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ITurnIT: promoting digital literacy

127 days ago

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Digitalization is rapidly changing every aspect of the job market and education is struggling to keep up. ITurnIT teaches kids 21st century skills for the jobs of tomorrow, by organizing tech events and tech education, and helping schools add tech skills to their curriculum. Founded by Vincent Veenbrink and Robert Adema, I.Turn.IT is all about developing Digital Intelligence, for kids from 8 to 18.

Vincent and Robert met at the Hanze University Honours College, studying real estate and law, respectively. “We were asked to help think about the ever growing shortage of IT workers”, Vincent says. “Schools are having a hard time teaching relevant IT and tech skills and a lot of the decisions are made in boardrooms by people in suits. Those decisions are important of course, but that’s not really an environment young people can relate to.”

The two concluded that a collective and structural approach was the missing link, as well as making it relatable for kids. “We had strong opinions and a big mouth”, Vincent continues, smiling. “So we were asked to draw up a plan and that was basically the foundation for ITurnIT.”

Technology in the broadest sense

Robert and Vincent started looking abroad. “We looked at how things were done in Estonia, Finland and Silicon Valley”, Vincent explains. “So what are all the components that make these programs successful and how can use those ingredients to come up with something that’s relevant for the Northern Netherlands?”

“It’s not about teaching coding and programming in schools and training more IT professionals”, Vincent continues. “It’s about technology in the broadest sense of the word. All future jobs will require digital skills in one form or another, so we’re not just about teaching programming, we’re about improving digital literacy.”

“We decided on three things: making technology visible with events and workshops, helping schools adding digital skills to their curriculum and having the research to back it up. We’re currently working with the University of Groningen to validate our approach, so researching if what we do really works.”

From Eurosonic to the Hannover Messe

To get kids enthusiastic about learning digital skills, ITurnIT has a very practical approach. “It’s not just about teaching, it’s also about helping kids understand why it’s important to learn these skills and making it relatable. DJs like Tiësto and Afrojack, YouTube celebrities, they all use technology. IT is no longer just nerdy guys working between servers. Fashion, sports, music, they all have cool technological components and innovations and that’s what kids are interested in.”

With workshops like stage lighting and programming music during Eurosonic Noorderslag, being part of events like Delfsail and Let’s Gro, ITurnIT wants to make technology visible and relevant. A month ago, they also organized a field trip to the Hannover Messe, the biggest tech market in the world. “What’s really cool is that we were working with the Economic Board Groningen, who focus on growth in the area most affected by earthquakes in the North of Groningen. With their help, we could take kids from that area for free.”

Project based education

“We’re very happy to have found a lot of partners willing to work with us, like the Economic Board Groningen, ING, KPN Consulting, Groningen Seaports and the University of Groningen, to name just a few”, Vincent says. “The schools we work with are also very enthusiastic, because we offer project based lesson plans, and also help out with the organizational and operational side of things.”

Schools already have a packed curriculum, so adding more courses won’t help. That’s why ITurnIT’s lesson plans are project based. “Vlogs are very popular, so we have projects where we teach kids set up their own YouTube channel, and record and edit their videos. They’ll learn important digital skills and also have something to show for it. And we also have teach the teacher programs and have really flexible, custom programs, so schools can continue on their own, without our help.”

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PHOTO CREDITS: Jasper Bolderdijk

127 days ago

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