Advancements coming to SAIT digital technology program

Leading the Tech-space: Lee Ackerman at the Odd Fellows Temple, SAIT’s downtown headquarters for the School for Advanced Digital Technology (SADT), in Calgary on Friday, Feb. 4, 2022. Ackerman is the Director for Digital Strategy in the School of Advanced Digital Technology. (Photo by Alejandro Melgar/The Press)

SAIT’s School of Advanced Digital Technology (SADT) looks to champion emerging technologies by providing lessons on digital literacy introduced by an international standard.

Lee Ackerman, Director of the SADT, sees the biggest hurdle in using digital technology for students is traversing the digital space safely with an awareness of what they are accessing. Ackerman wants to bring the Digital Intelligence (DQ) Institute global standard to SAIT to help bridge the gap for those that are learning about these emerging technologies online, along with how to navigate them safely.

“Going from the web to social platforms, big platforms, big companies, where day in day out we give up a lot of data for the free service and free connections. There’s a price being paid here,” said Ackerman.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a global organization dedicated to advancing technology, created a global standard, DQ Institute, to help bring awareness and standards for children on the online space.

“We’re looking to guide this where every SAIT student is, at a minimum, a digital citizen, that first level of maturity. That’s the goal,” said Ackerman.

The DQ Institute global standard was ratified on Sept. 24, 2020, with the final version being published in January 2021. DQ Institute’s goal, listed on their website, is “to empower 1 billion citizens with digital intelligence by 2030.”

“We need a common language, so that’s the story we’re bringing forward,” said Ackerman.

Web 3.0, the next age of the internet, is based on blockchain technology, which encourages a decentralized method of organization, and it requires a standard to help people work in this new way.

Future is Present?: Lee Ackerman demonstrates how the Serious Labs MEWP VR simulator works. (Photo by Alejandro Melgar/The Press)

“You should have awareness, you should have agency, you should be empowered, and not just being told, ‘Hey, put on this headset, it’s going to track you.’ Who signs up for that?”

Dr. Chang Lu, a post-doctorate researcher that leads students in blockchain research at the University of British Columbia (UBC), says that standards are needed for the emerging technology, but it’s growing much too fast to create a standard right away.

“I’m not sure if we are actually at a place to create a standard,” said Lu.

“When you can come up with a standard, you know this is going to become a best practice, and you know what needs to be taught and what needs to be avoided in class; but right now, I’m not sure if the timing is right.”

Blockchain, which is a digital ledger that monitors all forms of information between a series of computers and blocks, is at the center of web 3.0 since the metaverse, cryptocurrency, and non-fungible tokens (NFT, digital art bought and sold online) all utilize blockchain technology. The technology for blockchain and the research involved is changing daily, and protocols are replaced with new discoveries and changes.

“Social media is definitely the major platform where knowledge dissemination is taking place,” said Lu.

On top of social media, there are online courses that offer information on blockchain technology, and programs at universities, like UBC, that provide access to degree programs through research into blockchain technology.

“Judging by how fast the crypto space has moved forward, and how much momentum it has gained in the past two years, I think the educational methods that we have used before are working,” said Lu.

The international standards organization (ISO) has regular meetings with experts in the field of blockchain technology and discuss best practices. While decentralized networking is a large part of the ideology of those involved in blockchain research, a standard put in place would only benefit the entire community, because those involved in the community are making these standards.

“At the end of the day, people need some kind of best practice to guide their activities,” said Lu.

Judging by how fast the crypto space has moved forward, and how much momentum it has gained in the past two years, I think the educational methods that we have used before are working – Chang Lu.

The UBC, and other researchers around the world, are still working on reducing the environmental impact that blockchain technology has, and they will continue to improve on the technology, with Lu saying, “The environmental problem is just a technical problem, and all technical problems can be solved.”

There are plenty of resources to learn about blockchain research and anything else in that area, but right now, there are plenty of people that will try to sell a product rather than educate and teach, so Lu suggests a standard be put in place when the field is ripe and mature.

The SADT is working with many different industries in Calgary, including the construction industry, and they wish to bring the DQ Institute global standard to programs like the school of construction, because, according to Ackerman, the sooner this is in place, the easier people can adapt and find work in these areas.

About Alejandro Melgar 3 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Alejandro Melgar is working as a writer for The Press during the 2021-22 academic year.