What are the impacts of ICTs on Science in Society programmes targeted at children? What are the future prospects of social inclusion in the context of science, higher education and ICT?
These were some of the difficult questions discussed in November, when over 140 researchers, organisers, managers, policy makers, children and young people from 27 countries participated in our joint conference with EUCU.NET at the University of Porto.
Introducing the topic of “Technucation“, renowned scientist and education policy maker José Ferreira Gomes (spiritual Rector of the Universidade Junior do Porto) reminded us that projects like children's universities stimulate the taste for knowledge and an awakening of the potential of young people. His critical view on current developments in ICT in education also provoked questions for discussion in later workshops on topics including the processing of science communication content, reaching target groups, the qualifications of educators, using tools and techniques and the sustainability of ICT solutions. Cristina Ponte, project coordinator of theEU-wide research project “EU Kids Online” in Portugal, bolstered the participants with facts and figures from their surveys on the online access and practices lived by European children between 9 and 16. She discussed the effect of certain factors, such as gender on the development of ICT skills, and also how young people perceive their own abilities. It appears that those young people from higher socio-economic backgrounds seem to feel less confident about their level of ICT skills. This stimulated a lively debate on ICT teaching in schools, and also whether there is too much emphasis on internet safety, rather than the competency of young people to use the technology around them.
One of the highlights of the conference was a live video chat with two groups of children and teenagers from Medellin, Colombia and Vienna, Austria during the plenary discussion. They answered questions about education and technology from their own perspective. When asked if they would like to be friends with their teacher on facebook, one boy from Vienna answered ‘yes I would, because if I want to ask them something about the homework they can answer me. A girl from the group said she'd like there to be iPads or computers in every classroom, and one young man highlighted the importance of technology to young people telling us he'd ‘go crazy' without it.
Finally, the conference adopted the Porto Declaration on ICT in Education, which recognises that time and location-independent access to knowledge and new technology based-learning environments will fundamentally change educational and research systems. New Media Technologies provide opportunities for widespread participation in education and research - almost anywhere in the world, at any time and for little cost. They thus enable young people to become global citizens. There is a tremendous potential in the use of ICTs to make knowledge about science more accessible. You are invited to endorse the Porto Declaration at: http://www.siscatalyst.eu/submit-endorsement