4 Assumptions We Shouldn’t Make in Education


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Moyan Brenn

We have all been a victim of it. Saying something and making a very generalized statement about education and the people involved in it.  Sometimes these assumptions can do more harm than good and we have to be cognizant that painting everything with the same brush is not a good way to do what is best for kids.

Here are some assumptions that we too often make and have to really rethink.

1.  Kids just get technology.  You will often hear Marc Prensky’s “Digital Native, Digital Immigrant” argument being discussed when we talk about what our kids should be able to do in school, but I think that it is being used in the wrong way. Simply, many kids were born in a world with iPads, YouTube, Facebook, and other things, but that does not mean they have any idea how to use them, and it especially does not mean they understand the power these different sites have for learning.

I have actually asked students if they see their mobile device as a learning tool and they look at me stunned to even think that it is something that could be used in school.  In fact, some students would argue that it is more of a hindrance than anything as it distracts them from things that many of them are used to in class, such as reading their textbook, paying attention to lectures, etc.  Just because I was born in world with tools such as hammers, screwdrivers and saws, does not mean I have any idea how to use them to their full potential.  Kids still need guidance in this area.

2.  All parents don’t want their kids using technology in school.  A couple of years ago in a parent meeting for Parkland School Division, which is a district that I consider really pushing the boundaries of technology, I was doing a small workshop with parents.  As I opened up the floor to questions, I was waiting for all of the pushback that I was going to receive about some of the things that we were doing.  To my surprise, one of the parents started off by challenging me and saying that we were not moving fast enough!  I was stunned!  With parents having the same information that we do, you are going to find more parents pushing for a new way of learning in school as they hear about it from others.

When we started blogging with my school years ago, and all of the blogs were private, one parent called and asked me, “If my daughter is doing all of this great work in her blog, shouldn’t other people be able to see it?”  Many have made the assumption that parents are going to be the most resistant to the work that is done with technology, yet there are more and more that are pushing for change every single day.

3.  New teachers are innovative and experienced teachers are holding onto the past.  This statement, for me, couldn’t be further from the truth.  First of all, some of the biggest resistors to changing the classroom environment in schools are often new teachers. This really surprised me at first, but then I heard Bruce Dixon speak and he said something that resonated.  He said, “In no other profession do you watch someone do your job for 16 years before you do it yourself.”  Wow.  It is easy to understand how our experience for learning in school really shapes the way we teach and that is why I am big advocate for creating a new experience in the way that we do professional learning.

On the other side of the spectrum, the assumption that more experienced teachers don’t get “tech” or don’t want to change the way that they teach is often grossly misrepresented.  I have connected with so many educators that want to continuously get better and they are open to trying new opportunities for themselves, creating better learning for their students.  Greg Gorman, a superintendent that is either close to or past retirement age, told me once that he wished “all of this stuff existed when he first started teaching,” because he was so excited about the possibilities.  Coming from a place where he did very little with technology, he is now teaching sessions at conferences, as well as to his own staff.

To me, this is all about mindset as opposed to skill set. Once you are done learning as a teacher, you are done.  That does not matter if you are 24 or 64.  Many people at all ends of the spectrum are focused on learning and becoming better for their students.  You couldn’t ask for more.

4.  Disagreement is a bad thing.  I have started to really believe that we need to really listen to the “naysayer” in our work as opposed to simply believing that they are wrong.  Ultimately, most teachers are there to do what is best for kids, and as long as that leads our conversations, we have to find value when we disagree and promote the opportunity to have those conversations.  Many of us, including myself, have been guilty of being too far on one side of the spectrum.  Often it is the “middle space” that promotes balance in the way that we do our work.  All we have to do is focus on what is best for student learning as opposed to what is easiest for our teaching.  If we start with that end in mind, these conversations can create something very powerful for our students.

Assumptions about others in a negative light can often deter the work that we are doing with students.  If we try to get rid of many of these assumptions and start to think in a positive way, we are more likely to bring people along as opposed to lose them in the work that we are doing for kids.

13 thoughts on “4 Assumptions We Shouldn’t Make in Education

  1. Rick

    #1 is especially true. I am a former teacher now in consulting, but my wife still teaches HS where all the kids have laptops. People would be shocked at how little the kids know about these things. The beginning of the school year should be spent going over basic computer skills; how to manage your wireless connections, how to operate software like MS office, Adobe, etc. How to update your computer and turn on/off applications. How security software works and what your settings should be.

    Aside from how to get to Facebook and YouTube and the free game sites, the majority of kids know very little about how those $800 gadgets work.

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  3. Scott Boylen

    Great post! Important to point out that we too make many assumptions in education that follow the same saying about the word assume and “U” and “Me.” As educators we need to do less assuming and more stepping up, leading, and showing others the light of knowledge. Knowledge is power and powerful!
    Thanks for the reminder!

  4. David Hochheiser

    All are so true. Even students who use a ton of technology probably don’t use it in the ways we’re asking. Many use tech in very limited ways. Everyone has to own pieces of the ed tech shift. Love #3 ‘s point about the necessary mindset for excellence. It does not have a number of years or credits attached to it. I’ve seen great and poor practices across the spectrum. The beauty and truth in #4 is that the calendars will turn, bells will ring and school will happen regardless of our feelings about a particular issue. We must, therefore, work to find that functional and reflective middle path that puts best possible structures in place for our kids, realizing that we’ll continue to improve if we allow for dialogue.

  5. Lori Emilson

    Great post. #3 really resonates with me. I am often surprised at the resistance to technology that I see in new teachers. And I agree that MANY experienced teachers embrace new ideas. Well said!

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  7. Jessica Hadid

    Yes! Effective collaboration RELIES on the naysayers to challenge and test our views; we depend on them to drive meaningful change.

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  9. Ryan Hill

    Excellent points of thought. I agree with most of them but slightly disagree with #3 as I have found that many of the older teachers that I work with in technology training are not as willing to use as technology tools or new tools as younger teachers. I find that there is a greater resistance to change for those that have been entrenched in their habits and practice for a long time. My goal is to show the value of the technology and how it can save them time and effort and increase student engagement and learning. I find when I approach most resistant teachers (young and old) with this value mindset they are much more open to accepting the use of the tools in their classroom.

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  11. Sheri Edwards

    Great post — Number 1 is so true. I am amazed at what my student can do and what they know — and what they are unable to do as far as using devices for impact and voice as literate, participating citizens. Number 4 is also key: we need to listen and find ways forward. Dialogue is key so every one has a voice; with that voice, we clarify and find common ground. Teachers do want the best for kids; starting the conversation begins the new direction.

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