Firefox 4 Kids

Today I gave a presentation to 120 4th graders, as a participant in Career Day at Lowell Elementary School in Long Beach, California. I covered some general intarweb topics, places I had worked, and then talked about Mozilla, Firefox and open-source software.

You can download my slides here. Obviously, some topics were presented in a very simplified manner.

I did 3 presentations, to groups of 30-50 kids. I started the presentation by taking a survey (“Raise your hand if…”), then ran through my slides, and then took questions. Here are some observations from the day:

  • All of the kids had used a computer (they have a computer lab at the school).
  • Almost all of the kids said they had used the internet, and surfed the web.
  • About half of the kids said they used email.
  • About a quarter of the kids said that they used IM, and those kids were *really* excited about it.
  • Though almost every kid said they surfed the web, when I asked if they knew what a “browser” was, only a couple kids knew. However, I know that they actually *were* surfing the web because of the questions that they asked. It seemed that the browser was a piece of infrastructure that blended into their general computer experience.
  • They really didn’t understand the difference between an internet connection and internet browser. When I said Firefox was free, some kids thought that meant they could get online for free.
  • Anywhere from 5-10 kids in each group had heard of Firefox.
  • 1-2 kids in each group had heard of “open-source”.
  • The kids knew of viruses and phishing. They didn’t understand what they were, but knew that they were bad, and from the internet.
  • The kids knew about MySpace, and were scared of predators. For real. In each group, someone brought up MySpace, and *always* in the context of a news story they saw on TV about how some creepy guy was trying to hook up with teenage girls. Local news must be pushing this story.
  • Computing in public education means Mac OS8 and Netscape Communicator. And we live in an *affluent* area. It was crazy to be talking to a group of kids who all knew about Netscape and *not* Firefox.
  • Games! The boys all played games via websites, and wanted to tell me all about them. The only game brought up by a girl was WOW.
  • They thought the Firefox logo was cool. They thought the Mozilla logo was cooler 🙂 Especially the boys. Several started grilling me on the anatomical incorrectness of the dinosaur: “If it’s from the pleocistene family it’d have a bump on it’s head and the nostrils would be in a different place.” I had no response to that.
  • The kids all knew what “non-profit” meant, and each group had at least one of these kids: “How does Mozilla make any money??!!”. Long discussions about the economics of search referrals and advertising ensued.
  • The kids liked “free”, and they only grokked “freedom” when I asked a kid’s name, and said he could take the source code and make his own “JakobBrowser” if he wanted. They loved that.

Overall, the kids seemed conversationally literate about the internet, more so than I was expecting. There was a general feeling that the internet was cool, but to be feared. They were definitely interested in Firefox, and asked where they could download it. They loved the Firefox stickers I gave out. Tons of thanks to Marcia, who got me more stickers on short notice (I originally thought I was only presenting to my daughter’s class).


34 Comments on “Firefox 4 Kids”

  1. Axel Hecht says:


    > They really didn’t understand the difference
    > between an internet connection and internet
    > browser. When I said Firefox was free, some kids
    > thought that meant they could get online for free.

    that is not only a children problem, we have it all over “the internet” in all ages. Sadly.

    Nice data over all.

    (I take it your head is back on your shoulders by now?)

  2. Jim says:

    sounds like they know more about the internet than my father-in-law 🙂

  3. Chris Ilias says:

    When I said Firefox was free, some kids thought that meant they could get online for free.

    I think there’s a bug number for that. 🙂

    1-2 kids in each group had heard of “open-source”.

    Wow, I’m surprised any of them had heard of open source.

  4. I think these kids are a bit _above_ average.

    I still find it suprising how few people get scammed on the net by how poor some people’s knowledge is.

    The great news is that this generation is pretty understanding of how technology works, and much more understanding of an evolving technology, something lacking in previous generations (where tech was developed, then froze).

    Interesting to see though… would be interesting if you did another presentation in another school, in another neighborhood, and compared. Perhaps different geography, or a higher/lower income community, and juse see how it varies.

    I’d be interested to know how 4th graders compare in technology literacy (even through questions like you asked, in an informal way) between lower middle class, and upper middle class. As well as location in the US.

    Very cool.

  5. Jordan says:

    I’m thirteen, and I didn’t actually find out about Firefox until last year, when I started watching TSS. Now at school, I cringe when I use the computers, because they only use IE (eww…). I’m probably going to wind up downloading it to my account at school (every student gets a personal account)…


  6. Definitely a good initiative, I think we’re in an age where computer security should be tought to all kids. Once they start accessing the internet, they need to know the basics, because they become 1- A target 2- A transmission vector. If we start to teach them at an early age, we can pray that they remember and apply some of these lessons. Even if they only remember 20% of them, it’s a good start to a safer digital world.

    Good move dude. Did the idea come from you, or did someone ask you to do it? In any case, I’m glad some people still have heads in our educational system! I read some news recently about some catholic schools in Italy teaching computer security to all their students. I was very surprised..


    [Geeks Are Sexy] Tech. News

  7. Jaydo says:

    Man, I really wish people came to my school and talked about this stuff when I was a little kid.

    It does really surprise me that so many kids were that, “technologically-aware” at that age.

    But when you think about it, the younger they start, the easier it is for them to grow into it.

    Great Article, fun read.

  8. matias says:

    >Now at school, I cringe when I use the >computers, >because they only use IE (eww…).]

    The same happens to me. I cannot stand IE.

  9. GeekyGirl says:

    It is great that you are getting these kids exposed to technology early, and it is important for them to be exposed to *new* technologies, like open source software (new to them anyway). We really need to get kids more interested in high tech if we want to grow the next generation of geeks.

