'Hack or be hacked': Why kids need to know how technology works

'Hack or be hacked': CBC Radio's technology columnist Jesse Hirsh explains why kids need to really know how technology works. He tells us about Kano, a tool that can help kids become sophisticated programmers.

CBC's technology columnist Jesse Hirsh says a deeper understanding of technology is a civic duty

CBC technology columnist Jesse Hirsh explains why learning how technology works is your responsibility as a citizen. 6:05

Agree or disagree? It is your responsibility as a citizen in the internet era to understand how technology works.

Not just knowing how to turn the machine on and how to post to Facebook but to know how to put a computer together and how to write software.


CBC Radio's technology columnist Jesse Hirsh makes the case for a deeper understanding of technology as a civic duty.

He says 'hack or be hacked.' The choice is yours.

Hirsh says there's a new tool that can help you get a better understanding. Kano, though geared to kids, is a tool that can help people of all ages become sophisticated programmers or just have a better working knowledge of the tools they use.

Listen to his full interview with CBC Hamilton's Conrad Collaco by clicking the image above. You can read a summary of the interview below.

What is Kano and how does it work?

Kano is a response to the growing prominence of the free and open source software community. Free and open source software has become a part of the Internet infrastructure and a great learning opportunity but it' not very accessible. Kano is open source but its more user friendly. While it is designed for all ages it clearly caters to kids. It's a $150 computer that you build yourself. Kano world is an online community of creators.

Why does it matter that kids have a better understanding of how technology works?

Hack or be hacked! Program or be programmed. Programming is the Latin of our empire. It is the literacy that forms the basis of citizenship in the Internet era. They don't need to become experts but they need to know the logic behind technology. Kano gives them that framework for self-directed learning. If interested they can become as sophisticated a programmer as they desire.

What can be found on Kano world?

Minecraft creations are one of the most is dominant things on Kano World. Minecraft is a programming environment. There are puzzles and games and addons that people have created using Minecraft as a platform. There are also other software and apps. All of this is structured as lessons. So you can see what someone has done and learn how they built it.

Do Kano users build on the work of each other, like they do in Minecraft?

Absolutely, it's one of the primary features of free and open source software. Some of it is trivial. If a kid wants to change the colour of a main character from purple to blue they can do that but while learning how to do that they reverse engineer and learn other things. It allows for education and innovation. It is innovation that builds on the success of others. That is what has made free and open source software so successful. 

Follow @jessehirshon Twitter.


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