Over the last several months, there has been an ongoing debate
over whether or not coding and engineering design skills are necessary for the well-rounded education of the next generation. Some criticisms of teaching kids to code include that this is just a covert operation for big technology companies to increase the pipeline of workers to reduce the massive compensation packages for current employees. While there may be some validity to this argument from a simple supply and demand perspective, I think the bigger concern for these companies is that they see a lack of properly educated workers as an big hurdle to future growth. The counterpoint to this perspective has been, why are we so focused on kids future career prospects when they are only in kindergarten or 1st grade? Young kids should be focused on outdoor play not their future job prospects These various arguments misses the broader shift for the increased role technology is already playing and will continue to play in both our personal and professional lives going forward.
In 2007, Apple introduced the iPhone. While this wasn’t the first cell phone that was launched, it was the first pocket sized computer that achieved mainstream adoption. The iPhone and the ecosystem that Apple and their developer community built around this platform has been game changing. From GPS maps to productivity tools and even recreational games, many of us carry around very powerful mini-computers in our pockets on a daily basis. If we think about the efficiency gains that result from these mini-computers, we see that we can save time on our commute if we use the Waze app from Google or we can find a restaurant faster using our Yelp app or we can pay our bills using a banking app. On the other hand, there are some who would argue that despite the efficiency gains, the general public wastes a lot of time on social media applications or gaming. Both efficiency gains and losses are in the eye of the beholder. In reality, we are in the early stages (~10 years in) of seeing what the true capability of these devices really is. As developers create more applications, we will gain a better understanding of the true utility of these mini computers.
Throughout the modern organization, technology tools and infrastructure are all around us. From the laptop or desktop computer that we are assigned to perform our job duties and responsibilities to the internet connectivity to make sure we are connected to colleagues both locally and globally, technology continues to play a bigger and bigger role in our professional lives. Similar to our personal lives, there are some services like Dropbox or Box that helps us organize and share our files in a seamless and intuitive way. There are creative tools like Adobe photoshop and Keynote that help us bring our ideas to life. We have spreadsheet tools like Excel or Numbers that help us analyze and model financial performance. For those who want to add more visualization to the numbers or aggregate larger data sets, there are tools like Domo. In addition, we have information sharing tools like Slack or Google docs that moves key knowledge bases to the cloud which become accessible to the entire team and facilitate real-time communication and feedback. We also see some consumer applications like ride sharing apps that made payments seamless and ride tracking technology that could be very useful in the logistics industry. On the other hand, there are some who feel that mobile devices create an always ON relationship between employer and employee. Some countries have started to push back and are limiting the requirements for responding to communication after hours
. The above examples are just a micro slice of the significant and substantial investment in innovation and disruption that modern day companies of various sizes (startups to Fortune 500) are using technology to help establish or improve their competitive advantage.
Building a foundation
Within both the personal and professional context, the question becomes is my child better off learning about technology? Or, would they be better served by learning about the arts or humanities? This either or decision is not really realistic. Truthfully, the next generation has an increased burden to not only be knowledgeable about the arts but also have an understanding about how technology works and the impact that the intersection of these disciplines will have on the future. For example, one could argue that one who has developed a good eye for design would make an excellent user interface designer. While we may not often think of a website or mobile application as a canvas for art, a well-designed interface is truly a thing of beauty. Or, for someone who has developed an ear for music, sound and audio has a tremendous capability to influence that clarity of communication and reduce the physical distance between those who live in various parts of the world. Similar to the industrial revolution, the prior agrarian based society may have felt it unnecessary to education themselves on manufacturing and factories. This would’ve placed the next generation at a significant disadvantage from a knowledge base. At this point, we can be fairly certain that technology will continue to play a larger and larger role in both our personal and professional lives. Due to this already established foundation that has been building over the last 50+ years, it is essential that kids understand that technology learning is foundational for their future success. This is not to say that all kids will grow up to become developers. Instead, it is a recognition that it’s better to understand how robots and software work than it isn’t. Over time, students will learn what areas of technology learning it is more important to double down on and which are just blips that won’t have a major rule in their future lives.