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Preparing Our Kids for Jobs That Don’t Exist Yet

Childhood passions that seem like fads, sometimes even totally unproductive, could be mediums for experiencing the virtuous cycle of curiosity: discovering, trying, failing and growing.

When I was 11 I loved designing web pages and playing Sim City. Adults in my life didn’t recognize these skills as valuable, so neither did I. Actually, I began to feel guilty for using my computer so much. In high school I stopped making web pages altogether to focus on sports. It wasn’t until college, when strapped to pay my tuition, that I picked it back up and started making sites for small businesses. I graduated and teamed up with a few others I knew with these skills and moved to New York City to work on the Internet for a living. Three years later, in 2007, we sold our company, Vimeo, to a larger, publicly traded one. That passion I first developed quietly by myself, that went unnoticed by my parents and teachers, proved to be extraordinarily valuable to the economy just ten years later and the focus of many ambitious people today.

Childhood passions that seem like fads, sometimes even totally unproductive, could be mediums for experiencing the virtuous cycle of curiosity: discovering, trying, failing and growing.

It’s difficult to predict which skills will be valuable in the future, and even more challenging to see the connection between our children’s interests and these skills. Nothing illustrates this better than Minecraft, a popular game that might be best described as virtual LEGOs. Calling it a game belies the transformation it has sparked: An entire generation is learning how to create 3D models using a computer. It makes me wonder what sort of jobs, entertainment or art will be possible now. Cathy Davidson, a scholar of learning technology, concluded that 65% of children entering grade school this year will end up working in careers that haven’t even been invented yetI bet today’s kids will eventually explore outcomes and create businesses only made possible by the influence of Minecraft in their lives.

diy_logo_1024At least one business will have been inspired by the so-called game. In 2011, I co-founded DIY, the online community I wish I had when I was young. Our members discover new skills and try challenges in order to learn them. They keep a portfolio and share pictures and videos of their progress, and by doing so they attract other makers who share their interests and offer feedback. The skills we promote range from classics likes Chemistry and Writing, to creativity like Illustration and Special Effects, to adventure like Cartography and Sailing, to emerging technology like Web Development and Rapid Prototyping. We create most of our skill curriculum in collaboration with our members. Recently the community decided to make Roleplayer an official skill; It’s a fascinating passion that involves collaboratively authoring stories in real time.

JAM-negative-largeMost recently, we created  JAM to give kids access to online courses to help kids learn what they love – and for some kids to help them learn what it is they love! We do this by connecting kids with some of the world’s most creative mentors around subjects that are emerging in the world and likely to be more important when they’re older.

My objective with this wide-ranging set of skills, and involving the community so closely in their development, is to give kids the chance to practice whatever makes them passionate now and feel encouraged — even if they’re obsessed with making stuff exclusively with duct tape. It’s crucial that kids learn how to be passionate for the rest of their lives. To start, they must first learn what it feels like to be simultaneously challenged and confident. It’s my instinct that we should not try to introduce these experiences through skills we value as much as look for opportunities to develop them, as well as creativity and literacy, in the skills they already love.


Modern Cabin‘ made by a kid.

Why take any chances and build your dream house with blueprints alone? The Minecraft kid could easily make a realistic 3D model of one for you to walk through before you build. That’s why JAM treats Minecraft as a tool, not a game, and encourages our members to use it to pursue art, architecture and community-building.


Whether it’s Minecraft or duct tape wallets, the childhood passions that seem like fads, sometimes even totally unproductive, can alternatively be seen as mediums for experiencing the virtuous cycle of curiosity: discovering, trying, failing and growing. We’ve created a way for kids to explore hundreds of skills and to understand the ways in which they can be creative through them. Often, the skills are unconventional, and almost always the results are surprising. I don’t think it’s important that kids use the skills they learn on JAM for the rest of their lives. What’s important is that kids develop the muscle to be fearless learners so that they are never stuck with the skills they have. Only this will prepare them for a world where change is accelerating and depending on a single skill to provide a lifetime career is becoming impossible.

A version of this article was first published by edSurge on May 26, 2015.

What makes a great gift?

We’re interested to know what makes a great gift. We asked 240,000 parents: Is there a childhood gift that you still think about?

67% said yes. When we asked parents to describe what they received, a pattern emerged: Adults most often remembered experiences and tools that helped them become who they are and what they love to do.

“Watercolors and acrylics paints. It led me to really enjoy drawing and becoming a huge part of who I am today.”

