Computers are everywhere: waiting for us to enter them…waiting to enter us. Be them Desktop, Laptop, Netbook, Tablet, or Smartphone, computers have changed the way we do business and socially interact with others. The wonderful thing about them is that, for the most part, they have been manufactured and configured to be used by the general public without any intricate knowledge of computer hardware or programming. In fact, they have become a system of plug-and-play (or, in the case of tablets and smartphones, swipe-and-play).
As stated before, computers surround the whole world. People have become used to the ease with which their systems can accomplish tasks never before thought possible. By the same token, the general public has become detached from learning what it is that makes their electronic devices work, or how to make them better.
In public schools, there has been a drive to instill computer literacy into the student population. The learning includes basic manipulation of the operating system using a keyboard and mouse, installing software packages, using the Internet, and accessing electronic mail (e-mail). Further studies delve into data storage, security, and productivity applications, such as word processing and spreadsheet calculations.
The preceding statements take into account that students learn how to use a package that has been created for them. However, there is no real understanding of what it is that makes the product work, be it the hardware or software. This is similar to learning how to drive a car and, perhaps, learning how to give a tuneup without understanding the complexities of vehicle mechanics.
Within the public schools system, I have noticed an ideal amount of vocational high schools that cater to students that want to learn about the inner workings of computers. Besides mandated education curriculum, these students have an opportunity to learn a trade that is useful in the business world, such as computer repair, networking, programming, Web design and development, and Robotics. Let’s examine these routes and see how they apply in the real world:
Computer Support – While it seems that there is a growing number of people who are learning how to provide simple support and maintenance to their computer systems, we must understand that computers can be complex, and necessitates the need of a knowledgeable professional in certain situations. Therefore, learning basic electronics and computer hardware architecture will allow individuals to work as technicians in companies that provide physical repair. On the other hand, learning about operating systems will provide the tools to integrate them into the hardware, and obtain positions as systems analysts.
Networking – Pretty much everyone in the civilized world has access to the Internet. In fact, with the growing number of portable devices, the need to share access has grown. For that reason, people have become aware of routers, and that they provide an access point for every available device on the premises. What is needed is an understanding of how devices interact within a private network, and the public one, such as the Internet. Knowledgeable people in the field can obtain positions working as network line installers, telephone technicians, and network administrators.
Programming – With the booming of devices such as tablets and smartphones, a great deal of attention has been given to the fact that regular people can provide programs (“apps”) to these devices. Having a basic understanding of software architecture will provide learners with a greater emphasis on logic and methodologies. With the availability of open source programming environments, schools will be able to implement learning at a low cost, and allow students to learn languages that are used in the business world, such as C++, Java and Python. Recipients of such knowledge will be able to obtain high-level positions, such as computer analysts, computer programmers, and computer architects.
Web Design and Development – Every page that we visit on the Internet has been designed to inform the viewer about a certain topic. In the business world, Web pages have been designed to allow prospective clients to interact with a company by allowing the input of personal information. Further, financial transactions are allowed by the use of trusted and secured sites. As a Web developer, students will learn about electronic commerce, scripting, networking, security, and HTML5.
Robotics – There is a misconception that robotics involve the creation of human-looking machines. In simple terms, robotics involve the merging of mechanical movable parts, a controlling board, and the programming know-how to make everything work smoothly. With the popularity of low-cost, open source micro-controllers, such as the Arduino, hobbyists have gotten a taste of how to administer simple commands in order to make a machine perform a task. Real-life usage can be applied in the domestic, commercial, and military fields.
In order to be better prepared for the job market, public schools should create more programs that will allow students to gain the technical knowledge to compete in the business world. The technology sector is growing exponentially, and the need for qualified people to join the ranks is growing, as well. If the students are given the right tools to go out into the job market, their knowledge will help them to succeed in the technology world.