In my final year of primary school, my class received it’s very first computer. This big piece of creamy-white technology sat proudly in the corner of the room, 30 students staring at it in awe like it was the Elixir of Life. We took turns to play Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?, a game where we used our detective skills to locate the villainess yet alluring Carmen. She must of had lots of air-points because she would skip from country to country, with us in constant pursuit.
Several years later at high school we began using computers to make crossword puzzles, which we printed out on a very slow dot-matrix printer. I can hear the tick-tick ticking sound now…
In the early nineties gaming technology was fast growing in popularity and I remember feeling so proud when mum and dad bought me a Sega Master-System II, with in-built Alex the Kid in Miracle World game. Who would’ve thought that a digitised goat could bring me such joy? Atari, Commodore 64, Nintendo, Sega, Playstation… the evolution came thick and fast.
Being introduced to digital technologies at a reasonably young age was a wonderful way for me to gain confidence in using computers. I will never profess to be a ‘tech head’, but the ability to operate and understand commands was such a natural thing to do.
At home I became the technology guru within my family; I would often get frustrated when my parents were reluctant to use a device, but in hindsight I didn’t appreciate that it would’ve looked and seemed so foreign to them.
Cue to 2016. I attended the Education Leadership Forum this week and was fortunate to hear from many speakers who commented on the seismic shifts in the world of work and the need to ensure school education is preparing students for this bright future.
I was particularly impressed by Dan Milward, Founder of online gaming company Gamefroot. Despite presenting to a room full of people who could arguably be the age of his parents, his nervous start quickly turned into a strong, confident delivery. He is a millennial with a clear vision in site.
Dan grew up playing games and his long-held interest flowed into his university studies. He founded Gamefroot, an organisation that teaches young people how to code and create games, through the use of online game creation software. A recent study conducted by NZCER demonstrated how successful these workshops have been.
I spoke with Dan during the lunch break and he shared how he had always had a strong interest in computers and technology. He alluded to the fact that his family were very supportive of him pursuing computing as a career.
The work of Gamefroot and many other like-minded organisations is a strong response to the need to build the digital literacy of young people so they can navigate the jobs of the future. It is inevitable that the majority, if not all future jobs will incorporate technology in some shape or form.
It also addresses the need to encourage students to consider computing as a dynamic and exciting career pathway. There remains disparities in the education system with females less represented in studying STEM subjects at higher levels.
Dan’s message is simple. Teach boys and girls about gaming when they are young. Get them interested early so they stay engaged.