This content is being reposted from George Couros’s original blog post here with his permission.

In 2014, and in my book, “The Innovator’s Mindset,” I wrote about the notion of “school vs. learning,” and it was summarized in the image below by Sylvia Duckworth:

School vs Learning

This post and visual were meant to spark discussion and not insinuate that real learning doesn’t happen in schools. The hope though was that as educators, we always focus on giving students real learning opportunities, not just do things that are solely for the purpose of “school.”

With this being said, I have been having lots of conversations with educators on what technologies they should implement in classrooms. Lately, I have been sharing that we need to be very thoughtful of any technology that has the word, “school, classroom, or ed” in the name. At first, some are taken aback when I say this, but eventually, they understand why I share this learning. I then encourage groups to ask the following question (or a variation of it) when thinking about what technology they use in schools:

Is this a technology that will apply to the lives of our students outside of school or after their time with us?

Now immediately, some may think that I am saying you should not use any “edtech” that has these words in their name, which is not what I am saying at all. We need to be thoughtful if we are using something that is seen as an “end goal,” or is it more like training wheels leading to something bigger? Is it just for school purposes or is this a real thing that students will have an opportunity to learn and develop skills that will be important to them in their lives. Reading that last sentence, this thinking should go beyond technology and in everything that we do in schools.

Again, I am not saying that we should not use these technologies. I am a big proponent of Edublogs being used for digital portfolios although it has “Ed” in the title. So how can I justify this? In my view, Edublogs uses WordPress software, which is often used in business, for website development, and is the platform you are reading this post on currently. Edublogs (not sponsoring this post but just used as an example) runs on WordPress but provides opportunities for teacher moderation which was created based on feedback from schools that use the site.

But many of the technologies that I have seen used for portfolios do not transfer easily to any other site and are meant for just doing “school stuff” and are usually discarded after a student’s time in school. If we are spending a bunch of time in schools using technologies that are never used outside of school for anything other school purposes, we shouldn’t be surprised that students (and often staff) are asking the question, “What’s the point?”

Demands for schools go up while timeframes stay the same. If we can’t justify the long-term benefit of the use of a technology (or more importantly, the time of our educators) to do things that have a real impact on our students past their time in education, then we are developing a lot of students who are really good at school, but not necessarily learning. The question I have provided is a simple one, but could hopefully lead to discussions that place more of an emphasis on why we use (or do) something, not solely on the “what”.

I am a learner, educator, and Innovative Teaching, Learning, and Leadership consultant. I am also the author of "The Innovator's Mindset". I believe we need to inspire our kids to follow their passions, while letting them inspire us to do the same. Follow me on Twitter @gcouros or check out my website at georgecouros.ca.

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