Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Advice to Ohio’s Information Technology Teachers

Today I will be presenting the topic “IT Needs to Earn Its Promotion” at the itWORKS.OHIO conference for teachers of information technology (IT) programs throughout Ohio’s educational system.

My thesis is that IT as an industry and IT workers individually generally want to be taken seriously but need to earn desired influence—which means far more than knowing which button to push when a light starts blinking. Students being given training in specific tools and techniques can be equipped easily enough for the short term, entry into the job market where they can be employed to perform technical tasks. What many don’t realize is that even technical tasks performed perfectly are nearly useless without being framed properly. Albert Einstein and his work achieved fame not only because it was profound but also because he took the time to explain the meaning of his work to “ordinary” people who would never read a formal scientific paper. (“When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it's longer than any hour. That's relativity.”) Herein is a valuable lesson for technology workers: never lose sight of the meaning of your work—not just to yourself but to others. The ability to help other people to understand why your work matters to them is the path of advancement.

The takeaway for the teachers in the audience is that they need to help students with technical aptitude look beyond the questions of what and how and to develop a sense of why. For a thriving Ohio economy tomorrow, Ohio’s workforce must understand why they do what they do and Ohio’s industry must put that expertise to good use.

Using my own experience leading an assessment ordered by the Governor of the State of Ohio that was both highly technical and highly visible, I show why not only must there be excellence in content but ever-present understanding of context. I describe the two assessment teams that my firm called up for the assignment, the roles played by various members, and the disciplines used throughout the process. I also highlight some related research my firm has undertaken around personal information loss incidents. This view behind the scenes is meant to make clear what my firm is looking for when we hire so that can in turn be used to show why the itWORKS.OHIO IT education content standards are so important and go far beyond the basic technical tasks of entry-level IT technicians.

What advice would you offer to teachers of tomorrow's tech workforce?

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Anonymous Tom Skoulis said...

To further build on Matthew’s perspective pick up a copy and read “A Whole New Mind” authored by Dan Pink. (Who by the way just so happens to be a Columbus native)

Especially for those early in their career, or, for those with children, Pink’s postulate is that left-brain analytical prowess (the side of the brain that allow skill development for those in the IT profession) won’t cut it in today’s and certainly tomorrow’s business environment. He sites global competition and automation as a couple of tsunami’s driving this change. Right-brain skills, complimenting left-brain skills are what those who run companies, government and education institutions are asking for of their employees and new college graduates. Pink recommends six important abilities one needs to develop: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning.

What can Ohio’s education institutions do? How about designing a computer science curriculum that includes courses in art, music, communication, psychology, design, or organizational behavior.

April 15, 2008 at 1:12 PM  

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