Are your children future ready?

 
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Talk for the investor insights events at Adelpha with other leading female CEOs, founders and thought-leaders in the UK, ahead of International Women’s Day on 8th March.

Technology is disrupting vast swathes of business and industry. Children entering school today will retire in 2080 (if they're lucky...). Experts across varying industries cannot be certain of what the world will look like in 5, 10 or 20 years from now. Let alone in 2080. So let me ask you this question: Are your children future ready?

I don't think they are... My name is Elizabeth Tweedale. I'm an entrepreneur, an Architect, artist, computer Scientist, and mother. I'm an award-winning author of books teaching children how to code and I'm the CEO of Cypher.

Cypher inspires children to learn the language of the future through creatively themed coding camps. We teach children between the ages of 4 - 14 how to code during their school holidays. With our creative themes such as fashion + coding, nature, architecture, etc. we engage a broad range of students with varying interests - not just the gamer geeks (which I was one of!)

All children need to learn how to code, (and more accurately need to learn computational thinking) not only is it part of the UK national curriculum but essential for us as a society to prepare tomorrows leaders and creators for the technological future.

Why aren't our children future ready?

Education. The schooling system is broken - focused almost entirely on rote based learning with test results driving the curriculum in both primary and secondary education. Preparing a generation of children for jobs that simply won't exist in their future.

It's becoming increasingly clear that the future of work will be collaborative specialist project teams working alongside advanced AI. These teams will spring up quickly and by lead by curious innovators. They will need to be able to communicate with their new partner in order to drive innovation.

So, how does curiosity drive education? More importantly, how can curiosity drive creativity in education?

The good news is we are talking about education again - and we're talking about creativity a lot more - according to google's ngram viewer, over twice as much as we were when our parents were young… the bad news is we've forgotten about curiosity.

Curiosity - is the most beautiful and important thing about being a child - their unrelenting curiosity. Unrelenting - not yielding in strength, severity or determination. If you've been around children under the age of about 8, you'll know what I mean about unrelenting… and Curiosity - the quest for knowledge, asking us why and why not. Unrelenting Curiosity fosters creativity, adaptability and resilience for the future. This unrelenting curiosity needs to drive education and we need to ensure our children don't lose their innate curiosity.

How do we foster Unrelenting Curiosity?

Teach children to move freely and confidently through the world armed with the most important tools for the future, the language of technology - code with computational thinking and the practice of collaboration, creativity, adaptability and resilience.

How do we connect with children's interests and transform their learning?

Ocean conservation was one theme we explored last summer. Children brainstormed how technology could help save the oceans at the start of the week. They came up with some of the most advanced technological research that is actually occurring today all on their own. Our students went on to learn about pollution in the oceans and how drones are being used to not only collect litter on beaches and in oceans but also how they can be used to track ocean life. Then they programmed their own drones to collect bits of plastic - they now have a concrete example of something they could do to change the world.

We do not need to create a world of little computer programmers. But all children will need to have a base foundation of technology and the fundamentals of computer science.

Computational thinking is a set of problem-solving methods that involve expressing problems and their solutions in ways that a computer could execute.

This helps children realise that there are multiple ways to solve the same problem. Fostering their creativity and developing flexibility. Imagine for a moment drawing a row of 5 houses. Just simple boxes with pointy roofs. You could either draw each house individually one by one or draw all 5 boxes then all 5 roofs. There are multiple ways to get to the same solution. This is the type of thinking we are talking about.

There was an article in the Telegraph a few days ago stating that children don't need to learn to code… and we can agree that it's not about the specific coding language itself - python, javascript, etc, learning to code on its own is not enough - computational thinking is what they need.

We need an educational system that takes kids into a world surrounded by the future - technology, creativity, collaboration, new ideas and the freedom to explore their thoughts and dreams.

No one knows exactly what the future may hold but education around technological innovation gives us the best chance to face any future that lays ahead. Fostering kids' unrelenting curiosity is the single most important thing for our future.

©2019 Elizabeth Tweedale

Elizabeth Tweedale