A Glimpse of Your Future Workforce – Now in Middle School


Six months ago Thomas Suarez, a 6th grader from Los Angeles, spoke at a TEDS event about the making and sale of an "app" he created on his own – "Bustin Jieber" (a whack-a-mole type anti-Justin-Bieber game.) (There's nearly 2 million views of the video on YouTube so you may have seen it.) Anyway, he's quite eloquent and now owns his own company. While he's clearly much further ahead than the majority of 6th graders I know, his actions offer a glimpse of our future workforce.

Suarez, who is self taught, started to build, create and sell his own apps and even created a club for fellow students where he shares what he knows about programming. He thinks "students are a valuable new technology resource to teachers, and should be empowered to offer assistance in developing the technology curriculum and also assist in delivering the lessons."

Amen. He's taught himself Python, Java, and C "just to get the basics down" according to his bio.This DIY mentality is why online learning from CodeAcademy and Kahn Academy, are so popular.
Here's his talk:

I had a glimpse of that kind of thing in my house two weeks ago. My son is a gamer. His current game of choice is Call of Duty (COD). He plays LIVE with various friends. He decided he wanted to record the game play so he Googled it ("How to…") and ended up finding something called Dazzle (about $50 US), a video capture device.

He asked 'guilted' me into buying it for him as repayment for the iPod Touch I accidentally dropped, cracking the screen. (He said since a lot of people have small cracks in their screen, he'd rather I not pay to get it fixed but instead buy this Dazzle thingy. This is extortion mixed with love and guilt.) So off we went to BestBuy and, as it turned out, Radio Shack after that for the right connectors which we couldn't find at BestBuy. (Dazzle is not created for the purpose of recording XBox play…it just does but you need to add some cords.) Oh, and we went to Wendy's too. Why not make a day of it?

Back from the road trip….so my son often helps his friends out when they are first learning to play (they help each other) so he thought he'd record a tutorial. I'm not making this up.

Using Dazzle's software, he couldn't figure out why the audio control was grayed out (I suspect it had something to do with the default setting on the computer) and since I didn't want to stop watching the Stanley Cup playoffs to mess with this audio glitch, I told him to look at Audacity (open source audio recording). Unassisted (except for the Audacity tip), he recorded the audio, saved it as a file type he could import (because I later asked and learned Audacity saves with a AUP file type...so he figured that out) , narrated his video recording, set up his own YouTube channel and uploaded it. All in the course of an evening…basically unassisted. He's 13! Amazing since a few folks in the industry (no one reading this of course : ) still say "http what?"

So…later that night, I was watching some lame Stanley Cup Western division playoff game that was boring so I looked up his channel on the iPad and watched what he did. Did I tell you he is in middle school! Yes, these kids are our future workforce. Neither Suarez nor my son would have learned this in school. There's no app class. There's no live online collaboration and video recording class (and least in our school district in NY State). Do you have a similar story?

(As an aside…I know there are people who would not let a 13 year old play a game rated "M" -whether live or not – but my personal approach is one of involvement – Why is the game "M"? Is he mature enough? Do I know who he is playing with? Do I monitor that? Have guidelines and expectations been set along with what will happen if those are disregarded? Am I prepared to recognize the signs that the game is having a negative effect? Is he getting enough physical activity to stay healthy?, etc. The research is mixed on video games, especially violent games.)

-Janet Clarey

Dani Johnson

Dani Johnson, Vice President, Learning & Development Research, writes about the evolving L&D function. Specifically, she focuses on the necessary changes in how L&D approaches its responsibilities and allocates its resources (people, time, and money) to have a lasting effect on both organizations and individuals.

6 thoughts on “A Glimpse of Your Future Workforce – Now in Middle School

  1. Great blog, Janet! My own son attended in a technology magnet program where he learned coding, but that type of program is still the exception rather than the rule. Today, my wife teaches video and photography to grade schoolers but, again, that’s part of a special program and not the rule. There is a role schools can play in all this, especially for kids whose parents would have no idea what Audacity is and would never spring for a video capture program for their kids.

    But we can’t rely on the schools to teach those skills, which is why I’m very intrigued by the sudden bloom of online education sites such as CodeAcademy and Kahn Academy. That looks like a critical trend to me, one that’s important to watch carefully.

  2. That’s great Julie. I’m glad he’s finding another channel for interacting with people. Seems kids don’t ‘wait’ for education just as adults don’t ‘wait’ for training.

  3. Great stuff. My story – my son is not at this level, but… he just turned 13. He has autism, and before he could speak he had taught himself to navigate the web to find what he wants. He is not one of the super-intelligent children with autism that everyone thinks is the stereotype – he is actually completely average intelligence. But his favorite tv shows were no longer on the air so he went and found YouTube and then hulu. He thinks he can find everything he needs in the computer – and usually he can. And he is slowly realizing that he can interact with the people who post his favorite videos and posts. Believe me – school is too busy teaching him math and reading and how to talk to teach him computers – and they do not even have any kind of computer class at his middle school.

    I think this blog really speaks to the trend for kids to self-teach as well as teach others and collaborate online and I see it in my own house…

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