A teenage daughter comes home and tells that she wanted to choose a programming course at school but it had become complicated. When she discussed her plans with teacher she was told that as there were only boys enrolled on the course she might want to consider taking a cooking course for making healthy snacks instead. The daughter is puzzled.
Another teenager describes how hard it is to find anything to get started with programming or technology in the channels that she follows. It almost feels like there is nothing about technology for “us” on the internet, she sighs!
A third girl comes home and indecisively tells her mother that she has enrolled on a programming course, “almost by mistake”. Her mother replies that it is probably the best mistake she’s ever made! The daughter feels encouraged and safe.
These real-life stories happen to be about girls but the need to make technology more inclusive goes beyond gender. In addition the perception of own technological skills has an effect on willingness to get familiar with technology. Our digital world is for all of us. How could we offer every teenager an opportunity and encouragement to get a glimpse from the maker side of it?
Here are three ways how we educators can empower youth:
1. Personal recommendations and examples from teachers are valuable for students
We have seen how big impact the teachers may have on the students and their perceptions of themselves. Teenagers ask themselves if something is for them or if they are meant for something. A warm recommendation from a trusted teacher, a mentor, can be the best compliment and a motivator for anyone to start exploring a world of opportunities! Teachers and other adults are also living examples of what a human being can or is allowed to do and what students should think about themselves.
Our courses have been offered as optional in over 100 secondary schools in Finland. A big part of our work is influencing not only the students but also the teachers.
Technology education can empower youth to find more ways to express themselves, create and live life to the fullest!
2. Think of diversity when providing role models
Technology is not only about engineering but it is easier said than done. There are numerous and diverse career opportunities in the technology field, which include work with technology, production, design, finance, administration, communications, sales, marketing, environmental responsibility and education. Cross-curricular experiences and practical beginner projects will give a better understanding and imagination to see what’s out there for me and why, and to learn more about the ways students can express themselves with technology.
3. Engage students with meaningful learning material
Teachers love to use learning material that is engaging and motivating for the students! When courses are practical and the focus is in making one’s own ideas come alive, there is a bigger chance to impact more different kinds of students and increase equality.
It has surprised teachers to see highly academic students get carried away with crafting a tangible maker project with a team. Or seeing a passive student persistently working on their code when making their electronic piece of music ready for a show time at the end of the course. We’ve seen that the students don’t want to leave the classroom. Seeing your own creative idea to become reality is a powerful experience that can have long-lasting consequences. It can be much more important than just getting the programming syntax right in the classroom!