  10. daniel says:

    I am in 6th grade(im 12). I know what bittorrent, azureus, utorrent, linux, firefox, the GNU license thingy is, I know how to make live CDs, and a whole lot of other crap. I am definatly the most computer literate person in my school(private Preschool-8th grade), if not my city(I mean at my age, and my city is around 10,000). I am the only one in my class who is completely fascinated in computers and IT. I am definatly the geekiest person in my class. However, I am not the kind of person who has no friends, I have a lot, and am one of the most popular people in my class(kinda sorta). No one in my class thinks I am nerdy, though.

    And like some of the above, I HATE IE, and the fact that my dad(the type who don’t know what open source is) uses it all the time(except at home, we use firefox)

  11. Magnus says:

    They’d heard of firefox?! Holy shit

  12. Not here says:

    You should try to make the school to install Linux on some of their computers.

  13. Brian says:

    “We really need to get kids more interested in high tech if we want to grow the next generation of geeks.”

    I agree, but it almost is becoming a rite of passage for kids these days. They grow up in a heavily digital environment and aren’t nearly as daunted by technology as those before them. My 10 year old cousin just put together her birthday list in powerpoint, complete with pictures of the toys she wanted!!! It’s inherent at this point.

  14. Kyle Pointer says:

    I’m 15.. but I got my first *real* computer in 2002. I had used the Mozilla brower plenty, but I didn’t really know much.
    Lucky for me, my friends dad is one of the coolest people ever [ 😉 ] and he told me about Linux. He gave me a Knoppix CD. It was all downhill from there. Since then I have become completely affluent in most anything even remotely related with computers, and/or opensource. I’ve been very active in a LUG, and a UUG.
    I just think there need to be more people like my friends dad to introduce people to Linux and open source, because without people like that, most people will never hear of open source. People might see ads, but people work so much better.

  15. YoshoKatana says:

    I’m 16, and have been using a comp for quite a while. (’95) I’ve found that many people in my highschool (kids and faculty) have no idea what a browser is. I think a basic computer profficiency course in middle or high school should be required, judging by how important computing is to almost all aspects of life nowadays. (Finance, business, leisure, etc) My friend and I outlines a course syllabus awhile back, and “Open Source” was first thing on the list.

    Also, “grokking” is the best word ever. Heinlein fans rejoice!

  16. wormeyman says:

    Not so sure about slide 10 did you elaborate on firefox’s css2/3 capabilities?

    Also is that an aeron chair i see :O

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  18. […] تعليم فايرفوكس للأطفال، صاحب المدونة يتحدث عن تجربته مع 120 طفلاً حيث ألقى عليهم درساً حول البرامج الحرة وفايرفوكس. […]

  19. Ronnie says:

    I am surprised by the number of children who had heard of Firefox, let alone the number of children who had heard of open source. An interesting look at what the future holds. Hopefully the children who know of open source get into the biz when they are older.

  20. […] Original Posted in Funny • Geek • Firefox • Mozilla | Add To | Digg ThisTrack with co.mments | RelatedStuff […]

  21. Nice Paul says:

    I think that most users don’t know what a browser is, and many just think the Internet is the big blue ‘e’ on their desktop.

    Check out the book “Don’t Click on the Blue E!” on Amazon UK|US)

  22. savo says:

    Nice work mate, but can you give a percentage next time? 🙂 “About half” is not 50%
    Just for the sake of keeping accurate results!

  23. Noodleneckq says:

    Fantastic work. YOu rule

  24. beltzner says:

    Sounds like you had a lot of fun, Dietrich. Giving this presentation was a great idea, and the data’s fantastic. I’ve poked Chris Blizzard of the OLPC project to make sure that he saw it, too.

  25. Josh says:

    That’s amazing. This is the kind of thing i try with my friends, except that most of them only play WOW and that’s all they do on a coputer.
    This makes it harder.

    Great article!

  26. me says:

    Its great to teach kids about opensource and alternatives to things made by microsoft. It would be nice if more people did things like this

  27. […] There’s a interesting and insightful post over at dietrich.ganx4 about a career day talk to 4th graders that involved Firefox, the Internet, open-source, etc. It’s worth a read. A point that caught my eye was the confusion over what a browser was and how it was different from the internet. As support for online courses I often have to ask similar questions and I get similar responses. I’d have to say at least half of the people I ask don’t know what a browser is or tell me who their ISP is instead. I usually have to name browsers until I hit the one they use (usually IE). I see various discussions online about the internet being a platform and the decreasing importance of the OS and I think that’s not just talk. Many of my callers see the internet as an icon they double-click on. The search box is how they find stuff. Address bar? Never heard of it, and some never used it. I won’t try to guess how they would respond to questions about open-source. Quite a few of my calls end with “get firefox” though. […]

  28. Dan Cater says:

    SLIDE 7!!!

    I’m *so* easy to read.

    What have you done?!? These kids are going to grow up to a whole world of XML Parsing Errors!

    Seriously though, great work.

  29. Frank (DesertFox) says:

    I’m 16, and I write code for Firefox 🙂
    and I’m also an extension developer:

    A lot of these things are self-taught, but it’s important to have something, like a career day, to spark kids’ interest and inspire them to do things like these.

  30. Frank (DesertFox) says:

    I like the AJAX comment loading script you have. 🙂
    I wish I had one for my site.

  31. […] dietrich . ganx4 . com » Firefox 4 Kids — Nice summary about few groups of children who attended Firefox presentations. Tagged as: children education firefox internet kids stats […]