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10 Tips for Raising Technologists

What every parent and educator should consider in raising kids as technologists

by Fazreen Razeek

Some schools around the world are still lagging behind when it comes to integrating technology education into their curriculum, as well as their approach to teaching.

This just means that parents, as well as teachers, must be proactive and continuously seek ways to improve their children’s technological literacy. They must seek activities related to computer science and programming.

Here are some tips every parent and educator should consider in raising kids as technologists.

1.) Look for activities focused on computational thinking, not coding 

Computer science includes topics such as programming, technology systems, design and prototyping processes, and technological literacy.

To us, the real goal of computer science education is to help kids develop computational thinking skills which they can then apply in different subjects, learning environments, and everyday contexts.

2.) Know the difference between coding and programming

Programming covers a broad range of activities, including analysis, problem-solving, algorithm generation, the application of computer science concepts, and testing. Meanwhile, coding is the implementation of programming: writing the actual code to execute tasks.

Coding can be a great activity if it is taught in the context of logic, pattern recognition and problem-solving. Unfortunately, this is often not the case as most teachers focus on specific programming languages and teach coding as a technical skill. Programming languages evolve and many are becoming obsolete. Some believe that coding will be the next blue collar job.

3.) When possible, look for activities taught by teachers, not volunteers

It is time to shift to computer science education for primary school children which are defined by appropriate pedagogy, didactics, teaching approaches, and classroom management strategies. This means that whenever possible, computer science education should be developed and taught by qualified teachers.

Raising Girls as Successful Technologists

It’s imperative for parents to help spark their daughters’ ongoing interest in technology. Parents should help them cultivate the necessary skills and mindset to think like technologists. This will prepare them to navigate a world of constant and rapid technological development and be conscious consumers of technology.

4.) Different Types of Play

From early on, ensure that girls are exposed to a mix of different types of play. Teach them how to design, make, build and program with tangible objects such as building blocks, LEGO, and Do-It-Yourself and robotics kits. We have observed that girls come to our programs with weaker designing, prototyping, building and programming skills than boys because they have not had enough exposure to these types of activities.

We have observed that children from low-income neighbourhoods also lack these skills. This lack of exposure limits the quality of the solutions girls develop and undermines their confidence to present ideas and push back against more confident, dominant boys.

5.) Practice in Assembling Things

Provide girls with lots of practice in assembling things, following written instructions such as recipes, everyday items, replacing conventional technology, and configuring new devices. These activities pave the way to understand computer science concepts such as systems, algorithms, commands, and sequence while helping them become comfortable with decision-making, trial and error, troubleshooting, handling failure and persevering. One good example is changing light bulbs.

Here are some questions to ask your kids: What wattage is best? What shape of lightbulb is best? Should we purchase a dimmable LED light or a normal light bulb? Is a dimmable LED light worth the extra cost?

6.) Electronic Devices

Encourage girls to disassemble things, especially old electronic devices. We often include classes about technology systems in our programs during which students ages 7-12 rip apart old laptops. This is a revelation for many of our female students since many of them have never done something like this. There’s nothing like discovering what’s underneath the electronics and technology we use in everyday life and that devices are systems with parts which work together to perform specific tasks. Demystification makes technology less intimidating and more accessible.

7.) Technology in the context of Interest

Discuss technology in the context of the interests and hobbies of girls and boys. For example, sensor technology is used in all kinds of sports and performing arts activities. Discuss how Hawkeye ball-tracking technology is used in tennis matches or how sensor technology is used by fencers and runners to track performance and enable ballerinas to ‘paint’ beautiful art.

8.) Female Technologists

Teach girls (and boys) about female technologists and their contributions to society. Too much popular discourse around technology focuses on male tech entrepreneurs. Children, especially girls, need to learn about women such as Grace Hopper, Margaret Hamilton, Ada Lovelace, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson and others who have and are making major contributions to the development of key technologies.

9.) Computer Science or Programming Activities

Register them in computer science or programming activities, either alone or with a friend. Until computer science education becomes part of formal school curriculum, girls will continue to be under-represented in technology education. Exposure and experience in predominantly-male learning environments will provide them with resilience, perseverance and inspiration to create more diverse, inclusive technology teams.

10.) Propose Computer Science

Our most important tip for parents, lobby for computer science and technological literacy to be integrated into formal primary school curriculum. This will ensure that all girls receive technology education in a mixed gender context.

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