Why Technology and Innovation Are Critical to America’s Future

Ben Bajarin is the director of consumer technology analysis and research at Creative Strategies Inc., a technology industry analysis and market intelligence firm in Silicon Valley.

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With the presidential election upon us this year, I have been thinking a bit more than usual about our country’s future. Although I am interested in a range of issues regarding where America is headed, I am mostly interested in the approach the next president will take regarding America and technology. Technology will only become more integrated into our lives and, most importantly, as an essential part of America’s infrastructure.

Get Them While They’re Young

If you’ve seen the stats about where America ranks in terms of education, it’s a sad tale of decline. Our educational infrastructure is ranked 23rd in the world and seems like it declines even more every passing year. I saw some recent statistics from OnlineEducation.net concerning developed nations around the world, and the youth of our nation rank 25th in math and 21st in science. Around 1.2 million high schoolers drop out every year, which equals about one student every 26 seconds. I believe technology can help America get on track to trend upward in these stats rather than continually declining.

(MORE: Why the Technology Industry’s Greatest Years Are Still Ahead)

One of the most exciting things of late is Apple’s major push to get iPads into classrooms. The release of iBooks Author makes it relatively easy to create next-generation textbooks, and educational resources like these will hopefully lead to an unprecedented amount of innovation around how technology is used to foster learning in ways not possible with analog mediums.

As much as I believe the iPad and tablets in general present one of the most exciting advancements for education in some time, integrating them successfully will not be easy. For this to work, the system has to change and we need to begin to think more creatively about how we educate our youth.

One of the most important and fundamental principles that has been acknowledged over the past 20 years is that not everyone learns the same way. My eight-year-old, for example, has no problem learning through repetition and busy work. For her, the system works. There are, of course, ways the system can develop and be more effective even for her learning style but the point is that the system works.

For my youngest, who is now seven, the system does not work. She learns through interaction and engagement, she needs more hands-on work filled with examples, and more importantly (just like me), she learns through trial and error most effectively. She gets frustrated with the current system’s processes, but that doesn’t change the fact that she is hungry to learn. She simply needs better tools. That’s where tablets come in.

(MORE: No Turning Back: Tablets and the Era of Touch Computing)

I have been a proponent of using the iPad and a number of great educational apps and resources in my kids’ own educational development. My key takeaway with regards to technology and education is that technology must be used as a tool to help educators. It’s a part of the educational process, but not the process in and of itself. What I means is that we can’t assume that we can just hand kids these tools and walk away, expecting them to learn.

The technology itself won’t teach them. Tablets are remarkable new tools in educators’ toolboxes and they need to be integrated as such. If we believe that technology is key to our future, then making sure kids grow up with sufficient exposure will be key.

Of course, making technology affordable is also critical. I hope to see more government subsidization programs that can help offset costs and fast track technologies like tablets and other interactive learning tools into our educational institutions. That’s something I would gladly put my tax dollars toward.

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