"If you think education is expensive, try ignorance." - Derek Bok, President Harvard University
In business, return on investment (ROI) is a metric that is often used to determine which projects to fund. Projects with the highest ROI are typically prioritized versus those with a lower ROI. To make this assessment, a team will often put together a proposal outlining that components of a project along with the benefits and associated cost.
There can be a similar analysis done when it comes to the education of our children. While there are many curricular, extra-curricular and co-curricular activities that can be invested in for our children, the one with the highest ROI is technology education. As we move further and further into a knowledge based economy powered by technology, this ROI will continue to increase.
Learn to read
One of the 1st things we teach most children to do is learn how to read. Starting with their letters and then letter sounds, we continue to build phonic skills until children can read independently.
Collectively, we understand that the ability to read opens up an entire world of possibilities for children. They can begin to better understand the world around them. As their reading skills continue to grow, they can read fiction and non-fiction books.
Typically, the next major focus area is learning math. Starting with counting and progressing through the range of math skills, the goal is for children to develop strong number sense.
Those with strong number sense can manage their household finances, learn about saving, understand investing and take control of their financial future.
Learn to communicate
As we are building reading and writing skills, one of the key areas that is developed alongside is the ability to communicate. Often, this begins with writing exercises to demonstrate understanding of material. Or, writing out the steps taken to solve a math problem.
In both of these cases, communication (verbally and written) is a key skill that is developed to build upon the foundation skills of reading and writing.
Technology combines all of these basic skills to bring ideas to life
One of the great ways to simultaneously build these skills in an engaging way is by gaining practice in building with technology. Technology platforms are often designed to accomplish specific tasks. For example, the Lego EV3 robotics platform utilizes visual based programming to control the motors and the sensors on the robots. A computer aided design (CAD) platform like Tinkercad uses pre-built geometric shapes to enable construction of three dimensional models.
Regardless of what is being built, learning the language of technology for a specific platform is a great way to bring together reading, writing and arithmetic. And since most platforms were constructed to enable builders to accomplish specific tasks, technology learning is a great way to develop and reinforce these foundational skills in a new and different way.
As we are rapidly moving to a technology driven economy, the ability to build with technology is the knowledge that will maximize the return on investment for the next generation. Technology is the killer application that children can apply their reading, writing and communication skills to bring new inventions and innovations to life.
Going forward, it will not simply be enough to read, write and communicate. Instead, this combination will be useful in service of the ability to impact our technology based economy.
While technology is helpful in combining these foundational skills, it is still essential to learn in a way that promotes growth and retention.
People prefer experiences to solidify their learnings. It provides layer and depth to visit the pyramids in Egypt versus reading about them in a book or watching a video online.
Similarly, building a hands-on technology projects creates engagement in a way that simply reading about an element of engineering or design just can not.