Education Evolutions Newsletter #27


sas-ipad flickr photo by zandwacht shared under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

Here is a fresh batch of reading for all of you. It has a little bit of testing and assessment flair but ’tis the season. I know the last item might seem intimidating and may even take a little more effort to finish but it there is a whole lot there to have a think on and we really do need more minds thinking on these kinds of issues.

Education Evolutions:
Select Readings on Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

Here are four curated articles about education, technology, and evolutions in teaching.

  • To Ease The Student Debt Crisis, Hold Colleges ResponsibleFiveThirtyEightDoug Webber  (8 minute watch)
    Considering how much pressure K12 teachers are under to prepare students for college, it is interesting to consider what that potentially means for so many students. For all the nonsense about failing schools, more students than ever in the history of mankind attend higher education. Yet, the graduation rate has not really changed all that much over the decades in which attendance has surged. More concerning than ever is the rising costs and debt associated with this imbalance. Here, a Temple University economics professor highlights how colleges and universities bear none of the associated risks, suggesting maybe they should. Something tells me that there might be more potential consequences than he mentions, but it is a problem that is not going away, and one that needs to be solved lest it beget something very much like the mortgage crisis seen in 2007-08.

  • Bribing children to take our testsDangerously Irrelevant – Scott McLeod  (5 minute read)
    This blogpost might be the most succinct undermining argument for standardized testing I have seen. As education departments and schools around the nation continue to double-down on standardized tests the consequences continue to grow too. Thus, schools are often encouraged to play games that are merely symptomatic of a much more malignant disease. I am not sure that most attempts to motivate students to do well on exams are all that awful, although any form of punishment related to test performance is indefensible for too many reasons to count. Yet, what McLeod hammers home better than most is that all of this testing foolishness essentially has nothing but negative value for the students. It is all about adults. One more education practice done to students and not for them. Meanwhile, how often do we hear the refrain, “We have to do what’s best for the children.”

  • Author Interview: ‘The Perfect Assessment System’EdWeek: Classroom Q&A – Larry Ferlazzo  (10 minute read)
    While promoting his book, Rick Siggins offers some interesting insights into assessment and how it can benefit and motivate learning. The simple Q&A format makes for a relatively quick read. There is a little bit of edspeak that has to be sifted but there is definitely some value in Stiggins’ responses. Among them is a criticism of standardized testing’s value, which is interesting since the Assessment Training Institute (ATI), founded by Stiggins, is owned by Pearson, purveyor of all manner of tests and assessments. Nevertheless, involving students in ongoing self-assessment, devaluation of ranking and sorting, promoting the belief that learning success is within reach, and the need for a newer, better vision of assessment for learning are all worthy ideas to read. Far and away the best line of the piece, “We have been stuck for decades in a 1950s vision of excellence in assessment that never was excellent.” The piece successfully made me keen on the book.

  • Maybe we’re not afraid: on Edtech’s inability to imagine the futureA Long View on Education blog – Benjamin Doxtdator  (25 minute read)
    Of this week’s selections, this is definitely the deep dive. Full of all kinds of wonderful wonky references and research, Doxtador interrogates the educational trope of the technophobe teacher. While I am not saying that those educators do not exist, it has always struck me as a far too simplistic assessment. Similarly, not all hard-charging, techno-evangelist teachers are models of innovation or even good teaching. The post has sweep and ambition, as it critically examines some of the dominant narratives of at the intersection of education, technology, and mercantilism. There are so many great references packed into this piece and the list of issues edtech should be addressing is excellent. It may not be for everybody but it is certainly one of the more thought-provoking things I have read in recent weeks. It cuts through a lot of propagandist noise.

As always thanks for supporting this newsletter.

Games in the Math Classroom

Photo: Close up of student playing Heads Up!

“You use it to solve problems.”

“It has buttons”

“There is one one on your phone.”

A small group of students shout out clues to help their teammate guess a word. The teammate tasked with guessing the word stands, holding the back of a mobile phone to their forehead, the screen clearly displaying the word to the group. Meanwhile, since the phone is connected to an Apple TV, the entire class can see the word projected on the white board behind the standing student rushing to guess the word before a timer runs out.

Photo: Student Playing Heads Up! with Projection

Student playing Heads Up! math-style.

Quickly, the standing student blurted, “Calculator!” His team hoots and applauds as that word ended their turn.

This is a scene from math teacher Jennifer Fairbanks’ classroom as the students prepare for an upcoming test. It is her riff on the game Heads Up! popularized by Ellen DeGeneres on her eponymous television show. Heads Up! is a card-based game in the digital form of a mobile app. Fairbanks uses her own phone, having created her own deck of cards tailor-made for algebra class, that serves up vocabulary words for the students.

“I used it as a surprise and didn’t really tell the kids what we were going to be doing,” Fairbanks said.

