If kids are expert consumers of tech, and with a bit of direction, that can translate into being expert creators of tech, in a way that helps them to take hold of their own careers.
I have a background in tech and have worked in schools for over 10 years. In that time I’ve been part of leadership teams, helped set up one of the country’s first ‘geek schools’ for young coders and kids wanting to get into developing video games, and established a number of community programs for primary and secondary age students, in the form of Saturday ‘coder dojos’ and summer ‘hackathons’.
I created STEAM School to address a specific problem. I’ve worked with schools for over 10 years, setting up visits with exciting speakers, devising great projects and doing wonderful things with the kids – but I’m increasingly aware that what I do is becoming a ‘luxury’ that schools can’t afford.
There’s a real need for primary and secondary schools to better prepare kids for digital and tech careers. Teachers are often too busy keeping up with curriculum changes to keep abreast of – never mind incorporate into lessons – the latest developments happening in the tech world. Our belief is that primary and secondary kids should be able to have meaningful engagement with inspirational people from that world.
STEAM School after school sessions go live at 3.45pm on Thursdays, giving most schools 15 minutes or so to get the kids taking part prepared and settled. We begin with a private live YouTube broadcast of an interview with an inspirational figure working within the ICT industry that runs for around 25 minutes, followed by a 15-minute mini challenge relating to the topics discussed, which schools can either complete during the session or assign as homework.
The remaining portion then focuses on the following week’s broadcast – we provide schools with a guest pack containing a biography, suggested links and everything else they need to come up with some questions for the next session’s speaker.
One of the first guests we had was Holly Patterson, who was hugely into video games as a teenager and in her mid 20s now works for a video games publisher. She’s somebody who developed a passion when she was young and persisted until she managed to turn that passion into a job. Part of the challenge we did around her interview was asking the students to think about what their passion was, what they could do to nurture it and how that passion could be turned into a career.
The challenges don’t require specific technologies, primarily for practical reasons, but if you’ve ever sat in on any creative brainstorming sessions in the tech world, you’ll see that what they do is less about the technology itself, and more about drawing on their critical thinking skills and creativity – which is what all children should have the opportunity to develop.
Jade Parkinson-Hill is the founder of STEAM School.