The Voice of IoT. June 2020

Why the youth are important for the future of IoT

Internet of Things, or IoT, is the part of computer technology where software meets the hardware, where hardware generates data streams, and where data streams feed into automated interaction with the components in our real world. In short, IoT is about connected elements in the world. Our connected world was not created in one day. It is a result of a gradual change, in small daily steps almost invisible to our tech savvy audience with their daily interest in technology.
Marco van Schagen. Founder of Junior IOT. The Netherlands
Paola Rodrigues. Co-Founder of Junior IOT International.
And while the change progressed it was possible for anyone to ignore the change, be it for a while. In the world as I know it, IoT is everywhere: every person today owns a few items which are based on connected technology. I cannot imagine a world without mobile phones, gps navigation or accurate time tables for public transportation. It is clear to me today that connected technology is everywhere. Life is good. Our connected world is the works of a great number of tech savvy workers. These are the people responsible for the design, production and implementation of our technology. This is our workforce in the beautiful world of technology – let’s call them the lucky few.
Now imagine this gradual change to continue far beyond what we have today. If progress increases at the same speed, we may soon realize that all and any ‘old technology’ has been adjusted, extended, updated by adding some sort of connected technology. The day might come where you expect your teacup to give you a status update. (leave out the reference to ‘resistance is futile’)
Compared to the lucky few who have enabled all of today’s connected technology, tomorrow we will need a bigger workforce with possibly a different mindset. Can our average student pick up this technology quickly and efficiently through the traditional learning paths? This may well be our biggest question in enabling all this future technology. While our today’s lucky few had the opportunity to shape their own path with personal experience, inspired learning and/or specialized training, this is not how our educational system is designed.

Classroom training as we see today may not be the most efficient approach for the technology subjects in the field of IoT. Practical approach – as known as hands-on - is proven to be one of the most effective learning methods according to researchers. Accordingly, at Junior IOT the hands-on learning in a technology lab environment is designed (or rather, evolved) as a fun and effective approach to bring technology and science inspiration to young generations. Outstripping the traditional school classroom’s approach, Junior IOT encourages youngsters to engage in creative ways with technology, sensors and other IoT programmable devices. Taking the teacher out of the picture, or rather restricting the teacher to a facilitating role, our learners are no longer restricted to yesterday’s knowledge and we can tap into the power of ‘learning-by-doing’. To our surprise, this concept allows participants in very young age groups to understand, apply and master the concepts of today’s technology. In our environment we indeed see more and more young pupils transforming themselves into the tech-hungry tech-savvy creators and designers that we will need.

This young and fresh generation is now a critical part of how the people around us will be dealing with 21st century challenges. Being able to navigate technology at these very early ages certainly has its advantages. Self-confident in creating the technology they need they are able to modify their relationship with the world around them.

On top of this self-confidence we need to apply a good layer of self-awareness. Designing IoT devices and collecting data will help in their personal journey in discovering and supporting good initiatives among citizens. IoT will help these groups in improving the quality of life in their part of the world. Initiatives such as Citizen Science are aiming to help to balance the needs of a healthy and sustainable society, where a self-conscious generation will be able to get inspired by those progressive ideas to shape their future. Able to modify their relationship with the world around them, they will discover the need to answer to many moral and ethical factors. Teaching the basic 21st century skills on a regular basis will prepare this generation for a healthy cooperation in these challenges.

Enabling tomorrow’s generation to take responsibility in the technical world we created, this is exactly why it is so important today to activate a constant effort in STEM subjects, by creating spaces like Junior IOT and by supporting STEM approach in schools. We cannot lean back now – a lack of confidence today to support these goals, will deny us the possibility to refresh those ‘lucky few’ who created the wave of technology of today. If we do not keep the pressure on, we will remain with a generation stuck in a more passive interaction with technology, while we so desperately need to inspire our new generation to an understanding of what is happening ‘under the hood’.

The field of IoT as an embedded (pun intended) part of our world today has an essential need for this fresh and powerful mindset of growth. The market of the future is big, huge, unthinkable.

Technology of tomorrow will be mind-numbing, at least for us, the old folks. We need to pick up our role in activating this empowerment and hunger for technology. We need to inspire for this hunger in everyone, in our main-stream workers and designers, in our revolutionary people, and in our most modest people. We especially need those who are able to think the unthinkable, who can and will continue to shape and build the future around us.

It is our job to create the creators of the future.
“No one is born fully-formed: it is through self-experience in the world that we become what we are.” ― Paulo Freire

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