Results tagged “education”
October 5, 2012
Much of the conversation about the shortage of technology talent in the United States focuses on how we can encourage more young people to go to college to become Computer Science graduates. Those programs are admirable and should be encouraged, but I suggest we need to focus on some other key areas in order to encourage the sustainability of our tech industry:
- Education which teaches mid-level programming as a skilled trade, suitable for apprenticeship and advancement in a way that parallels traditional trade skills like HVAC or welding
- Less of a focus on "the next Zuckerberg", in favor of encouraging solid middle-class tech jobs that may be entrepreneurial, but are primarily focused on creating and maintaining technology infrastructure in non-tech companies
- Changing the conversation about recruiting technologists from the existing narrow priesthood of highly-skilled experts constantly chasing new technologies to productive workers getting the most out of widely-deployed platforms and frameworks
Put another way, our industry can grow in a very meaningful way by giving lots of young people at a high school level the knowledge they need to learn jQuery straight out of high school, or teaching maintenance on a MySQL database at a trade school without having to get a graduate degree in computer science. That's not to say that CS students aren't also important — we'll need the breakthroughs and innovations they discover. But someone has to run that intranet app at an insurance company, and somebody has to maintain the internal iOS app at a law firm, and those are solid, respectable jobs that are as key to our economy as a 22-year-old trying to pivot and iterate their way into an acqu-hire.
High Tech Vo Tech
High schools have long offered vocational education, preparing graduates for practical careers by making them proficient in valuable technical skill sets which they can put to use directly in the job market right after graduation. Vocational-technical schools (vo-tech) provide trained workers in important fields such as healthcare, construction trades, and core business functions like accounting. For a significant number of my high school peers, vo-tech was the best path to a professional job that would pay well over the duration of an entire career.
Now it's time that vo-tech programs broadly add internet and web technologies to the mix. We need web dev vo-tech.
I'm happy about other efforts being made to teach kids to become tech entrepreneurs; As I write this I'm a few blocks from the Academy for Software Engineering. And it's enormously valuable to teach that school's students about coding and building companies.
But in other schools in America, and outside of big cities like my own, and for kids who aren't going to go all-in by attending a tech-focused high school, we need better options. There are many small-town jobs to be built around hands-on technology implementations.
Part of our challenge is that the tech sector has to acknowledge and accept that a broad swath of jobs in the middle of our industry require skills but need not be predicated on a full liberal arts education at a high-end university. The Stanford CS grads are always going to be fine; It's the people who can't go into the same trade as their dad, or who are smart but not interested in the eating-ramen-and-working-100-hours-a-week startup orthodoxy who we need to bring along with us into tech.
Middle Class Jobs
Though I know there are many more implications to choosing the phrase "blue collar" to describe these jobs, it's a deliberate choice. First, there's a broad and noble history of blue collar workers organize to strengthen workers' rights and improve working conditions for their peers; It's a tradition we'll do well to maintain in the tech world.
More importantly, though, we must confront the fact that our current investment infrastructure for tech companies optimizes for a distribution of opportunity and wealth that looks almost feudal. As I mentioned broadly in To Less Efficient Startups, venture capital today generally strives to make a handful of early founders and employees of a company enormously wealthy (alongside the investors, of course), and then to have a subset of employees profit when there's a liquidity event.
But that's a recipe for continued income inequality. I am proud of, and impressed by, Craigslist's ability to serve hundreds of millions of users with a few dozen employees. But I want the next Craigslist to optimize for providing dozens of jobs in each of the towns it serves, and I want educators in those cities to prepare young people to step into those jobs.
Public education serves many roles in society, from the intrinsic social value of having an educated populace to make decisions about elections to the indispensable role it serves in introducing many kids to the arts, music, science and other fundamental aspects of culture.
Today, most Americans also rely on our public schools to prepare their children for their careers, too. And if we in the tech industry want to keep claiming that we'll continue to be the biggest driver of those new jobs, then we have to engage in a significant conversation about how the public high schools of our country can help prepare just as many future employees of our companies as the handful of highly regarded computer science programs in the country do today.
October 27, 2007
The Donors Choose Bloggers Challenge that I wrote about a few weeks ago is almost over, and that means you only have a few days to help support the Notes for Class Challenge, an effort to help fund music education programs that have been proposed by the teachers who will be overseeing them.
As I mentioned earlier, I'll be personally matching 10% of all donations -- the incredibly generous readers of my site have already contributed over two thousand dollars, supporting music education programs for nearly 1700 kids. It's pretty astounding, but we're not that far away from nearly doubling the number of students we can help. Take a look at efforts like the Music Bingo proposal in North Carolina: If just a few more of you donate, my matching donation for the Challenge will help us sponsor a project that helps 1000 more students.
I've been blogging over 8 years now, and in all that time, I've never personally endorsed a campaign like this or committed to matching donations in this way. So I hope any of you who've found the writing I've done on my blog over the years to be useful or valuable will take a few minutes to make a donation. For reference, the over 6,700 posts on this blog (and my old Daily Links blog), along with the comments that have responded to them, add up to over 1.2 million words. That's the equivalent of 20 or so printed books, so if you wanted to pay just $1 per book-length section of blog inanity, you could easily justify a $20 donation.
