MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology

BLOSSOMS partners with Saudi Aramco and Sultan bin Abdulaziz Science and Technology Center

July 21, 2011

(Story below adapted from article reported by Fayiz Al-Bishi and Hawra Al-Boainain in The Arabian Sun (Saudi Aramco publication))

BLOSSOMS has teamed up with Saudi Aramco and Sultan ibn Abdulaziz Science and Technology Center (Scitech) on a project aimed at developing a large, free repository of video modules for high school math and science classes, created by gifted teachers from around the world.

BLOSSOMS, which stands for Blended Learning Open Source Science or Math Studies, creates videos that engage students while teaching math and science and sharpening their critical-thinking skills.

At an inauguration ceremony on July 6 at Scitech, HR Development consultant Sheikha Althakafi called BLOSSOMS part of the company’s corporate citizenship strategy to develop young talents and provide them with the skills needed in a knowledge-based society. To that end, the company signed agreements with Scitech and MIT early this year to produce 20 scientific modules to be placed on the BLOSSOMS website. So far, Saudi Aramco has conducted one workshop to train 200 male and female high school teachers on how to use the videos in their classrooms.

Because of the engaging way these videos are designed, they will serve as a tool to improve the performance of math and science high school teachers—and ultimately the students—with in-depth content and the latest learning and teaching methods.

“Back in September 2009, with the initiation by president and CEO Khalid A. Al-Falih, Saudi Aramco supported the MIT/ BLOSSOMS program by translating eight high-quality videotaped math and science lessons into Arabic,” said Huda M. Al-Ghoson, acting executive director of Employee Relations and Training. “Now the 2011 agreement expands the collaboration and leverages the strengths of all partners to produce 20 interactive videos on math and science.”

Present at the ceremony were Saudi Aramco Public Affairs general manager Nasser A. Al-Nafisee, Al-Ghoson and Scitech director general Dr. Muhammad Al-Qarwan.

Al-Qarwan said the approach adopted by BLOSSOMS entailed several points, the most important of which were leadership’s attention to youth, enthusiasm, equity and equal opportunities.

BLOSSOMS founder Dr. Richard Larson said the project was based on inspiration kindling a passion for learning. Memorizing information, he said, is no use unless it is coupled with motivation, inspiration and enthusiasm for learning.

In Phase One of the project, 200 male and female teachers from different parts of the Kingdom completed BLOSSOMS’s one-week course, with workshops and lectures led by the MIT team: Larson, project manager Elizabeth Murray and Dr. Sawsan Zahara—in collaboration with BLOSSOMS director at Scitech Faten Shaheed.

Lecturers and trainers from Saudi Aramco and other educational entities, such as Dr. Khaled Al-Yahya, Dr. Fahad Al-Jelwai, Dr. Khalid Al-Marashda and Sami Musalli, volunteered to present engaging training packages to students. Larson said that achievement relied on the number of interactive science videos that have been prepared, as well as on the instructors who would take the courses.

He said work was under way for Phase Two, in which another 200 teachers will be trained. Fifteen videos will likely be finished by that time, he said.

BLOSSOMS aims to present abstract concepts of math and science that stimulate higher levels of thinking—critical, creative and innovative thinking—as well as increase students’ drive toward self-learning, enhance teachers’ performance and increase students' interest in science.

“The main motive of this project,” Shaheed said, “is to create an interactive video library that presents math and science concepts for high school students in an exciting way that is available for everyone free of charge.”

At the end of the ceremony, Saudi Aramco and Scitech honored, the Ministry of Education, Larson, Murray, all trainers, directors, video producers and others who contributed to the success of the project.