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On jumping sharks

To "jump the shark" is a phrase coined to describe that point after which a show, a brand or a design has lost its way and begins a steady decline in quality.

As Wikipedia puts it, the point at which a venture makes a "fundamental and generally disappointing change in direction".

I wonder at what point we in education will realise we've really jumped the shark on the point and purpose of technology, in the endeavour that we refer to as 'teaching and learning'.

Exhibit A: ComCast and Khan Academy announce partnership:

"Research consistently shows that the number one barrier to broadband adoption is a bucket of digital literacy issues, including a lack of understanding of the relevancy of the Internet and of the value it provides. Khan Academy is almost uniquely positioned to help lower that barrier because its content is the ultimate proof point of the value of the Internet."

Putting aside the newly coined 'bucket' metric - what does this phrase actually mean?

If it means: "Khan Academy can provide lots of useful videos for people to learn skills, and they can access these short how-to videos using a device connected to the Internet"

Why don't we just say that?

Exhibit B: An email I received from Hapara this week included this quote:

"The Hapara team is 100% focussed on maximizing your rewards and opportunities, while mitigating risk at a minimal cost."

If this means: "Our software will help you manage a wide range of online documents that you create using a set of web-based tools. It will help you manage your student work. The software is quite cheap and might mean you get some satisfaction out of using this particular web-based tool in your classroom. Our software helps reduce mistakes."

Then say that.

I know that both of these posts are corporate marketing speak, and we can filter them accordingly.

But do we?
Constantly and regularly?
Should we need too?

The ed-tech landscape is littered with such utterances, and I rarely, if ever hear anyone, from the education side of that relationship calling bullshit on them.

Words matter, and arguably we in education have reached a point of self-inflicted and critically neutered discussion. Because these words and phrases reflect our thinking.

Or rather, our lack of thinking.


David Shing's performance at TNW recently is a perfect example of this nonsense. A rambling 26 minutes full of platitude and buzzword meme-laden chicanery - that is being ably skewered.

A useful critique of his presentation can be found on TechCrunch and it finishes with this paragraph:

"In short, he pretends to understand the hard work of technologists, engineers, and programmers and falsely connects their important (and sometimes unimportant) work with futuristic mumbo jumbo. He’s why people hate technology. Because he presents it as a poetry slam and not as a tool."

Replace 'technologists, engineers and programmers' with "teachers and school leaders" and apply as needed to the education environment you're a part of.

Because most of what we do doesn't need to be hyped up, or connected with mumbo-jumbo.

We need to be self-aware enough to notice when our educational speak has jumped the shark - and be critical enough of our own practise to make the changes needed to not ensure we are not fundamentally disappointing.

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