During class, the students were focused, competitive, and boisterous, as Fairbanks posted the score after each group took a turn. By the second round, the kids were clearly engaged and having fun, all the while preparing for an exam. While one group may have tallied the highest score, everyone was a winner in reviewing math vocabulary.

Photo: High School Math Teacher Jennifer Fairbanks

Math Teacher Jennifer Fairbanks

Always a game lover, Fairbanks regularly modifies or employs games in her math classroom for concept and unit review. In any one year, students could play over 20 different game-like activities in class.

“I always build in a day of review before a test, so the kids get to practice,” Fairbanks said. “I try not to pick something where speed is an issue. I’ve tried to get away from that because I do not want the fastest or smartest to always get it right or win.”

One of her favorites is Zap, a review game she discovered online. Zap is another group based activity that involves cards. The first team to answer a math problem correctly selects a number between one and sixteen, which corresponds with a card. Some cards have positive consequences, some have negative consequences, and some have off-the-wall humor.

Photo: Team Playing Heads Up!

A Heads Up! team shouting clues.

This added element of randomness makes winning unpredictable. The first team to solve an equation selects a card only to be rewarded further by doubling their points. The next turn might see the first team finished pull a card that sees them get zapped and lose all their points. Yet another team might just pull a card that requires all teammates to get up and complete 10 jumping jacks or sing “I’m a Little Teapot.” Students must work to solve the math problems but the action keeps the students on their toes.

Fairbanks has been so successful in curating an inventory of games that she has begun presenting to other math teachers outside of Hopkinton. This fall, she presented at the ATOMIC Conference in Connecticut and she will be presenting again this spring for Math Educator’s Day at Milton Academy and in Atlanta for Twitter Math Camp.

“I love it. I love sharing. Teachers should take the risk of incorporating or modifying games in their class. It’s worth it.”

Education Evolutions Newsletter #26


sas-ipad flickr photo by zandwacht shared under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

This is a short eclectic mix of articles that may even have a slightly contradictory flavor. For me, that might be all the more reason why you might want to give them each a look. Plus, they are short. So don’t let the poetry article scare you off.

Education Evolutions:

Select Readings on Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

Here are three curated articles about education, technology, and evolutions in teaching.

  • Tech Bigwigs Know How Addictive Their Products Are. Why Don’t the Rest of Us?Wired – Adam Alter  (13 minute watch)
    There was a time when stories like this were really making the rounds in the media. While this piece is an excerpt with a definite effort to sell a book by the article’s author, it does take a broader and more in-depth look at some aspects of life with devices and youth that probably should get a little more attention. Nevermind, youth adults need to be a whole lot more aware of behavioral addictions to devices too. Yet, youth have far fewer tools deal with these kinds of problems. The need for an “emergency brake” mentioned here is becoming an increasingly important phenomenon that we have culturally not been entirely ready to wrestle. There are no easy answers and I do not want to overly stoke fear but it is about time that we start thinking more deeply about putting them to use.

  • Why Teaching Poetry Is So ImportantThe Atlantic – Andrew Simmons  (7 minute read)
    As an English teacher, I could not really pass on including this article. Written by a high school English teacher, this is a strong argument for not only teaching poetry but even better about why it gets such short shrift. There are a lot of points where I am in absolute agreement, although I wish that Simmons would have went even further. There is no question that poetry has an image problem and can also be terribly intimidating for a lot of people but there may be no better literature with the breadth and depth of reach and relevance as poetry. It even has vastly greater connection to academic disciplines beyond literature or English study. That may be why the dearth of poetry in any modern curriculum is so tragic to me. That which we cannot easily measure has quickly fallen out of fashion, much to our collective loss. I will admit that I rarely feel as in command when teaching poetry but its power has never been lost on me. I wish more teachers across the disciplines recognized its importance and could overcome any fears about using it in their classes too. There is a reason why most of the human writing we have from previous centuries is poetic.

  • Five Ideas to Go Beyond SAMRTech & Learning’s K-12 Blueprint – Michael Gorman  (6 minute read)
    I think the SAMR model is a great first step in advancing not just teaching with technology but teaching practice in general. However, like all first steps they should not be the last. Having spent a fair amount  of time this past year watching teachers operate in their classes, I use the SAMR model as a lens for feedback but it is just one lens. Still, I really like Gorman’s broader approach and interrogation of the the model. There definitely are better Substitution examples than others, as he highlights. Moreover, I love his point on the letter placement being more about the lesson than the teacher. Using SAMR as a lens can provide some excellent anchors to discuss a particular lesson and potentially some more innovative pedagogical practices. It has genuine benefits and my hope is to use it to as way to start conversations but hope it never provides the end of them. Teaching and learning requires a lot of diversification and differentiation after all.

