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Nine Things We Heard at WASTC

The National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) recently delivered a presentation at the virtual WASTC Winter ICT Educators conference that discussed best practices for hosting professional development events – you can download our slide deck here. (The CTC’s sister grant “IT Skill Standards 2020 and Beyond” also did a presentation on engaging employers to align curriculum to industry needs.) Recordings of select conference sessions and keynotes can be viewed here. As has become tradition, the National CTC was kindly invited to serve on the conference’s planning committee and also supported the attendance of a few educators from the Convergence College Network (CCN) community. While this event has been virtual since 2021, plans are underway for the 2024 edition of the WASTC conference to return to its traditional pre-COVID, in-person format in San Jose, California.

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The WASTC Winter ICT Educators conference always offers a valuable “big picture” look at trends and practices in the education and industry landscape, particularly from the point of view of educators and employers on the West Coast.

Here’s a sample of some of the more memorable things we heard during the event…

1. One of the more important employee “soft skills” is being able to effectively communicate technical points to non-technical business people. Students need to learn to adjust their message to the skill level of their audience.

2. Hackers are playing a long game of stealing encrypted data now with the hope that technology will eventually allow them to decrypt it. The keynote speaker called this “hack now, decrypt later.”

3. Companies are learning that they can’t just keep poaching workers from competitors – they’re going to have to do more up-skilling of their own employees.

4. One new business term is “experience-based thinking.” Can a new hire contribute to the business? Can a new hire map their technical know-how to the business’ needs? Just because you’re good at using technology does not mean that you’re good at developing technical solutions.

5. If you want to do something the new way, you have to stop doing something the old way.

6. More and more, industry is beginning to realize that that they cannot “over-spec” their job posts. That is, too often they’re looking for a unicorn that doesn’t exist (i.e. companies asking for applicants with ten years experience in technology that’s only five years old). Companies need to be more reasonable and focus on hiring for fundamental, foundational know-how.

7. Information flow can no longer keep up with the “velocity of growth.” By the time reports get to senior managers, they’re already out of date. Linked to this, it’s very hard for humans to visualize the kind of exponential growth that technology provides.

8. If 15% of “refuseniks” (e.g. those who want to have hard copies of memos, rather than receiving email memos) don’t adapt, that can knock up to 90% of innovation value from an organization.

9. Many traditional action verbs used in Bloom’s taxonomy don’t align with technical skills. How many times can you use the verb “implement”? ACM’s Committee for Computing Education in Community Colleges has developed a list of more suitable action verbs.

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