Picture the scene - you are back in school, it’s Friday afternoon, the last Friday before the Christmas holiday, and you have guest speaker coming to talk to you about something to do with computers...
This is the situation I found myself in as I stood at the front of a classroom starting to fill with students shuffling in from the cold. “Hello, Paul”, shouted one cheeky student, as I remembered that my name was emblazoned on the first page of my PowerPoint behind me. “Over to you, sir”, smiled a teacher as she ushered the last of the restless students in to their seats - gulp!
I was at Coopers School in Chislehurst after agreeing to talk to Year 13 students (upper 6th in old money) about how IT is used in business. The Year 13s were also joined by Year 11 students (5th year) looking to take ICT or Computer Science as an A-level option. My plan was to provide the students with an overview of how we employ various aspects of IT in our business as a means to inspire them in their future choices.
After introducing myself and giving a brief overview of what The Hireman does, I set about breaking the students’ syllabus down into real world applications. The first part of my talk was about networks.
Within moments I realised that I had pitched my Multi-Protocol Label Switching analogy a bit too high for the students’ current level of understanding. So with some on-the-fly rejigging I engaged them with a Packet-tracing exercise to demonstrate how business networks operate compared to their home broadband network.
From here on the students settled in to the pace of the presentation and were spurred on by the odd reward of a Hireman pen for well-answered questions. I demonstrated how we track our vehicles, and manage our stock database, as well as covering areas such as social media, software, websites and emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Automation. All key factors which will impact them when they join the workforce in a few years’ time.
As I moved from slide to slide I was impressed with the students’ enthusiasm for the digital world. For what can be quite a dry subject, I was pleasantly surprised by their innate understanding of what can be abstract theories when it comes to websites and SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and the relationships we may have with Artificial Intelligence in the future. It’s easy to forget that this is a generation that has grown up with smart devices and high-speed internet and they are truly switched on to the fast changing world around them.
I was also pleased (and relieved!) at how friendly and polite all of the students were. It isn’t easy coming in as an outsider to talk to 30+ students (and staff) but they made me feel very welcome. I hope that the students got something out of my presentation and that they will see IT as a vital element to any role they will have in the future. Who knows, I may have been talking to the next Mark Zuckerberg.