Here’s the future as I see it. (Think cell phones. Started in 1973 and now more cell phones than people. Uses no one ever imagined.)
1. Technology will be even more encompassing and invasive.
2. Robots (e.g., machines) will take over many jobs, starting with the most routine procedural.
3. There will be an increasing job demand for technical skills, particularly computer programming.
4. Computer programming from simple to complex will be needed to deal with all of the existing and new technology.
5. Increasing demand for problem solving skills — especially those that determine what parts of a solution can be computerized.
Now the “elephant in the room”: Are our current educational institutions up to the training/preparation task? I don’t think so — at least as presently constructed. Lots of folks agree Why? Several things:
1. About 50% of tax $ meant for schools currently go to pensions — and that % will increase.
2. Schools work is a sea (quagmire?) of regulations. Example: The controversial “No Child Left Behind Act” has been replaced by ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) Better? Maybe, but still extensive and complex. My point is that to get a new course approved is difficult and very time consuming. We’re talking years.
3. Current and increasing emphasis on “soft” subjects and Social Emotional Learning. Interestingly, budgets for the Arts are also decreasing. that’s another story)
4. K-12 school teachers are rarely professionals in the field that they teach.
OK, now the crucial question: “What if the “technical needs change faster than the time needed to create appropriate courses — and get them approved/implemented?” Answer: “We are toast”! Probability of that happening? about 100%. Again, think cell phones as a small example! Wait, there are courses for cell phone use. Where? Not in schools!
Unfortunately, my crystal ball is in the shop for its annual maintenance and polish, so I can’t give you an accurate time line of future events. What’s going to happen and when? My best answer is, “I dunno”.
But, whatever happens, I’d bet serious money that two broad skills will be needed:
1. Problem solving skills and computational thinking (sort of the same thing)
2. Knowing how computers work — better with programming skills.
1. For middle schoolers (5-8 grades)
2. Learn professional problem solving methods (a la Polya).
3. Learn professional program design process (90% language independent).
4. Learn to fail successfully.
5. Build intellectual foundations — be prepared for “whatever” career.
6. Understand how a computer works using it’s own (machine) language. Follow with Scratch and Python. Develop some proficiency.
7. Learn how to work in teams.
8. Learn how to learn — both with and without formal instrucion.
Making this all happen is not a spectator sport. Learning requires do-ing. Just like learning a musical instrument. Big difference between just listening and playing. Playing requires proper training, and lots of practice.
We’ll start with a week (5 days 1.5.hrs/day) this summer and then on a once per week basis after school. Lots of projects. By fall there will be video offerings on the internet. Eventually the whole program will be available on-line.