Get Your Wings is a Berlin-based organisation that helps children come to terms with the many challenges they face in the digital world today. From cyber safety, internet etiquette, to what kind of things you should post online – GYW offers a multi-dimensional guide to the modern virtual world. They also teach hardware and software coding and want the children of today to get an education of tomorrow. And Robo Wunderkind is a big part of that. We talked to their founder, Anabel, who brought Robo to Germany and here is what she has to say.
“Get Your Wings” is about teaching competence and the ability to code with hardware and software. We also teach what the digital world means (even the bad sides like cyber mobbing, sex texting), we explore the behavior etiquette on the internet, children’s safety, how they should work with own profiles and what to put online, how to deal with their own social environment. It’s not enough to just know how to code, but to be a team player as well, and to be safe. Without that, digitalization can be like a drug. It’s putting you so strongly into the other world, it’s very important to know where you really are. But we can also see this as an opportunity to come together and seize this chance to say goodbye to war and hello to finding new regulations on digitalization. We as a world have this chance to come together and define them for ourselves.
We go to over 30 schools and some universities, where we do our workshops. We start with programming and coding, or, alternatively, how to deal with the internet and digital devices. In some cases, we start with personal and social competence. We’re also offering tools and classes for the older people. But it’s very nice to work with primary schools students. They often know very well how to work with these things, they have questions, they want to try, they don’t have these reservations.
Finding a purpose
Then it’s about building Robo. Students learn how to work with each other one, to agree and decide on which functions to realize. Why should Robo bark like a dog, light up, what’s the idea behind it? They should understand that digitalization and digital tools are good if they have a goal or something useful about them. We are showing students creative ways that are useful for them and the environment.
The big idea
Everybody in our team was already volunteering. I went to hospitals and read to people who were alone. I founded a support club for animals, a group for saving the environment. I had the need to give something back, that was always an inspiration. Coming to Berlin in 2011 I saw a need in the refugee area. We went to their homes and showed them how they can use digitalization for themselves, to strengthen their personality and social behavior and prepare themselves for a job. That is what we brought to the 7-12-year-olds in German schools. Then, more and more requests came in from parents, teachers, kids, from both Germany and abroad, and all without any advertising.
Teachers to teachers
The teachers really like Robo because it’s colorful, it looks so easy and educators can easily see what competencies the students learn. It’s not just about building the blocks together, and strengthening children’s cognitive skills, but also about combining the process of programming with an idea of what happens when they do it. The brain is like a network. That’s what the teachers like. It’s not just digital, there’s something to grab and to see directly, something that’s not rudimental and primitive, but something that can be upgraded. Students between the age 15-16 can still be interested in Robo. It helps them learn the basics, it starts as something very easy to understand for everybody, even for those who don’t want to deal with digitalization. You can build and create something and the digital side is just there for the functions.
On robots and men
Each tool in Robo is so specific, you can explain it to others easily and learn from it. Even if you don’t want it to be about building a robot, you are deciding what to do with it. It’s about human creativity. Children can think, probe, try, and it’s also really strong. It’s hard to damage it. Creativity has no borders, there are many possibilities with such easy toolset. You don’t need to explain a lot, you just start. You define rules on your own, you don’t need to read some 10 pages of manual.
If you look at other systems, they look very technical, which can be scary for someone who has no experience in this. But if you see Robo, it’s so friendly, colorful, easy. We like it very much, we already have some parents who ask if they can give Robo as a Christmas present to their child. It has an easy access to it. Not because it has some fancy components which are not useful, all components have some use. People think it must be fancy, but actually, it’s all about functionality.