Friday, 21 March 2008

Hackneyed phrases and new and emerging hackneyed phrases

Recently I blogged a response to George Siemens' weariness of the concept of "Pedagogy first" and it made me ponder what I phrases feel weary of when I hear them. I find that these are particularly prolific in conference presentations, educational developer/learning technologist meetings and (increasingly) job interviews. Following George's example I'm going to endeavour that this doesn't become a rant but considers the "what lies beneath" of the hackneyed phrases.

1. "I'm looking forward to the day we can drop the 'e' and just talk about learning" usually followed by a mexican wave of nods around the room (and a sigh from me). To me this is a "so what" sort of comment, of course I recognise the sub-text of not treating e-learning as a novelty or needing special attention, but I personally think it is interesting enough to generate a rich seam of conversation in its own right - just before it starts to become ordinary something new and exciting come along to refresh thinking. This is not restricted to e-learning, I've also heard "let's stop talking about assessment/teaching/student support/transition and just talk about learning." Of course everything is a subset of learning but do we really want to just describe everything with one word and start every conversation with totality? Will that really advance our cause? Is it a good measure of impact? What's wrong with using language to shine a spotlight?

2. "technology is just another tool in the academic's toolkit that they may or maynot choose to use and I'm OK with that" this is usually an ed dev/learn tech comment and makes me want to ask a whole host of follow up questions - is technology one tool? in this day and age is there a legitimate opt out? in what circumstances might they choose not to use anything at all? and is it really OK to be OK with it? - where are the parallels? - would a librarian declare the same level of comfort if an academic opted out of using any information resources? I realise that I am going against conventional wisdom here, but I don't subscribe to the toolkit perspective. I think about living, learning, working in a digital age (in a world immersed in technology), I think about authenticity to discipline and/or professions, I think about the rich learning opportunities technology can offer and then I wonder in what context is it [yawn yawn] "just another tool"?

3. "technology is fine, but it isn't appropriate within my subject/discipline" obviously an academic comment (well, you know, ed dev/learn tech don't have the monopoly on hackney). I don't really have much to add to this one - its ??? is absolutely explicit. Is there really a subject or discipline in which learning cannot be enriched by thoughtful application of technology or that doesn't have a real world technology component worth embedding? If there is I haven't come across it yet, but if others have, please share...or (I like a challenge) suggest one and let's see if we can't prove/disprove this once and for all.

New and emerging hackneyed.... well "new and emerging" is probably a good candidate in itself, others might include "e-portfolios are the true personalised learning environments", "wikipedia is damaging students' ability to research", "we need to take learning to where the students are, Facebook, MySpace etc". The recent ELI Spring Focus Session with a focus on authenticity through "learning by doing or learning by thinking like.." offered a range of candidates for the coming soon "hackneys" (I even found myself trotting out a refreshed version of 1 above for which I am eternally sorry - "stop talking about them as students but as engineers, psychologists, nurses etc" - oh dear, oh dear) but for now, for the new and emerging ones, I'm not going to fret they are afterall not established yet and as long as they still offer opportunities for conversations and encourage everyone (whatever their role) to re-consider their practice to be more student-focused then I'll stick behind them for a while.

Your comments are most welcome on any of the above together with, if you wish, suggestions for phrases to put in the "Hackneyed Hall of Yawn"

1 comment:

gs said...

v much enjoying the thought of a hackneyed hall of yawn - though have to say that i was *gutted* that 'interplay between physical and virtual environments' didn't make it into the top 3 :)

i have a tiny amount of sympathy with the 'can we just talk about learning?' brigade. not because i think it's a helpful approach in itself - but because some people get so distracted by e-learning/assessment/transition, etc, that they seem to lose sight of anything else. consequently every conversation you have with them gets reduced to e-learning/assessment/transition, etc, being the most important thing in the world, the implication being that if we concentrate all our efforts on this one aspect, everything else will be solved. so i think the problem is less about language than it is about reaction to narrow/blinkered/evangelistic developers and their own hackneyed seams of conversation. or, frequently, monologues...

does that make any sense at all?

in the meantime, can i nominate a couple of hackneyed phrases? firstly, "innovative learning space"; and secondly, my own increasingly hackneyed response of "it's not the space that's innovative, it's what happens within it...". memo to self: buy thesaurus.