The Leaders of the Future: Tech for Growing Minds
Jobs in the STEM and Tech fields are growing at "three times the pace of non-STEM jobs." The rise of technological advances means the tech industry is not slowing down anytime soon. In the next decade, there will be 1 million more U.S jobs in the tech sector than computer science graduates to fill them." At Akamai, we take both the future of tech, and the roles younger generations will play in its development, equally seriously.
Future generations are likely to excel our current advancements. Research shows that "the current explosion of digital technology is not only changing the way we live and communicate but is rapidly and profoundly altering our brains." What does this mean? It means, "kids are getting smarter than ever before." What current generations have done to shape the face of technology is only the beginning.
However, the young people of today will struggle to fulfill their potential in tech if they are not encouraged to explore their ability in the subject at a young age. The tech industry cannot grow and continue to break boundaries if there aren't the right people to fill job roles.
Young people today are known to be "digital natives," with some children able to use a smartphone before they can even "talk or walk." Children take on information incredibly quickly, learning to use digital mediums as part of their daily life. "Adapting to new technology is notoriously difficult for older adults," showing that it's young minds which are most adaptable. As a result, we believe the best time to engage future generations in tech is when they're young and have "tremendous mind power."
However, most U.S schools still "don't teach computer science," not even the basics. Evidence shows that the "United States is falling behind our foreign competitors in STEM subjects." In response, we're sharing our thoughts on some positive ways you can engage children and young people in STEM and tech outside of the curriculum.
Encourage logical thinking and problem solving
Limor Sinay, Akamai's Solutions Engineering Manager, said: "I don't believe there is such a thing as being gifted in STEM - it's a matter of priorities." Research shows that "beliefs about innate talent may dissuade students from STEM." So, while some children may have more of a natural aptitude for tech and STEM, there is no reason why all children cannot be engaged in these fields as well. With this in mind, Limor recommended the following games and tools for all children, regardless of ability.
Card games and LEGO are both great options. Without being too tech specific, LEGO can contribute to a child's cognitive development by fostering "a wide range of abilities, including motor skills and divergent problem-solving."
SET is a great example of a card game that kids enjoy playing. It was developed by a geneticist and inspired by a coding system she used in her work. As a result, it can now be used as a fun tool to develop mathematical skills.
For more emphasis on computer science skills, the Raspberry Pi is a small computer which is designed to develop an understanding of programming. It is the perfect way to give kids the creative freedom to learn coding and software skills. Another option is the Arduino, which is a microcontroller board more suitable for creating hardware. Both devices are ideal for beginners and designed to be used as tools for learning.
As an extracurricular option, Hour of Code is a fantastic, inclusive tech program. It is designed to "demystify code," to show that anybody can master the basics, and can take place anywhere in the world.
Develop an engineering mindset
The level of human intelligence that goes into the tech devices we use daily is astounding. When kids understand the power of the human mind to innovate, they know that the same power is also in their hands. So, at Akamai, we recommend encouraging children to set up devices themselves, rather than automatically putting them together on their behalf.
Similarly, when something isn't working, see if they can work out how to fix it before you help them. It might be that children have the initiative to work out what the problem is. Knowing they can fix it themselves can instill confidence in their capabilities and help develop an engineering mindset.
Engage children in conversation about what they're learning. "Encourage their interests" and support their development by being part of the process. For example, programming a Raspberry Pi is a huge achievement and something to be celebrated. In tech, there is always room to grow, and as such, there is no apparent goal. So, utilizing reflective practice and acknowledging milestones is a fantastic way to keep track of progress and encourage continual growth.
At Akamai, we understand that young people are the future of technology. We know that every child can excel if they have access to an education that stimulates and nurtures their abilities. If we prepare them well, by engaging them in the right activities, they can achieve more than we can imagine. If we implement a strategy to nurture their minds and enable them to grow from childhood, we are giving them the opportunity to access their full potential. We might be the adults now, but one day, they will be the leaders.