Started another season as an FLL coach. The mission theme this year is education. On a security note, one of the missions is geared around storing data in the Cloud and the robot designers need to figure out a way to make an access key (harder than it looks because the robot is in motion and has to drive a fair distance to be able to insert the key (no word if brute force is allowable)).
The team did the initial brainstorming exercise, figuring what kind of research questions to chase down this year. So all kinds of engineering and social challenges were discussed. Then a 5th grader girl said something that really got me - "The school is giving us iPads, but why? We should be learning to build programs for stuff iPads." You see the like a lot of school districts, the district is trying to pretend its tech friendly by writing a big fat check for a bunch of hardware that many teachers do not understand and that the kids already know how to use. But what's missing is how to actually build it.
An interesting debate followed as the girls' assertion was put to the test. "We have tech in school, we have iPads!" and so on. She said basically, "yeah but I want to learn how to build things, where is the Rapsbery pi class?" But the answer was "We get to use digital cameras!"
So I said, "Technology is great, but there are two parts to it - building it and then using it. You remember last year? We started programming and building robots in August, then September, October, November, December, January, it was try, fail, try, fail, debug, rebuild hardware, rebuild software over and over again month after month. That's building technology. Then one day we went to a meet and one one person points the bot in a direction and then presses the "on" and "go" buttons. That's using technology." Every lightbulb went off, the team knows what it means to build something and how that is completely different from using technology.
If you are not the one programming the device, then you are the one being programmed. The last thing kids need is to be programmed into being passive consumers of technology. Luckily there are lots of great organizations like CoderDojo that invest time teaching kids Python, Linux, Scratch and lots of different ways to actively make their own tech.