One of the nice things about launching a technology and programming academy is asking for input from different kinds of professionals.

In NewTechKids’ case, we organised a brainstorm session last week which brought together teachers,  international education experts, designers, programmers, city government policy makers, branding specialists, event curators and executives working for technology companies. Our goal: sharing information and ideas on how to get kids and their parents excited about technology and programming education.

Here are some of the ideas we shared.

Education: A participant from the International Baccalaureate (IB) organisation spoke about the importance of ‘transfer’, the ability of children to apply what they’ve learned in one context to another. Transfer is important because it’s a way to measure real learning. One of her interesting observations relates to technical vs. thinking skills. She said that some national education systems have traditionally focused on rote learning and memorisation and this has helped the country produce excellent developers and programmers. However, these national systems realise that this is not enough and are now  making changes to the curricula which will help students develop critical thinking, problem-solving and creativity skills. She pointed to technology and programming education developments in Australia (seamless technology) and Scotland as being very inspiring.

Another participant who is doing his Ph.D research in the area of collaborative lesson planning spoke about approaches such as ‘lesson study’ as possible ways to train teachers in new fields such as technology and programming education.

In terms of after-school activities, a city government policy maker suggested creating ongoing technology and programming clubs (vs. time-specific programs) in order to help kids cultivate passion, knowledge, skills and experience over the long-term.

Design: One participant stressed the importance of linking play to developing 21st century skills and  integrating art and design into technology and programming education (STEAM vs. STEM.) She strongly encouraged teachers and schools to challenge kids to not only think about technology but also to reflect on ethics and engage in philosophical discussions as a means to trigger their thinking.

An expert from a leading global design firm spoke about the importance of seeing technology in terms of serving and helping people. He suggested developing technology education programs by asking kids to connect technology to their own lives, identify problems and then use technology to develop solutions.

Technology: It was great to have representatives from Google, ASML and ING at the brainstorm. The Google representative spoke about the company’s commitment to collaboration and teamwork, specifically  its use of feedback cycles and open, transparent communication embodied by the company’s co-founders.

The ASML representative spoke about the tendency today for people to use technology without understanding it. He stressed the importance of bridging the gap between theory and application. The ING Developer who participated spoke about the need to cultivate both critical thinking and technical skills as the combination is more effective than one or the other.

(Big shout-out to Funk-E, a company in Rotterdam which specialises in animated explanations. They created this great visual during Deborah’s TED talk at TEDxAmsterdamED in March.)