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Hollow buzz words

Posted on: January 18, 2022

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

New year, new level of curmudgeon. 

In 2018, I shared some buzz words in education that rang hollow [1] [2]. Today I add three more — unprecedented, engaging, and training — to that list. (Yes, I had engagement in my first 2018 list, but my emphasis this year is different.)

Unprecedented: Overused during the pandemic, it does not examine history and is an excuse to do shoddy work. Lock downs, misinformation, disinformation, and anti-vaxxers occurred a little over 100 years ago during the flu pandemic of 1918 [3] [4]. 

When schools and education institutes roll out half-hearted online “learning” or emergency remote teaching, it makes me wonder why they were not preparing prior to the pandemic. Oh yes, they ignored history and their e-champions.

Engaging: An administrative and edtech darling of a word because it says nothing of worth. A vendor might show off a whizz-bang feature to an administrator who then wants faculty to use in class because it is engaging.

It is important to get the attention of students because this is one of the first steps to learning. But the bigger issue is sustaining that sort of attention. You cannot and should not merely engage. 

Why? First, there are natural ebbs and flows in a lesson or learning. Second, the only one engaged is the teacher because she is doing all the work. Third, educators have different ways of engaging — storytelling, demonstrating, leading — that vendors may not replicate.

Training: A word that threatens to replace professional development, preparation, continuous education, etc. Training is better suited in military or industrial contexts where standardised procedures are important, e.g., noise discipline, quality control. It is less appropriate in teacher education (unless you want clones).

You can train a dog to do tricks or poo in an enemy’s lawn. You can also train people, e.g., toilet training, CPR steps. But not every context requires training. Training people when they need to be nurtured is just wasting time, money, and effort, it also risks demoralising them.

The words we use matter because they have meaning. That, in turn, shapes action. If we use the wrong words, we risk doing the wrong thing.

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