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Learning Technology, With The Help Of An 11 Year Old

Below is an article originally written by Casey C. Sullivan at PowerToFly Partner Logikcull, and published on November 21, 2018. Go to Logikcull's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.

Even the least technical among us can understand complex technology.

I'm proof—as are a number of other lawyers, professionals, and even children who recently completed a crash course in coding as part of Logikcull's annual "Family Day." The instructors: Arjun Banerjee Mulchandani and Nyan Prakash, 11 and 14 years old respectively, from Kids Teach Tech, an organization dedicated to teaching programming and technology to underserved children. In about an hour, they taught a group ranging from seasoned professionals to a seven year old enough programming to build a simple calculator.

Lawyers Learn Tech

You're never too old, or too young, to learn new technology. This is especially true for legal professionals today, as technology is increasingly having an impact on the law, modifying legal doctrines, and creating new sources of evidence. These developments are creating significant opportunities for enterprising professionals, as well as potential burdens for those who don't know how to, or don't have the tools to, handle growing amounts of data.

For attorneys, staying on top of technology isn't just a practical necessity, it's also an ethical duty. The ABA's Model Rules, for example, require lawyers to maintain competency, including as to "the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology". And a majority of state bar associations now have rules explicitly requiring technological competence. Indeed, as U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Cole reminded us in a recent interview, both the bench and the bar need to remain technologically up-to-date if they are to handle today's increasingly high-tech disputes.

For lawyers, maintaining "technological competence" can take many forms. Florida, for example, mandates regular CLE training on technology. California has issued an ethics opinion on eDiscovery competency, recognizing that "attorney competence related to litigation generally requires, among other things, and at a minimum, a basic understanding of, and facility with, issues relating to e-discovery," and, in some cases, "a higher level of technical knowledge and ability." And a recent ABA ethics opinion highlighted the importance of encryption as a way to protect client communications.

Of course, staying on top of all the latest technology can seem like an overwhelming task. Few of us, for example, have the time or energy to review the risks and benefits of every new AI program, blockchain craze, or IoT data source.

But when it comes to learning technology, no matter your level of technological expertise, familiarizing yourself with the basics easier than you may think.

Which brings us back to Arjun and Nyan.

Kids (and Lawyers) Who Code

Arjun founded Kids Teach Tech when he was just 10 years old. The organization grew out of his dual love of technology and education. Arjun launched Kids Teach Tech by introducing Python to over 75 underserved high school students in Oakland. He was assisted by Nyan Prakash and Tal Lerner when he taught Python at Stanford University this spring.

Together, the three offer classes on programming basics in Python, an introduction to Scratch programming, and programming logic, including an hour-long class on "problem-solving using physical coding blocks to solve advanced puzzles [in] a quest to find a scientist's missing pets." They are working on new classes for more advanced students (in the Unity programming language) and more fun basics for younger children. Classes are offered to children as young as six years old and as old as—given our class—much much older than six.

Arjun and Nyan came to Logikcull to teach Logikcull's non-engineers and their children introductory Python. In under an hour, we'd mastered enough of the programming language needed to create a simple program.

The exercise was an important reminder of how intimidating technology (coding! math!) can be so easily demystified. For attorneys, legal professionals, and even children, often the first step to truly understanding technology can be a simple one.

Democratizing technology is not difficult, and it's never too early, and never too late, to start learning the basics—whether prompted by your ethical duties or not.

Kids Teaching Kids

Of course, Arjun and Nyan's typical audience isn't an Instant Discovery company, or even lawyers. Kids Teach Tech was founded to reach underserved children and focuses most of its educational work on making sure that kids of all backgrounds have access to, and understanding of, technology. After students feel confident about the basics, they can either utilize classes from the internet or take more advanced classes from Kids Tech Tech.

It's not just the students who benefit. Kids teaching kids (or kids teaching adults, as the case may be) is an incredible win-win scenario. The young teachers gain confidence and learn their subjects better, and the students feel more confident in learning since they are learning from another kid (who is also making it as fun for them as possible). Arjun learned this first hand in Oakland when, at just 10 years old, he had to muster enough confidence to instruct high school students. A 14 year old girl came up to him after his second class and said that she and her friend had thought tech was too hard for them, and were not planning to go near it. But with a 10 year old in front of them teaching it, they had no excuse but to learn and now knew they could do it! Which is exactly the goal of Kids Teach Tech - to ensure every child is confident that they can do coding.

Over the next few months, Kids Teach Tech will be partnering with Sunday Friends to reach underserved children in San Jose. They will also be returning to schools in Oakland and Richmond, California, and expanding to other districts across the San Francisco Bay Area. They are beginning classes for Girl Scout troops and hoping to teach at more organizations with underserved kids.

In addition to Arjun, Nyan and Tal will soon be teaching on their own. Nine recent recruits are also prepared to assist with classes. At Kids Teach Tech's first organization meeting recently, Soren Rosier, a PhD student in Education at Stanford University, gave them all a workshop on the best techniques for kids to teach kids.

If you know an organization, group of lawyers, or school (especially those including underserved students) that could benefit from such an experience, don't hesitate to reach out to Kids Teach Tech. And if you would like to support kids teaching kids teaching technology, Kids Teach Tech just launched their holiday fundraiser. More information is available at www.kidsteachtech.com/donate

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