“I got a set of tools to take apart things when I was 8. It was special because it let me know that you could build things with your hands vs buying something.”

This is why we make our online courses for kids. We know that passion, creativity and confidence can forever change the trajectory of a lifetime.

We want you to be a our partner in this.

Please accept $25 from us to support your kid’s passion. Visit jam.com to browse courses and use code FUTUREGIFT during checkout.

PS. Here were some other responses we loved:

“My father made me a desk which was a great work station to do my homework for years.”

“A diary with a lock. It was special because as a young teen, it was a celebration of me becoming my own person with my own thoughts and dreams.”

“The love of reading. My father would regularly take me to old second hand book stores and would always let me buy as many books as I wanted. I developed my love of reading and an active imagination from those days, which i have passed on to my own children.”

“My parents gave us a scavenger hunt one year that led to $75 for us to spend on whatever we wanted. My sister and I had been saving up for ice skates and we were so excited to finally be able to afford them. We wore them out that whole winter.”

“I received a set of encyclopedias that I used for YEARS and read about everything and transported me to new worlds!”

“Piano Lessons. Because my parents saw and nurtured a desire/talent of mine, though it was a very expensive gift for our budget.”

Six ways that JAM creates “good screen time” for kids

At JAM we think learning should be awesome so we’ve created online courses to help parents give their kids good screen time and kids get really good at something they love.

We invite kids to invent their own solutions, not memorize answers.

At JAM, we think learning should be awesome so we’ve created online courses to help parents give their kids good screen time and kids get really good at something they love. We keep creativity, curiosity and a love of learning alive in kids. We see informal education as a great incubator for what formal education could become.

JAM1. Preparation for emerging skills
Cathy Davidson, a scholar of learning technology, concluded that 65% of children entering grade school this year will end up working in careers that haven’t even been invented yet. JAM prepares kids for skills that are just emerging in the world, skills that require facilities or permission that schools don’t have, and skills that simply make kids passionate. Kids shouldn’t have to wait to pursue what interests them.

2. Instant access to pros
Courses are developed by professionals with inspiring accomplishments in their field – we call them mentors. For example, our Minecraft course was developed by OMGChad, a master Minecraft player with 500,000 YouTube followers. Our singing course was developed by Madison Watkins, an emerging star who appears on this season of America’s Got Talent. Kids shouldn’t have to wait until grad school to learn from pros.

Our motto is “Learn what you love. Love what you learn.”

3. Active learning
We challenge kids to learn through trial and error, not lectures. We invite kids to invent their own solutions, not memorize answers. We design learning to be social, not solo.

At JAM, kids both learn from and teach each other. This results in drastically different levels of engagement. In 2015, most MOOCs had a completion rate of 15%. We’re hovering near 70%.

4. Good screen time
Screen time is a tricky thing. Parents want their kids to be fluent with technology and develop their own unique expertise to prepare for the next generation of careers. At the same time, parents don’t want their kids’ screen time to be a sedentary activity. JAM turns screen time into learning time.

5. No schlepping or scheduling required
Parents currently pay more than $20b for learning outside of school – tutors, workshops, camps, courses, coaching, lessons. However, most options remain a privilege for those that can afford it. They’re also a nightmare to schedule, require an insane amount of schlepping, and don’t always keep their kids engaged.

JAM lowers the risks for families to try learning outside of school and makes it more convenient. Kids have access to their course for an entire year so they can work at their own pace whenever they want.

We see informal education as a great incubator for what formal education could become.

6. Totally safe
We have a proven record of creating online learning experiences that are safe and inspiring for kids. We do this because safety and privacy are paramount, but also because we know that learning and creativity can’t happen unless everyone feels fearless to be themselves.

Browse our courses

Introducing JAM online courses for kids

JAM courses were created to help kids get skills they can’t get in school, and allow them to learn what they love (and love what they learn). JAM provides hundreds of hours of good screen time for for kids, and it’s zero work for parents.

Last summer we introduced DIY Camps and they were a huge hit. This year, we made the program even better and we’re giving it a new name – JAM.

These courses were created to help kids get skills they can’t get in school, and allow them to learn what they love (and love what they learn). JAM provides hundreds of hours of good screen time for for kids, and it’s zero work for parents. Courses are self-paced and work year-round during summer and even when they’re back in school.

Best of all, it’s a safe and private way for your kids to be online. JAM courses are designed by some of the most inspiring experts in their fields and all course activity is monitored by trained mentors.

