Readying our kids to compete with peers – humans and complex algorithms

Graduado

An interesting (and later a bit scary) thought dawned upon my morning commute to drop my son to his bus stop. I was doing the usual concerned dad thing, inquiring him how he thought he was doing in his class relative to his peers. I was asking him about who his toughest peers were and what unique advantages they had in terms of intellectual (hard skills) and emotional (soft skills). I was after all trying to set some healthy competition in him and see how he evaluated his peers.

The conversation ended quickly with his drop, but it gradually hit me that by the time he joins the workforce, his peer competition will be humans and complex computer algorithms. In advanced college years, students are making significant time and economic investments in choosing courses that they are passionate about and that simultaneously have the best career outcomes.

A decade back the conversation in leading western economies was that simple, repetitive & low value work goes to developing nations—known as east economies. High value, complex, high touch, and high emotion work gets done in western leading economies, therefore student decisions a decade ago, were then driven by what humans in western world, can & cannot do compared to humans in eastern world.

In current state of global work force distribution, much of that skills delta is erased and arguably the playing field is leveled, but again we are comparing what can humans across different geographies can do, and associated demand-supply by geography.

In another decade or so, computer algorithms will be a formidable new addition to global work force choice. It is not a net new idea itself, but we will definitely have a new class of complex computer algorithms which can do highly complex, non-repetitive, predictive and emotionally aware work—something that has been forte of highly skilled, educated & judgment savvy experienced humans.

Channeling & inspiring kids to finish college and getting higher education is not enough. Career decisions of future need to be savvy to figure out what is that these new species of complex computer algorithms can’t do and hence humans will be still relevant (and needed).

Early school career’s counselling needs a massive upgrade—they seem to be focused on extracting what a student’s core passion and excellence lineage is and then based on that they map potential areas to build career in. Nothing wrong with starting with a student’s passion first; after all if you love what you do then work will not seem like work and one will a have fulfilling career, but then what you are passionate about should be still a relevant career choice available for humans and not taken over by complex computer algorithms.

Launching new Kids-teach-Kids Summer Program for HTML5 and CSS3

K2KSummerCourse

Summer is here and its a good time to get kids into coding grove. We are starting a new summer only Kids-2-Kids program in which C2PKids in advanced levels will teach HTML5 and CSS3 using C2P materail curated from codecedmy.com, w3cschools.org and projects built by c2pkids coaches who are practitioners in industry.

The program is unique in sense that it will be guided and monitored by adult coaches but delivered by other C2PKids studying advanced stuff. This creates interesting internship opportunities for c2pkids in advanced curriculum all while addressing shortage of skilled coaches to teach coding for free.

Tentative start date June 19th @ 3:00p.m on your PC

If you have additional questions please use contact us form below with your questions:

 

 

What should Public Schools Teach? Vocational OR Fundamental Computer Science.

Well currently they don’t teach either (at least majority of Public Schools in US). I was listening to this NPR Story from this morning about the state of Computer Science (CS) education within Public Schools in US. Their is debate and growing angst on how little Public Schools do to teach Computer Science while the experts project how many unfilled computer science jobs will stay unfulfilled.

Lets assume if policy is fixed and Public Schools do decide to teach Computer Science but what should they be teaching  in computer science curriculum. I think there is wide confusion between vocational Versus fundamental teaching of CS. Teaching a particular language or toolkit in CS is really vocational teaching geared towards a particular outcome –build skills for specific employment , job role or deploy them to actually build/solve a particular problem.

With shelf life in technology being so short, Public Schools should concentrate on non-vocational focus & teach basic design skills & logical thinking. IMHO, Public School should focus on reasonably stable and perpetual CS ideas like Turing Machine, Algorithms, Data Structure, How Internet Works etc. They need to focus on making theses dry & seemingly uninteresting ideas entertaining to learn for kids. For e.g. here is intro from Thinkersmith.org –very interesting way of teaching logic without use of computers. See the intro video below:

Expecting Public School CS teachers know latest and greatest difference between HTML 5 & CSS 3 over prior version  or latest way to build mobile apps tricks seems like a stretch goal for Public School Teachers who are already burdened to do more with less (pay).  I think vocational enterprises (non-profit or for profit) are best tuned to keep up with latest and greatest in languages, platforms and toolkits. Non-profits can use grant power & SME volunteers while commercial enterprises use power to pay qualified teachers for covering this gap.

