ELTM3A: Some Jargon Demystified (Bullshit!)

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.

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14 thoughts on “ELTM3A: Some Jargon Demystified (Bullshit!)

  1. Talking of eerily familiar…! I had the dubious pleasure of working fofr an American ‘corporation’ until a decade or so ago and their speciality appeared to be CBS (corporate bullshit-speak) which drove me absolutely nutty. We also worked in a very high-tech environment so the jatgon was almost unbearable and predominantly served no other purpose than to mystify those not in the know. Far too many TLA’s. I may have been financially poorer over the last few years but that whole awful mindset is not missed. 😀

  2. 😀 😀 😀 😀
    The Subversive Element, prime ridiculer of corporate bullshit, has read this with utmost pleasure 🙂
    I believe there is now software available to the marketing departments that creates such jargon – and it is standardized across all industry sectors. I have just finished some research on smart metering solutions – which you would consider technical serious stuff. But, alas, you find the same BS about enterprise-ready blah future-proff blah scalable blah solutions.
    I like in particular “solution” – today every “thing” is a solution.

    1. Thanks, Elke. I suppose there are those who deem excessive use of jargon as useful. I’m not one of them. The industry specific terms–jargon–are supposed to be there to shorten long terms that we use a lot. In that mode, jargon is useful as it streamlines the conversation and, as long as the practitioners understand the terms then things tend to be better. The problem is, though, that some people also use the jargon on a general audience –that by itself is not a bad thing–but THEY do it to deliberately mislead and/or bamboozzle others. That is just plain evil. :>)

      1. If it only would be *really technical* jargon really, I would be fine with that. I am all in favor of using obscure jargon instead of inventing long-winded general-public-ready terms for tech terms that have no counter-part. In German speaking countries there are self-proclaimed keepers of the pure language who want to keep it free of “anglicisms” – I find this ridicuous.

        But that specific pseudo-tech jargon – “flipped classroom” as well as all those “enterprise-ready flexible smart future-proof … solutions” – is invented by marketing departments in my point of view – and hated by their own geeks for that 😉 Yes, this is evil!

  3. You’re a hoot. One of the worst experiences I ever had was as a first-year graduate student. I was directed to attend the opening session of what was a wonderful program (which I shall NOT name – to protect the innocent). The plenary session was demeaning and intended to instruct teachers how to teach. But what I remember so well was all of the jargon. It’s a bit out-dated … but, Gag-Me-With-A-Spoon. D

    1. Sometimes those negative lessons can be useful. After all at some point you have to learn NOT to pet the guard dog. That said, yes, gag is right. I think it’s caused by not having friends or family who correct them from time to time; haul ’em off the high horse.

    1. Yes, increasingly so. It is very scary in a way. We come from the generation that followed the one that gave us much of the rights and freedoms that are so much part of a caring society. Our parents would never let us forget and besides, we often saw how they fought for those gains. These days we are led by so many who either (a) were never exposed to that struggle or, worse (b) come from that privileged class who thinks it’s all rot anyway. Bit by bit the best parts of our society are being eroded and not being replaced by anything better.

  4. Jargon? Red rag to a journalistic bull. Code, supremacy, and as you say power. Perceived superior information. Probably one reason why I write so bluntly. Jargon is seriously patronising in the extreme. In whatever field.

  5. Pingback: ELTM8: It’s Not All Good; Be Careful | Duck? Starfish? but…23

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