Informiko žinių forumas 2024
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Students’ IT Conference ‘Informatics Knowledge Forum 2024’: Focus on the Lithuanian Language

On February 27th, in the “Santaka” of Kaunas University of Technology (KTU), the second conference event for Lithuanian students, “Informatics Knowledge Forum 2024”, took place. The event, focused on information technology for students in grades 1-8, was organized for the second time by the Faculty of Informatics at KTU (KTU IF), this time in collaboration with Erudito Licėjus. The central theme of this year’s student projects was the Lithuanian language in the age of modern technology.

The forum, aimed at sharing student-created projects and IT-based solutions, as well as exchanging new ideas and experiences, saw the participation of nearly 100 students and over 30 teachers from across Lithuania. Throughout the event, students presented their papers in seven separate spaces, showcased their projects and program prototypes at stands, while teachers attended presentations prepared by KTU IF lecturers and invited guests on topics related to IT and education.

Student teams presented 27 IT projects created with applications such as “Scratch,” “AppLab,” “CoSpaces,” “MarvelApp,” among others. Some students even developed projects using the professional game engine “Unity,” while sixth graders incorporated Lithuanian riddles using the Python programming language.

The main theme of this year’s conference was information technology and the Lithuanian language. The relevance of the Lithuanian language and national identity in the context of digitization and globalization was emphasized, uniting all projects through the application of information technology and Lithuanian language, history, mythology, or other areas related to Lithuania. Students developed programs and games based not only on their knowledge of Lithuanian grammar but also drawing from Lithuanian folklore, Baltic mythology, legends, the phenomenon of book smugglers, and more.

The forum was opened by the Dean of KTU IF, Prof. Dr. Rita Butkienė, the founder and director of Erudito Licėjus, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nerijus Pačėsa, and the main sponsor of the event, Dr. Algirdas Noreika from “Indeform,” who briefly recounted how the character of Informiko emerged and was drawn by the children who participated in the Informiko drawing contest organized by KTU IF.

“Lithuanian language is the foundation of our nation, an important part of our identity; through language, we identify ourselves with Lithuania, so we should show respect to it,” said Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nerijus Pačėsa, the founder and director of Erudito Licėjus, delivering a welcoming speech to the participants. This sentiment was echoed by Jurgita Maironienė, a teacher of Lithuanian language and literature, who raised the question during her lecture and discussion on how to preserve the uniqueness of the Lithuanian language in the digital space.

According to J. Maironienė, native language educators are concerned about the need for digital resources in the Lithuanian language, as content in English is abundant, and teachers often translate it themselves. The prestige of the Lithuanian language, she argues, is affected by the predominance of foreign language content, mostly in English.

“Contemporary students consume a lot of English content, they feel comfortable on the internet, often communicating with each other in this language,” observes J. Maironienė. “We also face a lack of Lithuanian equivalents for some English terms, especially in gaming.” She further emphasizes the necessity for linguists to take an interest in Lithuanian neologisms, actively seeking and creating new equivalents.
The specialist also presented a study on students’ attitudes towards the Lithuanian language, conducted in 2020 by Nida Poderienė, a junior researcher at the Institute of the Lithuanian Language. This study, which asked students from various grades, “Is the Lithuanian language your language?,” shows that about 60 percent of primary school students identify themselves with the Lithuanian language, with this percentage decreasing as the grade level increases, with only about 40 percent of older students identifying themselves with the Lithuanian language.
Participants of the conference unanimously affirmed that in the age of modern technology, it is crucial to preserve one’s language, adapt it to information technology, and not lose the ability to write grammatically correctly and use Lithuanian terminology in the digital world.
In addition to J. Maironienė’s presentation and discussions on the relevance of the Lithuanian language, participating teachers had the opportunity to engage in presentations on artificial intelligence, programming in Python, 3D modeling, and opportunities for teachers’ professional development.

One of the highlights of the “Informatics Knowledge Forum” is the organization of student presentations. In the forum, participants present their projects to other students, serving as both evaluators and consultants, sharing their experiences.

Neringa Kelpšaitė, responsible for cooperation with schools at KTU IF and the organizer of the second forum, emphasized: “We aim for the forum to reflect the atmosphere of a real conference: children receive badges with their names, share experiences, ask curious questions, receive certificates, and most importantly – this is not a competition, everyone here is unique, everyone is a winner, everyone has equal opportunities and gifts.”

“This is not a competition where diplomas and prizes are contested, but a conference for sharing knowledge and experiences, where students seek to showcase their projects and share their good experiences with other Lithuanian students and teachers. The event inspires everyone (both young and old) to pursue new projects, to have the courage to try out new programs and programming languages,” says the initiator of the conference, the author of the idea, and one of the organizers, Rimantė Grumadaitė, a teacher of information technology at Erudito Licėjus and an alumna of KTU IF.