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Buzzkilling more buzzwords

Posted on: January 22, 2022

If it is not already obvious, I hate buzzwords that originate from uncritical schools of thought. Today I buzzkill “interactive” and “soft skills”.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Interactive: Often attached to lessons and course work, this catchall silver bullet is spouted by those who have little or no idea what it means. I shared some dimensions of interactivity previously, e.g., Student-Teacher (S-T), S-S, S-Resource, S-Interface, S-Self, etc.

Sidetrack: I learnt about these dimensions of interaction when I was pursuing a Masters in edtech and instructional design. They were a foundation of my Ph.D. studies and dissertation. I mention this to reinforce a reflection where I mentioned the importance of relevant academic qualifications in online course design.

Unless you account for all relevant forms of interactivity, you cannot claim to have an interactive lesson or course. Simply sticking a Padlet or a few YouTube videos in a course site does not cut it. The pedagogical intent and the alignment to learning outcomes also matter.

Soft skills: Speaking of catchall, this is a phrase so vague that it is meaningless until someone provides specific examples of such skills. They are contextual and not universal, and touted by gurus and journalists alike.

If these skills are so important, why are they soft and not hard instead, i.e., baked into lessons as equally important outcomes?

The root issue problem of treating so-called soft skills as optional or side dishes is mindset. For example, if you think that students should only be “learning about” science instead of also “learning to be” a scientist, you will focus on content delivery and retention instead of thinking processes, communication strategies, cooperative methods, etc.

These buzzwords are firmly entrenched in news articles, speeches, and social media posts. If only they were as easy to destroy with a buzz saw. Oh well, I live to chop another day.

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