Demystifying Edtech Jargon
News on October 02 2019
Education is a field with a unique affinity for jargon. In any given day, a teacher fosters classroom community with IEPs in mind while practicing effective pedagogy. That sentence alone would sound like gibberish to someone outside of education. The steadily increasing infusion of educational technology into schools has necessitated new terms to describe the various ways the classroom is changing. In theory, these new terms are helpful since they make it possible to speak with more exact language. In practice, though, this edtech jargon leaves many teachers feeling alienated and intimidated. With that in mind, here are some frequently used edtech terms made simple.
21st Century Learning
Education is in a particularly strange place right now in the sense that we are not completely sure what the job market will look like by the time our students enter it. Entire industries may be created or made obsolete due to changing technology. What’s generally agreed upon, though, is that these future jobs will require strong soft skills. Therefore, many curriculums have emphasized these skills, which are summed up as “the 4 Cs”: Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication, and Creativity. More information on 21st Century Learning in general, and the 4 Cs specifically, can be found here.
Blended Learning is used to describe a type of learning in which an educator provides guided instruction, while also providing students the opportunity to explore content on their own time and at their own pace. This independent practice is usually done at home and provides a few options for how to learn the content and demonstrate knowledge. There is an article on the fundamentals of blended learning here. You can also view this talk by Sal Khan, on the benefits of learning through videos.
This term means that every teacher and student has access to their own device with internet access for the dedicated purpose of learning. The most common 1:1 devices are iPads and Chromebooks, although there are a variety of options. Being in a One-to-One school opens up many new learning possibilities, but it can also create new classroom management challenges. Information on the development of 1:1 learning, and the scholarship around its benefits and weaknesses, can be found here.
SAMR is a framework that is used to discuss how technology is used in the classroom. Like many things in education, it is an acronym. The letters stand for Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition. An example of “substitution” is using Powerpoint to present instead of using actual slides. The learning activity is the same, but the tool used for the activity is different. “Redefinition” would be a class creating a Google Site that explores a topic that they researched with certain essential questions in mind. This is an activity that would not be possible without technology in the classroom. It should be emphasized that the level of SAMR integration should not necessarily be used as a measure of teacher success. However, it does provide useful common language for how to think about resources in the classroom and ways of reaching learning goals using those tools. Schoology is the company that has done the most to spread the SAMR model, and some in-depth information on SAMR can be found on their website.
TPACK is the last of term in our edtech jargon. Like SAMR, TPACK is a framework used to discuss technology integration in the classroom. TPACK is a rough acronym (this is the last one I promise) for Technology, Pedagogy, and Content. The main difference between the two models is that while SAMR focuses more specifically on the technology aspect of a lesson, TPACK attempts to contextualize technology within the wider learning experience of students. This model focuses more on desired learning outcomes, and how an educator can leverage available technology as well as their own content knowledge and teaching strategies to achieve those outcomes. More information on TPACK and how it compares to SAMR can be found here.
Consider this blog an introduction to the edtech terms above. If you want to learn more about terms related to edtech, STEM, and more common edtech jargon, there are great glossaries here and here. I would also highly recommend using Teq’s professional development platform, OTIS for educators, to watch our videos on SAMR and TPACK, and various strategies for utilizing technology in the classroom in a way that is meaningful and effective.