I am often asked about what technologies and devices will be like in the near future. Given the innovation, the rate of change, and the exponential power of new technologies, not to mention the cost, this question is understandable. Up unto the last two to three years it was all about “picking the winner” in an ever increasing market of devices and operating systems. Remember the VHS versus Beta race and the cost of getting it wrong. More recently the PC versus Mac was fought out almost like a religious war each side with its own zealots eager to purchase the next big thing and thus strive for market dominance. All this at exponential cost to the market in the relentless search for the most sophisticated device.
The rise of open source and the invention of the App has certainly reshaped the technologies world. The focus has shifted from the device to the software The devices are quickly becoming agnostic as programming has become what I call “democratised” as users develop their own Apps to make the devices do what they want them to do, not what the original programmers necessarily intended them to do. We have thus seen a shift from the device controlling the learning to the learner controlling the device,. The device is now just an idea, they invite the user to be creative, inventive, and innovative. They become a powerful personalised tool at service not in control of the user.
What we do know about the future for technology is that quantum computing with be more powerful, faster cheaper and provide more storage. Wireless will become more ubiquitous and pervasive. Devices will be smaller more embedded in and on our person and into the built environment. Skills once considered essential to living in a modern society like driving a car, organising you personal life or for employment will be replaced by new skill requirements.
I don’t know what the next must have device will be but I wish I did because the profits in getting it right are enormous. The way I like to think about this is that the future will see the emergence of a post device era. This is the age of the algorithm where the high priests will not be the privileged few who understand the sacred mysteries and mathematical intricacies but the kids who understand that programming is a core skill.
This has huge implications for schools. What value is being placed on teaching programming? If computer literacy was about knowing how they worked, computer programming is about doing the work. We’re already seeing a shift especially in the UK and US to train more teachers to code software and in doing so encourage young people to develop these critical skills. This movement has been boosted by access to cost-effective computers like Raspberry Pi, designed to encourage kids to program.
Bill Liao co-founder of CoderDojo explained coding as a language skill -”You need to be a native speaker and for that you have to start young. We start kids at seven.” He believes coding should be a “creative experience – the best coders are like poets, able to express their thoughts thoughts powerfully.”
Is this the new literacy for schools?