An Interview with Dr. Jane Thomason, visionary and social innovator.
Following Women in STEM Day yesterday, I found myself thinking a lot about the challenges facing educators today and the importance of teaching digital skills to kids and young people at the very beginning of their journey through life and career.
We know the world is changing very quickly, with digital forces leading a massive economic transformation. We also know that tech and coding have become more accessible than ever, for people of any age, gender or background. Especially in our Jnr Engineers classes, we are constantly working to keep up with the new platforms, games, tools and trends that the kids we teach are interested in. So, I asked myself: How can we prepare kids for the future economy?
Quote: “it’s amazing what kids can show us” Dr. Jane Thomason speaks to Junior Engineers about the future of kids learning.
How can we show them now that they can truly influence and impact this planet, regardless of background or gender? As a provider of STEM education for kids, how can we make sure we are giving them the tools they need?
To answer this question, I decided to consult with Dr. Jane Thomason about the future of education, STEM learning and our vision at Junior Engineers.
Dr. Thomason is a successful CEO and founder in the world of emerging technologies, FinTech and sustainability. She has been a leading voice in the FinTech world for years now, even featured in Forbes as an ‘Australian international development researcher and practitioner who has become a leading evangelist for blockchain and cryptocurrencies on the global stage.’
Based currently in Brisbane, near our Junior Engineers HQ, she is a passionate advocate for digital and technological education; especially when it comes to teaching kids fundamental skills for their digital-centric futures.
Here are some highlights from our conversation:
THE FUTURE OF CAREER PATHS: GIVING KIDS A “SUITE OF TECH ABILITIES”
Jane emphasised the importance of preparing kids for a transformation in the job market; going from a jobs based economy to a dynamic and constantly fluctuating skills-based economy. “This affects education now – as people need to continuously learn and retrain multiple times throughout their lives”. According to Jane, foundational learning must include digital and technological skills, enabling kids and young adults to explore career choices with a full suite of STEM tools already in hand.
“It’s amazing what kids can show us, if we just take a moment to listen.”
A powerful statement that completely resonates with me. To really succeed at our mission, we must listen closely to what drives these kids, what their interests are.
Some kids are very visual, passionate about creating visual technological creations like games, 3D design, Minecraft and more. Some kids are more hands-on, interested in physically building robotic arms, Arduino robots, MicroBits etc. But one thing they have in common, as Jane states, is an enthusiasm and passion for the digital world. We just need to give them the right direction to find their niche.
THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION – MAKING ONLINE EDUCATION EFFECTIVE AND SAFE
One of our big focuses at Jnr Engineers is providing both online and in person educational programs. But what is the future of education, as a whole? Is it all online, or is the in-person impact something that will always be most effective?
According to Dr. Thomason, “I believe that online education is going to be a huge part of future educational structures, largely driven by AI and data analysis.” With kids getting devices at younger and younger ages, some might argue that most of a child’s education is already self-led, via their various platforms (for better and for worse).
CODING ISN’T JUST FOR INTROVERTS: COMMUNICATION IS KEY
According to Jane, the way to prepare is to thoroughly “dissect the valuable skill-sets and teach those skills”, while also making sure to teach under-rated skills such as self-presentation, basic financial management and even critical thinking.
I agree. Presentation, self branding and communication tend to be overlooked, especially in STEM and tech education. This under-prioritisation may be the cause behind the stereotype that coding is the domain of introverted people, lacking in communication abilities.
In the Jnr Engineers classes, we focus on collaboration between students for this exact reason – After all, we believe that there is a place for all types of thinkers and doers in STEM. Every digital project demands complex team collaboration and diverse perspectives to succeed.
PREPARING OUR YOUTH FOR A DIGITAL FUTURE, ACCESSIBLE TO ALL
As the educators, we strive to make sure all personalities in the classroom see their own unique pathway in this incredible technological universe. Whether the child is an empathetic people-person, or an introverted hands-on type… We know they can find their niche in coding and tech. In the face of a global economic shift, as Jane predicts, we must open the doors of STEM wider to let all kinds of students succeed and shine. Hopefully, our educators and influential figures like Dr. Thomason can inspire the next generation to keep learning, remain alert and find their unique zone-of-influence in the evolving technological multiverse.
Check out our classes here.
In a world dominated by technology, introducing kids to coding is an essential part of their education. But it’s critical to keep kid engaged and interested in what they are learning as part of this education – dry lines of code learned in isolation is rarely retained.