NewTechKids has taught thousands of primary school aged children about computer science, coding, robotics, design and critical thinking about technology.

What we’ve found is that while enrolling kids in computer science programs is a great first step, it’s only one of the factors which influence the likelihood that kids will choose a tech-related study, training or career path down the line. In order to imprint the importance of tech and reinforce the desire to master tech knowledge and skills, we’ve identified a variety of factors which taken together can steer kids towards a tech trajectory.

Playing with Building and Inventing Toys: Creating an interest in the process of tech invention often stems from early experiences, namely through exposure to toys like LEGO, building kits, and arts and craft kits. These toys require kids to immerse themselves in the creation process to learn the fundamental rules of invention, including physics, parts working together, structured processes and in some cases, step-by-step instructions. These toys also expose kids to design and creation processes -brainstorming, designing, failing, testing and iterating – and reward them with tangible inventions to be proud of and show off.

Tinkering with Tech At Home: There’s nothing like de-mystifying tech to make it more accessible and understandable to kids. One of NewTechKids’ most popular classes is ripping apart an old laptop. We teach this class to show kids what’s inside the devices we use in everyday life: motherboards and parts working together. For some kids, figuring out how tech works is the first step in trying to create something themselves. Tinkering at home with old tech gadgets, DIY computers, mini-computers, digital fabrication like 3D printing, micro controllers, programmable devices and soldering and wiring tools is a great way to hone tech invention skills. Also having kids install new tech devices makes them comfortable with configuring technology.

Participating in Tech Education Classes: In order to shift kids from passive tech users to active tech inventors, kids need to learn basic tech knowledge and skills. Computer science education is not mandatory in Dutch primary, middle and high schools. A small minority of schools offer substantive computer science (coding) courses or offer one-off workshops or short courses.  A major challenge is the lack of qualified computer science and informatics teachers. Most kids who learn about computer science do so through after-school or weekend programs, online courses, courses offered by volunteers working in the tech industry, and good old-fashioned tinkering at home (coding, game design, robotics).

Having Parents, Caregivers and Teachers Who Support Tech Education: Often, a child’s journey with us starts with a phone call from a parent,  caregiver or teaching calling us to enquire about what we teach and our programs. We’ve communicated with adults from all walks of life: those working in tech and business to stay-at-home parents or people working in non-tech fields who have no tech skills. The common denominator is that they are committed to making sure their child(ren) acquire tech education and skills to set them up for their hobbies, study and career paths. A big shout out to several single parents who bring their kids to our programs when it means taking time off or leaving work early. And thanks to parents who pick their kids up early to listen to their presentations and make films of the robots.

Having Role Models Who Work in the Tech Industry: The saying goes that ‘you can’t be who you don’t see’. While this is not 100% the case always, having role models such as parents, extended family members and friends of family who work in tech definitely helps. Kids benefit from discussing job descriptions, interesting tech projects and the latest tech developments as well as having people show them what they are working on such as coding and prototypes. For younger kids, this may also mean participating in ‘Take Your Kid to Work’ and family events. For older kids, this may mean doing an internship at a tech company through connections. Tech role models can also advise kids on what to learn and where to find learning resources as well as what and where to study and good companies to work for.

Written by Deborah Carter, Founder and MD, NewTechKids