Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Three Pillars of Thinkersmith

Believe it or not, it *is* possible to negatively affect children by bringing technology into their lives too young.  Even still, our high-tech world is here to stay, and kids need to be equipped with some very important skills if they are to be prepared for the digital world ahead.

At Thinkersmith, we believe in introducing children to computer science as soon as possible.  As part of that position, we recognize that it has to be done in a safe and balanced way to prevent negative consequences.  If computational concepts are presented too ambitiously, it can effectively frighten students out of computer science altogether.  If it is presented with careless frivolity, it can entice children to a life of screen-dependency, causing their real lives to suffer.

Proper education in computer science and computational thinking must be done with a great sense of responsibility to the future of our children and the future of humankind in general.  That's where Thinkersmith's three pillars come in:

1)  Balance activity with screen time:
Children can easily be sucked into the entertainment that comes along with computation.  If we intervene in one's life enough to introduce a student to technology, we must also educate them on the risks of living a sedentary lifestyle.  It is imperative that we teach children to spend no more time in front of a screen than they do running and playing.  At Thinkersmith, we like to encourage children to spend at least as much time in a given day running, skipping, jumping and hopping as they do looking at a screen.  We encourage outdoor play and attempts to solve problems with real-life tools whenever possible.

2)  Balance environment with technology:
It's no secret that gagets take up a lot of electricity.  Technology necessitates the consumption of additional resources as well.  For this reason, Thinkersmith encourages our students to unplug.  We teach children to shut down and unplug their computers when not in use.  We also ask that they turn lights off when they leave a room and actively recycle.  In truth, we believe that users of technology need to do whatever they can to reduce, reuse & recycle, in an effort to offset the extra footprint that tech creates.

3)  Balance philanthropy with self-benefit:
Sure, computer scientists have the potential to make a lot of money.  Government projections indicate that this will be the case for decades to come. While some people may use this as a platform to leverage personal gain, Thinkersmith encourages children to give back, every chance they get.  We promote open-source coding, paying-forward computer science education, and volunteerism.

Thinkersmith truly believes that by engraining these three principals into our students, we will have a much higher national rate of success than we would if these areas were neglected.  We encourage you to keep these ideals in mind as you teach, for *whatever* you teach, as a way of maintaining responsibility for the wellbeing of your students' futures.

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