Youth in Open Source Week
Opensource.com has designated this week Youth in Open Source Week, bringing together content profiling how the younger generation is using open source to equip itself to create the technologies of the future, and what support is available to encourage and educate it.
It’s a good prompt to look at how we ensure children don’t become passive, drooling consumers of technology but grasp the opportunities offered to make far-reaching change and significantly, to see to it that children in the UK help this country maintain its world-leading position in technical innovation, something that risks becoming dusty history – something to do with Alan Turing and Colossus – instead of remaining an outstanding feature of British skills and ingenuity.
One rather charming young woman profiled in Youth in Open Source Week is 10 year old Lune, from Belgium, Digital Girl of the Year. Lune has a bit of a head start in her relationship with technology, being surrounded by a positive crowd of go-ahead tech-savvy adults, all giving her tremendous support in everything she’s doing. Clearly Lune’s bright and imaginative, but her motivation to start projects is no different from any other child’s (eg she’d like a robot to tidy her room, well, which of us wouldn’t have said that, aged 10?) and the main source of training she’s accessed has been open to any child (albeit one that lives within striking distance of a group).
Lune has attended CoderDojo, which describes itself as an:
open source, volunteer led, global movement of free coding clubs for young people
to help increase the knowledge shared with school-age children about coding, computer science, and technology
as reported in this Opensource.com article on the Irish involvement with Europe Code Week. It’s clear from the article that schools were getting involved in coding, which is tremendously encouraging but far from a consistent process.
Coding in school
Lune’s background has made her very comfortable with technology and given her an excellent breadth of experience and opportunity, and sadly only a minority of children will have quite such a spring board. Using school as the starting point for a child’s engagement with technology drops opportunity in every child’s lap, but school provision varies dramatically.
One group looking to bring primary school-based coding opportunities to children aged 9-11 is Code Club, “a nationwide network of volunteer-led after school coding clubs for children aged 9-11”. Again, this is volunteer-run and so inevitably many areas are without a group and so the children it reaches are in a tiny, but very lucky, minority. It’s very popular where it does exist though, so schools now need to be looking at what makes it so engaging and bring that into their IT teaching.
Changes to the IT curriculum offer schools such a great opportunity to get this sort of tuition right, furnishing children with the skills that the country needs and providing school-leavers with a very good chance of a decent career. As this article on Lauren Egts says,
Kids have a willingness to jump in. The break things. To just try it.
And that’s the point – children need to pull technology apart and work out how to make it better. Let’s make sure they get plenty of opportunity.