A Devil’s Dictionary of Educational Technology, Part 2

People liked my Devil’s Dictionary of Educational Technology post so much that I’ll return the favor by offering another installment here.

In fact, my cruel and inhumane post inspired a great deal of creative writing by commentators.  I’ve included many of them here, so please consider this a collective act of acerbic redefinition.  I thank you all for your contributions.


Bierce with friend.

It occurs to me that not every reader knows Ambrose Bierce‘s acidic little book or its imitators.  The Devil’s Dictionary (1906) is a lexicon of critical, sarcastic, and hilarious redefinitions for words in American English.  Here are a few samples:

RECREATION, n. A particular kind of dejection to relieve a general fatigue.

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DISTANCE, n. The only thing that the rich are willing for the poor to call theirs, and keep.

PROOF, n. Evidence having a shade more of plausibility than of unlikelihood.

WAR, n. A by-product of the arts of peace. The most menacing political condition is a period of international amity.

Read more and enjoy.  (Also, watch this if you haven’t; he’s a superb short story writer)

Now, on with more educational technology definitions.  I’ve included fine ones submitted by readers in quotation marks and with attributions.  I’ve also cited people who suggested terms for me to curdle.

Active learning , n.  1.The opposite of obedience lessons.

2. The strange idea that learning and learners should not be as passive as the dead.  Like the dead, active learning is a source of wonder and dread to some of the living.  (thanks to Jeremiah Parry-Hill for the nudge)

Analytics, n. pl.  “The use of numbers to confirm existing prejudices, and the design of complex systems to generate these numbers.” (by David Kernohan)

Asynchronous, adj.  The delightful state of being able to engage with someone online without their seeing you, while allowing you to make a sandwich.

Badges, n. pl.   The curious conceit that since nobody likes transcripts or degrees, the best thing to do is to shrink them into children’s sizes that nobody recognizes.  (see Open Badges)

Best practice, n. “An educational approach that someone heard worked well somewhere. See also ‘transformative,’ ‘game changer,’ and ‘disruptive.'” (by Jim Julius)

devil_michael-coghlanBig data. n. pl.  1.When ordinary surveillance just isn’t enough.

2. “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'” (Ed Webb).

3. Nostalgia for Skinner boxes.  (tip of the hat to Audrey Watters) (suggested by Laura Gibbs)

Chromebook, n.  “A device that recognizes that the mainframe wasn’t such a bad idea after all.”  (by gmphap1)

Clickers, n.pl.  1. Remotes without control.

2.”Technology for assessing student knowledge, however mostly used for attendance purposes and acknowledging that although they aren’t paying attention, students are able to click a button to give professor the illusion of engagement.” (by Amy)

Cloud, n. 1. A place of terror and dismay, a mysterious digital onslaught, into which we all quietly moved.

2. A “fictitious place where dreams are stored. Once believed to be free and nebulous, now colonized and managed by monsters. See ‘Castle in the Air’.” (by Lisa Lane)

3. A “just other people’s computers”. (pmasson channeling  Free Software Foundation Europe)

Competency-based learning or competency-based education (CBE), n. “The recognition that learning is really about what should be learned and is really learned in a segment of learning.” (by gmphap1)

Counsel, n.  Well paid, well trained in neither education nor technology,  and rules decisively on (and against) both.

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Digital rights management (DRM), n. 1. Digital leash.

2. Nostalgia for the Berlin Wall.

3. When the paranoid and misanthropic reach for Kafka to confront human beings actually using technology.

Disruption, n.   1. The God-Emperor of our era, before whom we offer sacrifices and prostration.

2. An “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.

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” (by David Kernohan)

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.” (by Ed Webb)

Failure, n.  1. A temporary practice educators encourage in students, which schools then ruthlessly, publicly, and permanently punish.

