Move over Steve Jobs – the Tiny Techies have arrived!
There is no denying the explosion in digital technology.
We have seen significant benefits from driver-less cars to surgeons performing operations on their patients using robotics from a different continent. Conversely, there are many parents concerned about the amount of screen time spent by their children gaming and/or on social media. As a parent to an 8-year-old and a 4-year-old, I can empathise with any parent worried about their child's screen time. Yet I also recognise that coding is revolutionising our lives.
So, what exactly is coding? Coding is a name used to describe the instructions given to a computer so that it understands. It's what makes it possible for any computer, piece of software, or app to work.
The UK Government have assessed the impact of an impending skills gap of an unskilled workforce in the wake of the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ and the future of the economy on a global stage. According to German economist and engineer Klaus Schwabb, ‘the fourth revolution is characterised by a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries.’ In response, the Government has committed to investing 2.4% of the GDP in UK research and development by 2027. The UK needs 50,000 skilled people to meet that need.
We created our business First Class Coders as we believe it is vitally important that children and young people are prepared to succeed in tomorrow's economy through an understanding and appreciation of STREAM (science, technology, robotics, engineering, arts and maths). We provide creative, unique, meaningful coding and digital literacy sessions for children typically age 3-8 years, to learn coding concepts and develop 21st century digital skills. We deliver weekly classes in the community, enrichment classes in schools and nurseries, and through private tuition.
The tech industry is predominantly white, male and has previously been very bad at welcoming people from outside that limited section of society. The shift has begun (slowly) but it is gaining momentum, as the UK government and industry realise that there is a systemic problem in attracting BAME groups and creating diversity into this field.
The barriers to entry are not dissimilar to other fields: a lack of opportunity to participate in expensive enrichment activities, either through a lack of access to costly equipment, lack of awareness of the possibilities for the future, parental desire to minimise screen time, and a lack of representative role models. But these barriers differ greatly in that there is real momentum surrounding diversity and inclusiveness in Tech. For parents, educators and those working in the community, this is an opportunity to really make an impactful change.
The only way to create products, services and information that is universally accessible and useful for its users is to ensure that those that create and make it are representative of the society it serves. The place to create a real systematic change is at grass roots levels to produce a pipeline of BAME talents that grow through an introduction to computer science, its concepts and application at an early stage.
I believe we should reduce all opportunities for our kids to just be passive consumers of technology. At First Class Coders we use a mixture of plugged and unplugged play to engage the kids in coding and the potential of tech. By doing this at an early age we aim to reduce the development of stereotypes and give them the opportunity to see technology in a different way, potentially as a real career.
Whilst they are learning to code children can also learn important academic and social skills including critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and communication. All the kids and us grown-ups need is the imagination and enthusiasm to start on this rewarding journey.