This was the first time ever that I was envious of a 13-year-old. I am not proud of myself for that, but I really couldn’t help.
Google recently held a Summer Camp for kids aged between 13 and 17 years across India, which concluded in Delhi on 28 June 2018. Google invited a group of journalists to witness the Summer Camp they had organised. And to be honest, I wanted to be back in school from the time I entered this camp.
At an age when I was whiling away time at home, playing the Game Boy during my summer vacations, these 100-odd kids across the country coded and created an app.
Google gave these kids four assignments to complete in four weeks, the first of which was exploring a new country with Google Earth, second was to use Google Translate and learn a few phrases from the language of the country they chose, third was an outdoor activity, where they had to step out to any museum close to them and use the Google Arts & Culture app there. And finally, with the experience in these weeks, they were asked to create a story-based app, using Google Scratch.
"I loved creating the app," said 13-year old Daksh. On speaking to other kids his age, the popular opinion was that app-creation assignment was quite tricky, but also a lot of fun.
After the list of tasks the school children did over a month, they were then invited to the Google campus in Delhi and Hyderabad. This was to let the kids spend a day at the Google offices and be a part of really interesting bunch of activities, which were fun, and immersive as they were all based on artificial intelligence or machine learning tech.
The media contingent was given a tour of the camp, and I was quite impressed with what the kids had created. They had activities designed using Daydream, Cardboard and Tilt Brush, a customised tech-powered Rock, Paper, Scissor workshop to experiment with, followed by a visit to the Virtual Reality room.
But in all the fun, Google did not skip the real lessons here. These children were accompanied by their parents/ guardians, who were also sent through a separate workshop, which was aimed at educating them on ‘how to keep their kids safe online’. Simultaneously, throughout the assignments, Google was also sharing tips and tricks with these kids to learn how to be a responsible digital citizen.
I spoke with Sunita Mohanty, who is the director of Trust & Safety at Google and is basically the person behind the whole campaign. I asked her which app she thought really caught her eye from the lot. She spoke about a game on Chrome which involved eating fruits or slashing them, like in Fruit Ninja, which would be rewarded with magic toys was a game that stood out for her.
“But it also was very nicely integrated with the learnings the children have had in the first three weeks,” said Mohanty.
The whole idea behind the campaign was to have these kids come together, use technology being offered by Google to their benefit. Another aspect was simultaneously learning the threats of the online world and understand how to protect themselves against it. These kids have been taught how to report and react if their accounts are hacked, how to create strong passwords and the things to know before they share their photos on a platform.
Speaking in this regard, Mohanty said, “Children are being exposed to technology much earlier than ever before, and we believe that these foundational years are the best time to start nurturing their inquisitiveness and curiosity in the right direction.”
Google runs similar other programs for kids as well, one of which is Google Web Rangers. While this was the first attempt of the company at the Summer Camp initiative, Google says they will definitely bring this campaign back next year, in an improved and more interactive version.