Is giving on your mind?–Consider giving Tech Skills this holiday season.

Giving Tech Skills copy

 

Image Credit: 2013 Agni Sarode @c2pKids.org

Its this time of the year when your conscience gets challenged every time you enter the grocery store & are greeted by an ever cheerful Salvation Army guy looking for you to make some “giving” contribution for those who are in “need”.

There are many forms of  “giving” —-“teaching” can be one of the most rewarding & fulfilling things to give this season.

C2PKids.org started as a simple side project this summer. Today we have 2 clubs launched within 3-months of start of our first club (in late sept 2013).  We have made enormous strides in liberating the physical location dependency for kids and volunteers to take up a C2P club. Kids and Coach volunteers need NOT to be in same geo-location & even in same time zone. So location is no longer a prohibitive factor to consider C2P. As testament to this–first club (aka Batch 1) has kids & coaches that are separated by both timezone and cities ( 800 miles between Charlotte , NC and Bloomingdale, Illinois). While C2P Club of RTP-area (official name C2P Glenkirk Pros) has club members separated in cities of Cary, NC and Charlotte, NC–some 200 miles.

We are also not gated by content or curriculum course ware. Focus on Ed-Tech has created many teaching platforms for computer science–from Khan Academy, Codecademy, AppInventor, W3CSchool etc. So much of teaching content and teaching tools are now already available online that we have been able to quickly create a “course in a box”—based on student levels , teachers interest and style of teaching.

While we are no longer gated by location and teaching content but we are constrained by number of skilled volunteers who can coach C2PKids clubs.  Too much focus & promotion on learning to code (thanks to recent Hour Of Code event ) has a created massive interest to take up coding early on, but we now need to focus on finding people who can teach. In the end there is no escape from the human element of  teaching—field experience , wisdom around choice, design skills and motivation/encouragement.

An Appeal
All my tech friends on Linked & Facebook –1st degree through 3rd degree , please seriously consider giving of different kind this season. Give your technology experience and wisdom that you have acquired over years–be a C2PKids Volunteer Coach.

Top 5 reasons to be a C2P Club Volunteer Coach

  1. “Getting” more than “Giving”
    Technology is constantly changing. Trying to teach elementary and middle school kids technology involves interesting learning experiences. You will come witness new Gen-Z behaviors, attention spans and  you learn how these Gen Z kids learn from each other. Kids learn from short videos while you might have learned from massive manuals. Your own tech skills will get updated. You will be able to learn new trends and tools which you can apply at your work (and brag and look smart :)).
  2. Corporate IT Boredom
    Are you someone who want to do more or try out new cool stuff but are held back  by typical corporate technology hurdles? At C2PKids there are no preset rules and approved-only technology stack to use. C2P Batch1 club did its first project on Cloud IDE called Codenvy.com. The idea to use Codenvy.com for shared development came out kids stepping on each others work. We ended taking a detour to solve joint code development problem and choosing a tool that fits behavior patterns of these kids and which is also free. Another example, is building mobile apps–so many choices to build an app– which one is fastest and cheapest?–AppInventor.
  3. Flavor of  Entrepreneurship 
    Entrepreneurship is adventurous and unpredictable. Running a C2PKids club is exactly the same way. You will run into kids and parents of varying levels and reasons for sending kids to a C2PKids club. The entire process of planning and commissioning a club is nothing short of running a miniature start-up.
  4. Bragging and Networking
    Education Tech and Civic Tech are very hot fields and lot of public , private and philanthropic initiatives intersect in this space. Being a C2PKids Volunteer coach opens up lots of networking opportunities in your immediate locality or your expanded region. Not to mention all the bragging rights  you get 🙂
  5. Relevant for your house-hold
    In addition to being a high flying tech professional, if you are also parent with abundance of technology within your household then C2PKids movement will be very relevant topic for your house-hold.  You may have had failed attempts at getting your kids excited about technology when you dealt with them individually. Teaching them in a C2P club changes the dynamic. Peer dynamics brings different results with your own kids versus you trying to teach them individually.

