Why we need to nurture our digital natives

For those of us who work in the world of digital, it’s an exciting place to be. The speed at which technology is accelerating is incredible. Whilst we can wonder at the latest in wearable technology – only a few days ago, it was announced that an IoT (Internet of Things) startup is going to partner with a packaging company to enable smartphone apps to read labels and give shoppers the latest in information, offers and services – it’s a valid argument to suggest we’ll get to a point where we fail to keep up.

Take the last century as an example. When it began, the automobile and aviation industries were in their infancy; a year later (1901), Marconi conducted the first successful transatlantic experimental radio communications. In 1936, the genius that was Alan Turing had already devised a theoretical device called a Turing machine which claimed to simulate the logic of any computer algorithm. His pioneering work led to Artificial Intelligence being recognised during the Dartmouth Conference as a genuine science in 1956. By the end of the century, we had space travel, PCs, cell phones (things we took for granted) and a wireless Internet which we were all keen to indulge. Less than 20 years later, the latter is now an intrinsic part of our lives and our children (termed digital natives) have never known a life without it.

Whether or not you personally feel that the rate of advancement is too fast (and you only have to ask the question in Google to discover the plethora of articles and forums which debate this) is irrelevant. What is obvious is that we need to prepare the next generation for an unknown world, one in which the jobs they learn about now may not exist having been replaced by the more efficient AI alternative.

We need to engage and develop the skills that children already display in the playground, during lessons and at home and by doing so, help them apply what they know rather than rigidly teach digital disciplines that could be superfluous by the time they seriously consider a career.

Working with the staff at Hartley Primary Academy and with the invaluable support of RocketSpark and their website builder software, we’re going to show Year 5s how to build their own websites. Crucially, this isn’t about coding. The aim is to show the pupils that digital expertise requires the application of many skill sets. It’s about being creative (both with imagery and words), being able to problem-solve, apply logic and understand that their websites have an audience with whom engagement and empathy is paramount. What I’m hoping the children will come away with is the enjoyment of working within a team, finding a solution and wanting to pursue a career in digital.

Only by captivating their imagination now, can we help make them realise that key to their success will be a willingness to adapt and hone skills. It is these qualities that will ensure the UK has a workforce that is more than able to take on the challenges of the digital age.

Sarah Pooley, The Digital Doctor

 

Sarah Pooley- Technology timeline