New Vocabulary ~ Take a Chance!

New lingo, language, boohaha, jargon ~ whatever you want to call it -- technology words come to light every day of the year. With the rapid turn of technology in our global environment, students are being exposed to new vocabulary daily. I find it interesting that  we still tackle vocabulary issues each year in testing, yet students have the wider understanding of terms and language that teachers sometimes miss. Why? Any educator can tell you...it is all about context! 

In a recent discussion about literacy with a national roundtable of educators, eight of the ten people at the table struggled with the use of technical vocabulary that eighth graders were able to breeze through in a short quiz.  Then the question surfaced of WHY? Many ideas surfaced but as educators we know that it is often about context. Our students operate in a world where 20,000 - 30,000 pieces of media, if not more, hit them daily through access to our global networks. They are connected. 

I am not saying anything we don’t know or haven’t heard before. Teachers tend to have limited use of social texting (I know don’t groan...) gaming, business vocabulary, and other technical resources that our students access in a myriad of ways. Just ask my husband who actively promotes the reading of WIRED, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, PC World and a few other geek magazines at home and Slashdot online.  My kids race to the mailbox to hold them hostage, read and devour them and they access them online as well. We now have permanent mail collectors in the house due to “first access” rights to the monthly magazines. In fact, new boundaries have been set to eliminate the disappearance of the new issues into the vault of each of the boy’s  bedrooms. Sometimes it is an annoyance, but in reality they are increasing their comprehension, vocabulary, and ability to make connections. In many senses teachers do the same.

We read to learn, and learn as we teach. Educators can name a million educational acronyms right? DIBELS, NCLB, ELL, STEM, STEAM, ESEA, RTT, SRI, EM are just a few, and we make connections immediately. We can put them in context in some form or another, define them, use them, and apply them to the workplace whether we like to or not. But, that is where I wonder. Actually, it is where our group stopped and paused... because we discussed the more important question of, “What if learning gave the opportunity for students to access new vocabulary that would be useable to them, and that was what appeared when testing?” After all, the shifts in the new common core standards ask practitioners to use extensive vocabulary, non-fiction and informational text, ideas and comprehension readings that make real world connections.  No kidding. Tell me something I didn’t know already right?  

But think about this instead and model the good practice.  I would challenge you to step out of the box and consider adding some of the more contemporary words to your vocabulary and the vocabulary of your students. Will they be tested on them? Probably not, but I would rather have them prepared for their world, than prepared for a test. Wouldn't you? 

So think on it, and watch TwoGeekyTeachers over the next year. We will make every opportunity to model what we teach in this blog, and share the words we are learning each week with our colleagues online so that we can build our vocabulary too. And to launch the effort...here goes.  I am glad this blog is not a dead tree edition, and that you are reading it online today! 

Dead Tree Edition: A term to describe any document or image that someone prints instead of viewing the comparable item online electronically.