Please contact me if you would like to engage into C2P Style of Giving.

We’re jammin’, jammin’, And I hope you like jammin’, too.

Jammin' C2P [FIXED]
Image Credit: 2013 Agni Sarode @c2pKids.org

Well those are not my words but are from the lyrics of famous Bob Marley Song Jamming.

So what has Jamming got to do with C2PKids movement?—actually a lot. Many parents have been quizzing me on what exactly we teach in C2PKids, how we teach, what’s our teaching methodology blah blah ! But before I explain the teaching methodology @C2PKids –let me attempt to explain the teaching philosophy @C2PKids by introducing  a common concept in music called Jam.

Wikipedia:
jam session is a musical event, process, or activity where musicians play (i.e. “jam”) by improvising without extensive preparation or predefined arrangements. Jam sessions are often used by musicians to develop new material (music), find suitable arrangements, or simply as a social gathering and communal practice session. Jam sessions may be based upon existing songs or forms, may be loosely based on an agreed chord progression or chart suggested by one participant, or may be wholly improvisational. Jam sessions can range from very loose gatherings of amateurs to evenings where a jam session coordinator acts as a “gatekeeper” to ensure that only appropriate-level performers take the stage, to sophisticated improvised recording sessions by professionals which are intended to be edited and released to the public.

C2P Jams
C2PKids teaching methodology is heavily influenced from the idea of musical Jams (as explained above). The core concept is we conduct weekly Programming Jams. These Jams are preceded by pre-Jam study material/course ware practiced by students during the week or over week-end before the Jam. The basic assumption is that for Jams to be successful , students will need to be brought to an appropriate level of knowledge before he/she can join a C2P Jam. Like in music, we have Jam session coordinators—they are C2P volunteer coaches (and optionally assisting coach). Jam is designed by industry experienced coach to horn a particular topic, expose students to a way of working or designing technology and is usually designed by extracting something from real world that looks like microcosm of real word technology problem. We are lucky to be in times when collaboration technology is at such sophisticated state that I see most Jams taking place online—crushing distances, time-zones & access barriers between a hungry student and a passionate coach. C2PKids Jams are organized as Google Hangout Events.

Having emphasized on on-line Jams, I take it very seriously that an “in-person” Jam opens doors to a very interesting local economic impacts. With ‘in-person” Jams, I expect to see new friendships formed on basis of common love for technology and opportunity to form future startup teams. Charlotte, NC is probably best known as a Banking town not a high-tech start-up town. I live in Charlotte and love it. I feel that it has some great comparative advantages (relative to big daddy startup hubs like San Francisco, NYC, Boston, Seattle)  to be the next high-tech start-up town. But more on that topic some day later—but bottom line is that if we are able to create a pool of technology producing generation of kids then Charlotte could find it’s place on start-up map (and venture funding follows, other economic windfall effects).

Pre-Jam materials:
At C2PKids we refer to a range of online course-wares (Codecadmy.com, W3Cschool.com, Computing Platform of KhanAcademy.org & many more). At this point I don’t see any point in favoring one course-ware platform over other—all of them have unique advantage and they specialize in different things. Like real world technology project execution, we refer to all as and when the topic demands it.

If you have realized by now then C2PKids teaching methodology is really a blend of Hackathon + Flip teaching methodology. Jams are nothing but extended duration Hackathons of lower intensity levels adjusted for 10-15yrs while Pre-Jam self-study sessions are Flips.

The following schematic (click it for larger view) should bring all of these ideas together in concrete manner—if not feel free to drop me a note.

Teaching Methodology