Five Technology Fundamentals That All Kids Need To Learn Now by Kelly D. Price

You have probably read articles about how important it is that today’s kids to learn to code. Perhaps you’ve introduced your own children to some of the excellent tutorials from Hour of Code. Maybe they have played with Scratch (the MIT Media Lab’s great platform that makes coding accessible to kids) or Tynker (which offers online coding courses aimed at kids). But are the coding skills that kids learn from these places really useful? Or are adults kidding themselves—rationalizing the use of screen-based pacifiers in order to assuage parental guilt? Is coding, in fact, the language of the future? Or is it a specialized skill, useful to some people but useless to others? In today’s economy, we can point to an entire generation of coder-millionaires. Like frontiersmen and early American colonists, those who learned to speak the language of computers beat the rest of us to the gold rush. But remember that while the first generation of gold barons made their fortunes with a pick axe, future speculators soon looked like delusional treasure hunters. Certainly, computers will remain central to future economies. But will kids who don’t know how to code find themselves at an extreme disadvantage in the economy of the future? I don’t think so. I suspect that writing code will quickly become low-wage labor—first outsourced to underpaid workers in developing countries, and eventually performed by A.I. engines that write all but the most complicated scripts. I have no doubt, however, that the sophistication with which one understands how computers process digital information will be one of the primary prerequisites for professional success. Therefore, when I think about how to equip my own children with the kind of tech literacy that I think will prepare them to participate in a global information economy, I don’t focus exclusively on coding skills. Scratch, Tynker, and Hour of Code. They understand how code works. But I’m not pushing them toward comprehensive mastery of Python, Java, or HTML. Instead, I think about their digital futures in precisely the same way that I believe all schools should think about educating our children: equip young people with technological agency; make sure they know how to apply their critical thinking, entrepreneurial, creative, and social skills by wielding digital tools. To do so, all kids will need an introduction to coding—not so that they are able to code, but rather so that they are capable of truly grasping these five fundamentals.
  1. Mathematical understanding of algorithms. The world now places its faith in algorithms. Social media, search, education, and entertainment are all determined by algorithms. But algorithms have their strengths and their weaknesses. If tomorrow’s adults don’t understand precisely how algorithms use mathematics to process data, they won’t understand which part of life’s processes are best executed algorithmically and which require human decision makers.
  2. Understanding Data Analytics. There is hardly an industry left where advanced data analytics hasn’t begun to provide some people with a competitive advantage. But most of us, even when presented with numbers and metrics, have little understanding of how to analyze data—we’re guessing. Meanwhile companies that use predictive algorithms (which utilize complex data) are disrupting entire sectors. Tomorrow’s most successful adults will be the ones who are able to imagine innovative ways to analyze data.
  3. Global Economics. With digital information technologies we are not only able to interact with people all over the globe, we are required to do so. In order to be prepared for a future in which information is one of the key commodities, our children will need to understand how digital technologies impact a global economy. For example, they need to understand the ramifications of Bitcoin. They need to be able to consider both the economic benefits and drawbacks of services like Uber and AirBnB. They need to be equipped to think critically about revenue models we haven’t even imagined yet.
  4. Critical Media Literacy. Just like television, the internet is full of advertising, questionable images, sponsored journalism, hidden sales pitches, and more. There are representations of race, gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic class. There are memes that present particular narratives about happiness, success, and intelligence. If tomorrow’s adults aren’t able to acquire the necessary distance to think objectively about the ideas promoted by digital media, they won’t have the autonomy to make their own decisions. Of course, this kind of critical literacy is dependent on understanding how algorithms work, how data is analyzed, and how economies influence ideas.
  5. Entrepreneurship and creativity. If there is one thing we know for sure, it is that we really don’t know much about the economy of the future. We can only guess which skills will be most valuable. Since we can’t train our children so that they are equipped with skills that we still haven’t imagined, we must equip them to be creative and entrepreneurial. They must be flexible and adaptable. They must be able to discover opportunities and learn they must know how to identify and learn the skills necessary to thrive.

