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Let Your Kids Hack and Other Tips From Technology Pros


Many students come into a technology classroom afraid of technology, afraid to fail and afraid of breaking things. Education should help them get over all those fears, technology experts told an online forum hosted by the White House.

“We spend a lot of time in higher education learning how to get good grades and passing scores,” said Alex Kipmen of Microsoft Kinect, a line of devices that allow users to control their computers with gestures and words. “Life, innovation, creation are not about that. They're about failing and learning how to fail and learning what to do when it happens.”

Alicia Gibb, president of Open Source Hardware Association, added that most people seem to have forgotten how to experiment. “Everybody’s walking around with all kinds of devices in their pockets and yet so few people actually know how to hack them, know what’s inside them, know really how to take them apart, how to fix them, how to use them -- all that kind of stuff,” she said Wednesday at a Google+ Hangout hosted by the White House as part of the administration's We the Geeks series of online panels. This week’s forum was scheduled in concert with the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, an industry-sponsored annual event to showcase new technologies. 

Gibb acknowledged that teachers themselves generally don’t know how to hack devices, and there are the usual time and money constraints. “But I think there’s another part,” Gibb said. “All the companies out there are saying, ‘Hey, don’t experiment with our stuff.  You’re not supposed to take the black box apart and figure out what’s inside.’”

That sounded like a specialized activity for the technologically savvy. Not so, the panelists said. Everyone should develop this kind of confidence with technology.

Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus VR, which is developing a virtual reality headset for gaming and other uses, said ordinary people should move beyond simply using technology and consider creating technology. “This really isn’t that crazy,” he said. “People who make technology are not some elite breed of people who think on a higher level. We’re pretty much exactly the same [as ordinary people] -- or at least I am.”

(Image via Sychugina/

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