When analysts talk about the digital divide, they tend to focus on the differences between the haves and have-nots. Increasingly, I see a more important division between those who understand what the digital economy holds — and how to take advantage — and those who remain stuck in the pre-digital mindset that may be increasingly irrelevant.
This contrast was recently thrown into sharp relief for me. Just days after a tour of the Tesla car factory in the US where I saw first-hand self-driving vehicles being assembled by robots, I was party to a conversation with someone lamenting the lack of young people wanting to become truck drivers.
If Australia is to capitalise on the opportunities of the digital age and build a prosperous digital economy, we need a different mindset — one that recognises how to leverage and harness emerging disruptive technologies to pave the way for new jobs and industries, not just perpetuate old ones.
The key to changing mindsets is education. The challenge for Australia right now is ensuring our education system delivers forward-thinking, digital-savvy workers and entrepreneurs who can capitalise on rapidly converging technologies including automated algorithms, machine learning, artificial intelligence, big data, Blockchain and the internet of things.
I’m not talking about curriculum — we already have agreement on the need for more STEM and digital technology subjects to equip our future workforce. I’m talking about making sure we invest in our ICT teachers with the appropriate skills and empower them to deliver the new digital and technology curriculum in a way that engages and inspires our young people.
Despite the fact that demand for STEM-related jobs such as ICT and engineering is growing at a rate 50 per cent higher than other professions, there has been a marked decline in Australia’s performance and engagement levels in STEM subjects against international standards over the past decade. According to the National STEM School Education Strategy, arresting this performance shortfall will require a range of complementary measures to:
• increase student ability, engagement, participation and aspiration
• increase teacher capacity and STEM teaching quality
• support STEM education opportunities within schools
• facilitate effective partnerships with tertiary education providers, business and industry
• build a strong evidence base.
While various initiatives have been introduced in recent years to improve ICT school education and drive interest in STEM-related studies and careers, Australia deserves a co-ordinated program capable of delivering an integrated approach.
The ACS looks forward to meeting with federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham later this month to discuss our proposal for the introduction of a comprehensive model based on the successful British Computing at School (CaS) program. Co-ordinated and managed under the auspices of BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, the CaS program has provided professional development for more than 25,000 ICT teachers at 1600 schools since 2013.
Modelling the proven British approach, the ACS proposes an Australian ICT Educators Program to establish and co-ordinate a professional ICT teaching practice. The program would create collaborative networks between schools, universities, industry and professional bodies to facilitate the delivery of high-quality, low-cost professional development that help teachers better engage with digital technologies and quickly build their knowledge and skills.
By gaining access to the world-class resources and proven BCS delivery models, we can effectively shortcut the work involved in implementing the program.
This challenge is not unique to Australia. It is a global issue that nations must recognise and embrace. Those early on this curve will be first to benefit in the race for digitally savvy human capital.
Our ASEAN neighbour Malaysia has also embarked on the race for digital skills, declaring 2017 to be the Year of the Internet Economy. I look forward to joining world-renowned speaker Don Tapscott next month to present at the first international ICT infrastructure and Digital Economy Conference Sarawak 2017.
Anthony Wong is president of the ACS and chief executive of AGW Consulting P/L, a multidisciplinary ICT, intellectual property legal and consulting practice.
At littleBits, we love to celebrate! This month, we’re celebrating International Women’s Day by spotlighting ground-breaking, historical women who succeeded in science, technology, engineering, art, and math. In other words, they’re total STEAM rockstars! We believe it’s essential to celebrate these pioneers who changed the world.
Read about the women who invented the world they wanted to live in, and how they made an impact on our lives.
Stephanie was a game-changing American Chemist. She is well-known for inventing synthetic fibers, such as Kevlar in 1965. Kevlar is commonly found in racing sails, bicycle tires, and even body armor! This synthetic fiber can withstand high impacts. We think that’s pretty cool.
Learn more about Stephanie’s discovery of Kevlar below:
Did you know that Grace Hopper was one of the first computer programmers on the Harvard Mark I Computer and a US Navy admiral? In 1944, she worked on this project, and she also invented the first compiler for a computer programming language! President Barack Obama posthumously awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.
