Tech literacy: a step forward from e-learning

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A young audience engaged
A young audience soaking up the tech world. (Images via Tala el Issa)

While many companies have been focused on integrating technological tools into children’s curricula, Jordanian academy Eureka has been working on allowing children aged 6-16 years to learn and explore technology rather than just use it as a tool.

Eureka’s curriculum is divided into 16 sub-levels that cover a wide array of subjects ranging from engineering, and robotics to programing and pneumatics.

“The main mission of Eureka is to train children and qualify them to become technology producers rather than consumers,” said founder Afnan Ali, who is working to spread Eureka to three more Jordanian provinces by the end of 2016, in addition to its current operation in Amman and Aqaba.

She also hopes to include more public school and refugees into the program, and to begin integrating the program into school curricula in 2017.

The two-year-old startup has succeeded in teaching more than 300 students to date.

Robots produced by the students
Robots built by children at the academy. 

Although the weekly program is taught outside schools, it has become a motivation for school work, rather than a burden. 

“I have to organize my time. Just like I dedicate time to school, I also dedicate time to Eureka,” said 14-year-old Layan Obeido. “When my mom tells me that if I don’t get a good grade at school, she would get me out of Eureka, I automatically start studying.”

Why teach kids technology?

The number of unfilled ICT vacancies in Europe is expected to reach 900,000 by 2020, said big technology producers Facebook, Microsoft, Rovio and others in an open letter to EU ministers of education  in 2014.

In the letter, key technology companies tried to push policy makers to include coding in curricula, saying it will be a basic skill in the future.

“The ability to code is not a selfish industry ambition,” they wrote. “A plethora of interesting, creative jobs all depend on a degree of coding ability. Whether analysing healthcare data, designing security software or creating special effects for movies, coding is the red thread that runs through Europe's future professions.”

In 2014, the UK became the first country to officially incorporate coding into the national curriculum for children aged between five and 14.

“Building a culture of tech literacy means helping children grow up confident with the fundamentals of technology and its impact in shaping society,” said BT Group CEO Gavin Patterson in the company’s report on tech education. BT assisted the UK government in implementing the plan.

Patterson believes tech literacy is an asset to the economy of the country.

“Just as young people have to be able to read and write to be prepared for life, they need to be literate in technology too,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for the UK: empowering young people, developing our future workforce and safeguarding the nation’s economic success.”

Eureka's team
The Eureka team and children. 

Coding competition

While Eureka’s curriculum is more comprehensive in terms of combining engineering and programming fields, other academies like Hello World Kids and Coding Circle focus on teaching programming and coding. International Robotics Academy is specified for teaching stem and robotics for children and youth.

On the regional level The Little Engineer has a similar concept and operates in Lebanon and Qatar.

International examples of academies and associations include New Techkids, Code.org, Code Club, and the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA).

Just like e-learning has become a breakthrough in modern schooling, tech education is becoming more popular and is showcasing an alternative model to traditional teaching styles and learning methods. In fact, tech literacy has a very critical role: the absence of it might threaten human progress in a future that will solely depend on technology.

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