When good words go bad

Here’s a small rant: I’ve come across many words being used to represent the narrowest aspects of the concepts they stand for.  Here are some examples.

Word or Phrase Narrow or subverted meaning Broader meaning (my take)
PowerPoint That hellish conference experience we’ve all had: a presentation full of bullet points, lengthy tables, and vertigo-inducing animations Refers to a Microsoft Office tool that can be used for either good or evil
The Next Button Entrapment into a linear learning experience A navigation feature which can be used alone or in conjunction with other navigation elements (may be considered as a sole navigation element in certain contexts, e.g., when learners have poor literacy)
Learners “We’re patronizing them; they should be called people or workers” Someone who learns: a term that does not imply weakness, applies to a variety of contexts (i.e., someone who teaches also can be a learner)
Teaching An effort that’s not learner-centered Includes both good and bad teaching so does include facilitating learner-centered experiences
Training Used to mean bad training: push-only, lecture style training or linear elearning with multiple choice quizzing Can be push or pull, blended or non-blended, synchronous or asynchronous; can include experiences and simulations; can be amazing and incredibly useful or  dreadful and time wasting
Informal learning A positive social experience where learners are self-directed, share skills and knowledge with others and pull content they need when and where they need it, using a variety of social platforms Can include  positive social experiences as described; can also be random, inefficient and lead to a least common denominator approach (outcome is very much dependent on culture, the individual learning community, and L&D community leaders)
Empowered Receiving power only from someone else, viewed as patronizing To obtain power (can be from someone else or from self)
Gamification Ugh, Farmville, pointification, bad game design Creating an experience with game-like elements whose primary purpose is not entertainment (e.g., such as games for learning, training, health care, social impact)

What prompted me to write this post? I wanted to write another post about game design and realized I’d have to spend a few sentences  explaining why I’m using the word “gamification” in a positive light.

So what am I wishing for this holiday season?

  • That as readers, we become better “listeners”
  • That as writers, we consider that words have nuances and those nuances are important

In this age of Twitter and microblogging, it’s not a bad thing to stop and take some time to allow people to use words in context  so that we can gain better understanding.  It might require more than one Tweet or engaging with someone in a conversation, but that’s a good thing.

And, yes, I probably will spend a few sentences in my next game design post explaining why I am using the word “gamification” in a positive light, but that’s because I’m not going to assume that my context is your context.

That is all (for now).

4 responses to “When good words go bad

  1. Hi Dianne, all good points here. It’s easy to see the distaste for the word gamification; it’s been one of the big buzz words this year. But the way we see it, if you force the user experience in an effort to jump on this trend you’re probably doing yourself a disservice. I work at BigDoor and we work with publishers to determine what is the best game layer experience that works for them; badges are often only one part of that. Adding levels, points, leaderboards and virtual currency and goods for websites can increase user engagement, loyalty and monetization. We’ll look forward to your next post!

  2. Pingback: The interplay between games and social media platforms | Instructional Design Fusions

  3. Pingback: Tweets that mention When good words go bad | Instructional Design Fusions -- Topsy.com

  4. I have a tag “discourses” at my blog. Let me explain how I use it and why. I use it to discuss (and critique) the narratives, the language, the conversations of a domain. I do it for the same reason you wrote this post–the words we use and the ways we use them really do become what we do. The discourse of “digital natives/immigrants” is a good example. Bodies of literature, meaning and policies have been constructed upon that one notion, which in the end was finally dispelled as a myth, or in academic terms empirically unsubstantiated.

    Two challenges I see are first, with the ubiquity of self-publishing and user-generated content, individuals with the loudest and broadest voices tend to be heard the most and by the most, and thus are legitimized through this social capital. Second, to critique these power structures is to appear a Luddite or “anti-social” and “undemocratic.”

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