Welcome to the very first Disengaged Educator Blog post. It’s hard to know what shape or direction this blog will take (if any), but I will endeavor to make it interesting. Essentially it is a vehicle for me to collect my thoughts, however, if it strikes a chord with others occasionally that’s a bonus. Lets bounce! (Watching too much Breaking Bad).
I often find it hard to engage with many educators on twitter. The main reason seems to be they are often speaking a different language to what I’m used to. I don’t mean it’s not English; it’s just that I’m often completely disarmed by the semantic confusion created. Lets jump right into what I mean.
There are a lot phrases and buzzwords that swirl around edutwitter. This is not an unusual occurrence in many different communities of course. What is baffling (at least for me), is that often these education catchphrases can carry varied meanings and thus not actually say anything concrete or definable. I can sometimes follow an education twitter chat for 15 minutes and everyone is high-fiving and fist pumping, and they still haven’t said anything. What you should not do in these chats is ask, “ What does that mean in practical terms, what does it look like in the classroom? ” People haven’t got time to vaguely explain, it’s quickly on to cheering for the next, “ Dream high and aim a moonshot at students and their 21c passionpreneurships!”
Essentially of course this is my problem. The answer is a simple one. Don’t follow these chats, and I rarely do. Who am I to challenge people on what they mean when they clearly find it inspiring? Who indeed cares if I don’t know what people are going on about? Big woop! The fly in the ointment is that this foggy bewilderment often happens to me to in general education twitter talk. For the most part it is generally accepted that we are all on the same 21c learning train. Thankfully for me there is a small band on twitter who also stayed at the station as the Deepak Chopra woo woo express chugged away into the distance.
This site is useful when trying to decipher what all this means, and why perhaps these beliefs have spawned an industry of waffle and vague statements.
‘It should be noted that the “21st century skills” concept encompasses a wide-ranging and amorphous body of knowledge and skills that is not easy to define and that has not been officially codified or categorized. While the term is widely used in education, it is not always defined consistently, which can lead to confusion and divergent interpretations. In addition, a number of related terms—including applied skills, cross-curricular skills, cross-disciplinary skills, interdisciplinary skills, transferable skills, transversal skills, non-cognitive skills, and soft skills, among others—are also widely used in reference to the general forms of knowledge and skill commonly associated with 21st century skills.’
Lewis Carroll’s ‘Through the Looking Glass’ also helps to frame these language barriers nicely I think.
‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory”,’ Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘
‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument”,’ Alice objected.
‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’
Alice was too much puzzled to say anything; so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. ‘They’ve a temper, some of them — particularly verbs: they’re the proudest — adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs — however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!’
‘Would you tell me please,’ said Alice, ‘what that means? ‘Now you talk like a reasonable child,’ said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. ‘I meant by “impenetrability” that we’ve had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you’d mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don’t mean to stop here all the rest of your life.’
‘That’s a great deal to make one word mean,’ Alice said in a thoughtful tone.
‘When I make a word do a lot of work like that,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘I always pay it extra.’
‘Oh!’ said Alice. She was too much puzzled to make any other remark.
It really has reached absurd proportions. I just can’t imagine a teacher standing in front of the class and saying, “You need to learn skills for jobs that haven’t been invented yet”. If you have taught your class well I hope the response from the class would be complete and abject bewilderment followed by a chorus of “Why on earth do you think that?” There are all sort of fractions bandied around about how many jobs could be obsolete or not yet thought of in ten years time. The Truth is we just don’t know. Maybe 1% of jobs will be obsolete in ten years?
How did we get here? Why do so many educators on twitter gather together, clap hands and throw flowers into the air? I think perhaps some people are genuinely inspired and passionate about this swirling quagmire of opaque language, and perhaps quietly thankful that they can join in the celebrations without ever being considered an outsider, an interloper who doesn’t have a clue what is being discussed. It is a safe space where you won’t be challenged because there is common ground and yet very little is transparent. While that sounds counterintuitive, it is in essence a safe and comfortable space where what you say is far less important than how it sounds.
I could be completely wrong about all of this of course, but it wouldn’t matter because I will target compelling differentiated lessons in authentic, real-world scenarios across spatial and temporal scales, promoting disruptive cognitive paradigms.
If you have reached this far, thank you and well done.