February 10th, 2011

How important was your K-12 education to your brave new world techie job of today?

How important was your K-12 education to your brave new world techie job of today?

Portland tends to be a town of more imports than locals. But thinking that the technical proclivity of our region isn’t affected—and buoyed—by the kids coming up through the school systems is both myopic and dangerous. Especially when it comes to assessing the strength of our community as a tech hub, both now and in the future. And yes, I’ve ranted on the topic of K-12 education before.

But before we can ask the City of Portland and other agencies to look into the issue, we need somewhere to start. Some data to which we can point that’s somewhere beyond “it seems like a really really good idea.” That’s where Jon Coon is hoping to help—with a really quick and really simple survey designed to set a baseline for this discussion.

I mean, how much impact did college actually have on your career today? I have to be honest, high school was probably the most influential in helping me developing my skill set for my day to day activities. At least, I think that’s why people always call me “sophomoric.”

But before I get into some form of “Everything I needed to know I learned in Kindergarten,” let’s let Jon—a software and web enthusiast, born, raised, and educated in NE Portland—take the floor.

We all know the City of Portland and the PDC are currently working to organize and help the software industry become a beacon of economic development. (Insert article a, b, c) While a large part of the discussion has focused around access to funds, another significant piece is the workforce. How is the city developing the talent, the pipeline if you will, to create a thriving sector of the economy? Where do most of the people who work in the industry come from? Should we simply expect to attract the best talent from around the state? Outside of the state?

In the interest of igniting a discussion on this issue, and as part of broader research into the access to resources and support within the community around technology tools at the k-12 level, I have developed a survey that will take no more than 3 minutes of your time. My goal is to get 100 responses and here is to hoping the readers of Silicon Florist can blow that out of the water.

I know I ask you guys to respond all sorts of surveys. But this one could really use your attention. So please respond.

Thank you. Sincerely.

Want to discuss this issue with Jon directly? Something tells me he might be convinced to meet up with you for a beverage and some conversation. Especially at Amnesia Brewing. Comment here and let’s get the two of you talking.

(Image courtesy Portland State University)

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8 Responses to “How important was your K-12 education to your brave new world techie job of today?”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Silicon Florist and Laszlo Szalvay, Static Sky. Static Sky said: Portland tech workers: RT @siliconflorist: How important was your K-12 education to your technology job of today? http://bit.ly/gzuaML [...]

  2. Mark Lawler says:

    K-12 is a critical component of this equation. It is one of the reasons why the Software Association of Oregon created the TechStart Education Foundation (www.techstart.org) a few years ago. TechStart’s core charter is to focus on helping to inspire K-12 students to want to pursue technology interests both in school and then later in life. Ultimately an organization like TechStart shouldn’t even have to exist. However, the problem is that technology education and opportunities within the classrooms continue to dwindle each year vs. grow. I cannot tell you how many TechStart Educators of the Year grant winners have been handed pink slips by their respective school districts; the attitude being “We already have a science teacher, why a computer science teacher?” / “Hey, this English has extra slots to teach more classes, take on this CS class for us.” TechStart works to provide training programs to educators (SuperQuest program) to help them learn how to teach technology classes, grant programs to provide materials in the classroom, scholarships to top technology HS seniors, grants to top technology educators, and events like the yearly Oregon Game Project Challenge to encourage middle and high school teams to learn more about the creation of software through an educational and friendly game competition environment. Given the lack of K-12 funding in this critical area, TechStart, as a non-profit 503(c), tries to help fill the gap. I look forward to the day when TechStart is dismantled as it is no longer needed, but until then I’m a huge supporter. I’d hope others would join me in this endeavor to fix this wrong.

  3. Mark Lawler says:

    My own personal experience: Had it not been for the access to computers (before PCs) and education provided to me back in high school starting in 1979 regarding computer programming I would have never been exposed to or gained interest in the software industry. Had a an educator not pulled me asside as a freshman and took the time to teach me about computers my life would have followed a much less rewarding course…

  4. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rick Turoczy, Mark Lawler. Mark Lawler said: I was first exposed to computers in High School in 1979, before PCs. Had I not I'd be irrigating farm fields. You? http://bit.ly/fwbWE7 [...]

  5. For current and all future generations, a good K-12 education shouldn’t just impact those students who choose a technology-specific career, it must educate all students for a future that will inevitably intersect with technology. And having trained educators and a defacto tech-influenced curriculum is where Oregon can improve our youth’s educational experience to prepare them to be the next generation of innovators. This survey is one interesting baseline, but there are already many proof points that’s it’s not just a good idea, it’s important and impacting.
    Nationally, and here in Oregon, we talk a lot about improving science and math education as a means to increase our global competitiveness in technology innovation. Unfortunately, we prioritize computer science and technology-related curriculum last among all courses in most school districts, and operate on a standardized-test-scores-for-dollars structure based on basic education curriculums that are at best outdated, and at worst irrelevant in today’s technology-driven economy.
    For a growing number of educators in Oregon, some of whom have been working to achieve a shift to tech-oriented curriculum for 30 years, small successes are being achieved to integrate STEM curriculum into the classroom and in extra-curricular activities. Programs like OGPC, eChamps, a pilot in Discrete Math for high school, implementation of CH4HS, Equity-in-the-Classroom granted programs and curriculums and the integration of CSUnplugged are examples of small-scale successes that could easily extend to students throughout the state. TechStart Education Foundation (www.techstart.org), the Software Associations of Oregon’s non-profit focused on K-12 tech education in the state, has worked with these educators for the past eight years by providing the SuperQuest teacher training program to support these and other tech-related programs. We help them deliver a relevant education that inspires the critical, creative and computational thinking their students demand – both in computer science and IT-specific courses as well as in general science, math, language arts and social studies classes.
    If TechStart is successful, Oregon K-12 education will prioritize and value technology-based learning as a core thread throughout its curriculum and proficiency testing, without the need for a non-profit to drive it at the grass roots level. For now, we will continue to serve the needs of the enlightened educators and visionary students. And we will have an added goal: to impact a very different response to a survey like this one by future graduates from Oregon high schools.

    Amelia J-Lewis, Board President, TechStart Education Foundation

  6. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Silicon Florist and TechStart, Mark Lawler. Mark Lawler said: RT @pdxtechstart: @siliconflorist post: survey on K-12 ed on career….http://bit.ly/ef9TWV see comment by @pdxtechstart and comment please. [...]

  7. Nick says:

    I went to 12 years of Oregon Catholic School education. I must say that they did a good job on me with my writing and math skills. However, as a developer, they really didn’t fulfill my needs on the science side of things. That said, I do sometimes sense that some of the self control skills I posses are only because of the nuns. I am impulsive by nature, and they made sure that was in check.

    Also when I did start college at OSU, I was amazed how much my freshmen class was behind in what we had already covered and mastered.

    I’m not a christian at all these days (nor are any of my school friends). I think I got enough of if growing up. However, my wife and I put our oldest daughter in a local catholic school. We have not regretted it.


  8. Jon Coon says:

    Big thank you to the readers of Silicon Florist for a great response and providing strong feedback that I hope to share in the near future.

    Special thanks to Mark and Amelia for additional context and for their continued passion. There is no doubt that Techstart and SAO have been leaders on this issue and will continue to be a guiding force. It seems the more discussion and attention is in the best interests of not only the students but also our community and ongoing positioning as a national center of innovation.


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