Kids, Technology & Careers

I have been enjoying many of the recent and not-so-recent stories related to youth, their perceptions of educational technology and their often amazing skill sets.

Most recently, Steve Hargadon spoke with “Arthus”, “a 14-year-old student in Vermont who recently became involved in the online dialog about educational technology.” I found this interview amazing, and
Hargadon feels that while “Artus is not representative of most 14-year-olds, he is representative of the kind of independent, engaged, proactive, and self-directed learner we often think will thrive in the flattened and connected world of the Internet.” I agree. Don’t miss this interview.

I’ve also recently heard about Andrew Sutherland, the creator of Quizlet and president of Brainflare. Quizlet is described as a “lightning fast way to memorize vocabularly lists. It is flashcards, but much more fun and interactive.” Quizlets can be easily and intuitively created, combined, shared, searched and used in several ways. Sutherland was only 15 years-old when he developed Quizlet. It’s a neat site and I’m finding many of my university students are using it (although I wish they weren’t subject to courses where memorization was that important).

George HotzThen there’s George Hotz, the 17 year-old New Jersey “student known for publicizing the collaboration leading to a procedure for unlocking the Apple iPhone, allowing the phone to be used with other wireless carriers, contrary to AT&T and Apple’s intent.”

It is becoming clear that our youth our becoming more technologically savvy. In some cases, these teens end with long careers in IT. The individuals mentioned above have already started on this path. Yet, I noticed an interesting article from Computer World yesterday that paints a different picture. The article suggests that while many of our youth are comfortable with technology, this very factor can deter these students from entering high-tech careers.

This is the group that simultaneously IMs, blogs, surfs the Web and downloads podcasts. In the end, ironically, it might be this extreme comfort with technology that most deters these young people from pursuing IT as a favorable, even desirable, career.

“To another generation, IT was cool because no one else knew much about it,” notes Kate Kaiser, associate professor of IT (and one of Lee’s instructors) at Marquette. “This generation is so familiar with technology, they see it as an expected part of life” — and therefore not worthy of consideration as a full-time career.

And an other interesting observation:

And the up-and-coming generation puts a premium on work/life balance, having seen firsthand the toll working around-the-clock took on its parents. As a result, they tend to shy away from jobs that demand the 40-hour-plus workweeks typical of IT.

At the very least, it’s going to be interesting to see this generation grow up. And I hope everyday that teachers in the field will start to realize that we are dealing with an incredibly different situation in our schools. It is time we tapped into these precious talents and begin to see that the future of these kids will be radically different than anything we can predict.