Want to know more about Grace’s amazing life? Check out this video:
Cynthia Breazeal is changing the world of engineering as we know it with robots. In graduate school at MIT, she developed Kismet, an expressive robot who interacted with humans. She has continued to be a pioneer in robotics as an associate professor at MIT where new robots are invented to interact with humans and improve daily life.
And, don’t forget to catch her fascinating TED Talk: The Rise of Personal Robots.
Zaha Hadid was an Iraqi-British architect, and the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize. Zaha is best known for her neo-futuristic style with curved lines and multiple perspective points. Even though she passed away in 2016, many of Zaha’s designs are being released posthumously, including the 2022 FIFA World Cup stadium.
If you’re looking for more of Zaha’s larger-than-life designs, watch these two video below for insights on her architecture style and the buildings she made around the world:
Maryam Mirzakhani is the first woman to be awarded the Fields Medal, which is the highest mathematics award in the world. You can think of it as the Nobel Prize for mathematics (because there isn’t a math Nobel Prize!). She received this award due to her remarkable achievements in new discovery in the Riemann Surface. You can learn more about it here.
Maryam hopes her award will inspire other budding female mathematicians to follow in her footsteps:
“This is a great honor. I will be happy if it encourages young female scientists and mathematicians. I am sure there will be many more women winning this kind of award in coming years.”
Learn more about Maryam’s life and how she got inspired to be a mathematician:
Arckit is a freeform architectural modelling kit. It can be used by architects and designers or by those learning about architecture and developing their skills.
Arckit was originally designed for use by architects to save time on the traditionally time-intensive way models are constructed. Arckit now also focuses on STEM / STEAM education to develop future architects and encourage a wider interest in architecture.
Arckit's newer coloured kits (which are compatible with the rest of the range) are recommended for age 10+.
Disclaimer: Arckit sent us an Arckit A360 set to review. As usual our opinions are our own.
We met up with the Arckit team at both the London Toy Fair and Bett exhibitions. We already knew about their product but were keen to find out more.
At Bett I was working on the Friday and my children went round the exhibition with their Dad. At the end of the day my 10 year old came up and said 'Mum, there's something you've got to see.' Bear in mind that Bett is utterly packed with awesome tech. The 'something' was Arckit. Apparently my kids had spent ages at the Arckit stand building things and talking to Damien Murtagh the inventor and CEO of Arckit.
The larger Arckit sets come in a sturdy box which is intended for long term storage. The outer slip cover slides off and can be discarded.
The box has a magnetic closure which we love, this is our favourite kind of closure as it's quick and easy and looks tidy. Inside there are storage trays with plastic dividers so you can keep your Arckit pieces organised.
Elbrie opened the set and tried it first with her family, she would have preferred fewer plastic bags to open and discard!
We're a bit obsessed with packaging as it's so important for making it easy to get a kit out and put it away. If that becomes a hassle then it discourages kids and parents from making the most of a kit. Arckit has got this spot on.
The packaging is a sensible size for its contents so it doesn't take up too much space and its really practical for storing the parts in an organised way. You could say the packaging is very well-architected.
The parts are high quality, this definitely feels like a premium product.
You can just dive in and start making but we think it's worth taking some time to find out how the parts fit together. There are a few tricks you need to learn. My kids were lucky enough to learn these from Damien Murtagh himself and shared them with me.
Each kit includes instructions for a model to build. It's a good idea to build this model first to get a feel for how Arckit goes together. Once you've done that you can go on to free form modelling.
Our Initial Experience
My kids were very excited to get building. We had a large kit so I was able to join in. There were enough pieces for the three of us to work at the same time with a bit of compromise and design constraint. We got the kit out after our evening meal and I had to drag the kids away from it just before 9 o'clock! When I came down the next morning my 10 year old had already dismantled his previous creation and built a new structure.
I was glad that I got hands on with Arckit as it gave me a really good understanding of how it works. My 10 year old seems to have a real affinity for the concept as he made amazing structures appear in no time while I worked away on a small boxy building! He built and rebuilt several large structures while I made one!
