How to Create Future-Ready Tech Programs for Students.
Courses in coding, engineering, and robotics are insufficient. Thinking about how technology affects communication, creativity, and problem-solving should be taught to students.
In the public education system of the United States, it is common practice to develop highly specialized courses that are in line with particular occupations based on computer science and robotics. Surprise, surprise, courses in coding, for instance, are designed to prepare students for careers in coding. However, this strategy fails to take into account the requirements of real-world STEM jobs and ultimately restricts the career options available to students.
To put it another way, there is a fundamental disconnect between the skills required in today’s workplaces and the technology programs offered in our schools. It’s time to make some changes.
What we are told by the market.
According to Reuters, tech investments made up almost 80% of all venture capital investments in 2019. However, this figure of 80% encompasses investments in finance, real estate, retail, and health care technology (also known as “healthtech”) in almost every major industry.
The main takeaway: Professional opportunities based on technology will continue to increase, but an ever-evolving tech landscape will be driven by the constant generation of new ideas supported by venture capital. Hyper-focused high school courses may be obsolete by the time today’s students are out looking for work, and technology will continue to be a moving target.
Jobs in industries that are changing quickly will require expertise in more general skills like communication, creativity, and problem-solving as well as familiarity with technology. In point of fact, completely new roles and job titles constantly emerge that upend professions and disrupt industries that have been standard for decades, resulting in these roles being referred to as “cross-curricular” in educational parlance.
Consider, for instance, well-known businesses like Airbnb, which combines technology and hospitality but relies on the collaboration of professionals from seemingly unrelated fields, as evidenced by some of the company’s acquisitions (a breathalyzer manufacturer, a selfie product provider, and a background check generator). Or consider the less well-known SketchyMedical, which employs students, doctors, educators, and artists and makes use of the potent combination of creativity and animation to advance medical education and training.
Companies that are expanding are looking for employees who are able to think creatively outside the box. However, students are not adequately prepared for the fluidity, creativity, and “outside the box” thinking that are essential to today’s best jobs because our schools, and specifically our tech courses, do not think in these cross-curricular terms.
Establishing the stage.
Students’ passions and interests must be the starting point for any overhaul of our technology instruction, followed by technology content that fits. When it came time to alter our technology offerings at the Alexander Dawson School, where I teach, our students’ curiosity served as our compass.
Begin with a conversation: Think of the conversations you have with students as the data that informs brand-new, one-of-a-kind programs and curriculums. Talk to them about their passions, interests, hobbies, and goals. Instead of thinking of students as passive end users, think of them as partners in the creation process.
Consider technology to be a bind for a variety of curriculums: Technology education should not be conducted separately. Esports serves as an umbrella under which graphic design, audio-visual creation, event management, intellectual property law, writing, and shoutcasting work together and encourage students to collaborate. Our esports curriculum is based on the understanding that our students’ enthusiasm for gaming could serve as a gateway to STEM fields.
Consider learning to be non-linear: Instead of a single, narrow path that leads to a single destination, learning ought to be like a tree. Some branches come to an abrupt end, while others split multiple times. Students ought to be able to climb any branch that piques their interest. Allow them to pursue their interests in big data science or the history of coding, for instance, if they begin with coding. There should be a never-ending supply of branches for students to enjoy. Give them space and autonomy to explore and satisfy their curiosity.
Three ways to arrange your technology courses.
You can begin organizing your curricula after considering the student-centered principles of effective technology instruction. Three good places to start are listed below.
Create technology-centered capstone programs: Students can pursue their passions and interests while incorporating other learning experiences in open-ended capstone programs. Students can take a semester-long course at the Alexander Dawson School where they can solve global problems, start DEO (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) initiatives, and make new products. Students can use the technical and soft skills they need to be future innovators in these loosely structured opportunities, which allow them to break down traditional subjects and apply various skills as needed. Additionally, teachers learn to become facilitators and learners who grow alongside their students through capstone projects.
Make elective technology courses: Technology electives can flip the script and teach students what goes into running a successful business when they are purposeful and multifaceted. Marketing, sales, business management, and coding, for instance, are electives that can introduce students to a variety of technology, creative, and strategic abilities that are necessary for any successful business.
Establish a partnership with businesses that provide authentic work environments: The adage “show, don’t tell” is important. Students get a better idea of what’s possible when you show them how a tech role works in a real business. Schools should partner with organizations that can help students pursue careers that align with their interests. There are now many opportunities for internships that can be completed remotely. Encourage your students to look for internships in which they will have autonomy to develop and investigate ideas and will be exposed to diverse expert teams.
One essential skill should be acquired by students during their educational experiences: the capacity to evaluate each of their educational experiences from a height of 30,000 feet. Students should be able to take what they learn from one subject, put it into context through personal experience, and then come up with ways to apply what they learn in other contexts. This is the goal of our education system as a whole. A student is prepared for success in an increasingly complex work environment when they are able to apply any learning experiences in a fluid and nimble manner.