I read a great article at the weekend over at Successful Workplace that being geek is cool.
However the article also points out that in schools being a geek is not cool and in fact could be undermining future generations of the IT workforce according to a leading recruitment firm.
The biggest risk to the long term future of the IT industry is a lack of kids thinking that coding cool. A lack of IT talent is a global issue, according to recruitment group Hays Information Technology.
But this is where there’s a divide in opinion and certainly understanding of just what it means to be in the IT industry. IT is not just about coding. IT encompasses everything about technology, from software to apps to hardware that run it all.
But this is our fault. Look at how we present our version of ‘cool’ to kids these days. Dad goes to work in a suit and plays with spreadsheets all day long. He’s proud of his shiny new powerpoint presentation to the boss showing an animated pie chart. He fawns over his correctly linked interdependencies in his MS Project plan. The perception that we should be teaching basic IT skills in the classroom seems to extend to just using bog standard and frankly boring as hell office based software. The article in Successful Work mentions how Tom Cruise can even look cool playing with gadgets in Minority Report. I wrote about that in 2010….I’m still waiting to see anything remotely interesting like that in business and BPM !
“It’s being used right across the curriculum,” says Levin, a New York teacher who set up TeacherGaming with Santeri in 2011. “There’s a science teacher in Australia who builds Minecraft models of cells and gets the kids to roleplay as messenger RNA inside them. A language teacher in Denmark asks his students to build and chat in English, and told me that it’s been the most effective way to teach high-level mastery of the language he’s ever seen.”
Before the naysayers jump in and say we shouldn’t be teaching children this way, why the hell not ? Technology has always been an enabler for learning and pushing boundaries across many disciplines and industries, tech in education shouldn’t just be about using a SmartBoard to draw with. This example is great because its seen to promote learning through play, collaboration, creativity, interest in a subject. Would you rather just sit and be taught verbatim or actually enjoy school ? iPads are creeping into the classroom where the desktop PC used to be king of the domain so bringing in fun and interactive and more creative ways to learn about stuff. But this doesn’t just transcend into the classroom, it motivates the teachers to think again. Frankly the educational sector seems to be turning into another turnkey operation like a business conference; turn up, present, go home. We are turning education into just another business stream unfortunately.
But again this is our fault. We don’t expose our kids to the Kickstarters of today that are moving and shaking the business and tech world. We don’t show them the buzz being generated from a TechCrunch Disrupt event. We dare not tell them that the business world can learn a thing or two from the Games industry. Did you show your kids the article about how Chad Ruble hacked his Kinect so his mum could email after suffering a stroke ? THAT’S COOL.
Technology has dramatically changed the way that we work, play, live, laugh and love. But being involved in technology still seems to have huge negative connotations.
Of course it will if we continue to play to the same stereotypes that children will observe and learn from. Children need to be brought closer to the business models and role models of today, not the antiquated forms of business our fathers were in. And more importantly, as an industry in general we need to move with the times and bring those concepts and models into our business and adopt them a lot quicker. That way kids will look on us as cool again.
Children want to learn through Minecraft, not through spreadsheets. Children have hungry minds, children can be foolish. And todays entrepreneurs are hungry and foolish.
Make business education relevant but above all make it fun. Because it is fun being a geek in business. It’s fun being around fired up and passionate people whose creative spark is infectious and motivating.
And as Steve Jobs said, “It’s more fun to be a pirate* than to join the navy.”
* not a software pirate !