Fall Saturday Camp Enrollment

Fall Saturday Camp enrollment has started! Camp will be twice a month, Memphis Entrepreneurship Academy (MEA) and S.T.E.M Memphis are offering class on entrepreneurship, S.T.E.M projects, coding and web development! Our goal is to prepare your child for the skills he or she needs to be competitive in today’s economy. We have developed a curriculum design to inspire your child to reach for new levels of learning. Fall Saturday Camp will be twice a month, Memphis Entrepreneurship Academy (MEA) and S.T.E.M Memphis are offering classes on the following dates:
  1. September 2, 2017
  2. September 23, 2017
  3. October 7, 2017
  4. October 21, 2017
  5. November 4, 2017
  6. November 18, 2017
  7. December 2, 2017
  8. December 16, 2017
   

The Entrepreneurship Answer to Youth Unemployment by Amy Rosen

At their October meeting, assembled European trade leaders got a stern warning from Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. She told them, “Youth unemployment is a time bomb.” The same day, Pope Francis called youth unemployment one of “…the most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days…” In Europe, the rising tide of idle young people has governments in near panic. In Spain, an estimated 56% of those younger than 26 years old are without jobs. In Greece, that number is more than 62%. Bernadette Segol, the chief of the European Trade Union Confederation, told her colleagues, “Twenty-seven million [young] unemployed in Europe see no light at the end of the tunnel, only the light of a high speed train ready to run them over.” Elsewhere, high unemployment rates among young people are seen as the powder keg which helped spark Arab Spring uprisings and ongoing unrest in the Middle East.  Leaders and investors there are rightly worried too. In the U.S., the situation is better but by no means good. A report issued this month pegs the U.S. out-of-school yet out-of-work population at more than six million – or about 15% of our workforce. According to the latest U.S. employment statistics, more than 22% of Americans between 16 and 19 are not working. And those numbers are growing. Earlier this year Joseph Brusuelas, a Senior Economist at Bloomberg, estimated the U.S. youth unemployment pinch will cost us $18 billion over the next ten years.  Brusuelas also said, “That really underestimates the true nature of the problem. My gut tells me that (the cost is) much larger.” While Europe is rushing an $11 billion youth employment spending package to action, no similar spending solution is under credible contemplation in the States. And even if it were, a government spending package alone won’t put pay checks in the pockets of young people.
 If we’re going to succeed in combatting what some are calling a ‘failure to launch,’ we need places for them to land. Finding and growing those options will require a great many programs, policies, investments and ideas.
A popular idea has been focusing on and incentivizing education in so-called STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math. Preparing today’s students for where we think the jobs will be in the future. It’s a good start and it’s logical that learning those key job skills will help make some students more suited for some future jobs. But we can do more. While we’re teaching people to be better employees, we should also invest in teaching them the mindset, coupled with the skills, to be innovators and entrepreneurs. Developing the ability to recognize opportunity and giving young people the tools to capitalize on those opportunities empowers them to take ownership of their future in ways which directly link education to real-world success. Best of all, we know it works. A survey of graduates from the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) programs around the globe shows that those who received entrepreneurship training stayed in school longer, were employed more and made more money than their counterparts. In the ten largest cities where NFTE training is offered, high school graduation rates are between 57-78%. But in those same cities, 89% of those who had entrepreneurship training graduate. And those who have completed entrepreneurship training report earn 50% more than the national average – $38,000 annually as compared to $24,000. In other words, putting a young person to work does not mean finding them a job. In some cases, with the right investment in entrepreneurship and the encouragement to succeed, young people will create their own jobs and, in many cases, hire others. They can and will invent the next big things that change lives, lift up communities and grow economies. Youth unemployment is a global problem and the social, political and economic costs of a continued crisis will be extreme. Expanding programs which plant and nurture the seeds of success through experiential entrepreneurship training – preparing those who will create the companies that hire STEM graduates and others – will help put young people to work. And empowered youth who can seize their own opportunities are more likely to see a bright light as opportunity and not, as the European trade chief put it, a train.