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What is the first computer or device you ever owned?
Chris: My father brought home a Commodore PET computer with one of the classic green screens. That was the first family computer, and we could play a couple of text-based games like "Hunt the Wumpus" and a version of Space Invaders made entirely out of ASCII character graphics. My first personal computer, as a teen, was a Commodore 64. In addition to being great for games with a full-color screen, I used the built-in BASIC interpreter for some of my first explorations into programming.
What’s the most challenging thing you’ve found about working in technology-related fields?
Chris: Technology changes so quickly that you always have to learn and adapt to new things. Even if you like doing things a certain, comfortable way, a new version of software or upgraded device can force you out of old habits. Broad technical fields, like computer programming, also have many specialized areas and skill sets, and you need to decide if you want to learn a little bit about many topics or try to become an expert in one area.
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What’s the most rewarding part?
Chris: Much of the technology you’ll work with just wasn’t possible not that long ago. It’s fun to think how things we take for granted today were unimaginable to our younger selves and earlier generations. Most people will use things like smart phones or GPS systems, and it all just seems to work by magic. But it’s great to have some understanding of how those things operate and what it takes to create or fix them.
Why do you feel it’s important for Christian teens to be excited about and comfortable in these fields?
Chris: Nearly every part of our lives is impacted by computing and technology, and you don’t want to live in constant frustration because you can’t manage your digital world. Learning technical and computing skills allows you to confidently use the technology you have and even create new things for others to use. There are enormous opportunities in the technical job market and in computer science, in particular. We are called to be good stewards of our talents and enjoy our work, so if you have skills and interest in technology, Christians are needed in those fields just like all other walks of life.
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Keeping up with changing technology trends can be expensive. What advice do you give teens who want to pursue a career in a technology-related field, but feel they can’t because they don’t have all the newest gadgets?
Chris: The latest smart phone is an expensive status symbol, but it’s not going to help you pursue a career in technology. You can write code and learn new skills on any old computer that is connected to the Internet without spending significant amounts of money on cutting-edge devices. You will want a computer with a reasonable keyboard (a desktop PC or a laptop) and not just a tablet. It’s hard to write code by swiping across a screen!
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What advice would you give to a high school student about preparing for a specific technical field?
One frequent misconception is that we should try to graduate students who are highly focused in one area and essentially ready for the job market as mini-engineers. I often see a school with computer programming course tracks laid out as "Java 1," "Java 2," and "Java 3," and the student will graduate with that highly-focused mindset as if they are ready for a computer programming job.
The problem is, technical fields usually require you to have a four-year college degree just to be considered for a real job. No matter what courses you take in high school, you are unlikely to be ready for anything other than an internship while you work on that degree. So, what is our goal for your high school experience? We recommend exploring a variety of fields at an introductory level and find what you like the best. Then, you can pursue that degree in college.
For example, since we focus on Computer Science here at CompuScholar, we have courses that introduce students to web design, video game design, and coding with different languages. A student can explore different areas of Computer Science, and if just one "grabs" them, then they may have found their lifelong calling. So, don’t worry about whether or not a particular course or topic will "prepare you for the job market." Just focus on finding out which job market is right for you!
Bonnie Rose Hudson works as the Director of SchoolhouseTeachers.com, the curriculum site of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine. Her desire is for every child to feel the love of God and know how special they are to Him. She would love for you to stop by her author’s blog WriteBonnieRose.com for resources to help teach your children about missions and the persecuted Church, free history and writing printables, and to discover how you can write for the homeschool market.
Chris Yust is a 17-year veteran of the software industry and a father of two homeschooled boys. Chris and his wife, Andrea, are co-authors of CompuScholar’s online computer programming and digital literacy courses for middle and high school students. You can learn more about homeschool computing courses or contact Chris at http://www.compuscholar.com/homeschool.
Copyright 2018, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms. Read The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com, or download the free reader apps at www.TOSApps.com for mobile devices. Read the STORY of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine and how it came to be.
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