An update to the 'Children tinkering' after >10years

Children tinkering, part 2 #

Roughly a decade ago I wrote a short post about children tinkering. A lot of the advice from back then is still valid today. I just noticed that ten years later there are a few more things one could look into:

Instead of only being a subtrack of FrOSCon, Froglabs have turned into Teckids e.V. - including online fora, a yearly week for an off-site and several side tracks of Chemnitzer Linuxtage, FrOSCon and FOSS events in Graz.

In terms of conferences with sub-tracks, in addition to CCC events and FrOSCon, there’s now Chemnitzer Linuxtage with several kids tracks and a soldering workshop room. There’s also a kids track as an aside to FOSDEM.

There is a lovely, actively maintained list of resources over in the FSFE Wikipage.

Speaking of FSFE:

Did I mention that I love their book Ada und Zangemann. Available in all sorts of languages. With stickers in addition and pages for coloring in. With slides and all you may ever wish for to do a book reading in your local library or for the friends of your child.

Speaking of books:

I regularly bump into nerds and geeks at a loss of motivating their kids - both, boys and girls, to loook into science.

As a result I have a collection of books I tend to recommend for people looking for stories about role models:

There’s the entire Rebel girls book series. In Germany, Hanser Verlag has similar books for boys. The Computer History Museum does have a lovely collection of materials and books. In particular check out the Women who launched the computer age.

If you need a video to convince you to read these books to your four year old: There’s a lovely one on inspiring the future. It was back at the Natural History Museum in London that I learnt that compliance with expectations and stereotypical behaviour starts to develop at the age of 4.

If you speak German you may want to check out Meine Freundin Roxy for a nice introduction to machine learning.

Also for people speaking Germans there’s a lovely #kids #digital #genial book to cover all sorts of online and digital first topics that go way beyond coding. Digital Courage also has several other pages on going online in a responsible way related to children.

Speaking of other resources beyond coding:

For German speakers there are things like Frag Finn and Klexikon to guide younger humans towards content that is easy to understand.

In terms of projects:

Start with the learning to code. Alternatively try out light bot. Continue with scratch. There are tons of great books, tpyically even local libraries have them. If playing with hardware, both, Calliope and Micro Bit are lovely. For getting apps on your phone, try out app inventor - again, comes with a ton of books, we love Become an app inventor because it comes with a lot of motivational stories.

Try to find like-minded people in your city, e.g. by joining a coder dojo. There are several in Berlin. If there are none in your city, create one :)

“But given code generating AI, nobody will be writing source code when today’s children are grown up” I hear people say.

True, neither did I need Amiga Basic in my job, nor Turbo Pascal. I didn’t even need the Assembler that I learnt at university. However I do still need loops, conditions and switches. I do still need the strength to think algorithmically. I also still need the understanding of how a CPU works, including branch prediction and loading data from registers, memory, disc or through the network to do performance optiomisation and understand specific security attack vectors.

I’d much rather see a generation who understands at least the basics of the devices they use on a day to day basis. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll also be more motivated for math, if they know that all recommendations seen in any online social media site at the end of the day is nothing more than a few matrix multiplications ;)

And at the end of the day, even those new and shiny Large Language Models are nothing but a bit of algebra and statistics :)

“But I have no background in technology myself” I hear you say. Guess what? A lot of these offerings are very easy to grasp for little people with a hacker’s mindset who love exploring and tinkering. The best way to help is to avoid stopping their creativity. For cherries on top show them what you yourself do on a day to day basis. Show them your own workplace and let them understand all of the things that exist beyond what they learn in school - or phrased another way how what they learn in school relates to the world that exists beyond.

So what if someone asks you whether tech would even be interesting for girls? I’ll quote a lovely lady who gave a lightning talk together with me during FOSS Backstage 2024 on how to draw kids - and in particular girls - into technology in general and into open source in particular: “I would answer to look at Ada Lovelace. To look towards Grace Hopper. To look towards all the cool girls in technology. And then I’d tell them to think again.”