Nathalie Kuborn (We Are Coders), Gaëlle Girardeau (Cood) and Christophe Coquis (Geek Junior) talk to us about learning about computers, digital technology and the introduction to digital culture for children: the market, courses and advice.
The market for teaching digital technology to children
The emergence of a need
The market for computer-based learning for children is emerging. For Gaëlle, this can be explained by the fact that we are all increasingly equipped in terms of digital technology. It is, therefore, necessary to support children in learning to use digital technology. The first observation thus comes from the parents. The second is from the French government, which has started to integrate coding courses into the school curriculum from the age of 12 and has been doing so since 2015. Since 2019, classes on the development of digital culture have been added to the school syllabus.
I think the public authorities realise that there is a need [to integrate] this type of educational provision within the education system itself.
Nathalie Kuborn, We Are Coders
Many issues have arisen with the addition of these new subjects. Science and mathematics teachers were first to teach this subject, for which some were neither prepared nor qualified. Christophe and Gaëlle depict a frustration of parents and children who have turned to learning options outside the school.
It should be noted that Nathalie offers a different perspective on the Belgian market, where the national education system has not integrated digital education into the curriculum. Thus, the need comes exclusively from the parents or the interest of the children.
All evoke the sanitary crisis and particularly the lockdown as factors that have contributed to raising awareness of the importance of digital technology among parents, children and teachers. Many difficulties were encountered (material, technical, organisational, and so on) during the confinement and particularly during the remote learning classes.
The first question that arises is how to make a digital transition, or rather, in the broadest sense, how to use digital technology and how to familiarise children with digital technologies in their regular lessons.
Nathalie Kuborn, We Are Coders
The typical profiles
- Gaëlle explains in this podcast that the beginning of their activity with Cood marked the birth of a typical profile in France: parent, urban, post-secondary education, aware of the importance of digital in the professional world. However, the health crisis has opened the eyes of many people to digital issues (parents, teachers, children), and the existence of a typical profile has gradually diminished.
- In Belgium, Nathalie does not depict any typical profile. For her, it is mainly the children who are the first to be interested and who will, therefore, argue their willingness to follow courses on computers and digital technology.
The magazine Geek Junior positions itself as a support for learning. It is one of the only magazines to tackle digital issues for children in the French-speaking market. Following the integration of computer studies classes in French colleges, 20% of the children have subscribed to the magazine to accompany computer learning in the classroom.
Gaëlle Girardeau about Geek Junior:
There are 2 super exciting aspects in this presentation:
Intergenerational: […] it is a structure where the adult can [work] with the child on this medium, be it the teacher or the parent.
Captivating: when you are [online], you often leave an article right away [because of a distraction]. With the magazine, […] you don’t walk away from it because it’s paper, and I think it makes it much easier to establish [concepts].
Impact of covid-19 on the demand
For the three partners, the covid-19 had a substantial impact on their activities. Nathalie and Gaëlle had to adapt their offer to allow the children to follow the courses remotely. They both register many additional enrolments during the period of confinement (March to May-June). The summer and the start of the 2020 school year marked a significant drop in enrolments compared to the period of lockdown. Nevertheless, this number remains stable compared to N-1. Again, with the November re confinement, the number of enrolments increased again. Gaëlle points out that more adults and companies were also registered on Cood in 2020 to learn about the uses of digital technology, remote collaboration practices, and so forth.
For Christophe at Geek Junior, a massive increase in the number of visits to the website was recorded during the confinement period (number of visits x2) with articles aimed at helping parents and children to manage digital confinement. This confinement benefited the participatory fundraising campaign launched by Geek Junior 3 days before the announcement of the lockdown in March 2020. Indeed, Christophe believes that it has raised awareness of digital issues among a large section of the population, which has benefited the magazine.
Advice for parents
The ideal age to start
Nathalie recommends the use of digital technology for children from 8 years old. It is essential to her that children are introduced to the use of a computer and not just to the use of a tablet.
When you do a Simon says, for example, it’s already an algorithm: if the instruction [is not formulated] in the right way, the child doesn’t have to execute it, so I think that, naturally, children are already confronted with this learning since pre-school.
Nathalie Kuborn, We Are Coders
For her part, Gaëlle offers courses from the age of 10 to ensure that children have fluency in reading, writing and have learned the fundamentals and are comfortable with basic mathematics. For the youngest children, she advocates learning via robots rather than on computers.
We’re starting to look at learning modules on artificial intelligence. Why? Because we realise that toddlers are increasingly being confronted with a voice assistant at home.
Gaëlle Girardeau, Cood
Christophe specifies that this apprenticeship is perfectly adapted for children and teenagers between 10 and 16 years old, as long as it remains an activity and not an obligation. He also insists on the importance of accompanying children in the use of digital technology and the importance of working or playing together (parents and children in particular) using these devices.
What is interesting is that they can understand the digital culture [and] the issues surrounding it.
Christophe Coquis, Geek Junior
Gaëlle, Nathalie and Christophe agree that the important thing is not for children to know how to code, but to develop a knowledge of the digital world, the culture, the environment and the issues surrounding it.
The learning of computer science and digital technology develops:
- Raising awareness related to digital issues
- Application of fundamental concepts and learning (mathematics in particular)
- Ability to collaborate and exchange with others
- Creativity (creating and solving problems)
- Learning through failure
- Development of a critical mind towards the digital world and the information it provides.
The learning process for digital technologies
All participants agree that there is no classical or ideal learning path. Each child is different, the rhythms are varied, and the tools and methods must therefore be adapted.
For Gaëlle, the tools to be used to teach children digital literacy depend on the age, objectives and interest expressed by the child. Cood offers intergenerational options with workshops for children and grandparents.
At We Are Coders, Nathalie relies on the use of educational tools approved internally and free of copyright so that children can use them at home as well (Scratch, Python, etc.). Machine Learning and visual storytelling options are also available and accessible, depending on the child and their interests.
Christophe expresses the interest in learning about artificial intelligence but above all in taking into account the child’s rhythm to adapt the teaching tools used. Nathalie and Gaëlle support this point and confirm that each child progresses at a different pace.
Christophe proposes other forms of learning thanks to solutions to build a robot without programming or to use robots to be programmed online. For him, this is of particular interest for the understanding of programming as a whole, and he invites parents to do these activities with their children for more friendliness.Tags: algorithmic governance, consumer behavior