My eight year old was also able to work with Arckit though not as quickly as his brother. He also made several structures though they were smaller. He verbalises everything so he talked through the whole process of working out how the pieces fit together: "Ah, you need corner pieces here, do the other pieces fit next to them?, good." and "Hmm, I can't put floor pieces inside because the walls get in the way. I can use them on the roof." "Oh so that's what the little corner bits are for.", "Hmm, if I do this there's a gap here and there aren't any pieces that size so I can't do that."
Putting Arckit pieces together requires careful thought and manual dexterity. Work in progress models can be somewhat fragile and sometimes it's tricky to get everything lined up well. As you work with Arckit you get better at these things. Initially the pieces can be a little stiff to get together and perfectionists will find themselves trying to squeeze the parts together to get a neat join.
My kids were happy with the fiddliness compared to LEGO as a trade-off for more sophisticated models. Some children may not be. You should definitely be aware that there's skill and patience involved in building with Arckit. I don't consider this to be a bad thing, my kids need more activities that develop their fine-motor control skills beyond muscle memory for the Minecraft keyboard commands (we love Minecraft, just not all the time!)
As you work with Arckit you find yourself thinking about architectural concerns such as making sure there's enough room at the top and bottom of the stairs and that there will be enough natural light.
Adhesive Media Sheets
Arckit sets also include adhesive media sheets that can be cut and added to buildings to create the effect of wood, stone, tile etc. The Arckit 360 kit includes both pre-printed sheets and plain sheets that you can print on with an Ink Jet printer. You can download designs from the Arckit website or use your own.
We'll return to these sheets in a future article. At the moment my kids are enjoying the building process and are quickly building and taking apart models as they develop their ideas.
Once they're happy with a design we'll try out the media sheets (we have some interesting ideas on how we can use them.)
Arckit vs LEGO
Obviously comparisons will be drawn with LEGO. My kids felt that ArcKit feels much more grown-up that LEGO. LEGO has chunky pieces whereas ArcKit uses slim walls.
Arckit is a great progression from LEGO for older children that allows them to specialise in more realistic modelling.
Arckit is harder to work with than LEGO physically, at least at first, but the limited number of parts actually reduces complexity and allows you to build larger structures more quickly.
Incidently, Arckit make perfect models for LEGO minifigures.
Arckit and Minecraft
Again there's a connection between Minecraft and Arckit. A lot of children spend huge amounts of time building in Minecraft. They plan and construct amazing buildings in virtual space.
Arckit gives those children an opportunity to make use of and enhance the skills they have developed. I love my kids spending time with Minecraft but I'm always conscious of the need for them to also keep developing their physical skills.
Arckit for STEAM
Arckit combines engineering and creative design skills so it's a fantastic tool for STEAM learning (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths.) Arckit has STEAM course materials available for use in schools and clubs.
I'm finding that my kids are full of ideas on how they can use Arckit as the base for projects using crafting, 3D printing, electronics and other STEAM techniques.
Arckit and Electronics
Arckit is just asking for electronics to be added! We'll definitely be returning to that topic.
My eight year old couldn't resist though. Arckit's white surfaces are just asking for coloured lights so he soon had accent lighting rigged up with an LED and coin cell battery.
Arckit and 3D Modelling and Printing
Arckit parts are available for the SketchUp 3D modelling tool which means that you can create designs digitally before building them.
Arckit are also working on additional parts that you can order as 3D printed parts from Shapeways.
We'll explore these features in a future post.
The Arckit Range
Arkit have a range of kits from small starter kits through to the large kit that we reviewed. There are lots of options at a range of price points.
They recently added a brightly coloured kit designed to appeal to a younger audience with a recommended age of 10+. The recommended age of the larger kits is 14+.
Arckit is a huge hit in our house. My kids are bubbling over with ideas for what they want to do with it.
It's difficult to recommend a starting age for Arckit because kids are so different. My eight year old was happy working with it but he has a lot of patience and spends a lot of time with construction toys and maker activities. I can imagine that plenty of 10 year old's wouldn't have the patience and fine motor skills required. Having said that, Arckit is a great way to develop those skills too!
