One of the greatest parts about working in a consumer facing business is that you get to talk to a lot of people. In the course of these conversations, if you use your ears and mouth in the proper proportion (2:1), you can learn a lot about not only why parents do enroll their kids in our programs but also why they don't enroll them in our programs. At Digital Adventures
, our business is focused on teaching kids, ages 4-18 years old, how to build with technology in state-of-the-art, retail studios led by charismatic instructors. More and more we are hearing that parents wish they would’ve learned more about technology when they were younger. And, so, they are enrolling their kids in our programs so that their kids will have a better opportunity to create a knowledge base in technology. With that technology foundation, they believe that their kids will be better prepared for future success in a digitally enabled world.
For those that don't enroll their kids in our programs, its a similar underlying reason. But, instead of taking a proactive approach to better preparing their kids. They are concerned that the same reasons they heard for why they shouldn't dive into technology when they were kids are still true.
These conversations got me thinking, where does this gap in technology learning come from? Many of these parents from both groups remarked that they were either good at math & science and/or they really enjoyed playing video games as a kid. However, these early signals didn’t translate into diving into technology in a meaningful way. So, what happened that prevented more people from exploring technology?
Unfortunately, I think that much of this is due to the technology industry itself. In many ways, many within the space have created the perception that technology is more difficult, mysterious and harder to learn than it really is. As in most things, expectation and perception can become reality. So, if someone grew up and heard that only geniuses could learn how to code or that Silicon Valley companies were building magical inventions, that might have thrown a whole generation of potential technologists off.
Instead of diving into these emerging technologies, they may have thought that its interesting but because I’m not in an advanced math course that technology is for someone else. This could not be further from truth. Everyone has a role to play in the development of new technology. There are so many new innovations and opportunities that are just waiting for people to take their abilities + interest and combine them with a little hard work to bring this world changing solution to life.
While there are some who certainly have felt good about the fact that technology is primarily considered the domain of the intellectual elite, the reality is that anyone can learn how to build with technology if they are willing to dive in, stick with it and improve their skills each day. In fact, the biggest challenge of learning to build with technology is the same regardless of skill level. Developing a new hardware or software programs bumps against the reality that these computing devices will do exactly what you tell them. Even though you may have intended for the solution to reach a different outcome, computers will execute your program exactly as you told it.
This is why even at well established technology first companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple and Facebook, you see them constantly releasing new versions and bug fixes to correct issues. In fact, Google is willing to pay people who find vulnerabilities in their system thousands of dollars
. So, if the companies that have an army of well trained engineers and developers don’t make perfect programs then neither should we put that pressure on those who are just getting started.Limited Support
Even if someone were to have overcome the other issues, the reality is that previously the best way to learn how to build with technology was simply to struggle through it. Often, this meant sitting down in front of a computer and trying to figure out how it worked. While there are certainly some very self-directed, internally motivated learners; the reality is that most people simply do not learn like that. Most of us require peers and supportive instructors to guide us along the path of learning. Without this support, many people may have been closer than they realized to understanding how to build with technology. Instead they gave up because the right support structure wasn't in place.
The issue of support is something that we think about a lot at Digital Adventures
. Often times, we find that students understand the high level concept of the project being built. Where they bump into issues is in certain aspects of implementation that are not quite clear. This is where instructors and peers are vital to helping students get unstuck and building their creative problem solving muscles. As more programs like ours are introduced, the support network for those who are interested in learning continues to grow. With more people who can think back and remember what it was like when they got started, then the more willing they are to provide encouragement.
As the next generation of technologists begins their introduction to technology, we who have gone before and know the truth about the space have a responsibility to encourage and support their development. We who have built amazing products and endured epic failures have a mandate to let these developing leaders who are just starting their journey know that if you stick with it, things will get better. As a society, we need more people who are building innovative solutions to help make the world a better place. So, let’s step up to encourage the next generation. Your kind word or offer of support could mean the difference between someone sticking with technology or dropping out because they think it’s too hard.