A Devil’s Dictionary of Educational Technology

devil_gags9999In the dark and satirical spirit of Ambrose Bierce, I offer the first draft of a Devil’s Dictionary for educational technology terms.  May it entertain, and all be forgiven.

App, n.  An elegant way to avoid the World Wide Web.

Blended learning, n.  The practice of combining digital and analog teaching.  Also referred to as “teaching”, “learning”, and “the real world”.

Blogging, v.  The practice of writing to and interacting with an audience through an easy to use, automatically archiving tool.  A curiosity, which might be significant if every anyone used it.  Can be neatly buried by the LMS.

Competency-based education (CBE), n.  A tentative recognition that learning might occur outside of academia.  Obviously dangerous, and preferably reserved for the lower classes.

Digital native, n.  Student worker.

Engagement, n. That which everyone talks about but really does not know what it means. (thanks to Elena)

FERPA, n.  An excellent euphemism for the English word “no.” (See also “HIPAA”)

Gaming, n.  A massive cultural artifact shared by a huge swath of the human race, perhaps the most advanced integration of multimedia and storytelling, capable of teaching in fascinating ways.  Let us never speak of it again.

HIPAA, n.  A powerful synonym for the English phrase “no way”.  (See also “FERPA”)

Infographic, n.  An easy way to avoid reading and writing.

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Interactive whiteboard, n.  A stylish but expensive alternative to paintings and wall hangings.

Lifelong learning, n.  An institution’s strategy for extracting money from alumni.  Also known as “development”.

LMS, n. 1) A document management system, whereby a faculty member can transfer a single document to his or her students.  Curiously overpowered for this purpose, nevertheless universally deployed.

2) A good way to avoid legal notices about copyright.

3)  The graveyard of pedagogical intentions.

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 A sump for IT budgets.

Luddite, n.  Someone who doesn’t study history, yet wants to inaccurately claim to be militantly anti-technology in one area when simultaneously relying heavily on technology in every other aspect of their lives.

Mobile, n.  1) Formerly The Great Peril, now known as That Which Must Be Shunned.  To be enabled with campus wifi, but dreaded in actual use, especially in classrooms.

2) A technology widely used by blacks, latinos, and poor people.  Someday we could think about starting to strategize about beginning to respond to this fact.

MOOC, n..  A high-profile and expensive way to put content on the World Wide Web.

Etymology is obscure; may draw on Massive Open Online Cult or Massively Open Otherworldly Course,  Can only be discussed as an American invention.

Open Education Resources, n.  A flexible and low cost way for students to access and produce content, while engaging faculty creativity and providing multiple class options.

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 Faculty are unaware of it.  Further study at some point in the future could be considered.

RIAA, n.  A friendly and major stakeholder in campus technology decision-making.

Shadow IT department, n.  A mysterious alliance that does a lot of work on campus.  It seems to include little start-up companies like Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and others.

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World Wide Web, n.  A strange new technology, the reality of which can be fended off or ignored through the LMS, proprietary databases, non-linking mobile apps, and judicious use of login requirements.

Are there other terms we should add to this luciferean lexicon?

(devil photo by gags9999)

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60 Responses to A Devil’s Dictionary of Educational Technology

  1. Funny! Er, I mean sad. Meh, probably both.

  2. Joe Murphy says:

    What a wonderful way to start my day! I’m going to use that FERPA definition a lot (because it’s both more creative and less insulting than the version I cooked up).

    Here’s one. Forum: an online space designed to facilitate the communal debate and investigative discussion of the classroom. Primarily used to simulate the individualistic question-and-answer speechifying of the classroom.

    I’m sure there’s a good one for Clickers but I’m not coming up with it yet.

  3. Don Presant says:

    Suggested entry:
    Open Badges: a safe gamification strategy for the LMS, rewarding student compliance with digital stickers. Use with care: although they are technically portable, they must *never* be used for useful, transferable recognition of learning, for that way lies the abyss.

  4. Google Reader, n. Epitome of simple content collection and curation, killed well before its time. Paradise lost.

    Edupunk, n. Short-lived subversive concept advocating for learner empowerment and related disorders, quickly and safely contained by deployment of approved technology such as the LMS (q.v.). See also, Connectivism, DS106.

