Engagement in plain English

It’s interesting how certain words and phrases seem to catch on. It’s annoying to see them being abused. One of these words is “to engage” (used as a transitive verb) and all its derivatives, such as engagement and disengaged.

Collocation also matters, of course. “Engagement with stakeholders” seems to have become a classic. You can’t tell what that engagement actually means or who the stakeholders are. But the phrase sounds sexy, so it gets used. “Learner engagement” and “employer engagement”, among others, also rank near the top of the most abused yet mysterious (and even meaningless) phrases these days.

What does “to engage” actually mean? Is it “to interest”, “to work with”, “to involve”, “to hire”, “to engross”, “to mesh”? All of the above? Can we not be clear about its meaning in context? Let’s be specific… and let’s stop abusing the term.

Alejandro Armellini
4 May 2010


Is the Pad a Fad?

The only Apple device I own and use (reluctantly) is a very old iPod. When my mobile phone contract expired last month, I spent a whole weekend researching alternatives to the ubiquitous to the iPhone, so popular in Beyond Distance. My post today, therefore, is not meant to add another voice to the chorus of adoration for Steve Jobs’ toys. Rather, it is about the technological promise for learning which his latest device, the oh-so-discussed iPad brought. The Economist dubbed it the Tablet of Hope, Twitter is teeming with jokes about its name. In the midst of it all I came across two accounts which felt like glimpses into a fortune teller’s crystal ball – the future….:

Here they are, two generations firmly outside the scope of formal learning, discovering new information, using it in novel ways, creating and communicating, in one word – learning. And learning intuitively, seamlessly and enthusiastically. Now when the learning technology for learning technophobes seems to have arrived, we need to create and adapt pedagogical frameworks which will make its use meaningful and efficient. As to what exactly the windows for learning opened up by the iPad might be, my guess is to do with tactile learning. After the revival of voice, brought in by podcasting, learning by touch may be another of the very primal and early ways in which human beings learn to be rediscovered as a learning technology. Tactile learning will be more object oriented, with smaller elements, with a closer blend of content and collaboration and increased use of video stories and images. The two and a half year-old and the ninety-nine year-old from the videos above are happy enough to learn using a tablet. When enough research evidence accumulates, perhaps academics will be happy to teach using a tablet. Only the future will tell…

Sandra Romenska, 04 May 2010

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