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Emerging Technology Preps Students for Jobs of the Future

Jacqueline Black, Director, Strategic Alliances, US Jobs, Consumer Technology Association

In the span of ten minutes, I went from experiencing life as a nine-year-old migrant girl traveling on top of a train from Guatemala to the Texas border to enjoying a private concert by the late musician Prince – all while sitting in a high school classroom in Washington, DC. The immersive power of virtual reality (VR) technology made my journey possible, but the young minds who created them left the biggest impression on me.

Jerome and Jamir, the high schoolers who designed both of those VR experiences, attend Washington Leadership Academy (WLA), a XQ Super School, one of ten schools across the county to win a $10 million investment funded by philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs. Their school employs a competency-based education model, which means the teaching experience is enhanced with hands-on project-based learning and internships. All students take four years of computer science, and then choose from electives such as coding, virtual reality and robotics. The school advocates for students to create technology – not just consume it.

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) – which works with the global education community to accelerate technology use to solve problems and inspire innovation – invited me to meet these impressive students at WLA. ISTE recently published a practical a set of insights, lesson plans and classroom examples to help teachers maximize the educational benefits that AR and VR offer.

Today, it’s critical for students to learn these tech skills to be qualified for future jobs. Data provided by shows that 58 percent of jobs created in STEM industries are computing jobs, yet just eight percent of STEM graduates have a computer science degree. More, the research shows that the majority of students actually enjoy learning computer science, as was clearly evident in my interactions with the students at WLA, whose passion and enthusiasm for the subject was infectious.

Jerome is passionate about how VR can teach and show people new things – and in just one month he learned the VR program to transform his vision into digital life. And Jamir, who coded the entire Prince concert environment himself, told me I could learn how to do it with just 12 hours of instruction!

Basic tech education programs teach students critical thinking skills at a young age. For example, Google Classroom provides a collaborative experience which fosters teamwork. HP’s Learning Studio empowers students to interact with their digital creations in 3D. And educational toys like the Merge Cube, allow students to explore a virtual object via augmented reality. These technologies are enabling teachers to expose their students to new learning experiences they wouldn’t otherwise have.

While not every student at Jerome and Jamir’s school will end up choosing coding or other tech jobs as a career, they will benefit from their experience and be able to transfer their skills to other jobs since all industries will require tech knowledge in the near future. It is essential for schools to incorporate tech education in their curricula to prepare our K-12 students for jobs in high demand and to contribute to filling our nation’s future workforce pipeline.
Find out more about how CTA’s 21st Century Workforce Council is helping to address the nation’s critical skills gap and create a high-skilled workforce.