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Readers’ Definitions of Ed-Tech Buzzwords: Confusion and Skepticism Continue

Professors, administrators, and ed-tech vendors don’t always speak the same language when it comes to talking about experimental approaches to teaching and research. Terms like “flipped classroom” and “digital humanities” get thrown around a lot these days, but different people often mean different things by them. And some people still don’t know what they mean, despite their buzzword status.

To get a sense of the buzzword landscape, we asked Chronicle readers to give their definitions of four ed-tech terms. We emphasized that we weren’t looking for the perfect definitions, just a sense of what comes to mind immediately. Though the responses were anonymous, we asked people to give a sense of their role in higher education to put their answer in context.

As I wrote earlier this week, confusion and skepticism over these buzzwords could be stifling efforts to reform teaching and research with technology. That article included some of the responses from our survey, but I wanted to give a more complete account, so I’m posting the full responses below.

Most administrators gave straightforward definitions of terms like “flipped classroom,” which one defined as “The readings and lectures are consumed outside the classroom, and then the class time is used for more hands-on experience, discussion groups etc., more practical application and less listening time in the classroom.”

Some professors who responded used their definitions as a chance to express their suspicion of tech reforms. For example, here were some of the definitions for “flipped classroom.”

  • “A way for edupreneurs to make money and for bad professors to avoid actually teaching.”
  • “It’s an idiotic assumption that teaching has only worked in a single way up until “now,” after some “genius” white dude saw that students watched an indian guy’s videos.”
  • “Something good teachers have been doing for decades.”
  • “This is a corny term coined in the past few years to describe a process whereby students read course materials and watch videos in preparation for class discussions. This is what classroom education is supposed to entail … the idea that it is a next new thing just shows how superficial most discussions of teaching and learning are … especially by some online HE journalists.”

“Digital humanities” seemed to draw genuine confusion for many readers. More than one respondent said “no clue,” and some said it meant any use of technology in the humanities. One former graduate instructor called it: “A meaningless buzzword used to give the humanities a veneer of sophistication, both for funding purposes and for the sake of certain people’s egos.”

Leave your own definitions in the comments.

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