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Donna Krache CNN
Published: 26 September 2012

(CNN) -- Education, like any other profession, has a language all its own. We've compiled a short list of some of the words and phrases you are likely to come across this academic year. It's by no means all-inclusive, and some of these terms are not new, but it gives you a sense of some of education's priorities as we start a new school year.

Common Core State Standards, or CCSS or Common Core -- a set of educational expectations, or benchmarks that was created by state leaders in education and government. According to the Common Core website: "These standards define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs." Most students will begin testing based on the Common Core Standards starting in 2014, but some districts are already beginning to assess students based on the new benchmarks. Opponents of the Common Core say this initiative is the first step toward a "nationalized curriculum" and national standardized testing. So far the standards have been adopted by 45 states and three U.S. territories. You can see if your state has adopted the standards here.

Flipped classes -- Remember the struggles with geometry homework and that lost feeling when no one was around to help? What if students could learn the lesson at home, then do their "homework" in class with the help of their teacher? That's the idea behind flipped classes, not a new concept but one that is gaining popularity. The practice caught on in part because of the success of websites like Khan Academy, which was started by former hedge fund manager Sal Khan, who devised a way to tutor his cousin remotely in math. Students learn the processes after school, watching videos or online explanations that they can pause and replay. When they come to school, students then demonstrate their understanding of the material by doing their homework under the watchful eye of their teacher. Some schools have reported higher attendance rates and test scores as a result of flipping. But some say the practice doesn't work for all subjects and that student accessibility to technology at home should be considered before instruction is built on flipping.

Gamification -- is "the use of game-like thinking and elements in places that aren't traditionally games," according to GamifyingEducation.org. For example, teachers might incorporate online badges or leader boards into lessons to motivate students or use gaming techniques and applications to engage students in learning content. Proponents of gamification argue that it's unrealistic to expect the video game generation to sit quietly in class and absorb information; the old "chalk and talk" method doesn't work for these students. One way to engage students and help them learn, say gamification advocates, is to deliver the content in a game format. But there are questions about gamification: Is it a student achievement game-changer (no pun intended) or does it undermine intrinsic motivation?

MOOC, or Massive Open Online Course -- Imagine the ability to take a course online, with all the resources you need right there, all free, or at very low cost -- as an education "event." Less than a year ago, when Stanford University announced it would offer a free artificial intelligence course online, 58,000 people signed up. This summer, Coursera, a young company created by two Stanford University computer scientists, announced partnerships with some of the nation's most prestigious universities, including Princeton, Stanford, Georgia Institute of Technology and Johns Hopkins to offer MOOCs. MIT and Harvard have committed more than $60 million to edX. Udacity has partnered with 20 companies on its STEM and vocational courses. Generally, MOOC courses do not offer credit; instead students can receive a certificate of accomplishment. The courses are made up of "chunked" quizzes, assignments and lecture videos. Some are calling this a "seismic shift" in higher education. It could drastically change the college experience as we know it, though there are concerns about the MOOC as a sustainable business model.

School choice -- The different educational options available to parents and students and the extent to which they can take advantage of these options. School choice is not a new term, but one that will continue to drive the education conversation this school year, especially around election time. It's a concept that is politically popular, though some opponents question the fairness of vouchers and some point out mixed reviews on charter schools and student achievement. For most students, their school is determined by their address. School choice advocates prefer that parents, not ZIP codes, determine what school their children will attend. Among the current educational options available in different districts are magnet schools, charter schools, private schools (with vouchers in some places), open enrollment (where students can attend any school within a district) and homeschooling. As a result of school choice legislation in some states, some parents are enrolling their children in online classes, while others are opting for "blended learning" -- a combination of online and classroom instruction.

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