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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Teaching IT in the new economy

I consider that teaching is a duty for all senior people in their field. So, I try to give internal training, evangelize on certain subjects in my company. I also teach in a University in Master , to IT students.
Each time, I feel great pleasure of preparing the courses, the slides, the exercises.
Each time, I found the students too much focused on short term objectives. Everything they do is throwable and targeted to obtaining the best possible marks.
But, more and more, in the new enterprise 2.0, we need to teach them:
  • To team with all kind of people. Teaming can be done locally (their friend), but also through Internet. Teaming should not be done only because you want to work with your friends. The team management in the enterprise is generally not under the control of their memebers. You have to work with others, and consider their weaknesses and strengths.
  • To stop programming in a sandbox. They should learn the basics, like creating a build file, using a source code repository, controlling the quality and the performance of their code. So many students, and sometimes real world companies, are delivering their project result as an eclipse project or a war file. One of my students groups' put all the results of their work in a google code web site. And you know what, this is Great!
  • To develop in the cloud. Why not making students of several universities develop the same projects using open source development platform and leveraging their work across the years. Everything energy spent by students to do something should be reusable for all. Google summer of code is a good idea, but what we need here is a more global approach.
We need to prepare engineers of the future to become real proNetarians (people working on the net, as defined by Joel de Rosnay). They can be alone in the physical world, but should be at ease to work, to train themselves,  to collaborate, to earn money and build software in the virtual world.

Having University teaching the basics of IT (Java, algorithms, etc.) is no more enough for our students. This static corpus of knowledge, will not provide any advantage in the new economy, since:
  • this corpus of knowledge is more and more offered for free (look at Itunes University and others training web sites on any of the subjects you want);
  • millions of IT engineers are available on the market at lower cost than them. Most of them being very well trained and able to use High level framework;
  • the first outsourcing vague is now transforming in a second real, profound and definitive sourcing vague.  Each local market will be looking for experts only, and most of the rest of the job will be sourced to "low cost IT labor" countries.
What is important, more and more, is the know how and not the "basic" knowledge. Everybody can write java code, not everybody can create a framework like GWT or Spring. And this technical know how is now quickly used and spread around the globe to ensure a greater addiction and dependency from users. Look at Apple, Iphone and Nokia ... The spread and extension of the technology is also enforced, most of the time, by the fact that it is offered for free ... for now and under a certain usage.

We urgently need platforms in the cloud and educational programs done at country and regional level to train our students to be proNetarian, but also to create and protect their knowhow is a virtual economy. It could be with the support of the European Union, or with the support of IT companies, groups and universities. Today, in Europe, we still tend to create cluster, campus (, etc.) like done in the USA some years ago. But it's too late. We need to move one step further, especially for the information technology. Or ....