The “God Particle” needed to transform a Download community into an Upload Community:
Bilisim Garaj Akademisi (IT Garage Academy) is an online portal supplying coding, web design, 3D design and robotic/electronic design curriculum for children from the ages 7-8, 9-12 and 13-16. On the portal, Turkish youths, starting from 7 years old, learn:
* coding using Scratch or MS Small Basic,
* web design using Notepad,
* 3D design using Sketchup
* robotic / electronic design using various safe electronic materials,
* and entrepreneurship through IT.
The slogan of the platform is “From a Download Society to an Upload Society.” This motto aims to attract Turkish people’s attention to an important problem. Turkey is one of the top countries using social media and mobile internet. For example, Turkish people are among the top Facebook users. On the other hand, Turkish people produce ICT technology much less than they consume. To illustrate, applications produced for mobile devices such as smart phones and tablet PCs have the market volume of 65 billion US$ around the world. Turkey’s contribution to this market volume is smaller than 0.5%! Another example is that Turkey’s annual ICT market volume is 36 billion US$. In this volume, high technology production including hardware, software or embedded technology is smaller than 1%. The volume of the ICT market in Turkey is formed by mostly communication technologies such as GSM operators and internet service suppliers.
The youth is devoid of the skills required to produce with IT, because the education system doesn’t equip the new generations with the skills such as coding, web design or robotic design especially at primary and secondary levels. Gaining productive IT skills is postponed until university years. In the country, the general perception is that computer literacy is equal to computer use. However, computer use is a much broader concept covering computer literacy. In this information age, proper use of IT in education helps students to gain 21st century skills such as critical thinking, creative thinking, scientific thinking, collaboration with others especially in a problem based learning environment.
To change this perception and increase the awareness of the concept of computational thinking, Dr. Selçuk Özdemir started the BilisimGarajAkademisi.com portal 18 months ago in Turkey. Now, more than 40 training centres and more than 10 primary/secondary private schools use his curriculum.
The curriculum used in BilisimGarajAkademisi.com has two dimensions. The first dimension (called Package 1) aims to present kids with their first threshold experience. With the modules in the Package 1, the kids realise that they can program computers, design web sites, 3d models and robots/electronic devices. In the first year in Package 1, the kids learn all of the four subjects separately. The priority in the first year is to show the kids who is the boss, because the students realise that they can tell computers what to do.
In the second year, the whole curriculum runs around an entrepreneurship problem. In Package 2, the students develop solutions for a given main and sub-problems using coding, web design, 3d design and robotic design and programming. The entrepreneurship problem helps students utilize all technologies to produce many related solutions for a real life problem. Utilising this holistic approach, in addition to advanced IT skills, the students have the opportunity to gain entrepreneurial competences defined by European Union. These entrepreneurial competences are classified as knowledge, skills and attitude. The students learn about “being initiative user”, “self-confidence”, “thinking on what new things can be developed”, “being optimistic”, “leadership”, “marketing”, “collaboration”, “the importance of being critical and creative”, “the concept of supply and demand”, “concept of cost-benefit” and “the importance of patents”.
Starting from this October, the students will gain more than 50 entrepreneurial competences whilst they develop a solution for the problem of energy. The students will be informed that energy resources come to an end and the world needs new and clean energy resources for especially transportation. In four modules of the Package 2, a student’s task is to:
* design a 3d model of an electric car which consumes solar energy (3D design module of the curriculum),
* calculate the cost of the production process of the solar energy car and protecting the confidential information (Coding module of the curriculum),
* produce and program a solar energy robotic car using real electronic circuit components (Robotic design module of the curriculum),
* promote and market the solar energy robotic car (Web design module of the curriculum).
Bilişim Garaj Akademisi has a very simple and running methodology:
Curiosity is core to the Bilişim Garaj Akademisi curriculum. Edgar Morin emphasizes that without curiosity, learning doesn’t take place. In each module, the students are presented a concrete task to complete. The students create a new production in each hour of each module. Being able to create new things helps children to develop their self-esteem. Finally, children love demonstrating to others what they can perform or produce. In accordance with our motto “from a download society to an upload society”, the students can upload their own works to the “Project Gallery” module of the portal so that others can download and examine.
Coding, in general producing with IT, is the “lingua franca” of the new age. In the future, all professions will need to do something which cannot be done by computerised machines. The new generations have to be equipped with productive IT skills before their university years. Thus, they will be aware what computers can do or cannot do. This awareness will help them to see the innovation opportunities in their professional field.
Bilişim Garaj Akademisi aims to be an international portal. The entire curriculum is being translated into English and the English content will be published via an English domain name.
Assoc.Prof.Dr. Selçuk Özdemir
The Founder of Bilişim Garaj Akademisi