Written by Chris Geary, BSD Education
I write this in April 2020, amidst a world of unprecedented disruption and uncertainty by measure of any generation alive at this moment in time. During all this disruption and uncertainty, we can see the need for a strong foundation of technology skills even more clearly in learners for the future. This is a time in which we have all been forced to adapt in an instant to a new daily working and learning reality. I will discuss three considerations below for thinking about exposure to technology through education and its benefits.
Learners need to understand what their learning journey is going to look like
Technology is big, complicated and incredibly varied. There is a place for everyone in technology from the artist to the engineer, and all in between. The breadth and depth of technology expertise and experience demands a level of focus, the scale and speed of evolution may not permit a “jack of all trades” to stay relevant. Instead, we must explore our interests and discover our true passion at an early age and learn how to work with others with complimentary abilities.
Everyone is embarking on a journey of learning that will last a lifetime. The knowledge to be relevant today, in the same area of expertise, will not be relevant in 5 years time not to mention in 25 years time. To be able to pursue a journey for a lifetime, learners need to gain a broad exposure to technology at the outset of their learning journey to make the most informed decision possible and set a sustainable direction. I am not saying that later in life it will not be possible to change, but it will become exponentially more difficult. The US K-12 CS Framework sets out a nice way to consider creating a learning journey for Computer Science (or Technology) learning across the school age spectrum, illustrated below.
Demand is out stripping supply – get people in the mindset of wanting to learn tech
Current market conditions show growing demand across industries resulting from continuing implementations of technologies and evolution towards automation. The World Economic Forum “Future of Jobs Report” states a net gain of 58 million jobs created versus jobs lost arising out of automation.
Other organizations like Cisco site shortages of people with networking skills, with demand out stripping supply significantly in places like South America, where connectivity is strongly linked to future prospects for economic growth. To have people in place to take up the rising tide of opportunity and benefit from it, technology needs to be presented for learning in a way that develops a desire to learn, otherwise the result may seem undesirable or even unattainable.
The learners that will take up these new jobs are in the early years of education now, but might also be with significant experience in legacy trades and having to return to learning to access a new direction. There is evidence across the age and experience spectrum, such as with the development of the Montessori system of learning that authentic experience and application in learning leads to much greater engagement.
Montessori observed this in young and individual needs learners as they engaged incredibly in learning through mimicking the activities of the real world rather than through attempting to relate associated learning through fantasy. The challenge is great, but it would seem rather than focusing on the content for learning itself, which in many cases is available in one form or another, the focus must be on the experience of learning for the different demographics of learners that feed the pipeline of talent required.
Automation and jobs will grow while demand is there but we need to be prepared to be able to transition
We can see from history that industrial automation in the past has led to job growth, however also that the job growth fuelled through this automation is led by the surge in accompanying demand that drives the commercial rationale for investing in automation, meaning what makes the investment financially viable. Therefore, at the point where the demand flattens to be consistent rather than growing, continuing automation that would be inevitable from this point will then create major attrition quite quickly in the roles that were created.
Historic models of education have performed poorly in leading learners to be adaptable and appreciate the transferability of their knowledge in a commercial context. This supports the importance of a) the critical importance on introducing learning to people at all ages through a range of real world contexts in which a consistent set of abilities apply; b) nurturing curiosity in learners to be as adaptable as possible by continuing cross-industry understanding through their ongoing self-learning.
Exposure to technology education and the learning of digital skills is certainly critical, but careful thought needs to be applied to deliver a strong foundation within people around the world to sustainably enable them to be successful throughout the changes and challenges that they will inevitably encounter throughout their careers.
If you’re interested in discussing more about technology education, or even want to explore ways on how you can do that with us, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.