Dad’s Tech Quest – Introduction
So before they could speak, their hands were slapping and clacking on the keyboard. This isn’t so unusual these days, as many modern American families have access to similar technology.
But I wanted to go one step further.
I believe my career in technology is due primarily to my early exposure to computers. My high school exposed us early in the 1980s to simple programming using the Commodore 64, a machine that was a gateway for thousands of tech-curious minds.
Then, in a move that would prove formative, my father bought me a used Apple IIc computer. It was a basic machine, but it was mine. I could tinker and explore at home, rather than in a computer lab. I used it primarily as a word processor, but it gave me the confidence to use technology as a tool.
And, like many before me, I was completely and utterly blown away the first time I saw my first classic Macintosh computer. Unlike many of my fellow students who walked past, I couldn’t wait to put my hands on it.
Flash Forward to Present
According to Malcom Gladwell, it takes some 10,000 hours of experience to master any craft. He hypothesizes that it is ongoing trial and error and experience that leads to mastery. Debate it if you want, but the man has a point.
I realize that my comfort and proficiency with computers steps from my exposure to technology. And not just using technology, mind you, but actually manipulating it. We can all surf the web, but very few know how to contribute to it.
Many American children are being exposed to computers in the classroom. The reasons for this are many and obvious, but I believe we can do more. Just showing them how to use Google or watch YouTube is no longer enough.
Children must learn how to make things. Sure, I am talking primarily about digital “things,” but making can mean almost anything. Make toys. Make games. Make macrame. Make pottery. Making is good for the brain, good for the soul, and can also be good for your bank account.
I’m planning to raise makers. It will not always be easy, but I will put things in their hands and teach them how to teach themselves how to make.
Rasberry Pi and Scratch
After consulting family, friends, and peers, I discovered MIT’s Scratch, which is a simple, but fun programming environment designed for kids.
I sat down, learned a few basic things, and then taught my kids how to get started. So far, Scratch is a minor hit. Right now, they are just playing with basic graphics and moving sprites on the screen. They can make whatever they want. No rules, no requirements, just silly graphics and sounds.
And just tonight, I ordered our first Rasberry Pi. This is that $35 do it yourself computer board. We’ll have to assemble it and install the operating system ourselves. It seems pretty basic, but I anticipate that we’ll mess something up as we make our first computer. Part of making is fixing.
We have to add our own power supply, keyboard, memory, and other components. I’ll leave the kids with a stack of components and let them figure out what goes where. Everything is modular, so they shouldn’t have much trouble.
Anyway, the operating system for Rasberry Pi is based in Linux. And guess what? You can install the Linux version of Scratch, so the kids will already know how to do something on their new computer.
Dad’s Tech Quest
So this is my personal Tech Quest. I have no idea if my kids will continue to make hardware, software, or something else entirely. They may discover offline making, like photography, painting, knitting, or something else. That’s fine, as long as they keep busy and find something to do.
Technology is not going away, so it’s important that my kids see tech as something that they can make, if they want.
This is my Dad’s Tech Quest. Check back again for future updates and let me know if you’ve taken a similar quest for your kids.