Last week another report came out on the impact of technology on the economy going forward, this one from PwC. Disruption. Automation. 30% of today’s jobs will be lost in this country, they report. But at the same time we will see new jobs arise – jobs for programmers and roboticists. Jobs for innovation technologists. Jobs for creatives. There are clear winners and losers in Information Revolution that is happening right now. It’s a train coming at us, but we can see it coming, and we can be ready for it. But will we be?
I had a call from the BBC last week asking me that. You can hear the interview here, from Radio 4, for the next month or so. My message was this. Schools in the UK are by many measures in the lead on this. Computing was added to the national curricula in 2014, making us, as far as I’m aware, the second country to include it, after Estonia. Now we see France and Italy adding coding and making to their curricula as of next year. But all of the schools have the same challenges.
First, it’s hard to find qualified, confident teachers to teach coding. This is challenging because accomplished coders are often making a very nice living in their profession and may not be tempted to move to teaching full time. In fact, we hear anecdotally of teachers actually leaving the profession because they don’t want to retrain and be expected to deliver coding as part of their lessons. There are some excellent computing teachers out there, but just not enough of them for each school to have what they would aspire to.
Second, even where you have good teachers, they might be teaching an hour or so of coding per week. When you think of the mechanics of getting a roomful of kids in fron of computers, signed on, and then picking up where they left off a week ago, it’s clear that this is not a way for the kids to cover a lot of ground or gain much momentum. And this in a course that requires concentration, and practice (much like traditional foreign languages!).
While programming at school is important and the monumental effort put forth by the schools, teachers and a bunch of supportive organisations is essential and impressive – we believe that if the goal is really to help your child become a produtive tech innovator, extra-curriculars like ours can give them momentum, inspiration, support, and eventually help them develop a portfolio of original work.
We know that our full week Python course, for example, covers as much coding as kids would get in a year of programming at school. It makes sense – they are spending 25 to 30 hours working intensively on their skills, in a small group, with a strong coder. They are surrounded by like-minded young people excited about their work, sharing ideas and feedback, and they keep at it all day without the interruptions of doing the work in short clips. Students and parents tell us that they are delighted with the sense of accompishment and expeditionary learning that kids and teens get in this environment.
We are also hearing more and more often that opportunities come to those who display a curiosity and a passion in technology! Last week I spoke to someone at Apple about the summer engineering course – where they take a small number of students to California to work with Apple hardware and software engineers. I heard about this because they are contacting potential students through tech camps and robotics clubs. (Sadly no European version at the moment!) Since I wrote the blog post with the anecdote about the Jet Propulsion Lab interns coming from tech and robotics extra curriculars I’ve had a number of people – in industry and at unversities – confirm that they are now looking for talent beyond schoolwork. They want to target young people who have shown curiosity, interest and passion for technology, by spending time working on projects purely for the joy of it (but that’s another blog post).
Fire Tech Camp is proud of the work that we are doing, and we are proud of the recognition that students are getting for the work they’ve done with us or in other organisations! We believe that we are on the cutting edge of preparing the next generation of innovators and tech creatives. Not only has there never been a better time to learn thanks to the high quality, accessible kits and platforms. It’s also never been so important that kids and families take their education in to their own hands to skill up and stand out as architects of the future!