“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
― Benjamin Franklin
When I heard this quote on the radio it motivated me to share my thoughts I had while attending two specific events last month involving STEM Education and changing the face of technology and the innovation economy for the future. The HBCU Innovation Summit in Palo Alto, California and a YesWeCode Hackathon in Philadelphia.
While working with contacts within the DC Tech community I had the opportunity to attend the HBCU Innovation Summit in Palo Alto, California. I came to the event with a different perspective than most of the others there because I was from the industry and they were mostly from the colleges and universities.
The important point that resonated with me as we were discussing the lack of diversity in the technology field and what can the schools do to make a change, was the conversation around Computer Scientist, Application Developers and college and universities role in all of this.
One attendee stated that if the student wants to be an application developer than maybe they should go to a community college or go through a certificate program to get the skills they need and then get a job. Other concerns were raised regarding the importance of math in the Computer Science program and the challenge that some of the students have because they did not have the proper preparation prior to attending college. Others stated that some students in the Computer Science program come to the school without ever programming a computer at all.
For those reader that believe I am ignoring the obvious, money and access to resources was also a concern and an ongoing issue at some schools, but was not really the focus of the event
These are all valid perspectives on challenges facing the country and these schools but one of the basic concerns is really what is happening with the students before they get to college. We cannot abandon the current college kids, but we need to apply extra effort towards the kids in high school and middle school now, being open and honest with them about what matters, the importance of the math and science classes. The importance of looking outside of the classroom to better prepare themselves for the technology based innovation economy.
Clearly Innovative Inc is committed to doing our part to prepare a more diverse group of participants in the technology based innovation economy. We have done work for the last two years working with Startup Middle School at Howard University Middle School for Math & Sciences teaching an innovation curriculum and running a summer camp. We have been asked to speak about diversity and tech, we have led technology workshops as part of DC Web Women Code(her) 2014 Conference. We have worked with kids in Anacostia, DC as a lead partner in a Technology/Exploration Event, Morgan State University Summer Technology Program for Middle School Kids and more recently volunteering with YesWeCode My Brother’s Keep Hackathon in Philadelphia
I believe that we need to expose kids to technology early and often and provide ongoing access and opportunity to explore in order to spark the creativity that is needed to create a diverse group of leaders for the future. Continuing to focus on those who have opportunities that go the the best schools and live in the right zip codes will not address the demand for jobs in the future and is not going to address the lack of diversity in technology/innovation economy.