The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

Preparing to surf the tech waves of the future…

Internet.pngYesterday, I met with a number of technologists and educators from North Texas (Interlink) to discuss the changes that educators need to prepare for in their high school and college curricula. It was a lively discussion and reminded me of the issues IT organizations have in determining where to encourage their people to develop themselves and prepare the organization for the future.

 

In IT (like in the world as a whole) there is a certain Kondratiev Wave that moves everyone on (in IT there are always new waves, but once one takes off it can be ridden for a long time – COBOL). Predicting and surfing these waves should be the goal of all technologists.

 

As we were talking about skills… that are in demand it became clear the skills are quickly separated into:

  • Foundational skills – those that are independent of IT but necessary, like problem solving, communications, writing
  • Area specific skills – these were the ones that will be in demand by the workforce in the future.

We stressed to the educators the need to include the foundational skills throughout and to use them to build context for the area specific skills, so students can understand where they are used. The example mentioned about the importance of context building was the number of times students say “I will never use Algebra” in their lives, yet if presented in context many (if not most) people could use algebra skills every day. Similarly when my daughter was taught Calculus, her calculus teacher didn’t use physics problems – ever! Physics is the main reason calculus was invented, to not teach it from that context (at least once in a while) is wasteful.

 

The Interlink team brainstormed on hot topics that educators should begin to incorporate into their curricula. The ones we came up with were:

  • Mobility -  not just the devices or the infrastructure but the changes in how mobility information can be used
  • Natural user interface – the devices and techniques as well as the way humans interact with computers
  • Personalization – the utilization of data in custom ways to meet the individual or the enterprise needs
  • Social enabled enterprise/consumerization – the adoption of social and consumer techniques to maximize communications and value for the enterprise
  • Visualization – understanding how humans consume information and ways to present it more effectively, drawing attention to those areas that need human involvement.
  • Internet of Things – Machine to machine and other techniques where humans are not really involved.
  • Lean/Agile processes – The expectations for rigorous and yet flexible work environments
  • Business transformation – We live in a world of change so how to address organizational change management and adoption issues (gamification fits in here along with some of the other areas).
  • Robotics – The use of agents and devices to perform work for us.
  • AI – We had quite a bit of discussion here, since my view is that if we can actually do it, it moves out of AI into one of the other categories.
  • Augmented reality – The use of 3D, visual and business information to integrate the virtual and the real world to improve our ability to understand and act.
  • 3D printing – This is something that has entered the price range of almost every school and can bring together arts, science and business to generate new products and value.

It may not be that there are whole classes developed, but these are technologies that most people hiring IT personnel will see as differentiators for the individuals once they graduate.

 

We then got into a very tough discussion of how to effectively convey the current demand state vs. the demand in 3-5, 5-7 and 7+ years. With the thought that those areas where demand will peak at the point where the students are likely to hit the workforce may be highest priority.

 

I am not sure we every decided on an effective way to convey this information to all those interested. I was pushing for a bell shaped adoption curve with points for the different periods and an explanation of velocity of adoption and life expectancy for each one. Clearly others thought that was too much information.

 

This was a great exercise, even if it did nothing more than cross-pollinate ideas about trends and demand and allow the educators to see a different world than the one they currently live in.

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