Mind the (tech) gap


Google - it’s everyone’s friend. Trying to find a place to eat tonight? Google it. Want to know the capital of Afghanistan? Google it. Need a new sofa? Google it. The search engine giant has become so entrenched in our lives that we use it as a verb. You’d have to search long and hard to find someone who doesn’t understand what you mean when you utter the words ‘let’s just google it’. Or at least that’s what I thought until I had an interesting encounter with my mother...

Last Saturday afternoon she wandered into the living room and asked me to help search for her keys...this is what happened next:

Mum: Nisha, I’ve lost my keys
Nisha: Well where did you last have them?
Mum: I can’t remember; can’t you just Google where they are?
Nisha: Erm…

My mother is an intelligent woman. She meets all of the requirements needed from a mother – unconditional love, patience, occasional nagging about how I really ought to find a man and settle down (or is that just my mother..?) But ‘tech savvy’ isn’t her forte. Sure, she can speak four languages, but she still struggles with the Sky remote. When I lived abroad, our weekly FaceTime chats would end with me instructing her on how to end the call “press the big red button Mum!”

Tech turmoils aren’t just limited to my mother. While my mother seems to have been ‘left behind’ in this age of technology, the class of five year olds I taught in a previous life were quite the opposite. When faced with using a laptop, the machines became a source of great frustration for the class. Unfamiliar with the trackpad, they resorted to the familiar method of tapping on the screen, after all this was a class full of iPad users. They’d collectively zoomed past all of the tech that had led to evolution of the iPad and were dumbstruck when presented with something as archaic as a laptop. “But Miss, how do you play Angry Birds if you can’t tap the screen?” was a question that tested my patience more than once.

These two experiences aren’t isolated either, friends, family and colleagues all share similar tales of tech misconceptions and knowledge gaps. Once we push aside the humour of my mother’s Google theory and a class of five years olds furiously attacking a laptop screen, we’re faced with some broader questions: how do we cater for those who have missed the tech train? And how do we bridge the skills gap emerging in our industry?

Code Club

There’s a host of organisations aimed at tackling tech literacy from a young age. Cogworks’ CEO Adam Shallcross is involved with one such organisation: Code Club. This is a volunteer led movement dedicated to giving children the opportunity to get more hands on with tech. Adam set up a CodeClub that runs every Wednesday afternoon at his son’s school. His motivation? “I wanted to get children interested in tech at a young age, and hopefully bridge the massive gap of skills in our industry. They all do bits as part of the curriculum now anyway, so it’s just to help them do a bit more.” 

Interested in volunteering at your local CodeClub? Sign up here.

While organisations like CodeClub focus on upskilling the young to create the next generation of coders, others focus on creating digital natives in older generations. 

Basic training

If you’re looking for hands on support look no further than Barclay’s Tea and Teach sessions. These sessions are aimed at those who are not confident with things that others may consider tech ‘basics’. Their so called ‘digital eagles’ train people up on computer and internet basics, with the added bonus of tea and cake in a relaxed environment. 

Or alternatively, Age UK also offers Computer Training Courses designed to help older people get up-to-date with the online world. Course topics include: staying safe online, making the most of the internet and computer basics (don’t worry, they have tea and cake too!).

For the budding coders...

There are a myriad of resources aimed at newbie coders who want to learn from the comfort of their own home. Our favourite is Code Academy which offers extensive training across a number of languages. Cogwork’s developer @callumbwhyte recommends the HTML, CSS & JavaScript courses for anyone interested in web development: “They give you a decent basis for nearly any programming language. Then for software development I’d recommend C, C++, C# or Java”.

If you’re not one to sit behind a screen, there’s a host of great community events aimed at beginner coders. Cogworks’ own  Umbraco festival is one of these very events. Landing in London on November 3rd and 4th the festival has a number of sessions dedicated to coders that are just starting out.  Check out our festival website for more info. 

The moral of the story? You’re never too young, nor too old to hop on the tech train! There’s a wealth of resources out there designed to help you embark on your journey. So what are you waiting for? Locate your keys and off you go!