Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"Jargon-du-Jour" or Jurassic Jargon?

I guess I'm kind of a practical gal.  I don't care for fancy jargon when there's an easy way to say something, and I particularly don't like the endless string of ever-changing acronyms and "jargon du jour" that has become pervasive in education.  (I don't even much care for the word "pedagogy", but even worse is this version: "pedagogical".  I get tongue-tied every time I try to say it, and then end up making a total fool of myself!)  Maybe I'll invent a new and timely term for how I prefer to talk about education: Jurassic Jargon.  I can call it JurJar, if we need a shortened version.  JurJar will consist of just saying what you mean, without inventing a fancy newfangled label for it.

(Note: this isn't going to be a post that naturally lends itself to images, so for fun I've just selected a few of my old photos to break up the reading a bit for you! They have no significance in relation to the post, except for whatever significance you might want to attach to them! 
When I took my undergraduate college education classes, in the early 70's (yeah, that makes me officially a dinosaur, though I'd prefer to be called a baby-boomer), I really didn't encounter a whole lot of education jargon, other than the phrases "the open classroom" or "schools without walls" (which in the end was a really bad idea and did not work; most of the schools built that way have long since put up walls).  Oh, and there was "sensitivity training", which was a touchy-feely sort of experience that I personally did not care for, but one of my ed professors, in a required class, loved.  It was everyone's favorite class, but not mine.  I was very reserved back then (yes, it's true!) and I hated going to that class, and doing stuff like falling backwards and trusting that I would be caught, and sitting touching backs with a partner and sharing how we felt, and so on.  Ick.

The one really worthwhile bit of 70's terminology I learned is "the stages of artistic development", courtesy of Lowenfeld's Creative and Mental Growth.  I believe that everything I read about and learned in that book still applies today, which is nice, because though our world changes, and we've seen major technology advances, kids are still kids, going through those basic stages, aren't they?  And knowing those stages, and what is developmentally appropriate at certain stages of development, I kind of wonder if some of this "21st Century Jargon" is really necessary.  I know that for me, it causes me to shut down, because I can NEVER remember what any of it means.  It only serves to confuse and befuddle. 

Suppose you want to apply for a grant or need to write a report - well, it seems you've got to have some fancy jargon in order to impress!  Did you know there's actually an Educational Jargon Generator on the internet?  They suggest that you "Amaze your colleagues with finely crafted phrases of educational nonsense!", which describes exactly what I think about much of this jargon. 
On that site, I saw quite a few phrases that I've often heard recent years, that I hadn't previously encountered in my first 25 years or so in the classroom (I taught for 36 years and have been retired for 3).  These included gems such as:  "across the content areas", "differentiated lessons", "critical thinking", "scaffolding", "stake-holders", "cohorts", "performance-based", "flipped classroom", "Big Ideas", "multiple modalities", "brain compatible", "technology infused",  "metacognition", "enduring understandings", "standards-based"...  YIKES.  I just listed 15 of terms and phrases from the site, all of which I somehow survived without (and flourished) for decades!  And there's so many more..........  Do we really need all this pseudo-intellectual mumbo-jumbo to be a good teacher?

I recall the first time I saw the word "exemplar" used on a blog post, a few years ago.  I thought "Huh??"  When did my mock-up stop being my teacher "sample" or "example", and become a fancier word?  And why? What the heck is wrong with an example being an example??  Why does it have to be an exemplar now?  Sheesh!  And when did the word "rubric" arrive in ed jargon? I remember the first professional development program that I attended where the word was used, and I wondered - when did a chart become a rubric??  Who invented a new word, and why?  How did it sneak up behind me?

And in art ed, sometime in the 90's, DBAE (data based art ed, whatever that means) emerged on the scene, sneaking up on me to describe, perhaps, something that maybe I'd sort of been doing all along.  And now of courses there's TAB (Teaching for Artistic Behavior), choice-based art ed, PLN's or PLC's, VTS (Visual Thinking Strategies; which I recently discovered I have been doing for many years without the label), and there's Design Thinking.

There's Essential Questions and Enduring Understandings.  There are Model Cornerstone Assessments and Anchor Standards.  And performance indicators and learning outcomes, and  value-added, and best practices.

And what the heck is constructivism?

There's formative assessments and summative assessments, and performance based assessments, and data based assessments, and authentic assessments.  And benchmarks.  And metacognition.  And curriculum maps, and vertically aligned curriculum. If you think for even a minute that I can remember what all of these terms mean, you would be wrong. 

And the silly names for things that we teachers always did, but that never had names before: for example, there's think/pair/share, and exit tickets, and bell-ringer activities (when I hear this term, I must admit that I picture Quasimodo). And there are names for the obvious: differentiated instruction and high stakes testing, for example.  Duh.

And here's a few acronyms you might have encountered in recent years: SLO (student learning objectives), SWK (no, not sealed with a kiss; it is "students will know"), KWL (know, want to know, learned; at least I think that's what it stands for).  There's AYP (annual yearly progress), RTI (response to intervention), and ELL (English language learners; when did this label change from ESL - English as a second language?  And why?)

I could keep going, and fill a few more paragraphs with terms, phrases, and acronyms from just the past few years, but I have a feeling that you probably all stopped reading several paragraphs ago because this is just so dreadful....
While writing this post, I came across an article that you might like, called "The Joys of Educational Jargon". I'll end this post with that link for your reading pleasure, and with some open-ended questions for you, below.
  • Does anyone else feel as frustrated as I do with the proliferation of jargon? 
  •  Does the jargon change the way you do things, or just give new names to what you already do?  
  • Can you remember what all these things even mean and easily incorporate the words in your conversation?
  • Does the jargon-du-jour improve your teaching? 
  • Or are you like me and your brain starts to cloud and fog when the jargon deluge arrives? (Perhaps we can call it the jargon-pocalypse?)  
  • And finally, can you comment and tell me all the acronyms and terminology that I might have missed in this post?

Friday, June 26, 2015

A new lens, a little nature

 It's been a while since I've done a post like this, simply sharing recent photos.  This post will contain no education jargon, no controversial art ed issues, no how-to information on a certain art material, and no 'show and tell' of student projects.  
Instead, today I'm simply sharing some recent photos with you.  Some of these images were shot at our lakeside Adirondack 'camp', both on land and in my kayak, others were taken at Quechee Gorge in nearby Vermont, and still more were from a recent road trip to some locks along the Champlain canal system, just 1/2 hour from my home.
I generally take 2 cameras with me when I head out for the day.  One is a Nikon DSLR, and the other is  a good quality Sony point & shoot.  Recently, my Sony was sent out to get its sensor cleaned, and since I was missing its incredible zoom capabilities, I took it as an opportunity to FINALLY buy a telephoto zoom for my Nikon that I've wanted for a while.  I had held off making the purchase because these lenses always seemed too heavy for my needs.  When I was shown this new model Nikkor 55-200 zoom lens, I was smitten.  It is light, compact, and I've been very pleased with the image quality and eases of use. Most of the photos in this post were shot using the new lens.
The pic on the left below, a marsh outcropping, looks to me like a fairy tale castle!
The one on the bottom right feels like a Monet painting, though they are not waterlilies.
 When I was little, watching boats go through the canal was a favorite family activity.
 Doesn't this photo below make you think of the Hudson River School of painting?
 Above, my son on Father's Day
And below, an osprey high above on a perch on top of a power pole.
And a few more pics...
    And that's all for tonight!  Next post, back to our "regularly scheduled programming"!