Art, tech and coding: why kids need an education that marries creativity and technical know-how

Code is the language of the future, but Kristi Mansfield says education around technology and coding should be just as much about people and communication as about zeros and ones.

As parents, we’re constantly trying to find ways to prepare our children for the future. We all ask ourselves what tools and acumen our kids will need and what work will look like in twenty years’ time.

In the face of this uncertainty, it can be hard to know how to equip the next generation with the skills for success.

No matter what the future looks like, one thing is certain: technology is only going to become a more integral force in our lives, both personally and professionally. The safest bet for future-proofing our kids is to teach them the true language of the future: coding.

How do we know that learning a coding language is going to be as useful as learning to speak Mandarin or play a musical instrument?

In a 2018 study, ‘Rebooting Jobs‘, Oracle Academy teamed with analytics firm Burning Glass to examine nearly 100 million unique job postings collected in the United States between 2015 and 2016. Based on its findings, computer science skills represented 65% of the fastest growing skills, as well as 62% of the high-paying skills. Interestingly, the study also demonstrated that computer science skills go beyond the traditional programming roles and are increasingly desired in industries like marketing and design. In fact, 82% of job postings seeking computer science skills did not require a computer science degree.   

The Australian Government’s ‘Industry Employment Predictions 2017’ report shows a similar trend evident in the local market, with jobs growth in professional, scientific and technical services projected to increase by 12.5% over the five years to May 2022 – the second largest increase of any industry sector. Within that, jobs growth in the computer system design and related services sector is projected to grow by 24.6%, after having grown by 83.9% over the past 10 years.

This growth could be exciting or frightening, depending on your point of view. We’ve all seen the headlines about automation and machine learning changing the nature of work. Tech and coding are just as much about people and communication as they are zeros and ones.

My own three children all code, each of them starting early on basic coding skills and using their skills to do different things. Learning coding hasn’t just given them an idea of what they can do in the future. It’s also provided them with opportunities to be creative, make mistakes, and develop problem-solving thinking that will serve them well even if they never work in the tech industry.

Increasingly, top employers are looking for workers who have skills that cross the divide of tech and humanities. We’ve added arts to the importance of STEM and have moved to STEAM. Stanford University is halfway through a six-year trial of ‘CS+X’, that is, blending computer science with other disciplines to make ICT study more ‘palatable’ and graduates more employable as we enter the era of automation and robotics. As many as 50% of Stanford graduates are doing a CS+X double degree, and Australian universities have followed suit; Australian National University states its flexible double degrees make up more than 40% of all courses studied.

As coding and data science becomes more important, so too will the interpretation and translation of the data and tech across all fields of industry. Instead of seeing our kids as being ‘artistic’ or ‘techy’, we need to provide them with a well-rounded education that marries both sides of the coin; strengthening creative thinking, communication skills, entrepreneurship and technological know-how.

We are already seeing this come to life. For example, the South Australian State Government recently promised to invest almost $7 million in training teachers to code, a skill they will take back to the classroom to teach, along with entrepreneurship, to their students.

As industries from finance to media to healthcare all now are impacted by disruption, it’s clear to me that having an understanding of what’s going on ‘under the hood’ of your programs and applications is a language that most all successful children will want to speak.

 

Kristi Mansfield is the director of customer experience, innovation and data strategy at Oracle.

 

 

 

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