Deborah Carter – Newtechkids


21st century skills in an after school programme

Deborah Carter has set up an after school technology education academy in which she brings children into contact with the technology concepts behind gadgets and devices. Here, the focus lies on 21st century skills like critical thinking, collaboration, communicating, creativity and problem solving. It aims to induce digital literacy and to inject innovation from a stem and steam perspective. In the academy children are thought the fundamentals of technology; how it works and why it works.

“We need children to be able to develop fair, just and moral products”

Miss Carter noticed a pipeline problem; children are passive technology users, who don’t understand how technology works nor are they able to create it for themselves. The world is in need of people who can develop fair, just and moral products. Moreover people need to be able to protect themselves regarding privacy issues.

Four core concepts and a sense of urgency

In the academy they focus on four core concepts: systems thinking (different parts that work together), design, programming and logic and pattern recognitions. The academy provides challenge based learning in which solving and creating solutions play a huge role. For example: build a vehicle with a finite amount of LEGO pieces. First with wheels, then without wheels. Moreover, they create a sense of urgency by sketching a fictional crisis and deadline, which stimulates kids to collaborate in their thinking. Developing teamwork skills (share ideas, resolve conflict, listening to each other) is one of the most important aspects.

Design and systems thinking at age of 7: sure!

In doing so, children of a young age are involved in design processes: generate ideas, prototype them, experience failure, learn from it, give and receive constructive feedback and working with deadlines. Furthermore, they are involved in systems thinking: they recognize a system, identify the elements that make up the system and the effect of the various elements. They move from systems they’re familiar with to more abstract systems. They start for example with the system of a laptop and then move on to the system of a metro doorway.

Systems thinking in museums

All museums are systems and could integrate systems thinking, says miss Carter.

Various kinds of parts can be determined: exhibitions, art movements, eras, specific artists etc. How to represent your art to children in a systems thinking way? Take Van Gogh: he portrays both rural and urban areas and different ways of living. He thereby depicts the system of the economy. Rembrandt’s art reflects the system of religion: he depicts Christian and protestant scenes while he lived in a Jewish neighbourhood. Programming can also be found in art: look for code in paintings and graphic design. Algorithms can be related to as a recipe.

Structured design processes can be laid bare by processes of for example making bread and photography. Miss Carter invites everyone to jump on board to become more relevant to children. Code week is coming up and might be an interesting kick-starter: Start gathering experts that can feed your ideas and develop resources for teachers.