Teaching children to be a creator of technology

child-and-technology

Are you a consumer of technology or a creator of technology? It is natural that there are more consumers than creators. However, every country needs a substantial number of creators to be able to progress and compete globally. For this, we need to equip our children with the habit of creating technology rather than just using technology.
In the world of education, ‘Technology is an often used word today. ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) is taught in schools from as early as 1st standard. ICT is clearly meant for learning how to use computers, communication and related tools. Whenever we talk about using technology in education, we mean using projectors, simulations, animations, videos, internet, computers etc. Though it is important to use technology in education, it is also very important to make our children capable of creating technology for the future. There are two questions we need to address here:

– Is it necessary to build such capabilities at an early stage in their education?
– Is it possible to do so?

Let’s explore the answers to these questions now.

User verses Creator of Technology

When your child wants to be an expert in playing a video game, will you support him whole heartedly? A small minority of new age parents may support their children in such a pursuit. On the other hand, if your child wants to create a new video game and starts learning computer programming, parents tend to support such a goal. Why so? We inherently respect technology creators rather than users and we aspire to be parents of such creators.

Enthusiastic users and deep thinking creators together form an ecosystem where innovation can flourish. A user or a consumer is emotionally rewarded when he buys a product of latest technology. The statement I own a car with 6 cylinders and latest fuel injection technology” gives me social recognition, whereas buying a quad-core phone gives my daughter similar social recognition in her circle. This drives people towards tech-savviness. But, such a support system is absent in our country for technology creators. Have you ever heard statements like my son created this logic circuit to automatically control water pump in our house” or I created a new compiler for natural language!” No, we are not yet there, but we can start now. If we can create such a culture in our early education ecosystem, we can lay foundation for future technology creators in our country.

To be able to groom the technology creators of future, we need to lay the right kind of foundation that involves basics of both technology and creativity. Technology is the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes. Every product that we use in our daily lives involves technology. Not many of those were created here in India. Creativity cannot be learnt after earning a University degree. It has to be inculcated early in life. We shall explore how we can sow these two seeds of technology and creativity at an early stage in childs education.

Learning Technology: What and How?

Technology is generally a consequence of science and engineering. Today, we use terms like biotechnology, agricultural technology, nanotechnology etc. Hence, the term ‘technology is used in a very broad sense here. So, what can we teach children at primary and high-school levels that could help them in most fields of technology?

We can rely on the school science books to identify concepts for which we can easily find applications in daily life. Here is a sample list of such concepts for classes 5 to 10 and corresponding technologies:

Standard- Concepts from science books- Corresponding technology
5th- Moon- Telescopes, Rockets, Moon rovers
6th- Simplemachines- Cars, Crane
7th- Heat- Room heater, AC, Refrigerator, IC engines
8th- Electricity and Magnetism- Generator, motor, speaker, microphone
9th- Newtons laws- Cars, Airplanes, rockets, robots
10th- Liquid properties- Hydraulic lift, hydraulic brake

I have listed the concepts mostly from physics but it is possible to work with any part of science and identify the corresponding technologies.

Now, how do we impart technology training to children?

We can make use of following techniques to expose children to relevant technology:

– Narrate the story of invention of the technology / product. Invention of a camera or a telephone are good examples of interesting stories

– Arrange a discussion about what if we didn’t have this technology”. Children can understand the value of technology creators like Michael Faraday when they realise how difficult it is to live without electricity if Faraday had not invented a dynamo.

– Take children to a factory visit where they can see technology usage directly. If that is not possible, we can show them the videos of such factories. Showing children ‘pick and place robots assembling parts of a car in a factory can open their eyes on interesting uses of robots.

– Identify models of products that can be built by children and make them build things using their hands. Models of moon rover, electric crane, cars, trains, airplanes, robots, rockets etc., are very interesting for children to build with their hands.

– Encourage children to cultivate hobbies in new age technologies like aero-modelling, electronics, programming, robotics etc.,

Kindling Creativity

All children are born creative; we rob them of creativity through education. If we are careful and be aware of things that curb the creative instincts, we can at least make some children retain and develop creativity when they reach adulthood. Some practical ideas to retain and foster creativity are:

– Encourage children to explore things without the fear of failure. Creativity is always accompanied by lots of failures. Thomas Edison failed 6000 times before succeeding in his light bulb invention. Do not punish children for failures.

– Curiosity is the mother of invention. Children are naturally curious. We should avoid curbing their curiosity. Always encourage them even when they ask apparently silly questions. They look silly to us because we already have a certain boundary in our thinking and hence we cannot think differently.

– Kids are always such a sport; they do not allow their ideas to be hijacked by negative thinking. Do not start with the statement your idea doesn’t work because . .

– Children are action oriented. Allow them to work using their hands. Give them models to build or simple products to repair.

– Sometimes a child sits simply without doing anything. Her mind is consolidating, connecting things that she has grasped and thinking about what to do next.

– Do not disturb her.

Conclusion

We have mechanisms in our daily life that can motivate us to consume technology. We need technology creators to take the civilisation forward but we do not have natural motivators for technology creators in our daily life. Schools have to take up this responsibility. If we lay the right kind of foundation in basics of technology and create an atmosphere that fosters creativity we can hope for next generation technology creators emerging in our own country.

The author is Guruprasad R. Athani, chief learning officer, TinkerMaster.

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