10 Educational Buzz Words that Challenged my Work and Thinking in 2012 #edtech #education #edu

2012 has been rich with buzz words. Some of them have been around for one or more decades, while others were born over the last couple of years. As I reflect upon my work, scholarship and learning over the last twelve months, here are the 10 words/phrases (new and old alike) that captured my attention enough to warrant some 2012 investigation and experimentation. Or, they are words and phrases that represent a change in my 2012 work and thinking. In some cases, these were altogether new terms to me. In other cases, they just managed to garner more of my attention than in past years.

Heutagogy – This expansion of concepts associated with andragogy is focused upon the study of self-directed learning.

What did I do to experiment with it? In this case, I built up an annotated bibliography of sources on the subject. In a more informal way, I do think that reading so much on the subject gradually started to change the way that I think about learning. One more focused effort that came from my study of this word was re-designing an undergraduate course so that students documented their learning in each unit through self-designed inquiry projects.

Paragogy – This term refers to the study of peer-to-peer learning.

What did I do to experiment with it? I redesigned some of my online courses and adjusted my teaching strategies in order to promote more peer-to-peer learning. In many cases, it jut meant getting out of the way of the students. I also tried out a couple of p2pu.org courses, although I must confess that I didn’t follow through on them. By the way, while it did not make my list for this year, reading up on paragogy also introduced me to ubuntugogy.

MOOC (). Technically, this is an acronym rather than a stand-alone word. I’ve been fascinated by MOOCs since participating in one on Connectivism a number of years back.

What did I do to experiment with it? I not only signed up but actively participated in one, CFHE12. I definitely got more out of this one than any of my past efforts. The difference had little to do with the course and everything to do with my commitment, effort, and taking full ownership for my learning.

Blended Learning – It is far from a new concept, but since I am designing a new online graduate course that focuses entirely upon blended learning, it makes the list for this year. If you want a wonderful primer on the topic, I strongly suggest the three white papers produced by Innosight Institute.

What did I do to experiment with it? I mostly just read more and tried to apply what I read in order to enhance the blends that I’ve already been doing for a number of years.

Flipped Classroom – Years ago, I remember reading a research article about something called the “inverted classroom”, which was essentially what is now referred to as the flipped classroom. I would put this as a subcategory under blended learning, but it is a term that made the headlines this year. As a result, I got multiple invitations to speak on the subject. Things like Khan Academy and TedEd managed to give it some additional 2012 traction.

What did I do to experiment with it? My attention was drawn back to the concept as schools, professors, k-12 teachers, and graduate students came to me with the practical questions. How do I actually flip a classroom? That made for a few fun and engaging presentations and conversations. It also gave me a chance to explore the Faustian bargain that goes with any technology.

Growth Mindset – I managed to miss the wonderful work of Carol Dwek until 2012. This year I read, re-read, and then read again her book called Mindset. Then I started working through some of her other publications. The ideas in the book were not new, but how she packaged the ideas was transformative for me. While I’ve been a student of positive psychology since high school, her distinction between a growth mindset and fixed mindset gave me a new way of thinking about motivation and success.

What did I do to experiment with it? I thought differently and became more intentional in my self-talk as well as my conversation with my children. With my children, I changed from praising them for being “smart” to affirming their effort, persistence, and perseverance. I encouraged myself and them to cultivate a growth mindset.

Infographics – One of my areas of scholarship over the last decade relates to the broad idea of digital literacy. Within that, I explore things like media literacy, information literacy, and visual literacy. Literacy in the 21st century is about both reading and writing, and it is also about reading more than traditional books and essays. One part of this is learning from infographics and learning to communicate concepts and information in visual form. This is where I was drawn into further exploration of infographics.

What did I do with it? I created a Piinterest account and started reading and collecting Inforaphics. http://pinterest.com/bdean1000/

William Farish – Yes, this is a name rather than a term or phrase. Farish was tutor at Cambridge University in the early 19th century, and Neil Postman (in Technopoly) points to him as the one who invented letter grades, primarily as a means of reducing his work load while increasing the number of students that he could take on (which also increased his pay). There is some question about the accuracy of this account. in fact, I’m nearly certain that this account is an inaccurate representation of Farish who seemed to have been a well-respected chemistry professor of his day. Fact or fiction, this mythic representation served as a prompt for me to think about the role of ratings and grades. For me, William Farish represents a much needed discussion about the role of grades. It also happens to represent my one year exploration into the history of letter grades. You can see a sample in my recent post on “15 Sources to Challenge our Thinking about Grading.”

What did I do to experiment with it? The previously mentioned blog post on “15 Sources about Grading” gives you a glimpse into what I did with it. In addition, it did challenge me to revisit my own grading practices, reconsidering things like lowering grades for missing due dates.

The Innovative University
– This is the title of the 2011 book by Clayton Christiansen and Henry Eyring. I first read it at the end of 2011, but then it became a common reference book in my conversations with colleagues at the University where I work. Given all of the other buzz words mentioned, many Universities are grappling with questions about the future of higher education, what needs to change, what needs to stay the same, and a myriad of similar concepts. Whatever the case, as I often note to groups when I present, it seems clear that we have entered the Wild West era of education, with a vibrant entrepreneurial spirit informing conversations in higher education, P-12 education, as well as the many powerful open and informal educational affordances in the digital world. For that reason, the phrase “Innovative University” represents one of the dominant education themes of the last year, educational innovation and entrepreneurship. I certainly think that the Christiansen and Eyring book makes for a great discussion starter on the subject, although I will reserve a separate blog post dedicated specifically to highlighting my top ten higher education books of 2012.

What did I do to experiment with it? I am just going on twelve months in my appointment as Assistant VP of Academics with responsibilities for areas like distance learning, off-campus centers, and continuing education. A day doesn’t go by without thinking and talking about educational innovation.

Existential Apologetics – I know that those of you who follow my blog come from a wide variety of religious traditions, so just know that this one moves into the spiritual realm. I had the chance to read a new book by Dr. Clifford Williams this year, where he introduced me to the idea of existential apologetics. It is an argument for the existence of God based upon the claim that humans have a long list of common desires and needs that are satisfied through religion. Read this for a balanced review and critique of this idea. Or, you may want to read the Williams book yourself, Existential Reasons for Belief in God: A Defense of Desires and Emotions for Faith.

What did I do to experiment with it? Life and work kept many of us busy this year, not to mention the draw of the digital world and the ability to easily lose track of time while researching a new topic on the web or building your personal network. Amid all of that, I am increasingly confident that the balanced life in the digital world requires a deep understanding of our most fundamental human needs, and finding time to address those needs. So, I continued my habit of reading one book by a dead person for every two books by living people. It helps me to ensure that my thinking is not simply a prisoner to the spirit of the age. As a Christian, this also meant devotional time with my family, corporate worship, and a renewed commitment to spending time in prayer and study of the Scriptures. Experimenting with technology fasts was also a rewarding effort this year. I will reserve further explanation of the technology fast for a separate post.

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About Bernard Bull

Dr. Bernard Bull is the author of Missional Moonshots, Assistant Vice President of Academics, Associate Professor of education, and a frequent keynote speaker and consultant on topics related to educational innovation and entrepreneurship, futures in education, and the intersection of education and digital culture. Opinions expressed here do not reflect those of his primary employer(s).