What do I talk to techy teens about?
June 27, 2007 2:39 PM   Subscribe

I have to make a brief 20-minute presentation to some 12-16 year old kids who are interested in technology for a tech-focused summer camp. I need help figuring out something interesting to this age group, and what I should talk about

The theme of the camp is Web 2.0 (which I am inclined to think is marketing more than anything, but I may just be a cynical, grizzled old vet). My areas of knowledge are system/network support/international development with a bit of incident/project mgmt, and I have practiced overseas in developing countries. I would love to be able to relate my discussion to gaming/blogs etc that would interest these folks (you may have to clue me in on what they are looking at).

Political topics such as globalization are not off limits and I have been gently prodded in this direction.

Any idea what I should talk about?
posted by Deep Dish to Education (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What about streaming technologies? You could even deliver the lecture via webcast (whilst in the same room).
posted by loiseau at 2:42 PM on June 27, 2007

oh yes, anything cool I have access to is secret
posted by Deep Dish at 2:45 PM on June 27, 2007

What did you do while working overseas? Can you relate it back to things happening here?

Kids, just like most adults, respond best to presenters who are talking about things they can relate to and things that the presenter is obviously passionate about. I've given a lot of presentations to teens and the best thing you could do is find a way to help them relate to the topic. It sounds like you're already trying to do that with the blogs/gaming aspects but why stay that shallow? They don't always show it, but lots of kids know what's going on in the world and care about it. If you've been traveling and working abroad and can talk about how technology is different in other countries, or what kind of stuff you were doing to change things (or whatever) they're going to think that's pretty interesting too.

Don't sell them short by limiting your talk to things you think they might be into. Talk to them about stuff you're into, they'll get it.
posted by nerdcore at 3:12 PM on June 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

I taught computers in South Africa to (black) people who generally went to Apartheid-era schools and didn't know much about computers or match. When I taught the difference between magnetic and optical storage, I had to bring in a magnet. I also did some security work on some networks for a university in Vietnam and assisted with some portal-development for fundraising (and snuck all kinds of pro-democracy and human rights stuff into it)

In South Africa, people were more interested in bread and butter issues than computers although they knew they had some potential. It was also very expensive to use the Internet because you had to use either dialup or fast dialup (this was 2002 - there is probably high speed now but I don't know that for a fact) which was billed pretty much like a long distance call here (that is by the minute). Never saw much in terms of web cafes, and computers were a popular target for thieves (as was telephone wire) so a lot of communication was problematic. The electroinc communication model there was cell phone driven as opposed to PC driven. They used text messages way before people in North America used them regularily.

In Vietnam, young people virtually all had decent skills and made regular visits to the web cafe but they almost never have computers at home and usually don't get the kind of bandwidth that makes Web 2.0 very viable - you are also stuck behind a pretty half hearted attempted at a censoring firewall. Locking out things like spammers etc was a huge problem there, as were things like password stealers and keyloggers. Cell phones were big there too. I really enjoyed google news there because it provided a good English alternative to prop-Radio like "Radio Free Asia" and was real, free news.

So really Web 2.0 will never really be inclusive until it includes these people. There are a few good projects - some of the peer-to-peer microcredit sites for example which are both useful and applicable to the developing world. I was also thinking about providing links to online games like "Third World Farmer" to get something like the real picture.

But I am not sure this is interesting or about technology.
posted by Deep Dish at 3:37 PM on June 27, 2007

Part 1: Talk about microcredit and microlending: the example of this par excellence is Muhammad Yunus' Grameen Bank. I think it would be great to show kids that the catalyst for change doesn't have to be a huge infusion of energy or money, but can be small. Perhaps talk about how, say, lending a responsible, respected woman in a rural community the money to buy a mobile phone (warning: video link to TED, 16:03) will not only allow her to get access to resources previously beyond her means (perhaps, she can call a local market to find out the going rate for what she sells instead of walking a few miles to get there), but also provide a way for her to earn a little income by renting out the phone for others to use.

Part 2: Segue how to get money to start-up a business or an organization, and for that, Prosper.com might be a good Web-2.0ish example; perhaps some of your young charges have start-up ideas and would be happy to know it exists.

20 minutes is a great length of time, too - long enough to go into some detail, short enough to not make them weep with boredom. And if you use Powerpoint, check out previous threads here for tips.
posted by mdonley at 3:49 PM on June 27, 2007

Dude. I would be stoked to hear someone with hands on experience talk about any of your experiences. As for the web 2.0 theme, if you're feeling like it's more marketing than substance, you're probably right. I doubt that your audience of web savvy tech focused teens actually buy the whole "web 2.0/ajax saves the world" marketing speak anyways. So a 20 minute talk about who the web 2.0 trend isn't helping/affecting/making a difference to could be pretty interesting.
posted by nerdcore at 4:00 PM on June 27, 2007

In my limited experience, a lot of people in that age group are avid users of technology, but take much of it for granted, and have no idea how it works, where it came from and, in some cases, how much cooler it could have been if only...

When I was younger, I loved learning about science, but had this feeling that all the cool stuff had already been discovered, I couldn't imagine a place for me as a scientist. I think helping them see how dynamic things still are could help get them involved in actively influencing the way things develop, rather than being passive consumers.
posted by Good Brain at 4:29 PM on June 27, 2007

You might just talk about the technical underpinnings of the stuff they're already into. It's only 20min, you could even do it extemporaneously by asking them questions. If not, talk about the architecture of youtube and myspace.
posted by rhizome at 5:41 PM on June 27, 2007

I think you could include some professional advice - problems you encountered when you first started working in technology, maybe a cool story or two. Throw in your personal experience with technology, and how it fits in with the bigger trends.
posted by theiconoclast31 at 6:10 PM on June 27, 2007

Give them a 2 minute description of what the computer "world" (read situation in the U.S. - I assume that's where you are) was like when they were born (take the midpoint, say 1995) and what was the internet back then; include pictures of "advanced" computer screen. 2 more minutes on what it was like in 2001. 1 minute on the rise of google, youtube, myspace, etc. Impress upon them the speed at which changes happened, and that we have not idea about what the next 5 years will bring - but that they will play a part in it. 1 minute on the OLPC (if you are familiar with it).

Go through it quickly, reinforcing by your presentation style the rapid pace of change.

From olpc, jump into globalization and speak from your heart about what you know best.
posted by aroberge at 6:10 PM on June 27, 2007

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