2. A temporary practice the wealthy encourage in the young, possibly to increase their desperation. (term suggested by Rolin Moe)

Flipped classroom, n. “The practice of replacing lectures that instructors give to summarize a course’s readings with videos of lectures that summarize a course’s readings.” (by Eric Behrens)

Forum, n. 1. Social Darwinism using 1980s technology.

2. A useful way to learners, teachers, and staff to communicate with each other on their own timelines.  Rarely used except in distance learning.  (suggested by Joe Murphy)

Google Doc, n.  A collaborative web page which anyone can potentially edit; not a wiki.

Innovation, n.  1. The other God-Emperor of the World.

2. A magical word applied to something you’d like to do and get paid for.

3. Recognizing a good idea developed by someone else in the past, and claiming it as emergent. (suggested by Joe Murphy)

iTunesU, n.  1. A graveyard of content.

2. When you really, absolutely want to avoid the web, yet are forced to share content outside the LMS.

Makerspace, n.  “a 2004 computer lab with chairs that roll and a soldering iron.”  (See also Open Lab) (by Robin DeRosa)

“Not a monolith,” colloquial.  A magical phrase applied to a project to summon up more money for it.

“One size fits all,” colloquial.  What we criticize in other people’s projects, and embrace enthusiastically in our own.

Open access in scholarly publication, n.  1. The apocalypse of publishers, scholarly societies, and some professors.

2. “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.

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In the US, however, humanities scholars usually claim to have left their wallets at home.” (by Greg Britton)

Open Badges, n.  “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.” (see Badges)  (by Don Presant)

Open Lab, n. “a 2004 computer lab with chairs that roll.”  (See also Makerspace) (by Robin DeRosa)

Powerpoint, n.   1. A popular and low cost narcotic, mysteriously decriminalized.

2.”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.” (by Ed Webb)

RSS, n.  A free, easily accessed, well documented, and flexible technology that helps people with information overload, source management, and research workflow.  There are many, many applications written that rely on RSS.  Let us never speak of it again. (inspired by Vanessa Vaile)

Synchronous, adj. 1. Describes the terrifying realization that there is another human being online, and that they do not think like you.

2. Describes a venue for public typos.

YouTube, n.  The ideal educational technology: everyone likes and uses it, it’s reliable and free, and neither you nor anyone you know has to support it.

(Bierce painting via Wikipediadevil stencil by Mike Coghlan; thanks to other folks like Steve Taylor for suggestions and japes)

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7 Responses to A Devil’s Dictionary of Educational Technology, Part 2

  1. I can’t help but think, “Badges, we don’t need no stinkin’ badges!”

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  4. here are some to play with …

    Social Media – a space for the pursuit of often character limited self inflation
    VLE – an abyss dedicated to the consumption of time, money and effort often with few noticeable results.
    LMS – see VLE
    Creative Commons – a permit to plagiarise
    Copyright – see creative commons
    Learning Styles – an admission that you willingly believe any edu tosh and should be kept away from educational technology.
    Simulation- a costly way of avoiding the real experience
    Multiple Choice – a time consuming way to save time when marking
    Web conferencing – a collective tool used to accumulate the background noise of multiple participants.
    Twitter- where apparently your opinions are your own and not as a puppet of your evil overlord (or employee)
    Retweet – ensuring that the internet has more packets for transmission
    Mashup – the cobbling together of any old tosh and pretending its good
    Blog – the lonely cries of an educational technologist into the dark void of the interweb
    MOOC – overstated content with a fanciful cause
    Launch – the moment when all undiscovered errors are found
    Internet – a good idea that may eventually become useful
    Book – an idea popularised by Gutenberg and can still be used as an offline ed tech solution
    Cave Paintings – probably the first VLE
    Pencil – the best kind of ed tech I know
    Spare pencil – the multiple redundancy back up for my favourite pencil
    Pencil case – someone showing off their range of ed tech resources
    Augmented reality – being an overaged individual convinced that chasing Pokemon is actually cool
    hashtag – allowing people to show off to peers at a conference
    Backchannel – where the presentation style of the keynote is publicly dissed

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