Way back in January I started a list of trending educational topics I wanted to write about. My thinking at the time was that many of terms have a sort of cool cachet about them, a buzz that attracts people, but it was hard to say why. They were sort of like paper lanterns that attracted a lot “mothy” attention without having much substance.

I wrote the list, filed it in Evernote and promptly forgot about it. I found the old list this weekend was interested to discover that many of those “trendy” topics from just 6 months ago have faded somewhat (flip class anyone?).

What does this mean? As educators are we like teens fawning over the latest cool band?

I decided to “research” the popularity of five educational terms over the last 6 months and see what’s happened to them. My tool of choice was Google Trends which measures how many times a term is searched for on the internet and scores them, assigning 100 to the time it is most popular. Google Trends allowed me to compare the relative popularity of five terms.

Below is the ranking of those five popular “Ed Jargon” terms and a discussion of how their popularity has changed over the past 6 months.

  1. Blended Learning” (73-95, +22): The king of the castle in this analysis, blended learning is the introduction of online, technology driven learning into the traditional school structure. No one is threatened, nothing too revolutionary, school looks the same, just with more tech. Everyone loves blended learning, right?
  2. Genius Hour” (0-7, +7): A hot new topic with a bullet. What’s Genius Hour? It’s when students are allowed to develop inquiry question about whatever they want to explore and are given some one hour Genius Hour sessions to discover an answer and present their learning to the class. Genius Hour actually peaked at 17 in March but cooled off since then.
  3. 21st Century Learning” (31-37, +6): Here’s a term that’s used constantly but no one knows what the heck it is. How is 21st Century Learning different from 20th Century Learning? Anyone? In spite of this it resonates somehow and educators are increasingly interested in enhancing 21st Century Learning (whatever that is).
  4. Parent Engagement” (7-7, no change): Another poorly defined term. Thousands of dollars are spent on enhancing parent engagement but we don’t have a firm definition. Is it more bake sales? Parent councils? Doing homework with their children?Online interest in parent engagement was generally pretty constant but peaked at 11 in early May. Hmmm, isn’t that when Education Week is? 🙂
  5. Digital Citizenship” (37-35, -2): Digital Citizenship showed the greatest volatility over the last 6 months peaking at 43 on February 3rd and dropping to 24 just 2 months later. Perhaps this is due to people reacting to student problems in digital citizenship but not attending to it at other times (crisis management).

So what does it all mean? One big take away is that educators are as vulnerable to trends and popular opinions as anyone else. Good learning ideas don’t have a shelf life or a best before date. Just because an idea is no longer cool doesn’t mean it isn’t useful or good for students.

When new ideas appear and develop buzz let’s not get caught up in that and rush to get on the bandwagon right away. Instead use critical thinking skills and ask questions about it, find out about it, and decide if it’s right for us and our students. In education there’s no silver bullet that works for everyone all the time.