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Tomorrow's Adults Will Be Smarter Than Today's

24/07/2017 17:00 BST | Updated 24/07/2017 17:00 BST
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Why teach children coding? When they grow up the coding languages they were taught as kids will be obsolete.

This is a question that I have been asked when talking about the importance of teaching kids about technology. On the surface, there is some sense in this statement. But dig a little deeper and you'll understand that this attitude towards technology is part of the problem.

As a society, we have a damaging relationship with technology. Of course, in many ways, it has made our lives easier, but with consumer electronics companies constantly pushing new products and upgrading each gadget on an annual basis, it's seen as disposable. A new 'must-have' gadget is just around the corner, ready to consign its predecessor to the dustbin.

This consumerism affects children acutely. I've heard of kids being bullied in schools because their smartphone wasn't considered up-to-date enough. With little disposable income of their own, they pester their parents for expensive upgrades, meaning that technology can become a source of tension within the home.

While there have been great strides made in getting technology-related subjects into school curriculums in countries such as the UK, more needs to be done - both inside and outside of the classroom - to enhance our children's understanding of technology and how it works, as well as repair our attitude towards it.

We need to take a more sustainable approach to technology as a society, and fully comprehend how it impacts every area of our lives. From the electronic displays that tell us how long we have to wait until the next bus or train, to the air conditioning units in our offices and classrooms that keep us at a comfortable temperature, just about everything we encounter in our daily lives involves technology in some way. It's not just computers and smartphones - it's at the root of everything we do.

While not all of the responsibility for teaching kids about technology should fall on schools, many teachers do need to grow their confidence in this area and be more prepared to tackle technology in the classroom. School administrators need to ensure there is sufficient budget to provide adequate resources that allow for hands-on learning. Practical lessons, rather than simple theory-based lectures, really help kids to think about how what they learn applies to the outside world.

We also need to overcome the fear we have as technology as an area of study. While at very advanced levels, it is a complicated subject, couldn't the same be said about mathematics, history, or geography? If approached in a sensible, progressive way kids can get to grips with it at their own speed, find the particular topics and areas that interest them - technology is a broad church after all - and develop a passion for it that will see them continue to maintain their studies into later life - further education, higher education and their career.

Negative connotations about the kind of people that are interested in technology also need to be banished. As Naomi Climer, the former president of the Institute of Engineering and Technology puts it: "The UK has an unhelpful national stereotype of engineering." In an age where we have plenty of positive role models from the tech industry to push - think Mark Zuckerberg, Martha Lane Fox, Sheryl Sandberg and Elon Musk - we should focus on them instead.

When we teach children coding, we're not just teaching them JavaScript or C++ or whatever language it is, we're teaching them about problem-solving, logic, communication and so on. It doesn't matter that one day that particular coding language will become obsolete - it's part of the process of learning how to *learn*. We can't teach kids things that we ourselves don't yet know - we just need to put them on the right path.

No teacher or parent should be an Oracle - they should think of themselves more as enablers, helpers who give children access to everything they need to learn effectively. They shouldn't be afraid to say that they don't know the answer - but they do need to be prepared to help the child find that answer.

Teaching kids about technology and giving them the tools to continue learning when they have reached the extent of their teachers' or parents' knowledge will help us to create a better world. If we can substantially improve the standard of technology teaching in society, the result will be smarter adults who have the skills and passion for getting the most out of technology for solving the biggest problems facing humanity.