I went to the Pearcey Awards at NSW Parliament House last night. The main game was an award for entrepreneurship in ICT, but before that there were presentations from three school teams that won at the Young ICT Explorers* and a pitching competition from university students with ideas.
At the end of the event someone asked my what I thought of the idea of having the school kids do a pitching competition next year and what would motivate them. It led me to contemplate what motivates kids in these circumstances. For the Uni students there’s a starting point of them winning some money to help them further their projects, but the kids projects are generally not going to be commercial enough for that to be attractive or useful. It’s always nice to win a prize, of course, but I don’t think being given some cash or an iPod is what drives the kids.
First there’s recognition. The kids adore the fact that their efforts are recognised in the community outside their school. They are thrilled that an achievement which is in the context of something they love, for which read ‘not sporting’, is seen as noteworthy. That wider recognition then also feeds back into the schools which really don’t particularly get ICT or exactly what these kids have achieved.
The second thing that motivates them is talking to other kids and adults who are interested in the same things they are. My teams were thrilled to spend time with the third team presenting last night simply because they wanted to talk about the same things.
Thirdly, events like the Pearcey Awards can provide useful contacts. After the Awards one of my kids was chatting with a fabulously talented entrepreneur who asked him what he wanted to do when he grew up: He said ‘work for Google‘. When she then found out that he had written to Google asking to visit and never received a reply, she undertook to do something about that. Less than 24 hours later he has a visit to Google lined up. That sense of being surrounded by adults who value what you’re doing and want to help is priceless for an 11-year-old.
These are all lasting benefits; things that make a difference in the kids lives in the way that a money prize or a device cannot.
The Pearcey Awards are aimed at “encouraging and rewarding fresh and innovative talent in the ICT profession” and it is simply that ‘encouraging’ and ‘rewarding’ that motives the kids to keep on following their dreams of changing the World using technology. It’s almost certainly largely what motivates the university students and the entrepreneurs too, but for an 11-year-old who has no mortgage, backers or bankers to concern himself with that’s a very pure motivation.
I certainly hope the Pearcey Awards will continue to encourage and reward, and see focusing on our schoolkids as a way of really nurturing the next generation fresh and innovative talent in ICT.
* In the spirit of full disclosure, and showing off, two of the teams were mentored by me and included my children.