How do you explain complex correlations to young children? TU Graz experts are taking up this challenge. Pedagogically and professionally trained staff are busy developing technical workshops for pre-schoolers and playful ways of imparting knowledge.

Digitization requires citizens to have technical skills. Governments are trying to accomplish this by adapting curricula. The Austrian province of Styria has responded by launching the IT-Talenteschmiede project – with the aim of triggering the youngest generation’s interest in technology.

The Office for Gender Equality and Equal Opportunity at the Technical University in Graz, the capital of Styria, is participating in this project. These extracurricular activities began in 2018 and are known as TUit Workshops. The goal is to teach children and young people the basics of digital technologies and to give them the opportunity to get creative with them. The program is free of charge and can be booked at any time of the year. Courses last between two and four school hours and are held either in the Graz University of Technology classrooms or in the schools themselves.

In the first year, students from the 3rd to the 12th grade (9-18 years) were involved. The focus was on dealing with IT applications and digital media and on the basic principles of electronics and programming. To date, around 2200 students have taken part in these workshops.

New courses for pre-schoolers

Three new courses have since been introduced which give pre-schoolers from the age of four access to the world of technology and science. The workshops offer insights into the Laws of Nature, physics, and information technology (IT) related to logic, mathematics and science.

  • In the Laws of Nature workshop, physical phenomena and their role in generating energy are taught in a fun way.
  • The Osmo workshop (IT, logic, mathematics & physics) introduces programming via playful elements. In addition, mathematical and logical problems are solved and laws are discussed as well.
  • The Physics workshop teaches the basics of physics – from fundamental physics to spectroscopy.

An interview with Lissa Reithofer from the Office for Gender Equality and Equal Opportunity:

How are the workshop subjects tailored to each age group?

The subjects for the TUit-workshops are geared to competencies that are laid down in the curriculum. These were tested out in advance by teachers, a psychologist and children from different age groups. The TUit-workshops were subsequently designed to suit the various age groups.

How is the material presented?

In the Laws of Nature TUit Workshop for toddlers, children learn about the different natural laws and their origins in a playful way. For example, they can become part of the water cycle as drops of water! We also discuss why there are different seasons.

During the Ozobot workshop the children can program an Ozobo, a small colored robot with a built-in rechargeable battery. This workshop is aimed at students in the third to twelfth grade. Programming is done online and offline, children figure out a color algorithm to program something offline. This entails using a felt-tip pen in a particular color combination to sketch out a route on paper. They can get the little Ozobot to move across the paper this way and then they will be able to program the Ozobot online on the computer based on this.

Of course we also offer lots of other TUit-workshops across a range of subjects such as electronics, mathematics and physics. Yet all the TUit workshops have one thing in common – the focus is on learning in a fun way and encouraging kids to work things out themselves!

The workshops for older children in the fifth to twelfth grade started last year. How has the feedback been?

That’s right. We could hold the first workshop in April last year in 2018. So far, so good, we’ve always had enthusiastic reactions and positive feedback from teachers and students. The many bookings for the coming school year are a reflection of this.

Which courses are popular?

The Ozobot workshop is particularly popular as it is a very good introduction to programming for most age groups.

Thank you for your interview.

 

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