Spark Projects is a non-profit organization
to children-in-need in Greece
Most children grow up surrounded by technology, and it is easy to take it for granted.
But some children are not so lucky: they grow up in homes and areas where technology is little used. Equipment and connectivity are lacking and there are few people they can learn from.
And so they are left behind, missing what are, more and more, basic skills in modern life.
We want to bridge that gap.
In partnership with non-profits, we run technology classes for disadvantaged children.
We aim to give sound foundations in ICT and help them grow. We use activities to show how central technology is in our lives and why it matters to them: the challenges, but also the opportunities.
THE THREE PILLARS OF SPARK
our teaching principles
Use engaging, interactive teaching
We try to use activities that children care about. That is, activities they are likely to repeat on their own, after class, like editing music or writing and illustrating a story.
Since not all children are alike, we try to customize our activities and program to each group's needs and interests, being careful not to lose sight of our goals and targets.
We use extensively group projects, like putting together a class journal, to foster teamwork, communication and social skills.
Ultimately, we care about impact. We combine traditional teaching, interactive activities and modern teaching techniques like gamification, design thinking & flipped classroom, with one goal: how to help the most.
Nurture analytical thought
At the core of technology is logic. We show them how to break down a problem into pieces, prioritize tasks and design a solution. We introduce children to coding, starting with simple coding languages like Scratch, as a standalone activity or in robotics classes.
But analytical thinking is not specific to technology: we demonstrate how it is just as important in the analogue world. We choose complex, non-technical projects from their lives and break them down together, step by step.
What is needed? How much are we helping? What else can we do?
We believe that, first of all, we need to understand each child's abilities and needs, the help she is getting and the obstacles she is facing. We therefore collect information from the Host Organizations, the parents, and the children themselves, before we set out to planning the activities.
But that's just the beginning. We then want to ensure that our activities are having an impact - that children's skills, understanding, self-confidence and self-reliance are all improving, and that they find the activities fun and engaging. We run a number of assessments throughout the year, evaluating different aspects for the activities.
And, based on this feedback, we revisit and adjust our activities, our teaching methods and indeed everything around Spark, to make them as impactful as possible.
Most of children's interaction with technology revolves around videos, social media and games. But this is only scratching the surface. We show children how technology has changed daily life, how it's changed what is possible, and how they could some day be part of that change, too.
To do this, we introduce inspiring technology through approachable people. We look to engage high school / university students to offer support and advice to our classes, and participate in joint activities like game design and robotics. And we aim to bring in technology experts to give live demos, like a developer building a game or an architect designing a house, and we invite children to participate.
Make changes in response to data
in order to:
add support where needed
create more enthusiasm
Track the right metrics, like:
Engagement in class
Engagement after class
Confidence with new tasks
Performance on standard tasks
Lasting impact: after 3-12 months & beyond
Have specific goals
that can be monitored and tested
Data from multiple sources:
Direct student feedback
Leveraging our resources...
Our efforts start in the classroom but do not end there.
For children to make real progress, the limited time we have with them is not enough. Like with any activity, it takes practice, so it is crucial that they spend additional time on their own, with their friends and families, or with staff from their Host Organization.
We take a number of steps to facilitate that:
- we make Spark equipment available at all times, provided there is adequate supervision;
- we try to bring the families into the picture, through family Spark activities, and also by dedicated sessions to answer parents' questions and provide technical support; and where possible,
- we offer training to Host staff, so that they can engage, help and monitor the students' activities.
... and aiming at lasting change
Lasting change, by helping children from challenging backgrounds embrace technology.
To do simple tasks, but also for tasks they never thought possible. To create, collaborate and communicate, to find and share information. To see technology as an indispensable tool. And to see how technology breaks down old barriers, opens new possibilities and can be a window to a different life.