If you think way back to that short stint you spent as a business major in college, before you dropped business law because you realized you didn’t need anymore foreign language credits, you may remember the concept of Opportunity Cost from microeconomics class. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines it as “the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen”. Basically it means, what’s the cost (money, time, resources, etc) of the opportunities we didn’t choose. An example would be if you had the choice between going to a zoo or an amusement park. The opportunity cost would be the cost of that which you did not choose. If you go to the zoo, what did you miss out on at the amusement park. If you bought a hybrid car over a gargantuan SUV you may save some money and get better gas mileage, but the opportunity cost would be the size of the SUV and the safety in an accident. Also, the ability to tow; important for a family who likes to camp.
You can probably already see where this intersects with the world of education. It’s simple things, like how we spend our time. My inbox, RSS, and Twitter feeds are inundated with advertisements, proposals, new gadgets and the like. By choosing to research one over the other I need to take into account the opportunity cost of my choice. As a district if you decide to go with Chromebooks over iPads for your 1 to 1 initiative, what’s the opportunity cost of not choosing the iPads? In short what are you losing out on and is it worth giving up? If you’re spending all your time as an educator, when you’re not teaching, worrying about and planning how to increase your test scores and get off a “list”, what opportunities are you leaving behind? Our choices should not be arbitrary. There is value in every choice we make…and every choice we don’t make.
Next time you have to make a choice on how you spend your time, money, or other resources, don’t forget the opportunity cost of what you won’t choose.