After attending Teens in Tech last week, http://teensintechconf.com, I had quite an awakening. I went to San Francisco with visions of extraordinary technology insights from those who will be leading us into the future. And yes, I did take away some new and exciting trends, but what was far more interesting was observing this room of incredibly intelligent and creative teens and some of the messaging from the speakers, many of whom were kids themselves. Aside from the technology trends, the two truly formidable takeaways were this: 1: College is a waste of time and 2: Technology is for Boys.
Now there are several blogs and recaps of this event that are very informative and give a great overview of the speakers, such as http://www.sparkminute.com/2010/02/06/cool-and-not-so-cool-from-teens-in-tech. This was a brilliant collection of speakers, and it was truly a great event. However, I have yet to find any article or blog that touch upon the points myself and a few others in the room observed: the knock on college and clearly obvious lack of girls in the room.
Within the speakers’ preachings and anecdotes, from the charismatic Danny Trihn to power team of John Ramey and Zak Hassanein, there was this thread, weaving in and out… and that was that college, for young technology entrepreneurs at least, was a waste of time. I heard things like “College is great for parties…” or “College sucks in a lot of ways…” Now to be fair, this was not a TOTAL slam on college or attending…. but in that room, full of impressional minds, there isn’t much of a difference from saying “School really isn’t that relevant….” to kids embracing and deciding that school really isn’t that relevant for me either.
Now taking this back and sharing it with the studio and some of our partners was also very enlightening. We did a small survey and found that yes, around 40% of the high school kids (and not even tech-minded/entrepreneurs) thought college was a waste of time; not too expensive, not too difficult to get into, but just not relevant. Is this trend new, no, but why now? If it is because of the economy, that is one thing, but if college programs and educational leaders can not keep up with 13 year old minds, I think we have a problem.
The second and somewhat unfortunate observance was the weak representation of female teens at the conference. They really should have called it ‘Teen Boys in Tech’. I mean, where were all of the girls? Of all the speakers, only one came to represent the female side of Teens in Tech, a group of 2 teen female entrepreneurs, http://smartpowered.org/connect/, came to work that day. This well spoken duo had a fantastic presentation that touched upon not only technology but education, environment and community. I was so very impressed and pleased, that was until it came time for questions. Much to my dismay, these girls were hardly asked about technology, environment or education, but rather how this was going to achieve financial rewards or, and this was the cake topper, if they were available for a date later on. Of course, all in good fun, but as an observer, it was painful. The boys in the room got a good laugh out of it, but what did it say for the future of girls in technology? So disappointing, but who in? In gaming companies for not producing authentic and addictive games for girls? In schools for not encouraging young girls to look down the path of programming or designing?
Overall, the conference was as good as it’s reviews and I definitely look forward to next year. The young minds of today are quickly making such a powerful impact on society and our future…and with these kids leading the way, that future is bright. I think perhaps next year, a few colleges should represent…at least to listen if not to speak; and unless they change the name, could only hope that we see a few more girls there too.