11 ed-tech buzzwords and phrases to think about

Do these “edubabble” terms have meaning or are they just empty rhetoric?

Get a group of educators together either online or in person and at times it can seem like they’re speaking a different dialect. Want to disrupt the fixed mindset and combat the device gap in the age of the digital native? Well, have you tried innovating your hidden curriculum? Just add more grit (or should that be rigor?). And do it all like a pirate. No, wait: a rockstar.

At best, ed-tech buzzwords can serve as a sort of shorthand when conversing with like minds to quickly touch on relevant, universally-understood phenomena, perhaps with an eye toward saving precious Twitter characters to add additional insight. At worst, as one blogger put it, edubabble is “an act of unconscionable self-indulgence.”

Moreover, in fitting with language’s protean nature, shiny new terms are likely to elude a single, fixed definition, making them even more incomprehensible to outsiders, or even other insiders. To educator Mark Johnson, in a recent blog post, it recalled the scene in Lewis Caroll’s “Through the Looking Glass” where Humpty Dumpty misuses the word “glory” in triumph at having successfully explained the concept of birthdays and un-birthdays to Alice.

‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory”,’ Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘

‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument”,’ Alice objected.

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

Two years ago we took a look at the biggest buzzwords circling around the ed-tech world (see 20 education buzzwords and phrases). Since then, a few of those terms have fallen into disuse (or, worse, become passé) and new ones have entered the lexicon. Terms that made the last list weren’t repeated, so the following is our updated — authentic, value-added — list of the most popular buzzwords, jargon, edubabble and everything in between.


Popularized by scholar Angela Duckworth, grit is something of a modern day rebrand of the millennia-old heavenly virtue of diligence. Students need to look beyond passing a class and start to invest in long-term learning goals that interest them. Grit is a popular concept these days and it’s been bolstered by books, a section in a recent Carnegie Foundation report, and splashy articles in media outlets like the Atlantic and the Washington Post, but even Duckworth is pulling back, worried that she may be making converts that are too-zealous and warning that the concept cannot truly be measured for accountability purposes.


The gist of rigor in an educational context seems to be that kids rise to expectations, and if you set them high, while giving them enough support, they will perform at a higher level. Perhaps owing to the fact that its dictionary definition is different than its educational definition, it’s a term that can lead to confusion. When some educators hear the term they think it means presenting lessons that are “more harder.” But authors Barbara R. Blackburn and Cris Tovani, who have both written about rigor, contend that teachers need to be flexible in their approach and tailor it on a class-by-class or student-by-student basis.


Another scholarly concept that got its start as a book, Carol Dweck’s “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success has been held up as exemplary practice by schools everywhere. To Dweck, and her legion of fans, you can either have a fixed mindset (the belief that traits, such as intelligence and ability are pre-set and unlikely to change given time and effort) or a growth mindset (the belief that a lack of natural ability can be overcome through hard work). The problem, as schools realize when they move toward adopting growth mindset practices, is that the growth mindset is often at odds with traditional classroom pacing, assessment, and feedback. It can be tough, for example, for a student to shed a fixed mindset when the prospect of an F looms over a course.

Next page: Teaching like a pirate and more edubabble

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