15-year-old Irish Tech Entrepreneur Calls for Improved Digital Education in Classrooms

Founder of Kid Tech speaks to participants of the innovative inner-city programme, Future Creators, at end of year showcase event.

Irish educators need to re-think the way Information and Communications Technology (ICT) education is delivered and start integrating digital into classrooms as a priority. That’s according to 15-year-old tech entrepreneur Harry McCann who was speaking today (25.06.14) at the end-of-year showcase of Future Creators, a programme for 13-16 year olds in the Dublin Liberties area. The initiative was developed by the Digital Hub Development Agency (DHDA), funded by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, and run in collaboration with the National College of Art and Design (NCAD).

The teenage tech entrepreneur spoke to an auditorium of young people from Dublin’s southwest inner city, who have been participating in the innovative programme Future Creators, which aims to help participants to develop digital media skills and encourage them to consider a career in digital media or technology. 

Today’s showcase featured the work of this year’s group of 24 young people, whose projects include: mobile applications ranging from a self-help app containing information on depression, bullying and self-harm, to a virtual wardrobe app which enables users to be their own personal stylist, interactive gaming apps, as well as a short horror film.

“Technology is here to stay”
McCann has been coding since the age of 12, attending and mentoring at the CoderDojo since the age of 13, and recently set up his own company Kid Tech, providing courses and workshops in computer game development and design, web design, coding, programming and more, in November 2013.

“I am passionate about everything to do with technology and I can see that my passion is shared by all of the Future Creators participants here today. I would tell any young person hoping to have a career in digital media and technology that no idea is too crazy and you have to really think outside the box. Never give up if something doesn’t work for you at first, just try going about it a different way.

“Technology is here to stay and there is an expected increase of demand for high level ICT skills in Ireland over the next five years. The Future Creators programme is the exact model that schools should be using – teaching digital media and technology skills in a fun and informal environment. It is crucial that Irish educators start integrating digital into the classroom, improving resources and infrastructure, and educating young people so they have the skills they need for third level education and the workplace.”

Building a network of Future Business Leaders
Edel Flynn, CEO of Digital Hub Development Agency said, “The Digital Hub Development Agency was thrilled to be working this year again with the National College of Art and Design on the Future Creators programme. Our ultimate aim is to encourage students to pursue a career in digital media or technology, as we know that more and more Irish graduates are needed in order to meet future demand.

“A recent online survey of this year’s participants, and the young people who have been involved with Future Creators since 2011, revealed that 85% would consider undertaking an internship in a digital media or technology company in the future. For us in The Digital Hub, it is of utmost importance that we create a talented workforce and build a network of future business leaders.

“Since inception in 2011, the feedback we have received about the Future Creators programme is overwhelmingly positive. We have heard about the multitude of benefits that the students glean from being involved including: the individual attention they receive from tutors; the freedom to focus on projects they are interested in or have a natural ability or skill; the peer-to-peer learning and collaboration; the opportunity to meet and work with fellow students from a mix of different schools and diverse backgrounds; and most importantly the growth in self-confidence and fun that they have throughout the learning sessions.”

Encouraging local students to consider Third-Level Education
Professor Declan McGonagle, Director of NCAD commented on the programme, saying: “Traditionally, Dublin 8 is an area of educational disadvantage and some of those who have been involved with the programme have been identified as at risk of early school-leaving. By gaining access to new technology and being involved in exciting projects, the Future Creators programme creates a unique opportunity for students to develop, or simply become aware of, their skills in areas that they potentially have not thought of or have not been exposed to before.

“The Future Creators programme also allows us to establish connections with potential future students and give young people from the local area a glimpse of what lies behind the walls of NCAD, which we know can sometimes be intimidating to those who feel that third-level education is not something for them. The programme provides them with a chance to gain hands-on experience and potentially discover something they really enjoy.”

Feedback from participants
An online survey of this year’s Future Creators participants, including those who have been involved since inception in 2011, revealed the following insights into the impact and influence that the innovative programme has had:

• 85% would consider doing an internship in a digital media or technology company in the future (mentioning the following companies: Google, Facebook, Yahoo, The Digital Hub, Microsoft, as well as film, animation and tech companies in general)
• 80% stated that their participation in Future Creators is likely to influence what they decide to do when they leave school.
• 70% would like to work in a career involving digital skills in the future (citing specific careers including: computer scientist; developer; animation; film maker; web designer; app maker; software engineer)
• One quarter of respondents stated that their subject choices were influenced by their participation in the programme.

The students participating in the 2014 Future Creators programme, 12 boys and 12 girls, are from the following schools in Dublin 8: Synge Street CBS; St Patrick’s Cathedral GS; James Street CBS; Warrenmount Secondary School; and Mercy Convent, Goldenbridge. In addition, participants from Loreto College in Crumlin, Dublin 12, were also involved.

This year’s cohort started in November 2013 and have received training in the following areas: image manipulation; stop-motion and flash animation; social media and blogging; coding; and filmmaking. As part of the programme, the group also took part in workshops held in the NCAD Industrial Design, Textile and Media departments, where they experienced 3D printing, laser cutting, digital printing and video editing.

At today’s event, the students received special certificates of recognition from the National College of Art and Design. The work they created over the course of the year was on display, including the short films and apps focussed on self-help, fashion and gaming. A short film by the Future Creators Alumni group was also shown during the event. The alumni group attended a fourteen-week film project at NCAD that was funded by The Ireland Funds.

Ciaran Cannon TD, Minister for Training & Skills at the Department of Education & Skills, attended today’s event and presented the Future Creators participants with certificates of achievement. 

Television presenter and well-known vlogger Stephen Byrne was the guest MC at today’s event.

Further information about Future Creators is available at: www.thedigitalhub.com/futurecreators.