A Devil’s Dictionary of Educational Technology

In the dark spirit of Ambrose Bierce, let us consider new definitions of familiar terms. Specifically, let’s see what happens when we give educational technology the Devil’s Dictionary (1906) treatment.

(A quick prefatory note: I started this off with one blog post. People liked that, and asked me to write more. They also created their own definitions, which I combined with my own in another post. You can tell when a definition’s by someone else, because “it’s in quotes” and linked to a named author. Here I combine the posts, and, once again, thank my interlocutors and co-lexicographers.)

Active learning , n. 1.The opposite of obedience lessons.

2. The strange idea that learning and learners should not be as passive as the dead. Like the dead, active learning is a source of wonder and dread to some of the living. (thanks to Jeremiah Parry-Hill for the nudge)

Analytics, n. pl. “The use of numbers to confirm existing prejudices, and the design of complex systems to generate these numbers.” (by David Kernohan)

App, n. An elegant way to avoid the World Wide Web.

Asynchronous, adj. The delightful state of being able to engage with someone online without their seeing you, while allowing you to make a sandwich.

Badges, n. pl. The curious conceit that since nobody likes transcripts or degrees, the best thing to do is to shrink them into children’s sizes that nobody recognizes. (see Open Badges)

Best practice, n. “An educational approach that someone heard worked well somewhere. See also ‘transformative,’ ‘game changer,’ and ‘disruptive.’” (by Jim Julius)

Big data. n. pl. 1.When ordinary surveillance just isn’t enough.

2. “the Grail, the white whale, the mother lode, the object of all desire — ‘It was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Data’” (Ed Webb).

3. Nostalgia for Skinner boxes. (tip of the hat to Audrey Watters) (suggested by Laura Gibbs)

Blended learning, n. The practice of combining digital and analog teaching. Also referred to as “teaching”, “learning”, and “the real world”.

Blogging, v. The practice of writing to and interacting with an audience through an easy to use, automatically archiving tool. A curiosity, which might be significant if every anyone used it. Can be neatly buried by the LMS.

Chromebook, n. “A device that recognizes that the mainframe wasn’t such a bad idea after all.” (by gmphap1)

Clickers, n.pl. 1. Remotes without control.

2.”Technology for assessing student knowledge, however mostly used for attendance purposes and acknowledging that although they aren’t paying attention, students are able to click a button to give professor the illusion of engagement.” (by Amy)

Cloud, n. 1. A place of terror and dismay, a mysterious digital onslaught, into which we all quietly moved.

2. A “fictitious place where dreams are stored. Once believed to be free and nebulous, now colonized and managed by monsters. See ‘Castle in the Air’.” (by Lisa Lane)

3. A “just other people’s computers”. (pmasson channeling Free Software Foundation Europe)

Competency-based learning or competency-based education (CBE), n. 1. A tentative recognition that learning might occur outside of academia. Obviously dangerous, and preferably reserved for the lower classes.

2. “The recognition that learning is really about what should be learned and is really learned in a segment of learning.” (by gmphap1)

Counsel, n. Well paid, well trained in neither education nor technology, and rules decisively on (and against) both.

Digital native, n. Student worker.

Digital rights management (DRM), n. 1. Digital leash.

2. Nostalgia for the Berlin Wall.

3. When the paranoid and misanthropic reach for Kafka to confront human beings actually using technology.

Disruption, n. 1. The God-Emperor of our era, before whom we offer sacrifices and prostration.

2. An “idea that won’t solve a problem that doesn’t need solving, but will create the maximum amount of media coverage whilst not doing so. A way for rich, well-educated, white men to take on the establishment.” (by David Kernohan)

Edupunk, n. “Short-lived subversive concept advocating for learner empowerment and related disorders, quickly and safely contained by deployment of approved technology such as the LMS (q.v.). See also, Connectivism, DS106.” (by Ed Webb)

Engagement, n. That which everyone talks about but really does not know what it means. (thanks to Elena)

Failure, n. 1. A temporary practice educators encourage in students, which schools then ruthlessly, publicly, and permanently punish.

2. A temporary practice the wealthy encourage in the young, possibly to increase their desperation. (term suggested by Rolin Moe)

FERPA, n. An excellent euphemism for the English word “no.” (See also “HIPAA”)

Flipped classroom, n. “The practice of replacing lectures that instructors give to summarize a course’s readings with videos of lectures that summarize a course’s readings.” (by Eric Behrens)

Ambrose Bierce and friend.

