One of the most important individuals that shape the world we live in our teachers. For they are the ones that shape the minds of the future. As such, it is crucial that they encourage their students to look towards the future and innovate. Yet here in Sri Lanka, for many teachers, this is a challenge even for the most dedicated. And this is why the first day of the Galle IT/BPM Week organized by SLASSCOM was aimed at educators. It was conducted with the support of the Asian Development Bank to encourage women to join the IT/BPM industry and the Informatics Institute of Technology as the Education Partner.
Understanding what’s happening in the world of IT
The teacher’s workshop of the Galle IT/BPM Week with the Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology being the Coverage Partner began with a presentation from Mangala Perera – Director Software Development at IFS R&D. He gave an overview of the IT industry and shared that Sri Lankan software has done much in the world. Some examples he shared was that of WSO2 processing over a billion transactions for eBay and MillenniumIT having built the trading platform of the London Stock Exchange.
Mangala then went onto share that there are three paths to the IT industry. The first is the traditional one where one would study, get their degree and join the industry. The second is the alternative path where one would pursue something like a Foundation program and then join the industry. The third path is where skills are selected over qualifications.
Mangala then shared that the local IT industry contributes $850 million to the Sri Lankan economy. He went onto say that SLASSCOM currently has a target to have 200,000 IT professionals in Sri Lanka with the industry contributing $5 billion to the economy by 2022. He concluded by saying that teachers are the ones that connect the students with this industry.
The evolution of education to innovation
Afterward, we saw Sachindra Samararatne – Program Manager at ICTA take the stage. He opened by sharing a story from a school he visited. At this school, he saw that the students had built complex things, including robots. He was at this school to speak about complex topics such as AI and to his surprise, he was bombarded by questions.
Sachindra then went onto emphasize the importance of encouraging creativity amongst students. This would empower all students, especially those interested in exploring IT as a career. And while modern education focuses on STEM, Sachindra believes it should be STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics.
Sachindra concluded by highlighting the importance of creating a future-ready workforce. He stated that children in Grade 6 today will join the workforce in 10 years’ time. As such, it’s important that our education system ensures they’re ready to add value to the workforce. But educators need the right tools for this.
This was what Wellington Perera – Cloud Solutions Architect at Microsoft aimed to offer. He opened his presentation by sharing that his son learned English by watching YouTube videos. He shared this story to show exactly how powerful a learning tool the internet is. Afterward, he shared a list of online tools teachers could use. Some examples he shared were: Minecraft, Code.org, and Khan Academy.
The opportunities that technology unlocks
The next speaker we saw on stage was we saw Emesha Jayawardena – Director Operations at Matrix Institute. She shared the opportunities the tech industry opens to women. Her aim was to break the false stereotype that programming and other tech jobs are meant for men. As such, she shared examples of iconic women that have shaped the tech industry like Sheree Atcheson, Ada Lovelace, and Grace Hopper.
Following Emesha, Jehan Wijesinghe – CEO of Igniter Space take the stage. He introduced another opportunity that technology unlocks, which is entrepreneurship. Jehan opened by listing a few successful Sri Lankan tech startups and then went into detail with a few examples.
One of these was of Dulith Herath and Kapruka. Jehan then shared that during the recent postal strike they were wondering how to send the invitations to the teachers. As such, they reached out to Dulith and utilized the services of Grasshoppers. Through Grasshoppers, they were able to deliver the invitations and found a better service with features such as real-time tracking.
Afterward, Jehan shared a few more local startup success stories like Busseat.lk and PickMe. He then handed the stage over to Achala Samaradiwakara – Co-Founder of Good Market. Achala gave a first-hand glimpse into entrepreneurship. She shared her entrepreneurial journey and asked the teachers to encourage their students to be job creators.
The systematic approach to encouraging innovation
The final segment of the Galle IT/BPM Week workshop for educators was a workshop. It was conducted by Hasith Yaggahavita – CTO of 99X Technology. Its goal was to show teachers how they could encourage their students to think creatively and build innovative products. It started with questions such as, “How would you guide a student to build something innovative?”
After throwing these questions at the teachers, Hasith shared that innovative products aren’t simply something new. They are products that understand the needs of people and make their lives easier. To put it more simply, you need to have empathy and understand people before going to the drawing board. With this lesson in mind, the teachers were then tasked with designing a wallet for the person next to them.
Encouraging students to pursue IT
Once the teachers had finished designing their wallets, the first part of the Galle IT/BPM Week officially came to an end. But merely encouraging teachers and sharing how they could update their lessons is only one part of the puzzle. That’s why the rest of the Galle IT/BPM Week focused on reaching out to students and parents. So stay tuned to find out more!