Tuesday, June 7, 2016

One Million New Tech Positions and Few Free Paths in Public Ed - Amy Flatt

Our economy is changing.  Many people in the recording, manufacturing, and other industries are losing their positions due to automation and new, less-expensive, technologies.  These new technologies mean you no longer need a big recording studio to produce a record or an MP3. Several recording studios in Nashville were shuttered in the last few years.

Manufacturing is not leaving the US but it's sector is shrinking.  Fortunately, there are parts of the market that are growing, like the tech industry.  Right now the United States is not positioned to take advantage of the opportunities.  Coding and other technologies are a core skill set for our age similar to Math, and Literacy.  Our teachers are constantly trained on how to teach Mathematics and Literacy and integrate them into other subjects.  However, here are few if any Professional Development opportunities for teachers to learn Coding, Info Sec, or even information about the components of the computer/how to hook it up.

Last week, I taught a class on the Unity Engine and Game Development to a group of Middle and High School students.  Half way through the week the students began talking about how to troll a teacher.  The school computers are typically slow.  The students have taken to suggesting the teachers, "Download more RAM."  Which is a little like telling someone their blinker fluid is low.  The students reported that teachers have googled "download more RAM". If the teachers had replaced RAM in a computer they would know it's a physical thing you can hold in your hands not something to download.

So our teachers are mostly unprepared to integrate tech teaching in our schools and our students are not preparing to take these jobs in the future.  Students, who are interested, are encouraged to go on line and "figure it out".  Although there are many great websites and books to teach students coding, could you imagine what it would be like if we took the same approach to Math instruction?  Granted there are many good resources online but that is not the path to have a well educated population.  Our approach to teaching tech must change.

Great Britain has instituted a plan where every child starting, at 5 years old, will learn how to code.  The US is trying to catch up.  The Whitehouse is earmarking funds but we also need a plan similar to GB to make sure that all teachers and students have the basic knowledge to take part in the 21st century.  We need to think towards the next ten years so we can continue to have a strong, vibrant economy.  Tech learning must become integrated, have a measurable plan, along with strong Professional Training Program for our teachers so they can do what they do best, teach!

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