Words Matter: Are You Talking About Technology, or are You Talking About Learning?

This blog post was originally posted on the Connected Educator Month blog.

I still remember the first time I held a voluntary workshop on Google Docs for a staff of 100 teachers. I called it “10 Ways to Use Google Docs in Your Classroom”.

Five people showed up.

A week later, I was eating lunch in the staff lounge and heard a colleague say, “They always have an excuse for not turning their work in. They forgot to bring it home, they lost their flash drive, their printer wasn’t working, yada yada”.

I immediately piped up: “You know, have you thought about using Google Docs? Their work is stored online, so they can access it from anywhere”.

“OH! That’s great! Can you show me?”.

A week later, I held another workshop. I called it “No Excuses: Anytime, Anywhere Access to Student Work (For You & Them!)”.

So many people showed up that we ended up spilling into another computer lab.

I learned a valuable lesson that day: words matter.

In schools all over the nation, “technology coaches” are being hired, “technology workshops” are being held, and classrooms are getting “flipped” and “blended”. Every time we find a way to be more efficient or effective, we come up with a new acronym or word for it. Instead of “connecting with other educators”, we build a “PLN.” Instead of “giving students access to resources,” we “go 1:1 with a blended learning approach.”

Can we please stop?

I worry sometimes that we’ve become so exclusive with our language that we are pushing people out of the conversations they should be a part of. Do parents know what we are talking about when we use this jargon? Do WE even know what we are talking about anymore?

Think for a second about how much the world has changed since the rise of the Internet. Technology has completely transformed the way that businesses operate, and yet, they don’t find a need to use the jargon we’ve created for the way learning now happens.
When the marketing head of a company started connecting with others through LinkedIn, he didn’t say he was “building a PLN.”

He was connecting with others.

When the car mechanic wanted to learn a new system, she didn’t say she was “exploring OERs through a blended, flipped approach.” She was using her resources.

Technology was only a tool to make what they were trying to do more efficient and more effective. We need to start viewing technology in education with the exact same perspective, and nothing more.

Imagine what would happen if we stopped using all of the jargon that we’ve created.

  • When the marketing head of a company started connecting with others through LinkedIn, he didn’t say he was “building a PLN.” He was connecting with others.
  • When the car mechanic wanted to learn a new system, she didn’t say she was “exploring OERs through a blended, flipped approach.” She was using her resources.
Technology was only a tool to make what they were trying to do more efficient and more effective. We need to start viewing technology in education with the exact same perspective, and nothing more.
Imagine what would happen if we stopped using all of the jargon that we’ve created.

Instead of saying this…

..we could say this!

“Yay, my students all have digital portfolios this year!”
“Yay, my students show evidence of their learning!”
“I spent a lot of time this summer helping other teachers get started in our learning management system.”
“I spent a lot of time this summer helping other teachers organize their resources more effectively.”
“I use clickers and surveys in my class.”
“I collect feedback really fast in my class, so I know immediately when I need to re-teach something!”
“I’ve really worked on making my classroom paperless and digital this year; my students use cloud collaboration software in my class.”
“My students can access their work from anywhere and can work together on the same files.”
“I’m working on flipping my classroom and using a blended learning approach this year with OERs.”
“I’m working on giving my students better access to learning resources this year.”
“We’re doing a lot with makerspaces and project-based learning this year.”
“Our students create things.”
“I can’t wait for this #edchat with my PLN!”
“I can’t wait to connect with other people who have similar goals to me.”
“I’m trying to put all of my resources in a learning management system this year.”
“I’m trying to give my students 24/7 access to my classroom so they can go at their own pace.”
“I want my students to have 21st-century skills and be college and career ready.”
“I want my students to have the skills they need NOW, in today’s world.”
Our teachers became teachers to teach. Let’s respect that and focus back on what they do every day in their classrooms. Let’s stop giving workshops on “Google Docs” or “Flipped Classrooms.” Instead, let’s give workshops on “More Efficient Ways to Collaborate with Students” or “More Effective Ways to Deliver Direct Content.”

 Let’s stop talking about technology and start talking about learning.


One Comments

  • Kayla Vargo

    October 29, 2014

    I really enjoyed reading this. I think some educators find technology daunting, but if they see how it influences learning, they might be more on board.

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