Code Academy, Treehouse, Lynda, Pluralsight. What do these have in common? These are names of online technology schools that have gained a foothold in the market of teaching coding skills to the general public. There is no age requirement or education prerequisite; all it takes is the will to learn coding. Aside from these schools, there are also dozens of coding bootcamps that have sprung up in recent years. Fifteen to twenty years ago, computer coding was an obscure skill reserved only for the elite few. The thought of loops and obscure symbols was intimidating enough for me that I shunned computer science in my formative education. Turn the clock forward twenty years, coding schools have mushroomed into a whole new education industry. It is an industry willing to teach anyone coding skills sometimes even for free.
Every industry arises to serve a purpose. The technology education industry is a fantastic and a growing industry that fills in the current skills gap in coding. While the intention is to prepare students for a technology-driven future with the skills needed to compete in a post-industrial world, such emphasis on the hard skills may not be sufficient. To compete successfully in the future, it is also important that our society and culture encourage what humans do best – creativity and imagination. What differentiates the human mind is the ability to think in abstract terms. To create is more than the ability to draw, paint, write, and play a concerto. To create is to be able marry elements of multiple disciplines. As a long-time fan of Leonardo Da Vinci ( I am currently reading “Leonardo Da Vinci“, a fantastic biography by none other than the respected biographer Walter Isaacson), Da Vinci’ s life reminds me of the power of the human mind. If somebody 500 years ago was able to change the world with his curiosity, imagination and discipline, what stops us right now? I believe that the technical skills are a tool much like Da Vinci’s paint brush in the 1400’s, but the real machine that drives us forward is creativity and imagination. What you do with the technical skills really depends on the limits of your mind.
There is great value in our new emphasis on technology education. What used to be an obscure field has become accessible to anyone regardless of their previous education background. In a way, the rise of this new industry has lowered the barrier to entry to an exciting field. At the same time, we should not lose sight of the fact that each one of us has the power to unleash creativity and imagination with our newfound tools. And when that happens, it is highly doubtful that we will ever be made obsolete by artificial intelligence. I am certain that Leonardo will be smiling down upon us.