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Posts Tagged ‘buzzwords

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

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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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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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