Nine out of 10 times, TechKids’ workshops are amazing. Tuesday’s workshop was not one of them.

The workshop began with a recap discussion of the main parts of a computer and how they work together. The children had no problem recalling this info from the previous week. Our teacher then introduced them to Raspberry Pi computers, clarifying that no, they were not edible. The kids assembled DIY computer kits and plugged them into computer screens to complete some programming exercises. That’s when things went downhill. Fast.

The workshop was for children aged 7-12 years. However, we discovered that both the Dutch- and English-speaking kids struggled to follow written instructions. Frustration and distraction resulted. Many complained that the activity was too difficult. Others persevered. Others amused themselves by drawing on the whiteboard and chasing each other around the classroom. One boy took to asking when the class was over literally every five minutes.

The wonderful lesson that our teacher had planned which focused on teaching kids the programming concepts of functions and variables (which took three hours to develop) was an unmitigated disaster.

Here’s why we’re not bothered.

Out of failure comes valuable learning. We discovered that the lesson was far too advanced and ambitious for this group. The teaching materials we used are not ideal for a class with a low teacher-student ratio. Finally, the programming activity we planned fell flat because we taught text-based programming when we should have stuck to icon-based programming which is more visual and intuitive for this age range.

Our teacher was disappointed after the class. But we have to go back to the early discussions when we were developing NewTechKids’ pedagogy and teaching approach. We agreed that we have to acknowledge our failures and be willing to share them in order to help educators teach technology education effectively.

So here’s to failed workshops. May they be few and far between and may we also have the guts to learn from them and move in positive directions.

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