I can hold my own in most Minecraft conversations, have helped my kids build robots, let them experiment with a 3D printer and can give them a run for their money when it comes to writing code for the new apps they have been working on. I was ecstatic to hear one of my son's friends say to him "your mum is cool". Everybody, deep down, loves to make stuff, and technology is the water our kids swim in. We can argue semantics, but technology is here to stay and regardless of how clued up we think we are, the kids are way ahead of us. Instead of burying our heads in the sand, we need to be right beside them and no doubt, at times, running as fast as we can to keep up with them.
I'm lucky when it comes to this; I run tech camps for kids. Fire Tech Camp allows kids and teens to have fun with technology and empowers them with key future tech skills. I've always been passionate and interested in technology and any kind of gadget and now, making my mortgage payments relies on ensuring the kids attending our camps have a tonne of fun despite our educational mission
Today, we live in a world where almost everything we do touches on technology. We read the newspapers on our iPads, we look for a hair salon using a Google search, we check our children's homework assignments online. There are countless discussions online about the importance of getting kids into technology and getting them excited about its benefits. Personally, I think the kids are already engaged, certainly on the consumer side. Games and apps are to them what Saturday afternoon movies and books were to us - they are the voice of their generation. They have grown up in a world where geek is cool, and these days two-year-olds know how to work an iPad. But whereas in my generation, any of us who wanted to play around on computers had to learn a bit of BASIC to get the cassette drive (remember those?) to load up the games, kids today have a plug and play environment. Now a whole ecosystem is growing up to give kids the tools they need to use these media to express their own ideas.
Our schools work very hard to ensure our kids have something to say and strong clear grammar skills to get their points across. For years, many schools have required students to make presentations using tools like PowerPoint to equip them for the world of work in the future. But to me, the most powerful bit of the communication revolution has been more elusive. The national curriculum has changed to include computing, so that every student is expected to learn a bit about programming. But teachers and schools still struggle to pull together scarce time and resources to ensure they are confident and skilled-up to provide the best teaching to their students.
Technology is, by its very nature, a quickly-evolving beast, constantly requiring new skills. Schools also have their plates full with the high demands of the rest of the core curriculum. But it's important to remember how important this is. Given the growth in digital industries, every country faces a skills shortage as the needs simply outstrip the numbers of people who can build and deliver the new information economy.
The good news is that there have probably never been as many resources available as there are today outside schools. These range from on-line courses (some free), to after school code clubs and coding camps to bring project-based tech learning to life. As parents, and arguably anyone who has an interest in the way we interact with each other, it's crucial that tech skills such as coding and web programming are more accessible to today's kids.
I started Fire Tech Camp two and a half years ago because I was looking for ways for my own children to be exposed to tech skills, and to give them the tools to share their ideas, solve problems, and make themselves heard in the 21st century. Tech camps and courses have long been offered in the States, but at the time, there was nothing on offer in the UK. I wanted to provide and deliver quality, aspirational and inspirational courses that are fun and engaging and, importantly, put the kids in the driver's seat. I've long believed that for technology courses to be boring is a crying shame when there are more accessible, better, cheaper, more powerful resources than ever available for creating, inventing, making, and coding.
I have the stats to prove that parents from all walks of life want their kids to think about how things are built, and to be literate in technology. Parents want to harness the enthusiasm and energy around things like Minecraft and video games and put it in the service of kids' ability to create and innovate. It's not that all parents want their children to become professional computer programmers, but parents understand that these skills - the ability to break down problems, the understanding of how complex a technical solution might be - are going to serve their kids in any direction they pursue.
I also know for a fact that many kids are hungry for this information. I get emails every week from young people who are looking for learning resources, looking for opportunities to enhance their skills, solve more complicated problems, or build something that they can see in their mind.
The creativity these kids bring to our courses is amazing and exciting. They also very quickly make the connection between this creativity and entrepreneurship. We often bring young entrepreneurs in to speak to our students and I've been surprised and impressed by the quantity and quality of questions about business models, monetisation, what it takes to get a product to market and the like, coming from kids as young as nine. Dragon's den has nothing on these kids!
Young people are switched on - and are going to be the motor of the economy going forward. It's exciting and encouraging, sometimes inspirational. I for one couldn't be happier that they are smarter than us.