Does Academia Know What Technology Employers are Looking For?

It started two years ago. I stopped using my laptop or tablet at home, and only used my phone to Google, shop, scroll through Instagram, or check email as I’d wind down at night. Now, I still use my phone, but I mostly rely on Siri to do my Googling for me.

Now, with Google Assistant, Cortana, and Alexa, the talk-to-tech trend is taking off – it’s easier and faster than finding your phone, unlocking it, opening an App, or tapping any keys.

Now that Amazon allows programmers to connect existing services to Alexa, the cloud-based voice service that powers the Echo, every-day programmers can build entirely new voice-powered experiences, called Skills, with “just a few lines of code,” for free. Voila! Alexa now opens and uses Apps for us!

Alexa is taking over home appliances, too.  Appliance makers LG, Whirlpool, GE, and Samsung introduced products, like a vacuum, that starts by issuing a command to an Echo. LG’s forthcoming Smart InstaView Door-in-Door refrigerator will connect to Alexa, so users can ask her to pull up recipes on a touchscreen, or order food.

It’s still the early days with voice command services, but what does this mean for education? I think it means Computer Science & Programming education is more important than ever. STEM job growth will surpass all other jobs at 18.7% between 2010 and 2020, leading to 1.1 million computing jobs by 2024.

Does the academic community know what technology employers are looking for? Last week’s post discussed the relevancy of the computer lab in today’s schools – Cengage author Mark Frydenberg shared his Sandbox mission – should more schools get onboard?

Are Computer Labs Necessary in Today’s Schools?

Are computer labs necessary in today’s schools?

According to Cengage author Mark Frydenberg, the answer is yes, but not in the traditional way.

As BizEd Magazine reports, in 2017, “students have their own laptops, so they no longer need a place to connect to the internet or write papers. Instead they need spaces where they can experiment with new technologies.

That’s why, in 2011, Frydenberg spearheaded the development of Bentley University’s Learning & Technology Sandbox, also known as “CIS Sandbox,” for the computer information systems department.

He tells BizEd, “When I was asked to take over the lab in 2010, I was reluctant because it wasn’t a place where I wanted to spend my time. But then I started thinking about what the future of computer learning could be.”

The Sandbox replaced the old computer lab, a traditional space with 40 computer stations, gray carpeting, gray furniture, and no windows, as described by BizEd. With the help of University funding, the space underwent a complete renovation, “replacing the computer stations with six U-shaped tables with monitors for group work, wall-mounted display monitors, and soft chairs for lounging.”

How is the CIS Sandbox used? Frydenberg says it provides IT tutoring, exposes students to new tech, and hosts speakers, workshops and other programming, and gives students a place to study and socialize.

It’s popular, too. The article notes that more than 3,000 students spend time at the Sandbox each semester, and the admissions office, who once said “every school as a computer lab, so no one’s going to come to Bentley because of that space,” has now put the Sandbox on the tour for prospective students.

“Our mission at the Sandbox is to create a space where students can explore technology in a social way,” Frydenberg tells EdBiz. “Giving them the ability to play with the next up-and-coming technological tools or program an app—it’s a pretty powerful thing.”

Tell us what you think – Is a Sandbox the computer lab of the future?