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Preparing kids of today for careers of tomorrow

FARGO, N.D. -- While teachers and chaperones quickly recognized the annoying screech, the sound of a '90s dial-up modem caused bemused looks on the faces of third-, fourth- and fifth-graders.

Joel Kaczynski of RDO Equipment demonstrates drone flight at the Marketplace For Kids Technology Education Day event. Kaczynski stressed how technology changes even legacy industries. Alexandra Floersch / The Forum
Even the most intricate designs can be constructed by 3-D printers. Alexandra Floersch/the Forum

FARGO, N.D. - While teachers and chaperones quickly recognized the annoying screech, the sound of a ’90s dial-up modem caused bemused looks on the faces of third-, fourth- and fifth-graders.

A sound that was the norm for one generation is no longer recognized by another. This was the exact point industry professionals were trying to make at a recent event geared toward educating kids about entrepreneurship and innovation: technology is changing everything.
“Game Boy Color versus iPad. My youth versus yours,” said entrepreneur Joe Burgum, who spoke to the students April 29 during the Marketplace For Kids Technology Education Day.
When Burgum asked how many students had ever used an iPad, all hands rose in enthusiasm. A device that was considered a luxury when first invented six years ago has become a familiar classroom learning tool today.
“You are the pioneers of the next generation,” Burgum said to the students. “You will have jobs that have never existed.”
While experts in the industry can’t necessarily teach children about the jobs or technology that may exist in their future, they can show them how to remain progressive, innovative and fearless of change.
It’s a task educators and economic development groups alike have taken on - ensuring today’s students will succeed in future careers by promoting these entrepreneurial skills.
Examples include the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA) and the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corp.’s Education that Works initiative, as well as Marketplace for Kids, a nonprofit that promotes creativity, problem-solving and innovation.

Remaining curious
Adrian Dawson-Becker, digital content chief at Forum Communications Co., illustrates the idea with a parable:
A man was preparing ham for Christmas. His son asked him, “Why do you cut the ends off the ham?” The man responded, “I don’t know, my mom did.” When the man asked his mother for her reason, she responded, “Because the ham wouldn’t fit in the pan.”
Remaining curious is vital in a technology-centered world. “We always need to ask ourselves, ‘Why am I doing it this way?’” Dawson-Becker said. The same standards, rules or procedures that applied to one generation may not necessarily apply to the future.
Take agriculture, for example. What started as manual seed sowing transitioned into an ox-powered wooden plow and eventually into today’s hi-tech equipment programmed with GPS technology for precision planting and spraying.
According to Joel Kaczynski of RDO Equipment, those aren’t the only ways the agriculture industry is advancing. Unmanned aircrafts, or drones, have been integrated into several industries, including ecommerce, filmmaking and photography, armed forces and farming. In agriculture, drones allow farmers to survey fields and monitor crop yields in ways they’ve never been able to before.
The agriculture industry isn’t the only one enabled by technology. In the photography industry, programs like Photoshop have fueled imagination and created brand new jobs for digital image editors. In marketing and advertising, social media - a platform intended to connect people - has become a useful outlet for marketing, creating positions for social media marketing specialists.
Consider the possibilities of 3-D printing. Today, NASA uses the technology to print tools in space that may not otherwise withstand launch. But according to John Schneider of Fargo 3D Printing, the future of three-dimensional printing holds so much more, including the ability to manufacture houses and produce working human organs.

Creating the future
Classrooms that once taught standard English and math have evolved. Application and website development - jobs that didn’t exist years ago - are now a part of elementary education. Events like the North Dakota Youth Film Festival introduce students to skills and career paths that were only previously available to those who pursued the field in college.
In the end, looking back on how technology has changed in the last 10 years gives little insight into the future. Technology is advancing exponentially. So fast, in fact, that even those in the heart of the industry cannot predict what is to come.
“I’m not qualified to talk about the future,” said Dan Leeaphon, the principal software engineer manager at Microsoft, told students at last month’s event. “You guys are creating it.”
With a future that’s so unpredictable, the only thing to be certain of is change. What does that mean for kids today?
“Stay curious,” Burgum said.

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