If I had to guess, school played a central organizing role in probably 90% of my world when I was a teen. A few family things that weren’t around school, summer baseball (non-school), and maybe a couple of other small things rounded out the other 10%.
These things made school “sticky”, a place I wanted to be for a variety of reasons even when academics weren’t always one of them. Because of this, there was an opportunity cost for missing school (including, by the way, peace at home if I made poor choices).
But, the student cost calculus has flipped today. For this generation of students, 90% of their world is on, or directly accessible through, their phone or tablet or laptop, all of which go wherever they go. So, when they check their devices at the school door, when they can’t access their social networks, when they can’t just immediately Google anything they want to know, they experience a loss.
In other words, this generation of students experiences an unprecedented opportunity cost of going to school. (All I left behind was a television and a Nintendo. And, candidly, Days of Our Lives, Super Mario Brothers, and Techmo Bowl weren’t too much to sacrifice!)
While a wholesale sellout to technology is not the answer for schools, it is, in fact, our competition for student bandwidth. And, while blended learning and BYOD (bring your own device) strategies are key to improving the educational delivery system, they do not focus on the development of the whole student or the school as community.
As we push for ed reform and build new technologies to support it, we must remember that schools, when most successful, are more than just educational delivery systems. They must offer a broader value proposition for students, today more than ever.
If we are going to truly transform education, we must reduce the opportunity cost of going to school.