Robert Scoble and his friend are soliciting ideas on how to get children interested in computers. Not just interested, but really interested - like taking one apart, building one, programming one from the ground up. These days, many children grow up playing with computers; they get into the games, but not what's inside.

When children grow up using computers, it's easy for them to be unimpressed with what's inside.

As a parent of four computer/PDA literate children, ages 12, 12, 7, and 5, here are a few suggestions that come to mind ...

Start early. Expose your children to computers as early as possible

We allowed our children to "play" with computers starting at age two. I purchased a "Jumbo Keys" keyboard that had oversized keys arranged alphabetically.

Be creative in explaining how computers work

       See Binary Carrots

Be selective about the software that they use

There is a lot of wonderful software out there; software that will encourage and promote critical thinking skills. There's also a lot of less-than-constructive software out there. I could do a sermon on this, but I won't. I'll simply recommend parental involvement.

OK, those are software-related suggestions. But, what about getting kids involved in building or programming computers? Consider these options ...

Build a LEGO robot and program it to do something

Get a LEGO Mindstorms set and build it with your kids. Its a great investment. Reusable, too. There's nothing quite like the experience of watching a creation that you have built and programmed run across the room and do something.
       Read: Productivity in motion

Join a FIRST Jr. Robotics Team

Help your child enjoy the excitement of team projects in technology and watch them experience the thrill of competition
Channel 9 guy thinks it's cool. Your kids will, too.
       See: The LEGO Mountaineers

Let them build their own computer

This year, I took four old laptops and helped my children set them up -- everything from formatting the drive, to installing XP, to loading service packs, applications and games. We've had a great time, and the kids have taken ownership of their computers. The process allowed for many length discussions about how and why things work.
       See: Why do they call them Radio Buttons, Dad?

Let them take a computer apart

Last year, for a science fair project Amy and I took apart an old computer or a printer (older the better; bigger stuff inside, lots of moving parts) -- all the way down to cutting open the hard drive and keyboard to see how they worked
       See: MackAcademy (Click on Science Fair)

What ideas do you have?

Discussion/Comments (11):

How to get your kids interested in computers?

Mainly, just have fun. See { Link } for my experience with my eight-year-old.

Posted at 05/26/2005 4:11:14 by Simon Brunning

How to get your kids interested in computers?

Excellent suggestions! The only thing I'd add is covering off the software side of things, and for this there really isn't anything comparable to Squeak ({ Link }

Firstly you have a full-blown Smalltalk-80 implementation, which allows you to see inside things like the stack (which is a difficult concept to convey without a visual metaphor) but then you also have the excellent eToys environment for building objects and getting them to do things (using a scripting-type language which can be extended with Smalltalk).

While I've no direct experience with getting kids playing with Squeak (mine are 2 and 3 and still at the stage where they're learning keyboard and mouse skills) my wife has been using Squeak to learn about software development, object-orientation and all the other things I waffle on about and bore her to tears with... There are excellent resources for teaching kids Squeak at SqueakLand ({ Link } which is a site setup specifically for Squeak in educational environments.

Posted at 05/26/2005 5:05:07 by Symon Chalk

How to get your kids interested in computers?

Our answer: design the coolest, most engaging programming environment every created, tailored for kids to do real programming easily. Include lots of simple programming examples full of bugs, dinosaurs, spaceships, and working games. Give it away for free to whoever wants to use it to teach their kids programming. And call it KPL (Kid's Programming Language). That's what we did, anyway: { Link }

Posted at 05/26/2005 8:27:34 by Jon Schwartz

How to get your kids interested in computers?

Great post. As someone who essentially grew up with computers, I know my own attraction to them was an attraction to making things happen (via early forms of programming like Logo), connecting with other people (via the Internet), solving problems, and learning new things. The most important factor, however, in putting my curiosity to positive use was my ubgringing. These days I see a lot of kids interested in computers for different reasons: it is a source of "free" music and software, violent games, and an outlet for making mischief. So, I think demonstrating healthy, positive uses of technology is equally important to sparking the interest.

Posted at 05/26/2005 8:55:45 by Robert

How to get your kids interested in computers?

I got into programming from the do-it-yourself book that came with the TRS-80 Color Computer we got when I was in fourth grade. I think the important thing that inspired me was the "Hey! I can do that!" factor. I saw video games of that day, and realized I could do it too. I think it's very important to find a project that shows kids how much power they have at their fingertips. They're not going to get jazzed up about writing spreadsheets (but so often that's what high school programming classes make kids do...). If I was a kid, I'd want to make bots fly around the screen, or at least create something in which I can see that I have the potential to match any of the "cool" stuff out there.

