Let them be partners

Let them be partners

Let them be partners

Mark Zuckerberg developed Facebook when he was twenty years old. Will the next Facebook be developed by a 13-year-old?

On September 7-8 this year, TechCrunch’s Disrupt SF 2013 hackathon was held in San Francisco. The event was attended by 264 competitors who, within the space of 24 hours, developed innovative product ideas and technologies. At the end of the development process, each group was allowed just one minute to make a pitch for their product. On the surface, this was just another hackathon, but there were two things that made me stop and think.

I was surprised to discover that first place went to a group of young people who developed a product intended to improve reading. The product offers a text reading service, which tells the user how much time it will take him to read the text, once he starts reading. In addition, the application serves as a dictionary, and allows words that are not understood to be stored through an interface to Evernote.

The fact that teenagers were participating in the hackathon, to create a product whose purpose is to improve the reading skills of users, reinforced my belief that we need to listen more to children and adolescents when we construct technological products for educational purposes.

And if teenage participants were a surprise, what do you say about a 9 year old girl?

Alexandra Jordan created Super Fun Kid Time, an application that allows children and parents to arrange playdates for their children during the summer vacation.

Alexandra came up with the idea on her own, defined it, and even wrote her own pitch. She is learning to program, and enjoys it very much, particularly because of the fact that “you can just sit and create and build things.” At the hackathon, she was helped in writing the code by her father. She describes her experiences here.

At MindCET, we are making adolescents our partners in thinking about the future of learning

During the last school year, we ran a program on the School of the Future at the Herzliya Gymnasium high school in Tel Aviv. Twenty 7th Grade students took part in thinking of ideas to use technology to improve learning processes and enhance motivation to learn. Outputs from the program can be found here.

This year we are running an entrepreneurial program for children and teenagers at the Herzliya Gymnasium high school in Tel Aviv, with 8th grade students, and in two schools in Yeruham, with 9th graders. The aim of these programs is to create a space for shared discourse, and an entry into the digital world of children and teenagers, allowing them to create technological ideas for improving learning.

In addition, following two hackathons that we held without young people participating, the next hackathon – to be held in April – will also involve young people. We are certain that they will make a significant contribution to creating and improving the products from the hackathon’s participants.

One thing’s for certain – it’s going to be interesting.