The dawn of the digital renaissance
I am beginning to see the future. Working with high school students helps you do that. Our business and political leaders are not the future, it’s the newly minted young adults that are. And they live in a world that is very differently from ours.
I have heard the complaints about this younger generation – that they are unmotivated and lazy. Or that they are not willing to pay the price of admission to success that we paid, but, instead, are impatient and want it all now.
The more that I spend time with this generation the more that I realize the disconnect between their world and ours. They are the first true digital generation whose fluency with electronic devices makes our heads spin. But we continue to teach them the same way that we did fifty years ago, in a slow, plodding and often painful journey with unclear goals. No wonder we have a crisis of relevancy and our graduation rates are suffering.
That is not how they are wired. As never before in the history of mankind, they have access to tool sets that allow them to quickly acquire knowledge they need on the fly or, with a click, connect themselves to someone with expertise they need. But what they are missing is often a purpose to focus their potential. Put that piece in place, I believe, and we will be able to help them unleash an amazing creative genius which will underpin a new age, birthing a digital renaissance.
So I did an experiment. We took five students who did not know how to write a single line of software code, matched them up with a developer who had never taught kids, threw them at a problem that was really important for them, and watched what happened.
This was a classic information problem. In high schools, kids don’t know what is going on. There are so many announcements, both general ones and for clubs, sports, etc, that the information flow is overwhelming. On top of that, the primary means by which announcements are communicated are incredibly ineffective for reaching kids. Announcements are emailed to them (but no one reads email in this generation) or they are read over telephone speakers in the front of the classroom (where they are almost impossible to hear).
The kids said, look, we need to have our announcements on our mobile phones with easily customizable filters so that we are able to focus on those that are relevant to us.
In two short meetings, they mapped out the solution for a new mobile app and an underlying management system for the announcements and then started coding using agile methodologies and putting together a solution using readily available technologies and platforms. Six months later they are ready to release their beta version in what may be the most sophisticated dynamic messaging solution for any high school in the country.
Never underestimate these kids. They are going to transform the world.