Soft Skills for Techies

StÈfan Sinclair has blogged an article on Techies getting on-the-job nontech training? by Ed Frauenheim, CNET, Nov. 19, 2004. The article is based on a report by Robert Half Technology on training in nontechnical areas.

Skills such as project management, leadership and communication may be critical for the next generation of information technology (IT) managers, but many employees are not receiving formal education in these areas, a new survey finds.† Nearly half (47 percent) of chief information officers (CIOs) polled said their companies do not provide IT professionals with instruction in business and communication fundamentals. (Press Release, “Knowledge Gap: Survey Finds Only Half of Companies Provide Non-Technical Training to IT Staff”, Nov. 17, 2004, Employment News – Employment Information.)

Like StÈfan, my question is whether such “soft skills” can be taught in typical workplace training? What exactly is it that we want in employees when we hire them? Are the listed skills really “soft” skills or are they deep capacities for ethical work, questioning, and thoughtful communication? These are what the humanities have tried to teach. Perhaps the technical skills should be acquired in the workplace and the human skills acquired at school.
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Digital Image/Sound and Computer Science

Digital Image / Sound & the Fine Arts [DFAR] integrates two domains, that of Computer Science and the Fine Arts, to address the issues of interdisciplinary cultural education and technological innovation for information societies and networked environments.

The ” href=””>Digital Image/Sound &the Fine Arts program at Concordia is an interesting hybrid arts computing program. It can either be taken as a double major with Computer Applications from the Department of Computer Science or it can be taken as a “specialization” in the BFA. The program sounds like it has a strong theory component. For an overview see Section 71.80 – Digital Image/Sound and Computer Science.
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Computing Programs

I was at the Ontario Universities’ Fair where all the universities have booths and thousands of high-school kids come through with their parents to shop for programs. After I had done my turn at the McMaster booth I took my son around to find a program that combines computing with arts or game design. Here is what we found.

The University of Ontario Institute of Technology is an innovative and market-oriented institution, pursuing inquiry, discovery and application through excellence in teaching and learning, value-added research and vibrant student life.
(UOIT Vision)

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Children and Computers РToo young for technology? РJul 23, 2004 is an interesting story sent to me by St̩fan Sinclair about starting kids on computers. I confess I was a keen computer dad when my kids were babies. I wrote little HyperCard stacks that triggered sounds and visual effects no matter what the kids did with the mouse. I suspect they made no difference either way.
Now, of course, I’m the one who needs to be helped. My son kindly helped me play an online game against a friend of his (for research purposes) – he asked the friend repeatedly to take it easy on me. Despite telling the friend I was going to whip his *** I lost miserably. My son now tells me that his friends MSN nickname now is something like “IbeatRockosDad”. This raises another interesting phenomenon – my kids tell me that they all change their MSN names regularly – they don’t think of their names as stable identities, instead they think of them as little boasts, taunts, or jokes that change as part of their communication.

Higher Learning Online Magazine

Higher Learning; Technology Serving Education is an online magazine launched in 2001 aimed at the higher ed market. It comes out about once every two months as a PDF and is a spin-off of TEACH Magazine. It is interesting that they provide the PDF versions for free of both HL and TEACH. What is dissappointing is that they are similar to Educause, emphasizing commercial technologies and “success” stories. Probably a good place to keep up on the hype, but I’m not sure they will invest in critical inquiry.

Independent Activities

How can Multimedia contribute to open learning at McMaster? If I am right that we have to create learning activities outside of classes in response to the increases in class sizes and the lack of opportunities to teach small classes then we need to imagine a venue for small learning activities.

IAP 2004 Activity: Getting Started with Weblogs is an example of something that seems to happen at MIT. It looks great and the site shows the potential for linking lots of these little courses. Hmmmm… something to think about.