Intel Corporation, innovation and change were the goals, and the way of life. Everyone has the desire to create new things, whether they are products or processes. This desire is built-in and given by the Creator of mankind. We as university teachers have the opportunity and grand responsibility to equip the minds of tomorrow’s leaders to not just “think outside the box” but to invent new worlds outside the box. Our success will instill a life-long interest and excitement in learning about new things. Innovation is essential in producing Kazakhstan’s next generation of managers/leaders for business, law/government and education.

We cannot produce innovative graduates unless we model innovation inside the classroom. Modeling includes how we lecture, how we work on projects and how we examine the students. We must ask them for innovative solutions! And the results will have an excellent impact on both the graduates and society. Finally, the Kazak-American Free University will enjoy a reputation of successfully preparing students to energize and lead our world in the changing years ahead.


The author would like to thank the following colleagues who gave valuable input to this article:

Jay Hahn-Steichen, Intel Architect, Information Technologies

Victor Kane, PhD, Professor of Marketing, Pacific University, Forest Grove, Oregon

Ernest Khaw, Intel Corporation Process Design Manager

Rob Knauerhase, Intel Senior Software Engineer

Ben Manny, Director: Wireless Networking Lab, Intel Research; Development


[1] Intel Corporation, http://www.intel.com/.

[2] Kazak-American Free University, http://www.kafu.kz/.

[3] KAFU Computer Science Values; Expectations (Modeled after Intel’s). These are discussed and given out in writing at the first lecture. We strive to …

Listen and respond to each other

Please ask questions during class

Teacher available by email and appointment

Clearly communicate mutual intentions and expectations

Attendance in class – Essential and part of your grade

Starting class on time – We will start on time

Handing in assignments (homework and projects) before class begins

Proper heading on all work handed in
Business Computer Programming

Date (e.g. February 14, 2005)

What is this? {e.g. Quiz, Homework page xx, Project #2}

Student’s name (first ; last) using English letters

Pay attention to detail

Write down intermediate steps in homework, quizzes ; exams

Double-check results

Desk-check code and properties

Document code with comments

Deliver innovative and competitive graduates

Conduct ourselves with uncompromising integrity and professionalism

No talking or cheating on exams or quizzes

Each person must do his/her own homework and projects – OK to discuss

Success: In five years, you can remember and apply concepts / ideas well enough to hire a competent programmer.

Make and meet commitments

Achieve the highest standards of excellence

Do the right things right

Take pride in our work

Be open and direct

Work as a team with respect and trust for each other (student ↔ student; student ↔ teacher)

Recognize and reward accomplishments

Fair grading – class attendance and attentiveness will make a difference

Extra credit opportunities

[4] Random House Webster’s College Dictionary, WordGenius V3.5.3 July 2004.

[5] The Holy Bible, New American Standard, The Lockman Foundation, Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville , TN 37234 .

[6] Ibid, Genesis 1:26 -27.

[7] Star Trek Enterprise, common quotation

[8] See http://www.newratings.com/analyst_news/article_700301.html February 18, 2005 – ExxonMobil Corporation has replaced General Electric as the world's largest company in terms of market value. The market value of ExxonMobil, the world's largest publicly traded oil company, appreciated to $380.9 billion in morning trade on Friday, while exceeding the market value of GE by about $1 billion.

[9] http://www.umaine.edu/eceol/curr.html

[10] http://www.ncaction.org.uk/creativity/whatis.htm

[11] http://www.teachingstrategies.com/

[12] http://cea.wsu.edu/

[13] David Baugh is a classroom teacher from Ysgol Frongoch, Denbigh, North Wales who was the 2000 winner of the BT Teaching Awards Prize for the Most Creative Use of Information and Communications Technology in a Primary School.

[14], Wednesday 13 October 2004

[15] Random House Webster’s College Dictionary, WordGenius V3.5.3 July 2004.

[16] Random House Webster’s College Dictionary, WordGenius V3.5.3 July 2004.

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