San Jose: Tech Museum of Innovation unveils new name and vision
Photo courtesy of The Tech Interactive.

    The former San Jose Tech Museum of Innovation has been reborn. It’s new name and vision: The Tech Interactive.

    “The world was calling us,” Tim Ritchie, President and CEO of The Tech Interactive, told San José Spotlight.

    After 20 years in operation, the beloved downtown technology museum is being rebranded and reopened to offer expanded local educational programs and resources for the next 20 years — including a new partnership with Discovery Education, the Discovery Channel’s K-12 online education database.

    “There are a couple big existential crises facing the world,” Ritchie said. “The answer in both cases is going to consider the wide use of technology.”

    These two crises, Ritchie said, are “how we treat each other,” and climate change  — which is considered overwhelmingly across the science community as a climate crisis. He said the rebranding started about two years ago.

    “The context is, ‘How do we take The Tech’s programs to the world?’ and the 20 year vision [is] scaling up our programs globally so that we reach 100 million people a year using our materials to actually become problem solvers,” he said.

    It took about two years to answer that question and develop a game plan to put it into action. Tech museum leaders needed a platform to spread their programs and lessons beyond Silicon Valley — and this is where a partnership with Discovery Education came into play.

    For the next three years, the Tech Interactive will work with Discovery’s digital education platform to make San Jose-based programs available online to the channel’s global network of more than 5 million educators and 51 million K-12 students throughout more than 90 countries.

    The first of these programs includes “Cyber Detectives,” an exhibition that teaches the fundamentals of cyber security to students from around the world. Other programs include “Solve for Earth,” coming in Aug. 2020, which will incorporate tech and the environment— and a “Tech for Global Good” social entrepreneurship program.

    “As a global leader in standards-aligned digital curriculum resources, engaging content and professional learning for K-12 classrooms, Discovery Education is proud to partner with The Tech to help transform teaching and learning,” Amy Nakamoto, Vice President of Partnerships for Discovery Education, said in a statement. “The Tech has a proven track record of inspiring people to develop problem-solving power. Together, we are motivated to help students gain the skills they need to compete in the 21st century economy.”

    Ritchie said the Tech Interactive will expand its learning center’s educational programs throughout San Jose’s 10 council districts. The plan includes expanding local teacher professional development and bus students and teachers into the Tech Interactive from across the city using scholarship and transportation funds. The goal is to raise $2 million in scholarships this year, Ritchie said.

    The institution’s “Tech Academies” program currently reaches about 20,000 students per day in Santa Clara County’s most underserved schools, training educators on design challenge learning. By expanding this program’s depth, Ritchie hopes to reach 125,000 students in Silicon Valley per year by 2039, helping to close the opportunity gap.

    Mayor Sam Liccardo spoke at The Tech Interactive’s renaming event Thursday, and he thanked Ritchie and the team for their new vision.

    “The name change really reflects what this institution has become over the last two decades,” Liccardo told San José Spotlight, adding that the new name “embraces a spirit of innovation that doesn’t require a PhD or a job at Google.”

    The plan also calls for expanding national and global professional development programs. The Tech Interactive’s support tools will be available to all teachers, whether in East San Jose, Western Kentucky or Southern India. Educators from The Tech Interactive will travel to sites to conduct professional development sessions. Next month, they’ll visit Iowa to support educators in preparing students for the tech economy, as part of a partnership developed with Rep. Ro Khanna.

    The idea is to take The Tech Interactive’s STEM education programs worldwide and to deepen local impact. Staff also plans to travel to Bangalore and possibly Kenya, Australia, Brazil and Mexico for trainings.

    The rebranding, Ritchie said, is “very much an experiment for us. It’s kind of a risk.”

    Ritchie said taking risks is a major part of science and technology, and it’s part of The Tech Interactive.

    “In every one of our lesson plans we encourage kids to learn by trial and error,” Ritchie said. “Well, error is a big part of a trial and error approach to learning.”

    Ritchie and his colleagues are encouraging students to “take the sting out of failure,” which he said is “a big paradigm shift for many kids who just feel like they have to be perfect, and have to get it right.”

    And that speaks to the broader region outside of San Jose, he added.

    “I think that’s one of the fun things about being in Silicon Valley,” Ritchie said on The Tech Interactive’s new experiment. “Our Board of Directors, like the rest of Silicon Valley, they’re not too upset if things don’t work. They just want you to take big risks, knowing that some of them are going to work and some of them won’t.

    “I think cultural institutions can be so concerned about themselves, they forget about the world,” Ritchie added. “And this is the opposite of that.”

    Mia Bajic celebrated her 9th birthday in 2005 at the former Tech Museum of Innovation. She also interned for the institution in 2015, and attended Thursday’s relaunch.

    “Just from what I saw as a kid, everything seems so new and exciting,” Bajic said. “I would want to bring my kids here and be involved in a different capacity as an adult.”

    Contact Kyle Martin at [email protected] or follow him @Kyle_Martin35 on Twitter.

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