Tis the season for industry analysts to make stunningly insightful predictions about the coming year. They make interesting reading at best. Rarely do analysts review what they wrote the year before to see if they actually got it right. Years ago, I predicted that a technology called iSCSI would take over the storage networking world. It didn’t.
Today, the second day of the new year, I break with that tradition. Rather than try to peer into the future, I simply want to ask you to do something that I believe will improve the futures of our children.
The rapid advance of technology, an advance that is occurring exponentially, is creating a new gap within American society – those who can harness the power of technological advancement and those who can’t. This widening gap will have lasting economic consequences.
It disturbs me greatly that local educational systems don’t get that. In my home state of New Hampshire, the cover story of a widely distributed local weekly featured an article enumerating 7 ideas for updating NH schools. The authors talked to local school administrators and other leaders in education about what they think will boost student learning and they suggested things like more recess. Learning the ability to manipulate and exploit computing technology did not even make the list. Can they be that blind?
It’s no secret known only to technologists that there are approximately half a million jobs available right now that require some level of computational skills – jobs that could be filled today by young women and men with the right skills. But colleges and universities in the US graduated only 46,000 last year with degrees in computer science. And I would guess that the majority of them were male.
Computer coding is no longer the realm of geeks with advanced math degrees. Programs are now available for kids—girls and boys—starting at the first-grade level. Educators can go to code.org and girlswhocode.com for classroom-based activities, guidance for teachers on how to teach coding, and suggestions for ways to get the local community involved. You use what you find here to encourage them—as forcefully as you like. Code.org has already reached 25% of US students and 10M of them are female. Also, check-out the Hour of Code program and a TEDx talk by Hadi Partovi, founder and CEO of code.org.
Unfortunately, local school boards move slowly. It may take years to convince them that learning to speak the language of technology is as important as taking a pronunciation training course to better your English. To fill the gap, each of us can get involved by starting with a few kids at a time. You don’t even have to know how to code. All you need is a few PCs or lap tops (available used), a space for kids to gather such as a church basement or community center, and someone to supervise. Everything else is available online from code.org and girlswhocode.com.
As we go forward in time, I believe that those who have and have not within any culture will be increasingly defined by an ability to manipulate technology. Vast computing warehouses like Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform are available to any one of us for the swipe of a credit card. All one needs to know is how to use them.