The purpose of technology is not to confuse the brain but to serve the body. – William S. Burroughs
For most of us in the so-called third world countries, self-driving cars, voice assistants, and other artificially intelligent technologies are truly out there. Yet, we ought to recall that 15 years ago, the Internet wasn’t a dominant force in our lives like it is currently, and as such things that were out of the norm then have become common place. AI will subsequently be more than a tool; in fact, it will be a co-worker and an ubiquitous part of lives.
To prepare our learners to use AI and big data effectively – to comprehend it’s inherent limitations, and build even better platforms and intelligent systems — they need to be prepared now to become what I call FUTURE READY. It means overhauling our system, activating changes in our elementary education, as well major overdue upgrades in how we teach IT in our secondary schools.
Right now, our children use some form of AI technologies with their smartphones. They use their phones to map trips, to book taxis and make friends. What they don’t understand is that AI systems are designed by carefully decomposing a problem into lots of small problems, and enabling the solutions to the small problems to communicate with each other. People who create this type of technologies must be able to build teams, work in teams, and integrate solutions created by other teams. These are necessary skills that should be imbibed in our learners for future readiness.
Also, with AI taking over routine and manual tasks in the workplace, there should be additional emphasis on qualities that differentiate human workers from AI — creativity, adaptability, and interpersonal skills.
With our elementary learners we ought to emphasise projects that encourage problem solving and teach children how to work cooperatively in teams. This is something we need to stress upon heavily.
The idea that you don’t need to worry about learning to code and program at all is erroneous. With the world becoming increasingly digital, computer science is as vital in the arts and sciences as writing and math are. Whether a person chooses to become a computer scientist or not, coding is something that will help a person excel in whatever field s/he chooses. We believe that a basic computer programming course should be required at the very least by the age of 12 to 13 by our learners.
Africa is woefully behind, and Israel – for instance – has notably integrated computer science into its pre-college curriculum. The UK has made good progress lately with its Computing at School program and Germany and Russia have leapt ahead as well. Also, President Obama’s announced his Computer Science for All initiative in his 2016 State of the Union address.
Expanding computer science education at the high school level not only benefits students, but could help the field of computer science by encouraging more students — and a more diverse group of students at that — to consider computer science as a career.
Driving this we will need to revitalise how programming is taught. I learnt programming as if it were still the 1990s, when the details of coding (think Visual Basic) was considered the heart of computer science. One had to sift through programming language details, and it was such a chore. It shouldn’t be that way. Coding is a creative activity, so developing a programming course that is fun and exciting is essential to grabbing our learners’ attention.
We believe schools should have robotics, computational maths, and computational art to nurture students who have the interest and talent to become computer scientists, or who will need computers to enhance their work in other fields.
We also urge secondary school maths to have less emphasis on continuous maths, including advanced calculus, and dwell more on maths that is directly relevant to computer science, such as statistics, probability, graph theory and logic. Those will be the most useful background elements for acquiring the skills for tomorrow’s data-driven workforce.
A major hurdle is that our schools face a severe shortage of teachers who are trained in computer science; and we need thousands of educators teaching millions of students. On the academic side, we equally need programs that prepare STEM teachers for their pedagogic tasks.
The work is enormous and we need to drive STEM education as a high priority. Along with putting together textbooks, courses and ultimately highly trained STEM teachers that are committed to this effort. Importantly, we need leaders who will redraw a standards framework for STEM education in the country and accord it the primacy it deserves.
Focusing on how the next generation understands and interacts with big data and AI is an investment that will pay off in the long run for all of us.
Help us with our mission to bring about change for our students. Please contact me to see what we can do to bring about the desired transformation that we all desire for our children to be future ready!!!
Adetola Salau; Educator / Speaker / Author/ Social Entrepreneur / Innovator
She is an Advocate of STEM Education and is Passionate about Education reform. She is an innovative thinker and strives for our society & continent as a whole to reclaim it’s greatness. She runs an educational foundation with the mission to transform education.