Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Rise of the Four Letter Acronym

I remember in the later part of the 20th century when everyone in IT was searching for new Three Letter Acronyms (TLA).  Every project need to be reduced to a new TLA, IT became ICT, DR became BCP and we used to have challenges in meetings to see who would use the most meaningless TLAs.

To prove it is 25% better than ICT, the education sector seems to be caught up in a spiral of Four Letter Acronyms (for simplicity I will reduce that to a TLA of FLA).  The rise of BYOD and STEM in the language of education has emphasised the influence ICT is increasingly having in this area.

To quote Pauline Hansen "I don't like it".  The use of catch phrases is incongruous with these terms being adopted to suit a message and that has a huge influence of the meaning of these terms.

For instance the much maligned (by me) BYOD, has attempted to be morphed into BYOT, BYOX, and just about every other BYO? possible.  All of these are trying to express something which would be far clearer in plain English.  I believe calling a 'parent supplied iPad program' just that, to be much clearer than 'BYO?'. Is there a problem with calling a schools Notebook program "Parent Owned Notebook program" rather than a 'BYO? program'.  Those terms will both explain and differentiate the concept correctly.  If you are implementing a true platform agnostic device program there would be far less confusion if the terminology for the program reflected your educational expectations not use a trendy FLA.  If you really need a FLA for your bring any device program I suggest you call it a Device Agnostic Learning Environment (DALE) and then the acronym will mean something.  By the way one of the problems I have with the term BYOD in education is that not many students want to use their own device for learning it is far more useful for socialising and gaming.

So on to STEM, or if you are really smart STEAM, once again these terms seem to simplify the complex but in reality confuse the masses.  What does STEM really mean?  It means we need to make some of the dryer (Math and Science) subjects seem to be important above the humanities and creative subjects.  This seems obvious, as technology advances these subjects should be where we need to concentrate the 21st Century learning.  Unfortunately, from my experience and following on from some significant reading and listening, this is not the case.  It seems the only jobs we are going to do better than machines in the mid term view are based around humanities and creativity.

Admittedly a lot of that creativity is going to be in the Scientific and Engineering areas but the key differentiation is still human imagination.