Guest Speaker, Anyone?

How to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s high-paying computer science jobs.

GUEST COLUMN | by Ross Smith

The job market for computer science careers is booming, creating huge opportunities for your students —if they’re armed with the correct skills and inspiration. Unfortunately, many schools do not have formal computer classes that get kids excited about the magic of technology. As an engineer, I am doing my part to change this, one classroom at a time, by meeting with students through the free online platform for teachers, “Skype in the classroom.” Having worked in the technology industry for more than 20 years, I want kids to discover the joy of computer science by introducing a human face to coding. 

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

—Arthur C. Clarke

I’m excited that Skype in the classroom has partnered with Code.org to support the 2014 Hour of Code and get even more kids enthusiastic about these unfilled jobs as coders, developers, program managers, product designers and more. Teachers can sign up to have students hear first-hand from technology experts from different disciplines in computer science, from data scientists to graphic artists to programmers. They’ll learn about the industry from real people and, we hope, get hooked enough to take the next step. By volunteering to speak to students across the globe about my day-to-day responsibilities and the thrilling projects I am lucky enough to work on, I hope to introduce the next generation to the incredible potential of coding and computer science.

I encourage all teachers to check out this video to learn more about the program and see how impactful a Skype conversation is on both the students and the tech professionals. Then follow this link and find a tech professional to bring into your classroom. It takes less than one minute to get started but that investment will yield huge returns for your students.

If you’re not familiar with Skype in the classroom, then you’re missing out on an incredible and easy way to transform your lesson plans by taking students out of your classroom and into the world — without complicated or expensive field trips. Skype in the classroom is a free teacher resource that brings experts from science, business, the arts, history, and more right into your classroom. It also directly connects classrooms so students across the globe can share experiences and learning opportunities. More than 400,000 educators across 235 countries and/or territories are collaborating on thousands of lesson projects in 66 languages.

The evolution of almost every industry will involve technology. In 1962, futurist Arthur C. Clarke wrote that, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” and that’s really what technology, and software in particular, will bring us. The combination of imagination and software will take us beyond our wildest dreams of today into a tomorrow that will be just as amazing as touchscreen mobile devices would have been in ancient Egypt. Coding skills will allow the next generation to participate in this magical invention of the future.

Even beyond the demographics that will make it easier to find a job when they grow older, young people with computer science skills will be in the driver’s seat to create a new way of thinking, acting, communicating, interacting and entertaining.

I invite you to sign up and get your students on track to fill those unfilled tech jobs ahead of us.

Can’t join the 2014 Hour of Code? Students, teachers and tech professionals will continue the conversation throughout the school year through Skype in the classroom and Microsoft’s YouthSpark initiative, which is committed to expanding access to computer science education resources and opportunities!

Ross Smith is an Hour of Code participant and Director of Test for Skype. He is based in Redmond, WA and has been working for Microsoft for 23 years and looks forward to speaking to classrooms across the world about his work in computer science as part of the Skype in the classroom and Code.org partnership.

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