"I very frequently get the question: 'What's going to change in the next 10 years?' And that is a very interesting question; it's a very common one. I almost never get the question: 'What's not going to change in the next 10 years?' And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time. … [I]n our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that's going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want vast selection. It's impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says, 'Jeff I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher,' [or] 'I love Amazon; I just wish you'd deliver a little more slowly.' Impossible. And so the effort we put into those things, spinning those things up, we know the energy we put into it today will still be paying off dividends for our customers 10 years from now. When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it." – Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO
At Digital Adventures, we always want to be intentional about what we’re doing. While we are confident that we are building the best solution to a difficult problem, we also know that innovation for the sake of innovation will not make sure that we teach kids how to build with technology so they can change the world. Instead, similar to Amazon, we think about what will be true about the education technology space in 10 years and focus differential efforts and investment on those areas because we believe that those are the most sustainable and defensible over time.
Students who attend Digital Adventures are filled with a curiosity and wonder about how to understand the technology-based world that is around them. While our initial focus is helping them make sense of technology, our primary goal is getting them to a point where they are independently able to build with technology. This requires a constant push and development of our students over a period of time. It helps us focus our energy on not just developing skills with hardware or software but holistically taking into account that technology’s most consistent characteristic is that it is always changing. This is a key reason why we leverage a lot of off-the-shelf industry leading platforms – Lego Robotics, Dash & Dot, Construct, Eclipse IDE, Roblox, Raspberry Pi, Scratch, App Inventor, and Tinkercad. By exposing our students to a wide variety of platforms, they begin to internalize and aggregate the fundamentals of how they can build solutions using a wide variety of tools. In addition, we also focus heavily on the underlying skills that they need to develop from an algorithm and engineering design perspective. However, we do not explore these topics in a linear, prescriptive fashion. Instead, each of our projects contains these topics and our instructors are trained to observe and evaluate student progress individually for a given topic and collectively over time. Digital Adventures know that a key component of our success is what students build after they have worked with us for a period of time. Digital Adventures will continue to invest in creating a personalized experience that prepares our students to solve future problems that they think are essential in making the world a better place.
One of the key characteristics about difficult problems is they don’t often have obvious solutions. In traditional education environments, there is often a focus on measuring what students have learned through standardized tests vs application of knowledge. The way we refocus students on application vs. theory is through our project-based approach. Students who attend Digital Adventures over time will work on hundreds or thousands of projects that will enable them to practice increased independence, proactive problem solving and ultimately mastery of how to build with technology. While computer science languages may go in and out of style, or new industries like cryptocurrency may grow rapidly; we do not believe that the need to solve difficult problems will ever go away. And, until students have struggled with numerous projects over time, they will not have an appreciation for how important it is to understand what you are solving for as well as how crucial it is to stick with a problem even if there are obstacles until you find a solution. Digital Adventures will continue to invest in developing a wide variety of projects and corresponding skill maps that enable our students to develop and grow their problem-solving muscles.
As we think about the journey of our students, we want to always ensure that Digital Adventures is an enjoyable and engaging place that is worthy of their time. We know that there are a number of extracurricular activities that competes for our students’ interest and our goal is to be the activity that they choose to consistently attend because they believe it is so engaging. Similar to Starbucks, we want to be considered a ‘third place’ for our students – home, school and Digital Adventures. In order to do that, we think a lot about the design and experience that students will have within our space. We start with an open floor plan so that they do not feel unnecessarily restricted by walls and to encourage collaboration with other students. Each studio also has a whiteboard because when you are in the business of educating students to solve problems, sometimes you need to sketch out and talk through a number of potential solutions. Another component is that we play a wide variety of music in the background because sometimes you just want to rock out while you are building a cool project. In addition, we also focus on having a lot of manipulatives – Lego Robotics, 3D Printer, Virtual Reality Googles, Cozmo, and Lego WeDo because we think it’s important that students gain familiarity and comfort with how to use technology hardware. While all those things create the right environment, we rely heavily on our instructional team to take the experience to the next level by getting to know our students for who they are and customize the interactions for maximum enjoyment. In fact, we think of our instructional staff less as traditional teachers who lecture and more as partners who guide each student on their build with technology learning journey. Digital Adventures will continue to invest in making sure that the in-studio experience focuses on letting students touch, experiment, and build with a wide variety of technologies under the thoughtful guidance of our instructional team who wants nothing more than to create the next generation of problem solvers.
While we know that they are many things that are going to be disruptive over the next 10 years, there are also certain things that we are confident that if we invest in now and over time that it will pay tremendous dividends to your child’s educational development with independently learning to build with technology and ultimately change the world.