Teens Working With Technology, Not Just Using It

By: Dan Rauzi, Boys & Girls Club of America, Senior Director of Technology Programs

A few years ago I was at a family reunion and asked my nephew to borrow his laptop to check email. He said sure but warned me the internet was running really slow. Clicking on the browser, I waited. . . and waited. . . and waited, about 5 minutes total. Finally, his home page came up. What was really strange though was that every other page loaded at a normal speed. I asked him about it and he said they’d taken it in and had to have a lot of viruses removed but that really didn’t help the problem. Doing a little investigation on my own, I found his home page was a very strange site that was bombarding his system with viruses and his anti-virus was holding everything up as it combated his homepage. I changed his homepage and it worked perfectly.

What struck me was his nonchalance at a piece of technology not working right. He LOVED using his computer (at the time he was at that teenage stage where talking to adults is too much trouble) and spent a good deal of time on it at our reunion. But he had no interest or compunction to figure out why it didn’t work the way he knew it should. “That’s just the way it works,” was his reply.

I just returned from the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC), looking at all the great technology that can help our young people attain academic success. And certainly, technology is important to their education. As more school districts go to electronic textbooks, as more of their teachers use social media and school learning systems to assign homework and assessments, as we as a society become more wired with at-our-fingertips information, it’s a cliché today to say that technology will play an ever increasing role in young people’s lives.

But I reflect back on my experience with my nephew, and I wonder if we are doing a service to our youth if we only use technology to teach them and don’t teach them about technology. If they’re not able to troubleshoot, to bring together different media to create content and to WORK WITH and not just use technology, then they will be no better than those of us who lived with encyclopedias and slide rules. Because they will not have taken charge of their technology environment but will merely react to it.

At Boys & Girls Clubs of America, we believe that youth must not only be in their environment, but must also have influence over it. To that end, BGCA with partners Microsoft and Comcast provides the Club Tech programs, a suite of programs and resources that teach Club youth and teens to not just use technology but work with technology. I was at FETC to be part of a panel on using game design to engage youth in STEM, particularly the “T” in STEM.

BGCA, in conjunction with the AMD Changing the Game Foundation, gives Club youth a way to learn about game design with the Game Tech program. In a fun, engaging way, Game Tech teaches youth to program computers. Youth making their own video games are youth who are engaged in technology in a whole new way. But not just that, they learn logical thinking, organization and collaboration skills that are essential to today’s global-focused economy.  With our corporate partners, BGCA is committed to the success of America’s young people. And that means something as simple as teaching them to change their homepage to something as complex as programming a video game.

Dan Rauzi 

Boys & Girls Club of America

Senior Director of Technology Programs

Click here to read more blogs posts from Boys & Girls Club of America staff

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