A novel project to create Thinkspaces – specially designed coding areas for schools modelled on a Google or Twitter office – and change the culture of how technology is taught in schools has attracted the backing of Twitter’s Dick Costolo, Foursquare’s Dennis Crowley, Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales, Google’s Vic Gundotra, Virgin’s Richard Branson, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and actor Stephen Fry.
Sixteen-year-olds Jordan Earle and his friend Matthew Carson, the Member of Youth Parliament for East Belfast, are aiming to create a new culture in schools across Ireland by encouraging schools to create places where students can come to relax in an inclusive environment and learn the latest technologies and develop their skills.
Thinkspace has created a social network from scratch with the intention of recruiting volunteers to create a Thinkspace in schools all over the world.
The project has so far attracted 10 ambassadors, including Earle and Carson, and the plan is to get the idea to spread around the world.
“Basically, it would be a room in a school or a youth organisation that would be kitted out like a Twitter office, laid back and casual, but with a consistent design and equipped with the latest devices, like Macs and tablet devices. We have a set of guidelines we would offer to schools and they would do the physical labour.”
So far, the first Thinkspace location in Northern Ireland will be at the WIMPS (Where Is My Public Servant) offices in Belfast and discussions have taken place with the headmasters of Earle’s school Grosvenor Grammer School in Belfast and Devonport House School for Boys in Plymouth.
“We have ambassadors in the US working hard to spread the idea there. Nothing has been finalised but we are keeping moving. We’re really just beginners at this – I’m a designer and Matthew is into politics – but we believe we can combine our skills to run things differently. We’re in charge of Northern Ireland and we’re hoping the idea spreads to the Republic of Ireland, too,” Earle said.
“The aim is to have Thinkspaces emerge in secondary schools all over the world.”
Earle said the idea requires schools just thinking differently about technology education and simply creating the right kind of spaces, kitted out in the right way and decorated in a way that inspires creativity and learning.
“Most schools will be able to fund it and these spaces can also be built through volunteer projects,” Earle said.
He said there is a stereotype around the words “code” and “hack” that instantly put people off learning technology skills.
“One of our aims is to make sure Thinkspace is accessible to everyone regardless of their gender, socioeconomic background or physical location and we’d love to partner with schools, colleges and youth organisations.”