5 Terms We Need to Rethink in Education

I was inspired by this Medium post from Bryan Alexander , going through some terms on “Educational Technology”, that may be misconstrued or used incorrectly.  This was one of my favourites:

Blended learning, n. The practice of combining digital and analog teaching. Also referred to as “teaching”, “learning”, and “the real world”.

Yes!!!!  We don’t pull out books and say, “let’s do some book learning.”  It’s just learning.

That being said, the term “educational technology” is one that I have not used much.  When I look at that term, thoughts of technologies being developed specifically for education are what come to mind.  I struggle with this, and I always tell people that no employers will ever ask to see a student’s Edmodo account.  They don’t know it exists, and it is made solely out for education, and really nowhere else.  We need to start with the learning, and move backwards from there.

I see a difference between “educational technology”, and technology that could be used within education (and more importantly for learning).  The former is often designed to do “school” in a digital manner; the latter is often looking at learning first and focusing on how technology can enhance or amplify learning.  Are we focused on technology for learning, or learning with technology?  Better yet, are we focused on powerful learning?

I might have some personal ill-feelings towards the words “educational technology”, as that term was often in my title, and it meant to a lot of people “help me fix stuff on my computer”.  This was why I was adamant that my last title in education was “Division Principal of Innovative Teaching and Learning“. The focus was on new and better ways of teaching and learning, with or without technology.

With that being said, I wanted to take my own crack at some terms I hear often in education, identify what many people hear, and what I hope it means.  This is in no means a “dictionary” of terms in education, but just some terms that I think are important.

Here are some of the most often disputed terms that I have been thinking about:


What a lot of people hear – Doing something crazy or dangerous with kids!

What I hope it means – Moving from something “known”, to an “unknown” in pursuit of doing something better for and with students.


What a lot of people hear – “You are doing it wrong. We need to fix something that you are doing, or sometimes, even you.”

What I hope it means – Focusing on growth and our own development.  Seeking opportunities instead of obstacles. One of my favourite quotes on growth:

“If we create a culture where every teacher believes they need to improve, not because they are not good enough but because they can be even better, there is no limit to what we can achieve.” —Dylan Wiliam


What a lot of people hear – Doing cool things with technology in the classroom and leadership.

What I hope it means – From my book, “The Innovator’s Mindset“, I used the following;

“… innovation as a way of thinking that creates something new and better. Innovation can come from either “invention” (something totally new) or “iteration” (a change of something that already exists), but if it does not meet the idea of “new and better,” it is not innovative.”


What a lot of people hear – Talking, working, learning, and creating something together, face-to-face.

What I hope it means – Talking, working, learning, and creating something together, in different spaces, offline, online, synchronously, and asynchronously.

21st Century Learning (Education, Teaching, etc.)

What a lot of people hear – “Ugh…I hate everything 21st Century blah blah blah…we are already 16 years in!”

What I hope it means – That with huge access to information and one another, we have to really think about what learning can look like for our students, compared to what we experienced.  Yes, we are 16 years in, but we have 84 years to go. It is important that we are constantly looking at the times we live in, and ensure school is not only keeping up, but hopefully leading the way in some areas.

I asked this question on Twitter as well (please click the tweets to see the responses of others):

I noticed that “rigor” was used often, but not “rigour”, which probably means it’s used more in an American context 🙂

What would your terms or words be? I would love for you to share the terms, and your challenges to them, and what your redefinition would be (don’t just say they are dumb!). I think that “buzzwords” are not just words used often in any field, but are words that are often used in an incorrect manner. Terms that have great meaning can lose their appeal, not because they are wrong, but the way we are using them is ineffective.

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