If you’d been paying attention to the media in recent days, you’d be inclined to think we’re all destined for redundancy thanks to the impending rise of the robot.Furthermore, you may have thought about invoking a restraining order against your child’s school computer – apparently they are detrimental to learning, if you believe the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). So apart from packing your bags and shipping your family out to the prairies, many might be wondering what to do in the midst of this flurry of panic against bad technology. “Wasn’t it supposed to help and advance us, the modern human?” wonders an overwhelmed parent, as they look up from their smart phone. Fear not. We haven’t got that much to worry about – in fact despite the reports this week, there’s firm evidence that technology is exceptionally important to the development of our younger generations educational development. Careers will be technology driven Last year, technology evangelist Maggie Philbin, produced an independent review into digital skills, known as Digital Skills for Tomorrow’s World. A key takeaway from the report was that, “we have to make sure everyone in the UK is equipped for the digital revolution – not just a fortunate few.” Her words are characteristically prescient. Without the implementation of skills, not just to our younger generations but also to our current workforce, whose knowledge of technology and use of computer doesn’t stretch further than Facebook or Netflix, it is inevitable that our economy will stifle and our potential to grow in our careers will falter. In the UK’s schools today, great strides are being taken to incorporate technology for the good of pupils (and the workforce of tomorrow).
Walk into any school across the UK and along with the core, traditional subjects, you will find an increasing focus on computer science, which a year ago replaced the aging, and long out of date, ICT (Information and Communication Technology) in the national curriculum. The course was revamped to teach digital skills to the most tech-savvy generation that has ever been, but also prepare new generations of students for their future place in an increasingly digital UK economy. By introducing Computer Science as a subject last year, the UK is fortunate in now having a fit for purpose curriculum that encourages computational thinking and regular purposeful programming. It also means that students from all walks of life, and academic abilities, from Keystage 1 to Sixth Form, can benefit. And benefit they will. The revamped subject will bring multiple opportunities. It is sure to inspire young people to see technology, and its related applied sciences, as a future they can create. It will encourage them to become productive creators, creative producers, rather than mere passive consumers of digital products. It will engender the spirit that pervaded the industrial revolution to flourish in this, the technological revolution. Although coding will not (for the foreseeable future anyway) become as much as a prerequisite for employment as reading, writing and arithmetic, it will become a significant advantage to candidates who have a grounding in code literacy. At present, the challenge is to create an environment that consists of partnerships between schools, universities and the tech industry that enriches the opportunities available to young people, both curricular and extracurricular, to ensure a level playing field and equal opportunity is maintained. It’s not just about code though While coding may be the number one subject associated with technology, it’s vitally important to realise the benefits it can provide for traditional subjects such as language. The advancement of tools such as artificial intelligence (AI), are superbly suited to engaging with children and teaching them the understanding of language in a natural way. Through guided games for instance, pupils learning languages can explore and improve their vocabulary aided by technology that can assist, not replace teachers, both in the classroom, and outside it. The ability to incorporate state-of-the-art graphics and story telling processes into such games also prepares children for other, more traditional skills such as conversational engagement, which are crucial to future employment. So no, we aren’t going to be debilitated by tech While, I’m not arguing that it should be all tech and nothing else – traditional media such as reading and writing as well as human interaction are vital to young peoples evolution to adulthood, building the digital confidence of parents as a young person’s primary educator shouldn’t be dismissed, rather encouraged. Technology has never been as important or more critical to not just our economy, but to our children’s future. Yes, 45% of jobs will disappear (only a small amount to robots) because of technology, but for every job that disappears, two more will be created. They are there for the taking for those who have the right skills and our education system and the tech industry need to make sure they evolve in tandem. Mark Horneff is MD at Kuato Studios
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