Deborah Carter, NewTechKids’ Founder, Director and occasional teacher, was recently featured in a special supplement about technology and child welfare on February 26, 2020 in het Parool, one of the Netherlands’ major newspapers.
In it, she shared her experience and opinions on topics ranging ranging screen usage, gaming and how to teach kids about computer science, programming and robotics to engage a more inclusive group of students, including girls. Read article in Dutch.
Here’s a rough English translation based on Google Translate.
Lifestyle: Get boys and girls acquainted with technology from a young age
The world of social media, apps and online games offers many educational opportunities, but can also be a maze for parents and teachers. How can they handle this?
Research by the Netherlands Youth Institute shows that many parents find media use a difficult part of parenting. Most of them have difficulty determining the right amount of time that children spend behind a screen.
According to Deborah Carter, founder and director of NewTechKids, a Dutch organization specialized in teaching children between the ages of four and twelve about technological innovation, computer science and programming during and after school, technology can be an enrichment in life. “Technology helps you understand the world around you. It offers many new and exciting opportunities. But it also has disadvantages. It is very important that it does not completely take over kids’ lives and that can happen quickly when a child watches TV, a movie is on YouTube, uses social media, occasionally plays an online game, or has to look up something for school on the internet. ”
The Netherlands Youth Institute estimates that from seven years of age, children use media for about two hours a day. For thirteen year olds this has risen to almost eight hours a day. Three hours of this is incidentally concentrated media use, such as watching TV. The rest is combined with traveling, working or eating. Carter believes it can be useful to make agreements with kids about screen time and media usage. “Make a schedule together and install a screen time app, such as Apple Screen Time. You can also use a kitchen timer and if that goes off, give your child five minutes to finish what he or she was doing. And don’t give him or her the latest smartphone model. An older model has less memory and is usually a bit slower, so less fun to use for longer periods of time. ”
There is currently a computer or tablet in every class. According to Carter, these are nice tools but they don’t necessarily teach children about technology, only how they can use the device. “What is a robot? How does technology change our lives? What does it contribute to society? These are interesting discussions that you can already have with very young children and that contribute to skills such as critical thinking. Incidentally, I understand very well that teachers are currently unable to teach programming or computer science classes due to their already heavy workloads. I think that in addition to combating the teacher shortage, the Dutch government should certainly invest more in this [integrating technological innovation education and computer science into primary and high school curriculum] so that the Netherlands stays up-to-date in this area.”
Video games and gaming can also play a major role in education. “Children who game learn strategic thinking and cooperation. Some regular games for the consumer market have an educational element in addition to action, such as the Assassins Creed Discover Tours which teach kids about ancient Egypt and other history. Or what do you think of a game with VR glasses in which you are in a different country, have to communicate in English and thus learn the language? These can be very innovative ways to playfully learn from a game. ”
Carter criticizes the notion that technology education appeals mostly to boys. “We have seen an interesting shift in our courses. Initially, we focused on programming lessons but when we decided to focus more on context and what technological developments mean for us as humans, we suddenly had a programs of 40% girls. They excelled in problem-solving and came up with very intelligent solutions for robots. What I want to say is if you start teaching in a different way, technology can become interesting for a wider group. If we already know how to interest children with the right tools and mindset in education at a young age, the tech industry can become a lot more inclusive. And that is very important, because this sector can also use a little more diversity and a broader approach to problem solving.”