Forum, n. 1. Social Darwinism using 1980s technology.

2. A useful way to learners, teachers, and staff to communicate with each other on their own timelines. Rarely used except in distance learning. (suggested by Joe Murphy)

Gaming, n. A massive cultural artifact shared by a huge swath of the human race, perhaps the most advanced integration of multimedia and storytelling, capable of teaching in fascinating ways. Let us never speak of it again.

Google Doc, n. A collaborative web page which anyone can potentially edit; not a wiki.

HIPAA, n. A powerful synonym for the English phrase “no way”. (See also “FERPA”)

Infographic, n. An easy way to avoid reading and writing.

Innovation, n. 1. The other God-Emperor of the World.

2. A magical word applied to something you’d like to do and get paid for.

3. Recognizing a good idea developed by someone else in the past, and claiming it as emergent. (suggested by Joe Murphy)

Interactive whiteboard, n. A stylish but expensive alternative to paintings and wall hangings.

iTunesU, n. 1. A graveyard of content.

2. When you really, absolutely want to avoid the web, yet are forced to share content outside the LMS.

Lifelong learning, n. An institution’s strategy for extracting money from alumni. Also known as “development”.

LMS, n. 1) A document management system, whereby a faculty member can transfer a single document to his or her students. Curiously overpowered for this purpose, nevertheless universally deployed.

2) A good way to avoid legal notices about copyright.

3) The graveyard of pedagogical intentions. A sump for IT budgets.

Luddite, n. Someone who doesn’t study history, yet wants to inaccurately claim to be militantly anti-technology in one area when simultaneously relying heavily on technology in every other aspect of their lives.

Makerspace, n. “a 2004 computer lab with chairs that roll and a soldering iron.” (See also Open Lab) (by Robin DeRosa)

Mobile, n. 1) Formerly The Great Peril, now known as That Which Must Be Shunned. To be enabled with campus wifi, but dreaded in actual use, especially in classrooms.

2) A technology widely used by blacks, latinos, and poor people. Someday we could think about starting to strategize about beginning to respond to this fact.

MOOC, n.. A high-profile and expensive way to put content on the World Wide Web.

Etymology is obscure; may draw on Massive Open Online Cult or Massively Open Otherworldly Course, Can only be discussed as an American invention.

“Not a monolith,” colloquial. A magical phrase applied to a project to summon up more money for it.

“One size fits all,” colloquial. What we criticize in other people’s projects, and embrace enthusiastically in our own.

Open access in scholarly publication, n. 1. The apocalypse of publishers, scholarly societies, and some professors.

2. “Often abbreviated as OA. Describes a publishing situation when someone else reaches for the check before you do. Popular in Europe and in STEM publishing. In the US, however, humanities scholars usually claim to have left their wallets at home.” (by Greg Britton)

Open Badges, n. “A safe gamification strategy for the LMS, rewarding student compliance with digital stickers. Use with care: although they are technically portable, they must *never* be used for useful, transferable recognition of learning, for that way lies the abyss.” (see Badges) (by Don Presant)

Open Education Resources, n. A flexible and low cost way for students to access and produce content, while engaging faculty creativity and providing multiple class options. Faculty are unaware of it. Further study at some point in the future could be considered.

Open Lab, n. “a 2004 computer lab with chairs that roll.” (See also Makerspace) (by Robin DeRosa)

Powerpoint, n. 1. A popular and low cost narcotic, mysteriously decriminalized.

2.”Powerful tool for keeping ideas within approved boundaries. The only approved presentation technology. The driving force behind the efficiency of the U.S. military, which is to be emulated across education.” (by Ed Webb)

RIAA, n. A friendly and major stakeholder in campus technology decision-making.

RSS, n. A free, easily accessed, well documented, and flexible technology that helps people with information overload, source management, and research workflow. There are many, many applications written that rely on RSS. Let us never speak of it again. (inspired by Vanessa Vaile)

Shadow IT department, n. A mysterious alliance that does a lot of work on campus. It seems to include little start-up companies like Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and others.

Synchronous, adj. 1. Describes the terrifying realization that there is another human being online, and that they do not think like you.

2. Describes a venue for public typos.

World Wide Web, n. A strange new technology, the reality of which can be fended off or ignored through the LMS, proprietary databases, non-linking mobile apps, and judicious use of login requirements.

YouTube, n. The ideal educational technology: everyone likes and uses it, it’s reliable and free, and neither you nor anyone you know has to support it.

(images by gags9999 and Wikipedia)