April 6, 2020

In times of “physical distancing” we organized the first virtual Women Techmakers Meetup. Admittedly, we were all a bit skeptical at the beginning. Which tool should we use? How do we create interaction? After we had clarified the technical details, we started the experiment. But the Corona crisis is not only changing the way we network, it is also turning school life upside down. Children and young people no longer learn in the classroom. All of a sudden, technical aids have to be used. So we took the chance and dealt with the question of how the education system could be revolutionized. Because one thing is undisputed: Having a good technical understanding is essential when later entering the professional world. As an introduction to the topic, Daniella Cunha Teichert reported on her experiences. The mother of two children works at Bosch in the Robotics division. It is particularly important to her to introduce children to the subject of technology and IT at an early age. She has therefore taken part in an initiative and teaches robotics courses at elementary schools. Her goal is to give children, and girls in particular, the mindset: “If you cannot do it - you cannot do it yet.” She also wants to prepare children better for the working world of the 21st century. In addition, Philine, intern at moinworld e.V., reported on the students’ views, as she finished school last year. Digital learning is also desired by the pupils. Authorities such as the school administration are open from Philine’s experience, but concrete actions rarely occur. This is often due to bureaucratic hurdles that can seem insurmountable. If changes do occur, the students who gave the input don’t notice any more because the time frames are too big. Afterwards, we discussed four questions. On a virtual whiteboard, all participants could express their thoughts.

In an era when all of the human knowledge is freely available online, and the nature of work is fundamentally changing, how does the education system need to evolve to reflect our new realities?

The participants consider it important to teach pupils the ability to obtain and filter information themselves. In a time when facts, data and knowledge are available online at any time, pure memorization should be avoided. Daniella Cunha Teichert has commented that the printed book and thus the learning of facts is already outdated at the moment of printing. Therefore, methods for recognizing important and correct information become crucial. However, the school should not only show how to filter information, but also how to exploit and convey the possibilities of online learning. However, this increased use of new possibilities means that children and young people must also be shown that behaviour in the digital space has consequences, the participants stressed.

How do you think we could improve the schools to have better-prepared citizens in the future?

There were many concrete suggestions for improvement of the school system. Teachers should be trained to become familiar with new teaching methods. For this purpose, media scouts, i.e. students who are interested in technical developments etc., could impart their knowledge to teachers. Besides the widespread idea to introduce computer science as a compulsory school subject, IT could also be combined with already existing subjects! If IT would be given a larger place in school subjects, this would often mean a larger practical and experimental part. Pupils should get to know technologies as part of everyday life, as it is already the case in student and working life. Methods like “Bring your own device” could be tested for this purpose. And of course, very important: the basic attitude must change (“Programming is the new Latin”).

How do you think we could address the topics of empowerment and technology at an early stage of education?

Many ideas were collected on how children can be strengthened in their technological abilities at an early age: Parents should get excited about the topic, mentoring programmes can start earlier, the influence of inspiring teachers should be strengthened and role models should be present. The aim here is that children recognize the new technological possibilities at an early age and become enthusiastic about them. Often, the willingness and interest of the children is already there, but can be encouraged, for example, through hackathons and experiences of success.

How do we meet the tech skills required for the digital economy?

To learn skills for the digital professional world, according to the participants, it is beneficial to get in touch with the world of work while in school: cooperation between schools and companies, parents who pass on their skills and platforms, such as moinworld e.V. or Coder Dojo, which offer a space to discover the IT world and exchange ideas, are important. In conclusion, it can be said that such a virtual meetup is definitely enriching for the exchange of views. However, the networking part was missing. And as good as it is to bring the community together remotely in such times, we are looking forward to seeing you again, when it becomes possible. Next time you want to join one of our Meetups check for new dates here!

You can read more about Daniela’s initiative, which is part of the Societal Transformation Lab WITH ULAB2x, in this article that she published on Linkedin here.