Breaking Down the Buzzwords


Breaking Down the Buzzwords

July's SF Edtech meetup pokes fun at buzzwords in the edtech industry.

By Tony Wan     Jul 30, 2013

Breaking Down the Buzzwords

Last Thursday, over 140 EdSurgents braved long lines for our July Meetup, "Breaking Down the Buzz(words)." (Thank you!) And boy, did we break some buzzwords down--and make some new ones. Guest speakers included Brian Greenberg (CEO, Silicon Schools), Greg Klein (Director, Blended Learning, Rogers Family Foundation), Tom Pryor (Community Manager, Khan Academy) and Michael Staton (Partner, Learn Capital).

Here are brief highlights of what we discussed:

Accountabilibuddy: OK, so this wasn't a buzzword. But what turned out to be a South Park joke turned into a semi-serious conversation about teacher and student accountability. "Put tools in the hands of teachers and watch them fly," said Klein, as he described how he's observed teachers working together to learn and explore ways to use technology. Pryor added that "I've actually been pushing to implement this as a feature on Khan Academy for a couple of months...You're gonna learn something better if someone else knows that you set a goal."

Blended Learning: "This is a great example of why buzzwords are a problem. My working definition is mostly geared on the idea of personalization that meets the needs of every kid in the room. I really don't think it's blended learning when you just think about what to buy and just layer technology on top of an existing structure," said Greenberg.

Engagement: "A lot of what has been "missing" in education is data that we can use to look across and see what's happening with students in the classroom. The key to collecting data on a massive scale is that it's really cheap and really frequent. So clicks and time looking on a page--they don't have all the answers--but they are the cheapest and easiest form of measuring engagement that we have. So we should embrace clicks just a little bit," Staton stated.

Flipped Classroom: "The flipped classroom tends to push people into thinking that video is a silver bullet, and that's why I think it's pretty useless...I think this word should absolutely go away," said Pryor. "No. I think we need to promote it and move towards 'flipped schools'," Staton interjected. "Now you're flipping the panel," quipped Klein.

Big Data: "It's all about clicks," Staton said again. Then, with a more serious face on, he added, "the idea that you're going to assess kids once a week and run an algorithm and that think that it's going to approach the levels that the Yahoos and Facebooks mess with everyday--it's not even close. Big Data is an aspiration and a buzzword that just doesn't even apply in education."

Gamification: An audience member chimed in: "I think what's exciting about gamification is not the competition or extrinsic motivation. It's about the right sizing of the challenge. If you look at the brain imagery, it's like crack's about the right level of personalized challenge and momentum."

The evening wrapped up with some fun with this Buzzword Generator from recent Imagine K12 graduate, 121Writing. If you ever find yourself running out of catchphrases for your press release, you now know where to turn.

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