As always, thanks for supporting this newsletter.

Education Evolutions Newsletter #25


sas-ipad flickr photo by zandwacht shared under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

Hard to believe that this is the 25th newsletter. Nearly half a year has passed since I began this little pet project. It has been a fun endeavor. I hope it has been as worthwhile for those reading as it has been to collect and comment.

Education Evolutions:
Select Readings on Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

Here are five curated articles about education, technology, and evolutions in teaching.

  • Not all heroes wear capes – but some carry tubes (Pi Day 2017) – MIT Admissions – MIT Bloggers  (3 minute watch)
    This would have been better had it made into the newsletter last week, seeing as it was in connection with Pi Day. The day happened to correspond with regular action admissions to the institution. Still, this is a super cool project made by a bunch of students. They riff off of Iron Man, even going full-on nerdy with its references to the recent comic reboot that involves a young black woman taking over for the famous Tony Stark. This is MIT after all. It is definitely worth a watch, just for the fun of it. It even inspired a “making of” blogpost.

  • Lack of Oxford Comma Could Cost Maine Company Millions in Overtime DisputeNew York Times – Daniel Victor  (6 minute read)
    This story made the rounds a bit in the last week. I even saw a television news story about it. Perhaps it is the English teacher in me but I am not even a nutter about these kinds of things. I definitely believe in the Oxford comma and this certainly brought out all the wonks. Still, I love stories like this about how language precision can prove costly, in real financial terms. We do not necessarily expect students to be perfect but they should definitely know that some mistakes matter a whole lot. A goal of writing is clarity and precision of expression, regarding comma use or not. Fortunately, lack of clarity does not involve the loss of $10 million.

  • For Online Class Discussions, Instructors Move From Text to VideoEdSurge – Jeffrey R. Young  (5 minute read)
    Having taught online for some time now, I have administered a whole lot of online discussions. Often, they are more like compulsory blog posts than actual discussions. It can be difficult to facilitate genuine conversations. It certainly can be done but I using video does change things. While I do not make it a requirement, whenever students opt to use video in discussions it can be transformative. I definitely support Joyce Valenza’s comment, “Literacy comes in a variety of exciting flavors.” Plus, it is becoming easier to post video in discussions, using outside tools or course software. Canvas, among others, have a built-in tool that allows for recording and posting audio or video directly to discussions.

  • The Guilty Secret of Distracted ParentingNew York Times – Perri Klass, M.d.  (6 minute read)
    This is an issue that seems to rarely get as much attention as kids and screen time. However, the amount of time adults, with or without children, spend with their faces staring at their phones is pretty stunning. I am not by any means guiltless, and I have definitely brought a book to the playground, but I sincerely make an attempt not to be that parent who reaches for their phone every chance I get, all but ignoring my kids. I spend a lot of time on various devices but I do try to put them aside when I am with my kids. We adults need to be better models for all kids. We are not meant to be always on and always connected. It definitely is not easy but it is worth it.

  • The Big List of Class Discussion Strategiescultofpedagogy.com – Jennifer Gonzalez  (12 minute read)
    This is a blogpost and podcast episode. Even if you do not listen to the audio, reading the post is worthwhile for the list of alternative strategies for approaching discussions in class. Whole class discussions remain a goto activity for a lot of teachers, especially in the humanities. They can be effective, engaging, and make a classroom far more interactive. Discussion is a valuable tool in a teacher’s stock and trade. Yet, a lot of class discussions look remarkably the same from classroom to classroom. What is great about this post is that the different approaches are divided into categories based on preparation. There are higher prep, lower prep, and ongoing strategies that can add a bit more variety to the well-worn activity. Some of these easily port online too.

As always, thanks for supporting this newsletter.

Education Evolutions Newsletter #24


sas-ipad flickr photo by zandwacht shared under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

Education Evolutions:
Select Readings on Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

Here are three curated articles about education, technology, and evolutions in teaching.

  • Education as Poetry & Explanation Versus Understandingetale.org – Bernard Bull  (4 minute read)
    This blogpost resonated with me quite a bit. Bull’s rediscovery of TS Eliot’s lecture on literary criticism with its notion that sometimes we “confuse explanation with understanding” and the chord he draws from Eliot to the current education climate is insightful. In fact, Eliot’s lecture just moved up my reading list. We are currently deeply into an era that raises the science of learning, including a growing obsession with data and economic models for education. Of course, key to accountability is counting. Thus, the political, technological, and scientific demands of the times have often meant that if it cannot be counted it does not count all that much at all. Perhaps it is the English teacher in me, but the idea of thinking about education institutions as poetic expressions seemed like a fascinating idea and counterbalance to much of the current fashion.