Arckit will certainly appeal to tweens and teens. It's a great option for young people with an interest in architecture and design and those whose STEAM interest has a strong Arts (design) bias.
Just treat this as a modelling and STEAM educational product and it's fantastic. Arckit is a premium product, but if you're the kind of family that will make the most of it then it's worth the money.
Statistics have shown that too many students spend tens of thousands of dollars to attend college and graduate with degrees in the humanities, fine arts or similar areas that they have difficulty finding jobs in. There are fewer and fewer students pursuing degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. As a result, there is also an inadequate number of qualified teachers who are able to teach effectively in these subjects.
One of the problems is pop culture glamorizes fine arts, social sciences and the humanities over more practical jobs. Science, technology, engineering and math are all areas that are in high demand and can be quite lucrative, but they’re not exciting enough to elicit the attention from the majority of students.
Degrees in STEM areas open so many doors. Not only do these students have more access to scholarships to pay for school, they have a better chance of getting a job after graduation.
Job placement is a concern for every college student and the openings in these fields increase annually along with the growing demand for newer and more user-friendly technology.
The federal government sees the lack of interest in STEM fields as an increasing national problem that needs to be addressed at a young age, which is why it seeks to offer students the chance to learn computer programming in grades K-12.
The United States Department of Education has created a committee on STEM education (CoSTEM), comprised of 13 agencies, to facilitate a “cohesive national strategy” to improve the quality of education in these fields as well as “increasing and sustaining public and youth engagement with STEM.”
As a nation, we rely so heavily on technology in all aspects of life, to have a highly functional government, create grade A weapons, sustain a growing economy, etc.
Likewise, UND has created its own STEM initiative. The UND STEM Faculty Work Group addresses “the continued need to recruit, retain, and graduate students in the STEM discipline.”
Furthermore, they state, “students in all disciplines at UND should be educated to be STEM-literate citizens, empowered with 21st century skills of collaboration, creativity, communication and critical thinking (the Four C’s).”
The goals for this Work Group is to create easier entry into STEM and spread awareness of the importance of STEM in hopes of generating more interest as well as continuing to monitor the industry and “identify national trends in STEM Education.”
The National Association of Colleges and Employers reported that “STEM graduates are expected to receive the highest starting salaries.”
According to the survey taken, “more than half of the employer’s” plan to hire “graduates with bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields” making these degrees the most valuable. The average salaries in 2016 for bachelor’s degrees in engineering, computer science, math and sciences, and business range from over $50,000 to around $65,000.
STEM graduates stand to live a better quality of life, making enough to support their households, as well as job sustainability because of the reliability of the industry.
From a national concern to local implementation, students are able, now more than ever, to successfully pursue degrees in these vitally important areas. Knowledge of computer programming and the growing need for technology only increases the viability of this industry. However, getting students to realize this is the issue.
Sure, you may know that Pitbull is a successful recording artist, and die hard fans know him as “Mr. Worldwide,” but what you may not know about Armando Christian Perez will surprise you.
On February 1st, the Miami-born and raised music icon better known as Pitbull will have a conversation with Palm Beach Post Reporter, Leslie Streeter for the distinct purpose of helping the Palm Beach State College Foundation’s 2017 STEAM Initiative.
"Everyone knows Pitbull is one of the most successful recording artists of our time, but what many don't realize is that he is also a leading tech innovator and arts education proponent," said event chair and nationally honored arts advocate, Yvonne Boice. "We are thrilled that he will be our speaker this year and that he will be sharing his inspiring success story that now melds so many aspects of the STEAM disciplines."
The 2017 STEAM Luncheon is presented by Bank of America and will take place at 11:30 a.m. at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts Cohen Pavilion in West Palm Beach.
Pitbull’s belief in higher education and growing from nothing to something is evident by his creation of one of West Palm’s newest charter schools — SLAM! (Sports, Leadership, Arts and Management). The school could be a direct feeder to Palm Beach State, according to Suellen Mann, executive director of the Foundation.
If Pitbull’s interest in STEAM has piqued your interest, check out these five cool jobs a STEAM education would prepare you for.