Ireland has more than enough Corporate Lawyers, Audit Accountants, Bankers and Civil Servants. What it needs are creative people building products, services and businesses. That doesn’t necessarily mean every kid in Ireland should be doing Science or Engineering but lord, would more of you please do those subjects.
The internet is one place where we see a wonderful synthesis of creativity in design and engineering. I believe you can teach anyone the basics of web development to a level where they can contribute in some way to web applications and mobile applications. Some of the greatest web-apps were built by self-taught people, not Computer Science graduates.
The key, again, is the word “creativity”. We need to take back ownership of that word from those we would traditionally call “the creatives”; artists, sculptors, authors and actors. Just look at something like Facebook and think about all of the people involved in the creation of that. Creative coders, user interface designers, product managers and Ops people all working together to build an amazing system which impacts 700 million people in a positive way.
Yesterday I attended an event which may be one of the most important initiatives ever in changing the mind-set of Irish parents. Cork Coder Dojo was put together by James Whelton and Bill Liao. You probably know that Bill is a serial entrepreneur but you may not know James. He just finished his Leaving Cert.
The Coder Dojo is a weekly meetup where young people can learn the basics of web development and build sites/apps with the help of the volunteers there. Yesterday was the first one and it felt to me like I was taking part in the beginning of something huge. The room in the NSC was jammed with kids of all ages and their parents. James gave a basic intro to some simple HTML and then he and others went around to help.
The reason I feel James and Bill are on to something is that I could see many of the parents were not remotely technical. This is not geek parents turning their kids into programmers (well, except for me maybe :-)), this is smart parents understanding that their kids can re-build this country with their creativity and the right skill-sets. I was pleased to see that Simon Coveney popped in too.
Whilst I know that many secondary schools teach some basic web skills to kids, I think it has to start earlier and be driven by people who build Apps themselves. I see no reason why my 9 y/o or even 7 y/o could not learn simple development. They may never use it, but they will always have an appreciation for it. Maybe in some ways not that different to sending your kids to piano lessons.
The intention is that The Coder Dojo will be on every Saturday. I strongly recommend that you bring your children to at least one. Don’t worry if you don’t have a laptop, the guys have spares (and I can bring a spare too). They will also be rolling it out in other parts of the country.