Saturday, December 1, 2018

A Glossary for the Next Big Thing

I'm a big Nancy Bailey fan, and her post today inspired me. She writes about the language used to sell ed tech solutions as the profit-based and data-gathering wings of reformerdom race toward the Next Big Thing-- Personalized Competency Based Proficiency Mastery Mass Customized Algorithm Driven Learning Education Stuff.

As with any sales job, part of the trick is to use terms that have meanings and associations elsewhere and appropriate them for your product, hoping that this will lead the customers to assume your products has certain qualities without you ever having to actually make that claim. In the ed reform biz, the classic example is calling charter schools "public." This leads the citizenry to assume that charter schools have certain qualities (certified teachers, proven ed programs, a commitment to stay open no matter what, open to any student who wants to attend, requirement to follow the same laws that public schools do, etc) without charter fans ever having to claim that charters have those qualities (which would be a stretching of the truth.

"Personalized" as it's currently used is a similar dodge, being used to sell a system that is nothing like what people imagine when they hear the words "personalized education."

Bailey provided an excellent list, but I wanted to take it a step further and provide a chart to help you remember what all of those terms mean when used by promoters of the Next Big Thing. Yes, these words have other meanings in other contexts-- that's precisely the point. But those meanings are not what are intended here.


  1. Thank you for clarifying all the edspeak. I teach grade 3 and try to use computers as little as possible. We also have a no computer policy if it is indoor recess. We feel the kids should be interacting with other kids not computer screens!

  2. One more to add: IEPs for all students.

    1. Yes. Which means we need smaller classes.

    2. In actual practice, yes. However, in this context, it's really "personalized learning," which...see above.