Yesterday, I took part in a round table discussion on Ed Tech and Tech Ed, the latter being more, as they say, my wheelhouse. Afterwards a few of us were chatting and a friend observed that when she first started to talk to high school kids she was shocked that they really didn't know the local tech players - neither names nor companies.
A couple of years ago, another friend was helping me organize an event for high schoolers. He started to go down a list of well known tech names and was surprised when I told him that the kids wouldn't know them.
The first time I experienced this, it was just as big a surprised to me. I was setting up a big high school event at Foursquare (post here) and was shocked to learn that practically non of the attendees had heard of the company.
This would never have been the case in the 90s or even the early 2000s. What happened?
I have a theory.
I don't think it's just due to the fact that CS is a hot subject now. It was hot during the 90's bubble. I'm sure the fact that a wider range of kids are being exposed to CS is part of this phenomenon but I don't think it's the biggest reason.
I think CS kids back then knew more – more of the players, more of the tools, more about the systems because they had to. In some ways, and I know I'm vastly overstating things, it's "too easy" now.
Back in the day, if you wanted to put your thoughts on line you had to:
- learn html
- maybe some PHP, Perl, or Python
- You probably had to learn a bit about hosting a server
- you had to deal with registering a domain name
- and more
Now, you just go to blogger or tumblr.
Back then, if you wanted to communicate, you had to learn how to learn the dark art of irc, now you have Google chat.
Back then, you want to share photos, you had to learn how to make a gallery. Now, Facebook.
And of course the list goes on.
Even programming required that you know something about the filesystem and the basics of working in an operating system. Now between IDEs both local and cloud based, you can learn all about programming and never actually create a stand alone program that operates outside of the IDE sandbox.
Back in the day, if a kid was into CS they had to learn more than just the in class toolset and this in turn forced them to be in touch with the tech community both products and players.
I'm not saying the "good old days" were in fact that good and I love most of the progress we've made. Just noting the cultural difference.
It means we should pay more attention to educating our classes on tech culture, the good, the bad, and the ugly.