Are your children prepared for the black box, digital and creative society?
Chris, is a web developer and chairman for CoderDojo Nederland. In this role he is responsible for driving and supporting the work of the Dutch CoderDojo community. He has been the Champion of Rotterdam Dojo for the last four years and CoderDojo Leiden Champion for over a year.
Today he wants to share his personal motivation to work for CoderDojo, and why he believes it is necessary.
Black Box Society
Do you remember the old MSN Messenger or MySpace profiles? With those you could go crazy customizing everything to your liking. You had a lot of control with HTML, color codes, tags, and more. If you wanted to go “online”, you had to open a program, dial in, listen to your modem make a bunch of weird noise and then be as fast as you can before your parents storm in the room to complain about the telephone line being busy. In short, we had to know about the technology we worked with in order to be able to work with it.
These days, technology became a sort of black box. Everything is already thought out for you. How much customization can you do on your iPhone, or Facebook profile? Virtually none at all. How much technological knowledge do you need to work an iPhone or Facebook? Not a lot, it all speaks for itself. This is resulting in a lack of general knowledge amongst young people today.
You might think, “So? We clearly don’t need it!”. Well, I can understand your reaction, but you’re a little bit off. The thing is, if you do not understand the technology you are working with, you also don’t know the risks, pitfalls and consequences. Every parent teaches their children to look left-right-left before crossing the road, so children learn about the hazard and how to safely navigate through it. We are not doing this when it comes to the digital highway, simply because everything has already been thought out for us.
Young people need to learn how today’s technology works in order to be able to move around safely in this digital society. The biggest example I like to use to illustrate this is The Snappening back in 2014. Snapchat pictures (13.6GB) got stolen and posted online. While this is one thing when it happens to celebrities, remember that 50% of Snapchat’s user base are minors.
You got it, with teens aged 13 to 18 that is a lot of personal and private images of young people potentially getting into the wrong hands. However, I do want to be clear that we can not and should not put any blame on the youth. They simply believed their pictures would be safe (“It destroys after 10 seconds, right?”). If these kids knew how the technology worked, they would’ve had better means of assessing the risks themselves.
On top of this, think about online shopping with credit card details or online banking. Along with great opportunities, there is a lot of risks in our digital society which can make you a very easy target if you do not have some basic knowledge.
Finally there is the creative part, the fun part! While you used to be creative in school with some pencils and paper, or a pair of scissors and glue, you can now also be creative in the digital world. Why not create an animation of your coolest fantasy character, or create a website about your awesome hobby? Personally I once created a very simple but fun birthday app for my girlfriend which I secretly installed on her phone (yup, she should’ve known how to better protect her phone from such invasion ?). The possibilities are endless!
With creativity we also touch on the buzzword “Computational Thinking”. In almost every branch ICT has made it’s entrance. Even outside of ICT, problems (or “challenges” if you are born after 1990) will always arise and need solving. By learning how to break this down in smaller pieces, solve those pieces and put it all together you can learn to systematically solve issues with a certain way of thinking. A programmers way of thinking if you will. This skill can help you in many aspects of your life, not just technology!
But It Is Not Taught In Schools?
True, it is very hard to get this integrated in school curriculums. This is mainly due to a shortage of teachers with the right amount of technological knowledge and the speed at which technology develops. Though in a lot of countries good progress is being made, there is still a great demand for this.
This is why CoderDojo exists. CoderDojo is a free volunteer led coding club which operates world wide! At a Dojo kids aged 7 to 17 can come in on a regular basis (weekly, fortnightly or monthly) and are encouraged and taught by Mentors along with other children in different aspects of programming. Children get to meet likeminded kids their own age and learn about technology. This happens in a non-curriculum project-based manner. It is best compared to “makerspaces” where people will just be creating stuff making it up as they go and helping each other out wherever they can. CoderDojo provides the basics and supports young people through their learning adventure!
Do you have children? Are they learning to create with technology? Are you confident they will have the skills to safely operate in a digital society and have good job guarantees? Let me know in the comments!
Thanks Chris for sharing your insights. You can read this blog in Dutch here.