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A Lever to Move the World: Education + Technology = Transformation

When I was a young boy, my grandfather, Dale Mathews would watch me exhaust myself while completing an extremely hard task. He would look at me and smile, then shake his head and say, “Mike, did you know that with the right leverage you could move the world?”

As a young boy I had no idea what he was talking about. Little did I know that he was referring to the famous saying by Archimedes (circa 250 B.C.): “Give me a place to stand, and a lever long enough, and I will move the world.” Archimedes of Syracuse was an illustrious Greek inventor, mathematician, astronomer, physicist and engineer. He was highly educated and used all the technology available in his time.

During my wonderful career in education and technology, I have witnessed this statement play out precisely. The great levers of the 21st century are first and foremost education, and then technology.

THE LEVER OF TECHNOLOGY

During the past six months during COVID-19 we have witnessed the world shift in many incredible ways. The best way to illustrate this is to look at a company called Zoom Telecommunications as it compares to the airline industry. In less than six months, Zoom went from having 25 million users to approximately 350 million users. This shift resulted in Zoom Telecommunications being worth more than the top seven airlines combined (visualcapitalist.com/zoom-boom-biggest-airlines). Zoom’s market value has sprung to $48.78 billion, while the airlines are operating at minimal capacity and losing billions each quarter.

This same shift in other areas of technology includes Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft. In fact, during the past 10 years, technology industries began to dominate the Fortune 500 Company list from a market share perspective (community.hitachivantara.com/s/article/Changes-in-The-Top-Ten-Fortune-500-and-in-The-Global-500-Over-The-Past-Decade). The lever of technology is truly shifting the world and providing opportunities to its 7.8 billion citizens. 

THE LEVER OF EDUCATION

Zoom has shifted society in that it has had a direct impact on education during COVID-19, now making it possible to not only equalize education opportunities around the world, but speed up its delivery, while automatically recording it. During the past four months, I have witnessed people from 45 nations receive some form of education to which they would not normally have access. 

Education is undoubtedly the best lever and value on planet earth. Looking back on the advice of my parents and grandparents—who did not have post-high-school degrees—I can see why they were persistent about my getting an education. Since earning multiple post-high-school degrees, I can see that my grandfather and Archimedes were correct; by using the right levers you can move the world.  Education has provided me levers in the world that they could not access. Specifically, a degree in technology opened doors that I could never have fathomed.

My first experience with the “lever” of education and technology was my involvement in the installation of the Cray Research Supercomputer at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. The first day of the install, 200 university and colleges presidents from around the world came to witness the installation. In fact, 25 years later I discovered that the experience was documented in the archives of the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

In other words, my parents and grandparents where correct: My ability to work with an education behind my name allowed me to plant a digital footprint that brought shifts in the world. This has continued as I have pursued involvement in the field of education and technology (works.bepress.com/michael-mathews/).  It has shown me that the value of an education far surpasses almost any other investment on earth.

In my lifetime, I have borrowed money for an education, homes, cars, campers and home improvement projects. Without a doubt, my investment in an education has delivered the greatest value over the longest period of time. This value includes a fair annual salary in the field of educational technology. In my case, I have compared the financial return over a 25-year period of my career to be worth $2.8 million more than some of my peers who did not invest in an education. I anticipate the final investment to be worth $3.5 million more than my peers’ lack of investment.

More importantly, it has given me the ability to make a difference in the world in ways I never thought possible. The re-investment of my original investment has exponentially impacted people, businesses, college campuses and both regional and digital infrastructures. Educating over 325 engineers on hundreds of supercomputers during a 12-year span of my career helped bring change to eight different industries around the world. It would have been impossible to even dream of these changes when my grandfather would say those words, “Mike, did you know with the right leverage, you could move the world?”

No other investment in my life has paid back with such quick and rewarding benefits. Education is truly the No. 1 lever that continues to shift the world. In my research, I have concluded that a person who invests in a bachelor’s degree at a premier university, such as Oral Roberts University (where I serve) can earn an average of three million dollars more during their career than those who don’t earn a degree.

PUTTING THE LEVERS TOGETHER

For the reasons I mentioned, I am a strong proponent of helping people around the world invest in an education. It is a seed that brings a great harvest and feeds far more than one village. Upon joining ORU in 2014, the President, Dr. William Wilson, motivated everyone to think big, and think global. At that time, there were 86 nations around the word being impacted by ORU. Today through his leadership and effective use of technology, ORU has 195 nations accessing our digital content, and students from 116 nations come to ORU to invest in their journey to impact the world.

Reaching this many people with one of the greatest investments in the world would not be possible without the lever of technology. In 2017, ORU designed and built the world renown Global Learning Center, which was designed with augmented and virtual reality, and started one of Zoom’s first campus-wide deployments. This technology has allowed students around the world to be reached more efficiently and effectively. From an orphanage in Africa, to 23 remote locations in Pakistan, to Fortune 500 companies in Singapore, to 165 classrooms on the campus of ORU—we have Zoomed into every person’s world to start their education investment.

The combined levers of education and technology are truly shifting our world.

 

This article was extracted from Issue 4 (Winter 2021) of the AVAIL Journal. Claim your free annual subscription here.

 

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