The next person who tells me to “think outside the box” is going to get hurt. Don’t tell me that you haven’t thought that at least once in your career! We often make a game of this to pass the time during mandatory professional development sessions (#donttellmyprincipal) – How many buzzwords and jargon phrases will get thrown out at us this time? At a recent staff meeting, I gave up somewhere north of 20… I zoned out halfway between the third time I heard “benchmarks for growth” and the eighth time someone referred to an educational concept as a “piece.”
We all know this guy (or gal) on our staff – I call him The Jargonator! His superpower is to take a buzzword and repeat it ad nauseam until it no longer has any meaning! Then he can cloak himself in an impenetrable fog of meaningless vocabulary and mask his incompetence. The real problem of course is that this linguistic jujitsu hurts the students. Important reforms can be waylaid while The Jargonator flexes his grad class dictionary muscles. No one wins in this scenario.
One of my favorite online writers, Peter DeWitt, tackles this issue in a recent entry for Education Week. He examines the latest victim of The Jargonator – the term “Twenty-First Century Skills”…
In education we have a habit of using terms so often that we push staff to a place where they do not want to use them anymore, which means they are in jeopardy of not being engaged in the process. We have seen it with terms such as “differentiated instruction” and “hands-on learning.” If we’re not careful it will happen with a very important term which is “21st century skills.” […]
The race to nowhere is paved in countless mandates and new ideas. We can become overwhelmed with the amount of educational information that we see in journals and cyberspace. New ideas are being proposed all around us. Some of which are just creative advertising on the part of textbook publishers, while others are creative ideas that will help us keep up with our younger generation.
However, are they really new ideas? 21st century skills are critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. For those of us who have been educators for a long time we have always taught our students how to think critically, communicate with others, collaborate on projects and be creative. Long before the 21st century, that was the basis for education for many years.
In addition, one of the best 21st century skills that we can teach students is the art of reflection. Through reflection students can assess their critical thinking skills and creativity. They can also work in collaboration with other students to reflect on the work that they completed. Reflection is an additional 21st century skill that would be beneficial for all students, staff and administrators.
DeWitt goes on to describe how he came to discover Twitter (@PeterMDeWitt) and other social media services as the perfect modern vehicles for just that type of professional reflection. He encourages educators to join Twitter and to use it to network with peers in the field. I recently took his advice (@John_DAdamo) and have quickly found new ways of tackling old problems. The regular sessions followed by the #edchat hashtag have provided a real treasure trove of ideas for me this semester. Not to mention they come jargon-free!
Certainly our students can benefit from this type of reflection! The Cycle of Learning model extends “traditional” education beyond the Discovery (content knowledge) and Expression (assessment) phases into the areas where Collaboration (dynamic cooperation) and Integration (reflection via technology) are mastered as well. Our students live in an age where they are bombarded with a constant stream of information – it is on us as educators to teach them how to filter through it for what is instructionally valuable for their achievement, success, and ultimate growth as a human being.
Don’t let The Jargonator win!