With any industry, a large quantity of buzzwords exist, and Learning & Development isn’t any different. Likewise, plusses and minuses accrue. It’s helpful to know the buzzword as well as the real meaning behind it, but how do you do this?
Buzzwords can become vernacular. With a professional vocabulary, everyone has a shared understanding of what’s meant. It’s more efficient when concepts have short words or phrases that define them. “Authoring tools” went from bizbuzz to common parlance. In our field, of course! We can refer to things tersely that unpack into a complex understanding. (And, it can be cool to have a secret language for those in the ‘know’. ;)
The flipside is when those buzzwords aren’t shared, or are vague, or even deliberately misused, confusion ensues. If people are using terms others don’t know, there’s an opportunity for uncertainty or even misconceptions. People can toss around buzzwords to sound cool. Or for more nefarious purposes.
To get concrete, terms like xAPI may be obscure. ‘Microlearning’ is still ill-defined, meaning two different things by its use. And the prefix ‘neuro’ has little practical implications, but it sounds like we’re on top of the latest scientific findings!
How do we deal with this? We need to be aware. A healthy skepticism is a valuable frame of mind around claims. Which requires us to be proactive; we need to be willing to ask people to be clear when they toss terms about. And to keep up with the literature in our field.
The best time to be open is when a term is being used for the first time in your experience. You need to look for definitions. Most importantly, look for independent definitions. And ask yourself “who’s telling me, and what is their vested interest?”
The ultimate goal is to be acquainted with the terminology of your field, and open to new ideas while resistant to unwarranted hype. It requires effort, but the alternative is wasting time or money on things not worthy of resources.
With my wicked smart and totally cool colleagues Jennifer Murphy of QIC and Chad Udell of Float, we’ll be running a buzzword bingosession at the top-notch DevLearn conference at 3PM on Wed the 23rdof October. You’ll cut through the haze, have some fun, and maybe win a prize! Hope to see you there.