Sign-up for our waitlist for a chance to claim a first spot in our courses!

 

Waitlist Sign-Ups

 

We’re starting with five courses. Choose one below to explore or visit jam.com to see the whole catalog. Once you claim a spot, we’ll send you more details about when they’ll be ready. By the way, space is limited, but it’s OK to claim one spot for each of your kids.

Many thanks for your continued support, we couldn’t have done this without you!

Jobs That Rule: Lauren May

Meet Lauren May, a professional illustrator and JAM mentor. We asked her a few questions about what it’s like to be an illustrator, her typical day, and the tools of the trade.

In this series, we’re shedding light on what it’s like to work in some of the most creative professions. Meet Lauren May, a professional illustrator and JAM mentor. We asked her a few questions about what it’s like to be an illustrator, her typical day, and the tools of the trade.

Read More

We asked kids, “What do you dream of doing?”

Last year, we sent out surveys and questionnaires to both parents and members who took part in DIY Camps. We loved hearing your insights about features you’d like to see and courses you’re most excited about and are happy to say that we’ve been working hard this year to deliver that promise.

We’re proud to say that the way we approach learning and education at JAM is largely due to the feedback we get from both parents and kids.  Last year, we sent out surveys and questionnaires to both parents and members who took part in DIY Camps.  We loved hearing your insights about features you’d like to see and courses you’re most excited about and are happy to say that we’ve been working hard this year to deliver that promise.

In this segment we asked kids the age-old question, “What do you dream of doing?”  Here are some of the most popular answers, as well as hints into this year’s course offerings 😉

“I want to be an actor, I want to finish my novel, and publish it, and act in the movie made of it. I’d like to be a DJ, and 80’s singer.” – 14 years old

“To be quite honest, a dream of mine is to be an engineer of some type when I’m older. I want to be able to work on some super awesome, and inventive stuff. I want to be able to push the boundaries and make something that could help shape the future.

I know it sounds really cheesy and all, but I’d love to be able just to build and learn about a bunch of scientific stuff everyday.” – 14 years old

“I want to become somewhat know for my drawing when I’m older. And my jobs I would like to be a marine biologist, someone that helps animals, wildlife photogropher, work at Cartoon Network, illistrate” – 12 years old

“My goal is to become a storyboard artist for an animation company. I would also like to compose my own music, learn several instruments, and love what I do.”- 14 years old

“Become a world wide famous singer and actor be a role model be the best school leader i can be. Thats a few things on my bucket list.” – 11 years old

“I want to be a fantasy author and have a gaming YouTube channel. maybe set a world record for most books read before the age of 20 or something like that.” – 11 years old

A big thank you to all of the kids and members who made this year’s course offerings possible. We’re almost ready to launch, stay tuned!

A first look at our new JAM course: Become a Pro Chef 👀

Summer 2016 is rolling around, just in time for our new line-up of online courses. Here’s a sneak peak before the big launch.

casey-smiling-1280x720Cauliflower-close-upfood-sculpturepoptart-icecream

Casey Engelman graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and is a chef in Chicago. In her course, Jammers cook their own menu of appetizers, main dishes and desserts – everything they needs to open a pop-up restaurant at home.

See Casey’s JAM course

 

5 Introductory Tools to Programming #CoolTools

Have you been toying with the idea of learning how to program but don’t know how to get started?  Check out these introductory tools to help you begin to think like a programmer. Figure out how a computer works, instruct computers to performs tasks, create your first game, and more.

scratchacat

Scratch: One of the easiest ways to get started with programming is to remix someone else’s already existing program. Remix a project using this free programming language called Scratch. You can build games, animations, music videos, and more.

minecraft

Minecraft: Use blocks to build just about anything you can imagine in a virtual world. Discover engineering concepts, architecture, mathematics, as well as critical thinking skills and teamwork.

gamedev

Develop a Game: Game Devs create the code, art, and sound that make a video game playable. They make interactive experiences! Get started on creating your first game with these helpful tools.

remix

Remix a Website: Never seen the insides of a website? Use Hackasaurus to hack your favorite website to have it look and do whatever you want!

server

Run a Node.js Server: Backend Devs write scripts for servers which communicate with the apps and websites we all use. We’re the masters of fast responses and requests. With Node.js, you can mimic the back and forth request/response your browser sends to servers when you visit a website. Set up your first development environment.