Tech Education: Why It’s Fundamental for Students
Written by: | Posted Oct 14, 2015

Do you know what’s happening with tech education in Davidson and Williamson Counties? Colleen Hoy, Director of We Build Tech and Katherine McElroy, EVP & Partner at c3/consulting and NTC Board Member, spoke to over 60 women of WiTT in September about just that. A few highlights are below, along with the deck we presented as a sampler of tech education here at home. Thank you to WiTT for inviting us to share our passion on such an important topic!

To start with, we have three key reasons this topic should be at the forefront of concerns for all members of our community – educators, parents, professionals, policy leaders, and everyone in between.

Big picture: Computer science basics are quickly becoming a third layer to the traditional literacy we expect each student to achieve. By failing to provide digital literacy and perhaps basic programming skills to students, we are graduating handicapped citizens.

Career Perspective: Tech job growth is accelerating, with 500,000 jobs in tech open right now across the country. Every industry requires technology knowledge and that trend is only increasing. Moreover, it’s said that tech skills have two year half-life – meaning that every two years, half of what you know has to be replaced. That’s a lot of learning for a very long time. Trying to catch up without the foundation in the first place is a tall order that we thrust on students by leaving out computer science and technology education.

Short-Term Urgency: During the current 2015-2016 school year, the TCAP test is being replaced by TN Ready. This test will be administered online. It is imperative that the digital environment not impede students’ scores – by implementing digital literacy at an early age, we can ensure that students are assessed on knowledge and mastery only, not on their ability to navigate a keyboard.

Those are the big “Why’s” in our mind for the purposes of this exercise, which brings us to the current state discussion. When we talk about “what’s happening with tech for students” we break the discussion into three categories:

  1. Digital literacy and teaching with devices in classrooms
  2. Access to internet and devices at home
  3. Computer science and technical education

Check out the deck here for more information on each of those categories particular to MNPS and WCS. While the standards, requirements, and efforts on each of those vary by district across the state and the country, there are a few things we want to highlight happening in our own backyards:

  • WIT Center at Centennial High School: College credit partnership between Centennial and Columbia State with a state of the art technology classroom for students
  • Academies of Nashville: MNPS is home to three IT Academies teaching students programming, networking, web design, graphic design, and more in addition to their standard coursework
  • Certifications: based on industry and educator input, students have the option to prepare for and sit for tech certifications such as Java and Adobe during the school year
  • Coding Clubs and Programs:
    • Over 400 students grades 3-8 are targeted to participate in coding programs in WCS this year
    • 120 students participated in NTC code camps last summer in Davidson and Rutherford counties
  • 40% of Nashville students have no home internet access
    • Nashville established a Digital Inclusion Fund seeded with $400,000 in Sept 2015
    • Google Fiber announced plans to extend Fiber services to select public housing projects as part of the federal ConnectHome initiative

This is only a small snapshot of the big challenges, the even bigger mission, and the great programs driving this area of education and community development. There is much to be done and opportunity for individuals and companies to get involved. Contact Colleen for more information.

  • Starting or volunteering at a school club or camp
  • Mentoring high school or college students
  • Providing job shadow or internship opportunities for high school or college students
  • Sponsoring student attendance to conferences
  • Hosting teachers for professional development and externships
  • And much more!

Thanks again to WiTT for the opportunity to speak to the group in September!

Women in Technology of Tennessee was founded to support women in all areas of technology. WiTT provides a forum for Tennessee women to empower women in technology through education, outreach, mentoring, and networking. WiTT meets once a month to learn and network with other great women who work in technology roles or for technology companies in Middle Tennessee.