Digital Proficiency: Preparing Students at 42 SV for the Digital Workforce

Digital Proficiency: Preparing Students at 42 SV for the Digital Workforce

According to CMS WiRE, deploying new technology doesn’t immediately result in goals that benefit the digital workforce. They claim, “The true benefits of advanced technologies can only be realized if we know how to use them to their fullest potential.” This is where digital proficiency comes in. Digital proficiency is defined by gauging how well a person is able to engage with technology.

42 Silicon Valley has an educational model that gives students the tools they need to learn how to create and explore. Since access to knowledge has changed, memorizing information has lost much of its value. Instead, students at 42 learn how to add value in their ability to critically reason, problem solve, adapt, and communicate. Part of this process involves embracing failure as part of the learning process. Our program is project-based and boasts a hands-on curriculum, which gives you plenty of room to fail and succeed. 

Future jobs in the United States are based on a digital workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics job outlook from 2016 to 2026, the demand for programming skills will increase by 24%.  However, high-quality computer programming education in the U.S. is expensive and restricted to a single model or system of learning. At 42 Silicon Valley, we are aware of this knowledge gap and we want to help out. We are doing so by providing industry-leading college-level education that is completely tuition-free with no teachers, classes or books.

When it comes to digital proficiency, there are three levels: literacy, fluency, and mastery. We will review how 42’s educational model and unique ways of learning help guide students through the different levels of proficiency.

Learning the fundamentals together during a piscine

Digital Literacy 

Digital Literacy is about getting a baseline of knowledge and the fundamentals down. At 42, we do this in the very beginning with our piscine admissions process. We start with the basics: students write their first lines of code before moving on to more complex coding exercises. Those who try our piscine will fail, over and over again. However, the good news is that this trial-and-error period is a learning process in and of itself.

After successfully passing the piscine, practicing the fundamentals doesn’t end there. Students are immersed in a community where they can ask peers for help and learn in relation to different projects. Peer reviews help students learn different strategies on how to build a project and optimize the code. During the early stages of our program, individuals are exposed to different perspectives and approaches to solving problems.

At 42, students develop fundamental competencies which give them the necessary skills to integrate into the tech industry. 42 students learn how to adapt and think differently in order to propose innovative solutions. This is a process that takes a lot of practice. In the end, you gain a better understanding of how things work. This period where foundational knowledge is built-up is a great way to get ready for more hands-on learning.

Digital Fluency 

Digital fluency is about creating and innovating through a hands-on learning process. At 42, Project-Based Learning is basically a hands-on way to explore interests. While students get to follow their own educational pathway, they develop technical skills that can potentially change the world. Instead of classes or courses, 42 offers projects that help students directly apply what they learn. Some projects are worked on individually and others are done in groups with peers.

Each project is a challenge with a brief description of the objectives and skills students will learn throughout the process. Successfully working through a project is evidence of understanding; instead of memorizing concepts students have to apply different approaches to solve a problem. Projects are a great way for students to gain real-world experience and pursue their passions. 42 is one of the few college-level schools that invests heavily in project-based learning. 

We also have the 42 Robotics Lab and 42 Accelerate. The Robotics Lab is for students who like building and making things. We have a spacious workshop for students to pursue and build various projects that combine software and hardware. 42 Accelerate is an incubator at 42 where students focus on building startups and humanitarian focused projects. We believe that hands-on learning is the best way to not only innovate but also increase one’s digital fluency. 

In addition to that, we host hackathons throughout the year; this gives our students a chance to directly apply their programming skills to solve some of the world’s biggest problems. And although we do not directly place our students in internships, we encourage them to pursue these opportunities. Before they pursue hands-on industry experience, we ask our students to first reach a level of proficiency in our curriculum.

Students get to learn hands-on in the Robotics Lab

Alumni share their new knowledge during a Dev Panel

Digital Mastery

Mastery is found when students commit to becoming a life-long learner. You most probably will not master everything at 42. But students get the tools they need to get to that level someday in their professional life. Our hope is that everyone who attends our program will combine their interests with the skills they learn here.

At 42 Silicon Valley, we foster a community of lifelong learners. This philosophy contributes to helping students evolve into well-rounded software engineers. Students not only learn advanced programming skills but also develop valuable interpersonal skills. These interpersonal skills give students the ability to communicate with people at different levels of understanding.

Additionally, we don’t focus on a series of specific programming languages and technologies. Instead, we encourage students to learn skills that will assist them for the rest of their life, such as how to adapt and handle setbacks, collaboration, and solving new challenges. We realize that when you combine what someone loves to do with a deep understanding of tech, the possibilities are endless. 

Our peer-to-peer based learning model is ever-changing to meet the current and future needs of the tech world; students develop a critical long-term foundation but also real-time marketplace skills. This model is based on the fact that technology changes at such a rapid pace. To continue to function at a mastery level, one must continue to learn new skills.

Achievement Unlocked: The Path to Digital Proficiency 

The level of digital proficiency that 42 students achieve will depend on a few different aspects. First, they will need to gain a strong foundation in their knowledge about programming. Secondly, they need to develop their skills through hands-on experience. And third, they need to understand that learning is a life-long process.

Additionally, we believe that an exchange of knowledge is an important part of gaining proficiency; we can only gain a deeper understanding if we are sharing information freely. This is why our peer-to-peer model is an important component of life-long learning. Students can have better self-proficiency and can problem-solve more effectively by gaining a different perspective. 

42’s curriculum was designed to motivate students to work their way through projects in a hands-on environment. Through this process, students also realize the power of combining digital skills with a deeper understanding of why and how they are doing what they are doing.

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published by Stacey Faucett – September 20, 2019