Posted at 05/26/2005 12:01:53 by Sue Loh

How to get your kids interested in computers?

what's the point in teaching your kids computers?

All the computer-related jobs will be all in India or China by the time they grow up.

Maybe sooner.

Buy a clue and look around.

Posted at 05/26/2005 18:06:44 by

How to get your kids interested in computers?

My daughter's just under 3 now so the most computer contact she's getting is sitting at the old Thinkpad (running Linux) and playing "Elmo's Keyboard-O-Rama". I want to find her some software that actually associates typing with learning words and letters, so that she's not just hitting random keys but actually trying to spell something / accomplish some goal.

I definitely want my kids to grow up with the love of programmning that I had/have. Not so much just to share my passion for it...but because it gives them such an aspect of control over the technology in their lives. If you know how it works, you can control it rather than it controlling you.

Posted at 05/26/2005 19:59:12 by Duane

How to get your kids interested in computers?

Outsourced (if that is indeed your name): One doesn't learn about computers -- or any subject -- for any purpose so mundane as getting a job! Sheesh.

Posted at 05/30/2005 13:49:55 by Jerry Kindall

How to get your kids interested in computers?

I'm a Software Engineer by profession, and I introduced my son Danish to computers when he was only 2 yrs of age. He started of with Games, then played with the PS/2 as well. Got himself engrossed so much into PC games that at times he even found out cheat codes to get himself around by the time he was just 4yrs of age.

The first & most important step to take is to make your child realize that the computer is his best friend. Its not allways a Calculations Machine their father uses in the office.

You must never shout at your child or make him feel he/she is too small to use a computer.

You must be prepared to induct your child in a very tender manner if he/she makes a mistake working with a computer.

You need to gather alot of patients to watch over your childs performance.

You need to carefully study your childs Psychology to understand his thought processing patterns.

Not every child will like computers, and not every child who has a liking to computers can be a Rocket Scientist.

Give your child the space, the time, the freedom he/she needs to choose her favourite area in computers as they grow.example : I concentrate more on Databases doesn't mean my child should choose the same subject area, probably his creative mind can divert him to an area of Animation or Designing or Architecture etc.

Most important, TRUST YOUR CHILD. He/She is too small for you to ignore this fact. If you do not trust your child or his/her abilities you will be wasting time.

NEVER Discourage your child, always make him feel encouraged and build a kind of spirit in him/her to face the new challenges which will come as part of their career in their area's of computing.

AND FINALLY, I would like to instruct all those Wonderful Parents to have their Child PRACTICE on a REAL COMPUTER instead of using a Toy. This is because I have noticed the transissioning process from a Toy to a Real Computer has a draw back. It builds fright within some children to walk into the real world..let this child not be yours. Computers are cheap these days atleast a PC/LAPTOP for beginers should be perfect.

If your child ins't doing good in his studies at school DOESN't MEAN HE CANNOT DO WELL IN COMPUTERS. A Computer is a completely different concept your child can spend hours with getting to know the world.

As your child grows, let them get addicted to websites such as Brittanica, Microsoft Encarta and my more Online Encylopedia's. These can serve as a wonderful tool for them to learn new things if they are embarrased to ask their teachers or parents about it.

Every web browser has a security feature for Parental Guidance so make use of it or ask someone for guidance.

Encourage your child to be a part of the computer industry atleast somewhere cause thats the future whether one accepts the fact or not.

Manish Batola

Posted at 04/16/2009 3:06:50 by Manish Batola

How to get your kids interested in computers?

I was hoping to see the science experiment on how to take a computer apart. I clicked on the link but seeing as how the science experiment was either in 2005 or 2004... I am wondering if it is no longer listed on the site? Please if you get this let me know if you have a working link. Thank you!

Posted at 10/07/2009 14:11:05 by Kris

How to get your kids interested in computers?

Its such a shame that many kids grow up nowadays thinking they know all about computers when all they really know is about Facebook, Myspace, Itunes and MSN Messenger. I think its important for everyone to learn about computers. Recently I decided to give away free computer courses, it took quite a while to set up and implement but now its up and running and getting good feedback.

If you would like free computer tuition then please take a look at { Link }

There is no signup, no fees, no hidden charges, just free tuition in the form of an Internet tv programme that you can either watch on the above website or if you are an ITunes user you can subscribe to it on Itunes and watch it on your computer or Ipod.

Please get your kids to watch it too, they will learn about stuff other than chatting to friends and downloading music/films.

David Batty

{ Link }

Posted at 12/09/2009 22:05:05 by David Batty

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