And, if four more of you donate to the Notes for Class Challenge before October 31, I'll also create some new sections on my site to make it easier to find the stuff you'd actually want to read. Make me proud, people!
October 5, 2007
We're really close to funding music education in Cassell Elementary School in Chicago -- you should contribute a couple of bucks! As MetBlogs Chicago kindly mentioned, I am gonna match 10% of whatever you give. I promise I'll get back to blogging about other topics as well next week, but I think there's a really great chance to have a direct impact, and I hope you'll join me.
Of course, if you like any of the other proposals in the Notes for Class challenge, I'm happy to match those donations, too. One that jumped out at me is from right near my wife's hometown: Music Bingo sounds like a great effort, at Salem Elementary School where they're moving to a year-round class schedule and need some help to expand their lessons in the new schedule.
October 2, 2007
I've gotten a lot of really good questions (and some fantastically generous donations!) about the Donors Choose blogger challenge I wrote about yesterday, but by far the most common is "what should I do?" There are a lot of options, so let me make it easy: Let's help kids on the South Side of Chicago.
Help Us Listen to the Music is a great example of how you can participate. A teacher at Cassell Elementary school writes:
In the upcoming year I would like to have a music listening center in the classroom where students could go and listen to music of various genres, styles, and composers. Eventually this music listening center will include classical music, Jazz, world music, early childhood music, and electronic music. While at the music listening center, students would analyze and describe music, identify instruments, recognize musical elements in music, and complete other listening activities.
All you've gotta do is chip in a few bucks. Throw in the five bucks you were going to spend at Starbucks today, or chip in $25 bucks to buy a couple of CDs. And as I mentioned yesterday, I'll personally match 10% of whatever you donate -- if ten of you pony up $30, we'll have this proposal covered and kids from kindergarten up to 8th grade will be making their first steps towards learning music appreciation and music theory.
October 1, 2007
I've been a big fan of Donors Choose for some time. It's a charity my readers may well have heard of, which helps students in public schools by letting regular folks like us directly fund the requests that teachers make for classroom essentials.
I'm supporting Donors Choose with a campaign called Notes for Class, which is designed to support music initiatives in schools.
There are a lot of elements of that model that appeal to someone like me, who's familiar with technology and more than a little skeptical of the level of accountability in traditional charities. Instead of my money contributing to some nebulous "good deeds", I can choose exactly how I want to have an impact: Which schools, which students, which projects. Donors Choose and its work have been so compelling that I've been eager to help promote and participate in the Blogger Challenge initiative.
But that's not the only reason that I found it easy to support Donors Choose. I've also had the opportunity, a few times now, to meet Charles Best, CEO and Founder of Donors Choose. He's a former school teacher, an incredibly charismatic yet modest guy, and most importantly, he's a true believer. It makes it clear, from the top down, that the entire organization really believes in what they're doing. I didn't realize how much that mattered to me until I saw it.
So, I'm urging all of you to participate. First, go to the Notes for Class page, and pick an effort that you think is worth sponsoring. And then, for every $10 you donate to any of the proposals, I'll add another dollar on top of yours. Donate $100? I'll add $10. Donate $1000? I'll add $100. I'll be matching every donation from my readers, up to $10,000. (That's a $1000 contribution.)
I do have an agenda here, of course. I want to show people what I've seen: That the blogging community I've had the privilege of belonging to is one of the most generous communities anywhere. I believe it, and I'm putting my money where my mouth is. I'm also helping out with promoting this effort at Six Apart, where we've promoted the Blogger Challenge to our communities on LiveJournal, Vox, TypePad and Movable Type. In fact, for a few more hours, you can email us at email@example.com and request a $30 gift certificate for making a donation to Donors Choose as well.
I'm hoping we can do a great job of showing the world the positive side of what the blogging community can accomplish. And I'm really hoping we can help fund that tenor saxophone or any of the other needs that teachers have listed on the site.
December 3, 2006
Those who know me well know that I never really loved being in a classroom while I was in school; The whole experience, combined with my own lack of discipline at the time made grade school and high school unpleasant enough that it was inevitable I wouldn't stay in college very long. And I haven't had a chance to revisit that opinion until recently.
As I mentioned before, though, my job these days is mostly education. I'd visited one or two of Clay Shirky's ITP classes at NYU, and just a few weeks ago spoke to some students at the Haas School at Berkeley. But the most fun I've had recently was in talking to David Silver's class at USF. Now, I have coworkers and family members who go to USF, and I live only a few miles from the campus, but somehow I'd never found the chance to get up there until this past Thursday.
To my delight, the people in the class were as willing to share their thoughts and ideas with me as I was with them. David's writeup captures some of the topics we talked about, but I just wanted to make a note to myself so I can remember how much I enjoyed it. Thanks to everybody in the class not just for spending the time, but for helping remind me just how cool a classroom can be.