Oct 15 2015

Florida Schools Bringing Tech Skills to the Forefront

A tech vocation renaissance has pushed South Florida’s economy toward a new horizon, starting with coordination among the region’s schools to encourage entrepreneurs.

Investment in tech entrepreneurial skills within South Florida's higher education network has created a burgeoning tech hub that's reshaping the state's economy.

The higher ed scene in Florida has been helping to fuel a technology renaissance, giving rise to dozens of startups. According to The Miami Herald, the number of startups in South Florida's tri-county area grew by 46 percent in the past year.

That growth required investment from organizations, such as the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and an influx of office space, as well as coordination with some of the region's higher education institutions, including Miami Dade College's Idea Center, a hands-on innovation lab that empowers students to focus on developing 21st-century skills.

All the activity has drawn the interest of the Cambridge Innovation Center, a world-renowned startup organization, which plans to locate a branch at the University of Miami Life Science & Technology Park in 2016, the Herald reports.

Technology has also given students more options for the courses they want to pursue. Harvard College's hugely successful Computer Science course, CS50X, is being offered online to more than 300 students. In fall 2014, CS50X broke Harvard registration records when more than 800 students enrolled, thanks in large part to the course’s online option.

This surge in tech vocation popularity isn't peculiar to Florida, or even higher education. Business is booming at the New York City–based Flatiron School, which offers focused courses in computer programming. The school recently expanded its scholarship training program from 50 to 500 teachers in order to accommodate demand from its nationwide schools.

Small, agile schools like Flatiron are bringing students an in-demand curriculum that many school districts have been slow to offer: computer science. But they’re catching on. In September, the New York Department of Education announced a 10-year plan to roll out computer science courses as an option for all of the district’s schools.

Educators are seeing in students a passion for learning that empowers them in a world increasingly driven by code, Flatiron CEO Adam Enbar told EdTech.

"I think [learning to code] is the equivalent of what it must have been like 60 years ago, when a kid was given their first bicycle," Enbar says. "It's giving them independence. It inspires them to want to learn, because it gives them real power."