Stichting NewTechKids has launched an exciting, new initiative in collaboration with the Amsterdam-based team of Salesforce.org, the non-profit philanthropic arm of the American tech company. Salesforce.org sponsors a range of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) initiatives around the world and its employees are involved as volunteers.

From November – December 2017, we are teaching a Computational Thinking bootcamp in Amsterdam for second chance youth ages 17-25 who have returned to high school.

We’re providing participants with a basic introduction to computer science, technological literacy and programming and promoting these subjects as study and work options.

What’s exciting for us is that we’re using the same teaching methodology that we use for much younger primary school students and adapting it for an older audience: lively class discussions and a focus on teaching computer science concepts through hands-on activities.

During our four-session bootcamp, we’re highlighting examples of technology projects around the world and introducing participants to fundamental computer science concepts as well as the basic logic behind programming.

We’ve also developed a series of class challenges during which participants will work in teams to develop technology prototypes using toy robots and robotics kits. Participants will experience planning, designing, building and programming processes as well as working in teams and presenting their ideas.

We kicked off the bootcamp on Wednesday, November 15th with a class on self-driving vehicle technology. Participants discussed this technology and then worked in teams to design their own prototypes.

Some teacher observations based on yesterday’s workshop:

  • Participants enjoyed the examples of technology in action we showcased. While understanding how it works is important, real-life examples peak interest. Examples and case studies are a great hook to introduce concepts and stimulate class discussions.
  • Participants were more eager to experiment with little intervention from our teacher. They were more willing to struggle and try new building and programming approaches. Failure was not a deterrent and we were impressed with their perseverence, especially as most of them had never designed or programmed with robotics kits before.
  • While we tend to teach primary school students a limited amount of concepts at the beginning of our programs, these older participants were able to grasp concepts faster and better. So we can introduce multiple computer science concepts at the same time as long as they link to each other. This means our class challenges can become more complex and difficult and there should be room to integrate the ideas of these participants.

We look forward to continuing our teaching in the upcoming weeks to help make these youth enthusiastic about technology-related study and work opportunities.

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