A Tale of Two WORDs

I have been reading and chatting with colleagues a lot about vocabulary and it’s expiry dates. It has made we reflect on how powerful words can be. So here are two stories that show the two sides.

Story 1:

It was my first M.Ed. class and I was nervous as heck so tried to make myself small in a corner of the room. The discussion started and I thought ‘I can do this’ and then I heard it. An eloquently composed statement that included the typical Edujargon and educated language I knew I couldn’t keep up with. I had a B.A, B.Ed. and several AQs but at that moment I felt like the kid from Italy that was sitting in the back of my grade 12 English class trying to fake an understanding of Macbeth. It took me a class or two to let go of the eloquent language and just jump in with my ideas. I carried a small fear of criticism along but was grateful for amazing professors that encouraged the dialogue. I wish I could say that was the only time I felt inferior and confused by the words used but the moments keep popping in courses, in meetings, even in Twitter chatter. There is always a moment where I ask myself if I have been faking it all along. It is amazing the power words have.

Story 2:

Last week we were reading Mitch Resnick’s writings on Distributed Constructivism, the idea that we can use computer networks to have learners discuss, share, and construct together. Resnick points out that the constructing together truly maximizes the potential of the technology at our disposal and engages learners in new ways. Now it may not seem earth shattering with my description of it, but I felt like I just found the Holy Grail. The word sounds lofty and intimidating when you first look at it but I finally could name my inquiry. I had a label, a concept to explore further. It was hard to articulate before what I felt was missing with educational technology, this need to go further than I have gone before. Last week I really felt the ideas that have been floating in my head connect and organize under with just that one paragraph, one term. It is amazing the power words have.

As a social linguistics major, words and their journey have always fascinated me.  I understand the power words carry with them but I don’t know if I have taken the time to reflect on the power educational vocabulary can have both to draw us in as well as alienate. I am always stumbling upon posts about what words are trendy in education, words that are overused, words that are just taboo. I will admit that I am guilty of dropping the educational vocabulary often.  But maybe that isn’t a terrible thing. Maybe it comes down to how I use my words. Am I using them to draw colleagues in, to help clarify, extend understanding and connect or am I using them to prove how current I am? We often blame the word itself for it’s overuse and  misunderstandings, but perhaps it is more the tale to blame. I have to let go of whether it is in style or not and focus more on whether it is the right fit for that moment. I know I will be thinking more about the words I choose and the tales I tell this week.

What are your thoughts about words in education? Would love to hear your thoughts!


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