There are profound joys and utter disappointments that come with educating kids. Personally, I’ve always said that having kids is one of the longest term, high risk, high reward investments one can make. For at least 18 years but often for their entire lives, parents invest in their children in hopes that they will be successful. It isn’t until some point far in the future where we know whether or not there are fruits to our labor. And for many parents, our definition of success can be very different.
However, the development of a child is not a linear progression. This isn’t the financial projections for a startup - everything is not up and to the right. In fact, There are times when you feel like you’ve really gotten across a key life lesson. While at other times, you feel wholly unqualified to even have your child in the same room as you.
In education technology, there is a challenge of making sure we don’t shortchange the educational experience because of a desire for instant results. While there are many parents who understand that the learning process takes time, there are others who expect their kids to be knowledgeable after an hour of code or a week long summer camp.
It is entirely possible to show progression by using brute force to complete a project. The question then becomes, what are we trying to do. Are we simply trying to show results for the sake of results? Or, are we truly interested in the development of student’s skills over time? At Digital Adventures, we focus on the latter.
Building skills over time
While it would be visually appealing to see your child build a mobile app after just one class; unfortunately, a microwave popcorn version of technology education is just not realistic. True knowledge or mastery comes from repeated exposure and practice of a subject area over time. For example, I’ve been building technology products and services for the last 17 years. I started off building hardware based projects within the safety control system at Ford Motor Company and from there I began leading engineering teams that build software and mobile applications at Redbox.
At Digital Adventures, I work closely with my partner to build a proprietary software platform to teach kids how coding & engineering design skills. Prior to beginning my professional career, I earned a bachelors degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois and later earned a masters degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan. During my professional career, I’ve been awarded 2 patents and published a peer reviewed technical paper that has subsequently been referenced multiple times related to frame design for vehicle structures.
Even with all this experience and formal education, there are still tons of things that I don’t know about technology. And, there are many times that I have to look back and reference an engineering concept that I was initially introduced to 20 years ago so that I can correctly incorporate that into a project that I’m working on. In fact, one of the great joys of my experience and education is having the courage to dive into new problems with the confidence that I can develop a logical approach to solution development.
Journey and destination
In the world of social media and social networking, it can often feel like our entire lives are on display. Jenny’s son looks like he’s developing into a star basketball player. Bob’s daughter is showing some real potential in ice-skating. Jerry’s daughter made the honor roll again. While it can provide a nice talking point if your child makes their own mobile app at 13 or builds a cloud-based platform to speed video downloads that gets acquired by Netflix for millions of dollars, the real joy from learning creative problem solving is understanding how to figure out anything that is placed in front of you.
You can use computer coding and engineering design skills to renovate your home, build a fence in your backyard or create your own personal interface for a smart home. Or, it can simply be easier for you to setup your own Wi-Fi network in your home. Both paths are equally acceptable.
Most often we assume that solutions our students we develop will be in the tech space and there are certainly an abundance of applications to exercise students talent in that way. However, there are problems across a variety of industries that could benefit from a creative problem solving solutions.
As knowledge is developed, there eventually becomes a realization that one of the most evolved perspectives in technology is realizing that not every problems requires an engineered solution. Sometimes, it can be as simple as fixing an operational process, re-designing culture or implementing a more robust incentive structure to achieve better outcomes.
In our in-demand world, we can get our videos instantly streamed into our homes. We can quickly have food delivered to our office. And, we can press a button on our phone and talk with someone across the street or around the world.
These technological innovations have created an instant gratification culture that is at-risk of transferring to the educational development of our children.
While there will be some prodigies like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates who are able to build multi-billion dollar companies based on technical innovations, there are also many successful people who took a bit more time to achieve success.
Regardless of how you define success, it’s important that we are patient in the development of our children. If not, they may begin to take shortcuts and short circuit their education which will have huge repercussions down the line. Without a firm foundation of knowledge from which to draw upon, they will not be in position to solve some of the world’s most difficult problems.