    Powerpoint, n. Powerful tool for keeping ideas within approved boundaries. The only approved presentation technology. The driving force behind the efficiency of the U.S. military, which is to be emulated across education.

  5. ebehren1 says:

    Flipped instruction: the practice of replacing lectures that instructors give to summarize a course’s readings with videos of lectures that summarize a course’s readings.

  6. Jim Julius says:

    “Best practice”: an educational approach that someone heard worked well somewhere. See also “transformative,” “game changer,” and “disruptive.”

  7. Flatfrog says:

    Content (n): Material that gets in the way of the smooth running of the LMS.

  8. If we shadows have offended…

    I am amused. All too accurate at times and a good reminder to question assumptions.

  9. VanessaVaile says:

    long overdue, splendid — comments too. I hope you incorporate them into Dictionary.

    rss as endangered digital species, although its disappearance from sites that prefer email newsletters, the better to harvest your email addresses could support blogging. Online entities listing blogs without rss on their websites merit the digital equivalent of public flogging

  10. brittongm says:

    Open Access — Often abbreviated as OA, describes a publishing situation when someone else reaches for the check before you do. Popular in Europe and in STEM publishing, in the US, however, humanities scholars usually claim to have left their wallets at home.

  11. Lisa M Lane says:

    Cloud – fictitious place where dreams are stored. Once believed to be free and nebulous, now colonized and managed by monsters. See “Castle in the Air”.

    • Oh, very nice, Lisa. Could I quote that and cite you?

      • pmasson says:

        Another? “Cloud – just other people’s computers.” This is derived from the (Free Software Foundation Europe) FSFE’s campaign, “There is no cloud just other people’s computers,” which tried to demystify and refute the claims of providers that somehow, their “solutions” provided greater resources/services than any other remote hosting option by another name (e.g. ISP), and that such services actually created lock-in resulting in far less freedom than hyped by providers.

      • lisahistory says:


  12. actualham says:

    Open Lab: a 2004 computer lab with chairs that roll.

    Makerspace: a 2004 computer lab with chairs that roll and a soldering iron.

  13. kimijye says:

    Ha! In other words, higher education is a hot mess missed in a gooey bog of anachronistic glory. Touché.

  14. dkernohan says:

    Analytics: the use of numbers to confirm existing prejudices, and the design of complex systems to generate these numbers.

  15. dkernohan says:

    Disruption – idea that won’t solve a problem that doesn’t need solving, but will create the maximum amount of media coverage whilst not doing so. A way for rich, well-educated, white men to take on the establishment.

  16. gmphap1 says:

    These are wonderful, I’d add a couple of more…

    CBE: 2. The recognition that learning is really about what should be learned and is really learned in a segment of learning. Refer to how a pilot is trained, you either can fly or you can’t.

    Chromebook: A device that recognizes that the mainframe wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

  17. Reblogged this on Mahmood Al Hosni's Edu-tech blog and commented:
    Great way of otherwise practically defining edutech tools

  18. Big Data: the Grail, the white whale, the mother lode, the object of all desire – “It was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Data”

  19. Reblogged this on Prof. Janni Aragon and commented:
    Love this!

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  22. Bren Campbell says:

    ePortfolio: A torture device for both undergraduate students and faculty members. Appears innocuous until combined with the dreaded practice of assessment and measurable learning outcomes. See also “General education.”

  23. Don Presant says:

    Student: slow-filling vessel; prone to overflow, spillage.

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  25. yanayagori says:

    Reblogged this on Yana Yagori and commented:
    Nice list, thank you)

  26. “Traditional practice”: Anything one does not like. (See also “Innovation.”)

    “Innovation”: Anything one does like. (See also “Traditional practice.”)

  27. Tom Franklin says:

    you might also like my more generic computing definitions (dated now, but many of them seem to still be valid) http://frankly-insulting.co.uk

  28. micro credential (n): see training certificate, but amended so that the employee pays for it instead of the employer.

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  31. Mustafa Sakarya says:

    Great stuff! It’s hard to define words like “engagement” Reminds me of the classic definition of “obscene” by Justice Potter Stewart in 1964, “I know it when I see it …” RE: engagement: when no one is yawning or sleeping.

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