Do an Internet search using just the word eLearning or e-learning and you’ll get tens of millions of different results. You’ll also encounter a whole lexicon of new words and acronyms. It can be very overwhelming; confusing. Worse, you just know that somewhere buried among the intelligence is the usual dose of hyperbole and just plain deception that tends to accompany trendy ideas.
So, what’s with all these names? Some would like to suggest that the excessive jargon found in fields such as education serves to separate the professionals from the peasants. Besides affording the practitioners a smug sense of superiority the opaque terms also offer a shield for the guru to hide behind.
There are others who suggest that the jargon is there to help with the Bullshit process.
Henry Frankfurt’s thoroughly entertaining “On Bullshit” distinguishes BS from downright lying. The bullshitter’s (henceforth referred to as the ‘perp’) intention is not primarily to deceive. It is, rather, to impress; to make a point; to win, and the BS is used a vehicle for achieving just that. The perp is aware that much of the argument used is likely false but does not care. (S)he has a goal in mind that, to that person, justify the means. In Education the perp generally does have some personal goal such as:
- Financial gain. A product or service needs to be sold and the perp’s financial future depends on it. You’ll be told whatever you want to hear just so sales will result. “Our product leverages the power of BYOD so as to achieve a constructivist approach to blended learning.”
- Prestige. The perp wishes to get more respect from colleagues, nail some speaking engagements, secure tenure or otherwise ‘move up the company ladder.’ Dropping the right phrases is one way to impress the ones you need to. “I’ve been making use of a flipped classroom approach coupled with gamification techniques and have seen my classes’ standardized scores significantly increase.”
- Power. Some just like getting their way, and, more importantly, being seen as getting their way. Again, the right words do tend to intimidate when needed. “The increasing ubiquity of MOOCs means that you will have to increase your pupil/teacher ratio or find some other way to remain competitive if you want to retain your provincial/state funding.”
Next (part B will be posted tomorrow evening): While there’s more than a small bit of truth in all of this, especially as it applies to some practitioners, it is perhaps better to note that a common set of terms enables people to work together across distance and time. A common language means better transfer of ideas and less opportunity for miscommunication. The italicized terms do come with caveats but they also represent powerful ideas so let’s look at them in more depth.