First BC Tech Summit a coding eye-opener for Island students

More than 2,000 people flocked to the Vancouver Convention Centre for the BC Tech Summit

  • Feb. 1, 2016 1:00 p.m.

On Jan. 18 and 19 more than 2,000 people flocked to the Vancouver Convention Centre for the BC Tech Summit, two days where businesses, educators and students got to immerse themselves in a non-stop smorgasbord of presentations, show cases and hands on tech experiences – including panels and a ‘Code Camp’ specifically for students.

I thought it was really successful,” said teacher Magen Boniface, who attended with nine students of the eBus Academy, an online school operated out of Nechako Lakes School District.

“It just offered such a broad range of perspectives,” she said.

Included in the eBus Academy group were Alana Perry, who lives in Nanaimo, and Aiden and Naeven Alle Kopas, of Ladysmith, who were joined by their mother Ellina.

One of the most important outcomes for students at the conference was an understanding that digital tech is not about individuals in cubbyholes, keying code anonymously.

“The idea of tech is not one where you work in isolation, you’re part of a team,”Boniface said. “I really think it broke the stereotype of tech for some of our students.”

It also forked what might have seemed a straightforward career path. What Boniface and her students learned is that tech as a business sector has made its way into the circuitry of almost every occupation.

“Tech is everywhere,” Boniface said. Which means there’s more than one pathway for getting into it in the field.

“Before coming to the conference I was pretty sure what I wanted to do – now I’m not so sure,” Perry said. So she’s rethinking her plan to zero in too narrowly on computer sciences as her major discipline at university.

Not that she doesn’t want to create innovative code, a facet of the business students got a taste of at the BC Tech Summit’s two-hour Code Camp, but it became clear to her that you can approach digital tech from the inside-out and from the outside-in.

What emerged was an appreciation of the need for people involved in the digital tech industry to be multi-talented and creative as much as mathematical and analytical.

“I really heard that at the coding camp,” Perry said. “The idea of coding is like learning a language, and it’s not that difficult. Once you’ve learned it, you can unlock your creativity.”

The understanding that digital tech is not an abstract, theoretical science has rendered terms like “geek” and “nerd” irrelevant, Perry said. Those types of labels simply don’t apply any more, and the BC Tech Summit confirmed that for her.

“I think having such a range of people represented breaks that mold,” she said. “I think that stereotype doesn’t exist or it’s not really representative of people.”

Neither is tech an A to B sort of progression. To succeed, you have to take leaps of faith, audiences learned over and over. “You’re probably going to learn the greatest lessons through failure – just don’t make the same mistake twice,” was a message that came through loud and clear for Perry.

Aiden Alle Kopas is interested in music as a career, and he produces hip-hop compilations of his own using a digital sound-studio program on his home computer. But he’s got serious reservations about how pervasive the tech revolution is becoming.

“I just don’t think that people have to have so many things do so many things for them,” Alle Kopas said.

He’s concerned that instead of actually playing music, with hands on instruments, and – perhaps – shared with an audience, the day will come when music is reduced to an abstract process of coding notes or even assembling blocks of sound.

“Yesterday we were in Best Buy and I was seeing all these scales and fit-bits and everything, in that sense I disagree with the whole technological revolution,” he said.

Ellina Alle Kopas said one of the displays at the BC Tech Simmit featured a wrist attachment that, when people shook hands, exchanged information and indicated whether or not they might want to be friends. “Well, why not just a handshake and a hello? Does it make it more real just because a piece of technology has said you’re friends?”

For Aiden we are getting to the point where we are too fascinated by gadgets, and not in tune with the immediate, physical feeling of creating and performing a piece of music.

So even though he uses technology to assemble his hip-hop compilations, he always wants to be incorporating music that either he or someone else has played on a physical instrument, not rifs generated by code.

“Explore the new developments and technology,” he advises, “but still learn where the music came from, learn how to play actual instruments, or learn how to build relationships with people that aren’t technological.”