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­TECH R’ US: Education and Technology in 2009

August, 2009
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As we move further into the 21st century, technology is everywhere around us. Nowadays, photographers and filmmakers are no longer working with traditional celluloid films and spending long hours on the editing bench. Instead, they are shooting digitally and editing online on their personal Macintosh computer in the comfort of their own living rooms. Social networking sites like Twitter and My Space have become immensely popular among the younger Internet gurus and have since revolutionized the method of communication around the world. As a result, young children are now using technology just as much as working adults, if not more.Kids Tech 3

On this basis, technology can be a good thing for children if it’s used to enhance their learning abilities and improve self discovery. It is important for parents to know where they can find good technology outlets that are beneficial to their children, and how to make the technology learning process fun and educational.

This summer, America’s number one computer camp partnered up with Western International School Shanghai and brought a month of fun and hands-on technology to the children in Shanghai. The iSummer Tech Camp, held at more than 60 top universities in the US including Stanford and MIT, finally debuted in Shanghai on July 6th 2009 after four long years of planning. “The iSummer Tech camp was a huge success in America ten years ago and it got bigger and bigger each year”, Jeff Hammock says. “I wanted to introduce the program to the kids in China because it’s a great way for them to learn technology and explore their areas of interest”. Jeff is the organizer for the iSummer Tech Camp in Shanghai, and has organized technology camps all over the world including in Spain and the USA.

At the iSummer Tech Camp, kids and teens can choose to participate in various workshops from Video Game Design to website building and flash animation. Their main objective is to enrich the young campers with the latest technology trends and information and teach them to appreciate the technology around them. “What we try to accomplish is a supplementary program to the schools. In school, they learn about Math, History, and English but here we want them to explore a specific interest that they can pursue in the future”, Jeff shares. “Perhaps there are parents who feel technology is too sophisticated for toddlers and young children; however, by exposing them to technology at an early age we can help them develop an interest in acquiring new knowledge”.

One of the hottest programs at the camp was Video Game Design (for ages 7-10, 10-17). The Video Game Design course is a one-stop workshop from designing your own game from scratch to completing the actual game by using software such as Click team multimedia, fusion 2, developers, Adobe Photoshop, Flash, and many others. Most children and young teens are experts in playing games on PlayStation, Nintendo Wii, and online. However, this course places children in a complete different role as they are no longer gamers but game designers. “I had so much fun designing our game this summer. It’s similar to Tetris with a newer concept”, Alex Qian, 14, says with excitement. “Of course, thanks to Danger Cat, (the nickname of a female teacher from England), she was really helpful during the whole designing process. I’ll definitely be back next year”. Kids Tech 1

The iSummer Tech Camp is truly an innovative way to prepare the children for a new focus upon their return to the new school year, especially when working with a top-tier school like WISS with a program curriculum that strives to fulfill each student’s individual needs. WISS also offers a program from the International Baccalaureate Organization (I.B.O.), an organization that shares a similar motto with the iSummer Tech camp. “Aim to develop knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect”. In order for kids to appreciate the technology around them, they must first understand how these technologies contribute to their everyday life.

"I am really ecstatic that the camp turned out to be a success, as I was worried initially because this is our first camp held in China. I’ve been promoting the camp since December 2008 and reaching the parents was the most difficult part but WISS provided great exposure for us”, Jeff says. In addition to cooperating with WISS, a separate camp was also held at the British International School Shanghai Pudong campus.

Other than summer camps, there are many other venues that provide hands-on technology learning courses throughout the year. The Children Technology Workshop (CTW) is a prime example of how kids can learn about technology that isn’t offered in a traditional academic setting. All programs offered are taught in English so students can enhance their English while learning about technology. The Children Technology Workshop is a learning institution established in Canada in 1997 and they offer technological and scientific programs for children from ages 2-14 in both academic and non-academic settings. Since 2004, they have provided programs for children across Shanghai, Canada, HK, US, Singapore, Malaysia and Korea.

CTW utilizes a specialized teaching method that maximizes both left and right brain development simultaneously, resulting in enhanced creativity while strengthening problem solving abilities. CTW Camp caters to children 4-14 offering a wide range of topics such as animation, robotics, and Architecture. During these weekly camps, kids are taught how to make their creativity and concept come to life using the latest technologies.

Architecture is one of the parent’s favorite program which use Lego toys to build towers, bridges, and house construction as well as using computer to simulate real life landmarks and design. Intro to robots is another popular program which covers basic concepts, usage, and control of robots. Children get to work with Lego models to build; feel and control actual robots and learn how they work through experiments and computer.

"This is complimentary to school studies. The kids get to have fun by working their creative genes and experience a different type of learning from school”, says Mrs. Chen, the Mother of 7 years old Andy who is currently attending CTW. “Since attending the Robotics Workshop, my son has developed a more consistent habit of reading and writing”. Hands on building activities proved to help children improve their lack of patience and ability to concentrate on a task.

The Workshop offers the option of cooperating with individual schools to provide an activity course designed to hold “hands on” activities covering science, engineering and technology for students in pre-school to the 9th grade. Each workshop is between 1 to 2 hours and can accommodate up to 32 students per activity. CTW have worked with many schools including the British International School, Shanghai, Dulwich College Shanghai, The SMIC Private School, Shanghai American School, Yew Chung International School of Shanghai and WISS. In addition, CTW also offers a Toddler’s Club from age 2 to 3.5 combining music, movement and technology to help build a foundation for the child’s lifelong learning.

As children become more aware of the technology around them, they will appreciate the world they live in. It may be in the parents’ best interests to get up-to-speed with the latest technology trends, so they can apply it to their everyday life as well. Step out of your box and don’t be afraid to open an account on one of those social networks, and add your kids as your top friends. This may help create a bond between you and your child when you have something in common to share.

It is never too late for the parents to get involved because life is forever a learning process. So consider taking your kids to a technology workshop camp nearby for your next family outing, perhaps you and your child may just be the next inventor of the classic PAC MAN game of the new millennium. You’ll never know until you take that first step…towards technology.

By Richard Chung

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  1. September 2nd, 2009 at 09:47 | #1