Over the years I’ve come to regret not inventing terminology to describe my teaching approaches. For example, in my first job I instructed my students to listen to particular radio programs coming up so that we could discuss them in class instead of having to spend a whole lesson listening to them first. I also video recorded interviews between myself and others so that students could watch them in their own time.
It didn’t occur to me that I could invent a term like “flipped learning” to describe something which, in my view, was simply good practice and common sense. (For my views on flipped learning, see 8 observations on flipping the classroom, Further thoughts on the flipped classroom, and Making the flipped classroom work.)
Another example of an invented term is “The petrification of the implied opposite”, which I wrote about here: The rule of opposites. It was invented by Stephen Potter, and is astonishingly accurate.
For instance, when the government in England some years ago came out with a new strategy to help elderly or vulnerable people living in assisted accommodation, they called it Supporting People. I immediately thought that with such a name it would involving reducing support, and I was right: under this initiative, the hours of work of wardens in sheltered accommodation were cut, and sometimes reduced to zero. (I have written about Stephen Potter in these articles: The world according to Stephen Potter: going metric, and The world according to Stephen Potter: opposites attract.)
The great thing about the term “petrification of the implied opposite” is that until you think about it carefully it sounds like it might mean something grandiose, while actually it’s pretty mundane.
Inventing terminology has several advantages:
With any luck it will keep other people off your back. If they can’t understand what you’ve said or written, they probably won’t want to come over as nincompoops, so they are unlikely to probe any further.
You never know, it might get you a promotion or an award. For example, a term like “technology-enhanced assessment mechanism”, which naturally leads to the rather pleasing acronym TEAM, is so much more satisfying than the term “online quiz”.
Using long phrases instead of a short one (cf TEAM, above) in a report will have three potential effects, each of which is highly desirable. First, it will render your text unreadable. I’ve analysed the Department for Education’s education technology strategy, and although it does relatively well when you put it through a readability analyser, wading through all the jargon phrases has a curiously deadening effect on the senses.Look at this one, for example, which even manages to use the noun “role model” as a verb, by hyphenating it:
“Through transforming our services, we will role-model existing good practice standards for digital technology and services and take a user-centred approach to delivery.”
I have no idea what that means in any practical sense.
(I’ll be sharing the results of my textual analysis of the strategy in the next issue of my newsletter, Digital Education.)
Secondly, it will increase your word count. If you’ve been asked to summarise what you’ve been doing in no more than 1000 words, say, long-winded jargon can help to pad it out.
The third effect of this approach, with any luck, is that it could be a long time before you’re asked to write a report again.
I hope you realise that this post, and its suggestions, are somewhat tongue-in-cheek. However, if you wish to incorporate jargon into your reports and conversation, here is a useful website for that purpose: Guffpedia