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Dichotomies in Education

Dichotomies in Education

I often struggled with marrying theory and practice.

I’d believe one thing, then somewhere down the road I’d realize that how I ran my classroom, how I interacted with my students, or how I planned their learning experiences wasn’t completely rooted in my beliefs.

Below is a list of the dichotomies I often came back to. My “FLOs”—frequently reflected on. May they offer you insight into your own practice or beliefs.

Are you doing this? Or are you doing that? And more importantly, which of the two do you want to be doing?

- THAT -

- THIS -


“Doing the right thing”


“Doing things right”

From Modern Learner’s whitepaper, 10 Principles for Schools of Modern Learning:

From their inception, schools have represented an imperfect construct for learning, one driven by efficiencies rather than effectiveness. As educator/author Peter Drucker said, “There is a difference between doing things right and doing the right thing.” And as Drucker’s colleague Russell Ackoff added, “Doing things right is efficiency. Doing the right thing is effectiveness.”

Are you using technology for efficiency’s sake only? Are you using new tech to teach in your “old ways”?

Do you look for ways to give yourself time back? How have you saved your time wisely?

Are you using technology in meaningful ways? Is it a tool to enhance and amplifying student learning?

Do you look for rich, learning opportunities to engage your students? How have you spent your time wisely?


Am I teaching students to discover their potential? Ask questions. Set goals. Remix. Challenge.


To be instructed, guided. To learn how to be successful at learning.

Active - a change you go through.


What do you know? What can you do with that knowledge?


Am I teaching students to follow? Prescribed rules. Standards. Criteria. Regurgitate. “The right way.”


To be taught. To learn how to be successful at school.

Passive - it happens to you.


What do you know?

for further reflection:

  • What is your belief of “the right thing”? Are you doing that?

  • As a teacher, what have you become really good at? Are you good because you’re efficient, or because you’re effective?

  • Is the tech you’re using in your class serving you or your students more? Does it support efficiency or effectiveness of learning?

  • Commoditize your time: What matters more to you—saving it well or spending it well?

  • What outcome do your students strive for? Are they only looking for the “right” way to do something, or can they construct their own value—fill in the blank (ex. the quickest, cheapest, most effective, strongest, most creative, etc… way.)

  • Are you teaching your students to succeed at school or succeed at learning?

  • In your classroom, does learning end when they students have proven what they know? How do you extend or challenge their thinking? How can they apply it?

can you think of other dichotomies to add to the list? LEt us know.

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