Top 5 Things to Teach IT Students: The Rest We Teach to Everyone

August 27, 2010 at 11:46 am 4 comments

This Computerworld piece is interesting, first, for predicting what we should be teaching our students so that they have the right IT skills in 10 years.  But I’m more interested in the second sentence, “Employees throughout the organization will understand how to use technology to do their jobs.”  Really?  We’re not doing such a great job at that today.  I think that Computerworld is laying out an interesting and important goal. But we have to change the way that we’re teaching all the non-IT experts if we’re going to achieve that goal.

In the year 2020, technical expertise will no longer be the sole province of the IT department. Employees throughout the organization will understand how to use technology to do their jobs.

Yet futurists and IT experts say that the most sought-after IT-related skills will be those that involve the ability to mine overwhelming amounts of data, protect systems from security threats, manage the risks of growing complexity in new systems, and communicate how technology can increase productivity.

via 5 Indispensable IT Skills of the Future – Computerworld.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Alan Kay  |  August 27, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Hi Mark,

    The article could be right in identifying “what employers will want”, but seems disastrously wrong on all counts for what IT (including computing) actually *needs* in the future.



  • 2. Lisa Kaczmarczyk  |  August 28, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    There is another aspect to this article and that has to do with the conflation of “technology” and “IT” and the unmentioned but lurking under the hood “computing”. We have an educational opportunity (I’d actually like to say “need” ) to figure out how to inform the non computing-studies public that “technology” and “computing” and “IT” are non synonyms. This point was driven painfully home to me in a previous job where I worked with many people who believed that all three words were not only the same thing, but that b/c I was a “technology” person, it meant that I could fix, or be in charge of, virtually anything that had “technology” in it. If you have read an Inroads column I wrote a year or so ago, I spoke a bit about this. The day to day reality was that I was asked to deal with overhead projectors, electronic door locks, and a whole host of other things – if it was a machine or had chips in it, it seemed that it was often “mine” to deal with. Not to mention the more predictable requests to help with random computer problems (h/w, s/w) of all sorts. People had a very hard time understanding (didn’t in fact) that as a computer scientist, I did not automatically know how to “deal with” all of these things personally. What I see in this article is a shadow of that issue – the words technology and IT are used interchangeably, and as I mentioned, the unspoken word “computing” is there as well. We’ve got a problem.

    • 3. Mark Miller  |  August 30, 2010 at 8:01 pm

      I’ve heard of this. I was hoping it was not widespread. Last year someone in a high school’s IT department wrote in July to a blogger I know, basically asking, “I’ve been tasked with teaching a Java course in the fall. Do you have any advice on what resources I should use to learn the language?” I think he mentioned such books as “Learn Java in 21 Days” and such. He may have mentioned that he had never programmed before, or that he had dinked around with programming a little before this. My memory is fuzzy. In any case I was horrified! I expressed this in the comments, and I got responses from others who were working in high schools, and who said it’s common for IT people to be brought into roles like this, for the same reason you talk about. People think, “You know computers. You can do this.” When I was in secondary school as a student I don’t recall it being like this. There were IT people, but there was a clear separation between them and teachers who taught programming, and the programming teachers knew what they were talking about. Since computers in the classroom were so new then (computer labs and computer classes were just beginning to be set up in schools at that time) one would assume that school staff and administrators were even more ignorant of what this technology was and what it represented than they are now. Maybe the phrase, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing,” applies? Maybe since everyone was conscious of their ignorance of this new area they made a point of finding people who were more of an expert than they were about it.

  • 4. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  August 30, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    Going back even further to my high school days—in 1970 my high school had an IBM 1130 that was used both for administrative functions (like attendance) and for the computer class. There was no expectation that a keypunch operator would know how to program, though the programming students were expected to do their own keypunching. Our teacher did know some fortran, which he taught us, but we mostly ended up teaching ourselves.


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