The buzzwords of #edtech
An interesting article this morning from Jeff Young at the Chronicle of Higher Education notes:
One of the obstacles to bringing “adaptive learning” to college classrooms is that professors, administrators, and even those who make adaptive-learning systems don’t always agree on what that buzzword means. That was a major theme of a daylong Adaptive Learning Summit held here on Tuesday. Several people interviewed at the summit, held by the education-innovation group National Education Initiative, noted that part of the problem is a proliferation of companies that make big promises based on making their technologies adaptive, yet all use the term slightly differently.
I would counter that the big (and unsubstantiated) promises are a greater problem than the buzzwords, but the lack of clarity on what these concepts refer to are an issue, too.
The introductory sentences from Online Learning: Emerging Technologies and Emerging Practices (the second edition of the Emerging Technologies in Distance Education book I edited, which is forthcoming in 2016), make a similar argument:
Many of these (new) approaches to education and scholarship can be categorized as either emerging technologies (e.g., automated grading applications within MOOCs) or emerging practices (e.g., sharing instructional materials online under licenses that allow recipients to reuse them freely).
The terms “emerging technologies” and “emerging practices” however, are catchall phrases that are often misused and haphazardly defined. As Siemens (2008, ¶ 1) argues, “terms like ‘emergence,’ ‘adaptive systems,’ ‘self-organizing systems,’ and others are often tossed about with such casualness and authority as to suggest the speaker(s) fully understand what they mean.”
A clearer and more uniform understanding of emergence and of the characteristics of emerging technologies and practices will enable researchers to examine these topics under a common framework and practitioners to better anticipate potential challenges and impacts that may arise from their integration into learning environments.