April 21, 2018
How do you teach creators of technology as opposed to consumers?
Long ago, computers were a new gadget that only a few people had in their homes, and you would certainly not find one in a school. Then, as computers became more common- and affordable- schools started to purchase them for classrooms, allowing each classroom to have one, maybe two computers. Next, came computer labs. Nowadays schools have computer labs and iPad/Tablet carts, and some schools can even afford to provide each child with his/her own computer! The way computers have adapted into schools and curriculums has changed throughout the years, but truthfully the way they are used has not. Whether it was just one computer in the back of the class to an iPad cart roaming around the school, technology has consistently been used the same in schools: as a bonus activity where one can play games. Playing games or even watching videos is only one way children can interact with computers. More often than not, students are consumers of technology. So how do you teach creators of technology as opposed to consumers?
As a Kindergarten teacher, I will admit that I am guilty of teaching consumers. I have always found it difficult to allow my students to explore and create; they are so young and do not understand how valuable and fragile iPads and computers are. They can barely recognize letters and write, let alone type on a keyboard. But just because they do not understand how computers and iPads work, it does not mean they are still not able to work and tinker with them. There is a TED Talk by Linda Liukas where she discusses how to teach kids about computers.
In her talk, Linda explain that instead of seeing computers as magical and mysterious, children should see them as items to explore and tinker with. We educate students on how the body functions, why would we not do the same for computers? In order to allow student to become creators, we have to give them a chance to understand how computers and programming work. When students ask, “How does it do that?” Do not respond with, “It’s magic.” In as simple as terms as possible, explain. If you are not able to explain, find a resource that can. There are all types of books and computers that can explain in a kid-friendly way how a computer knows what to do when you press the play button. She continues by talking about activities she does with kids; in one instance, she shows the kids 4 different items and asks them, “Which one is a computer?” Through a discussion, the kids learn that all items are computers because they each contain some type of technology or program. In order to teach creators and not consumers, we have to help students realize that they can be creators. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but one day they can create some type of technology that will change the world. Planting the seed of belief is what will help them grow into creators.
Now, that is easier said than done. Everyday teachers get older, and everyday they become more and more unfamiliar with technology. So how are they suppose to help their students become comfortable and confident, if they themselves are not? There are options; providing students with the right resources is a good start. If you are not the expert on parts of a computer, find someone or something who is. The other option is being honest with students about not knowing. Kids need to learn that there is not always a right answer, or that there is not always one answer. By understanding this, they are developing the mind of a creator. Creators try and try again not because they know their is a correct answer, but because they believe they can find/create one. Sometimes, belief is stronger than knowledge.
Watch the full video of Linda Liukas’s TED Talk below: