“Nobody saw that one coming!” My career has taken all sorts of twists and turns, but this last one was unexpected, even for me.
It’s fun and rewarding to build software, but it also means you’re absorbing all the pain of your product’s deficiencies from customers, sales, customer support, and execs. Releases have about a minute of celebration before the wave of new “why didn’t you build this” suggestions and complaints start to roll in. It is hard to feel that you are always failing your stakeholders, even when you’re delivering successes. (Side note: There should be Product Management Support Groups. Less people would burn out.)
Teaching was always the thing that returned my life force, and usually I could find some class to teach on the side somewhere. But post-pandemic things got weird. Enrollments we’re down and the sale of the company took up 200% of my time for two years.
After two years of not teaching anything, I was like the video game character who has depleted their life force. One more hit and I my player character was going to be done for good.
Why Middle School
So in August of last year, even though I’ve never taught in K-12, I approached a nearby public charter school about teaching Entrepreneurship to their high school students. The director and principal loved the idea, but they had an ask. “Could I teach a middle school elective too?”
It was probably a sign of how desperately I needed to teach again that I just said yes. But I did have one condition. I wanted to teach a subject I’d always wanted to take a deep dive into. I wanted to look at every technology arc that surrounds us and understand what we did before, how the tech developed and changed over time, how society changed on each pivot, and what is likely to come next.
What’s in Tech and Society
Over two semesters, my students and I went on this amazing journey to dive into:
– Water Infrastructure
– Power Infrastructure
– Transportation and Logistics
– Agricultural Industry
– Innovation Theories
– Household Technologies
– Communication Technologies
– Material Sciences
– Computing Technologies
– Medical Technologies
Learning along side middle schoolers was surprisingly fun. They are still full of curiosity and were eager to learn about the real world around them.
I am probably biased, but I think these kids are now some of the smartest kids their age in Utah.
They now get how complex and fragile our society is. They can explain how Amazon packages get to your house and how a disruption in a transportation network would disrupt society. They can tell you about some of the innovations that were led and funded by the needs of the U.S. government (e.g. your computer today might not exist today if the Census Bureau had not been desperate for a faster way to compile data). They can tell you how cell towers work and what the difference between the G’s is on your signal.
The picture here is their timeline of all the technologies we studies in the second semester of Technology and Society. Enjoy!
Count Me In!
If you are interested in using some of the Technology & Society curriculum, if you want to participate in Tech and Society Summer Camp with your kids, or if you want to teach a similar course, please subscribe (panel on the right) to continue to get more information about this course as I publish it.
You can also see parts of the curriculum that are published in the Technology & Society Curriculum Category on this website.