  • Becoming Literate Digitally in a Digitally Literate Environment of Their Own – Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy – W. Ian O’Byrne & Kristine E. Pytash  (10 minute read)
    I think I first advocated for a Domain of One’s Own approach in the high school three years ago. Obviously, it has not happened yet. Still, I remain convinced that the benefits would be enormous. This article actually outlines a host of ideas that I have held dear for some time. A few people have even endured my impassioned appeals about how cool many of the references included here, like University of Mary Washington’s Domain of One’s Own and DS106. Honestly, I modeled an entire class on many of the principles of DS106, which I still think is one of the most innovative approaches to learning on the web. I even led a class engaged with YouthVoices in one of its earliest iterations. The ideas of Gardner Campbell, Jim Groom, Howard Rheingold, Audrey Watters, among others continue to have a long influence on my thinking about technology, education, and literacy. Some of their work has even appeared in this newsletter from time to time. They are all worth a look.

  • The Critical Thinking Skills CheatsheetGlobal Digital Citizen Foundation – Lee Watanabe-Crockett  (3 minute read)
    This includes a nice infographic that can serve as a pretty handy reminder of a range of questions that can certainly advance critical thinking. It certainly is not a substitute for a more robust and sustained program but it can definitely remind students of the kinds of purposeful questioning they should engage in regularly. I especially like that it is built on the 5W1H model which can be applied across a range of subjects and contexts. There is even a poster version that can be downloaded.

As always, thank you for supporting this newsletter.

Education Evolutions Newsletter #23

sas-ipad flickr photo by zandwacht shared under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license Education Evolutions: Select Readings on Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

Here are three curated articles about education, technology, and evolutions in teaching.

  • Ask the Cognitive Scientist: Distributed PracticeDigital Promise – Aubrey Francisco  (8 minute read)
    On some level, the idea of studying or practicing material in intervals is not exactly a new idea. So suggesting that there are better ways to learn something besides cramming may not be the most radical conclusion. However, this piece does provide some of the scientific explanation as to why this is true. For that reason alone, it is worth a look. It even provides some details on the spacing required for optimal impact. Perhaps more interesting is section 5, where a brief but bright case is made for how applying technology might enhance the planning and performance of distributed practice. I have long thought that uses like this are the kind of low hanging fruit that is not well-picked, and it can be far more than simple drill and kill procedures.

  • 8 Compelling Mini-Documentaries to Teach Close Reading and Critical Thinking SkillsNew York Times Learning Network – Michael Gonchar  (13 minute read)
    Sticking with the theme of reading, this post is a progressive approach to using video as texts. There are so many mini-documentaries that can serve as short non-fiction stories in all kinds of classes. Apart from being excellent pieces of journalism, produced by The New York Times, the student responses provide a kind of guide about how they might be used. Better still, there additional resources at the end of the piece to widen the options available. While it can take time to assemble a list of appropriate videos for a given course, they can be excellent ways to front or back load topics for a specific class or serve as a part of a wider text set. Plus, the videos included here are pretty compelling in their own right.

  • What you read matters more than you might thinkPsychology Today – Susan Reynolds  (4 minute read)
    In the last few years, there have been a number of articles that validate the importance of reading with almost continual research studies as evidence. This one adds the obvious connection to writing before diving back into the virtues of deeper reading and its benefits. While this is part plug for the writer’s book about the neuroscience of writing, it has some quality suggestions. So quit reading these brief online articles and go read a book of poems or a grand novel and enjoy, whether you want to write anything or not.

As always, thank you for supporting this newsletter

Science & Engineering Fair Participation Surges

Note: This post originally appeared on HPS Digital.

This week, the library hosted the annual high school science and engineering fair. This year’s fair grew markedly in both size and scope from the previous year.

The total number of projects rose to 28 this year with 13 from freshmen, one of the highest totals of recent memory. Even more exciting for the participants, 12 projects will continue on to the regional science fair March 10. Of that total, half of the projects advancing are the products of underclassmen.

Photo: Participants in 2017 Regional Science & Engineering Fair

Students advancing to
the regional science & engineering fair.

Principal Evan Bishop noted the level of achievement on display, “The quality and amount of the projects is impressive considering the students do this work outside of class. We have double the amount of projects this year.”

The growth and success of the program continued to include some of the high school’s best and brightest students. It even brings back a number of past students.

“I am just so impressed and proud of these projects and the communication skills of these students, solving real world problems. It’s exciting. It’s also exciting to see the number of former graduates come back and participate as judges. I think it really speaks to the kind of community we have here,” said Principal Bishop.

Included in the group advancing will be this year’s top finishers which look similar to last year. First through third place proved a shuffled version of last year’s places with an added team.

Photo: Top Three Places for 2017 HHS Science & Engineering Fair

Top three placed project winners
(From left to right)  Kate Woelflein,
Emma Beale, Himanshu Minocha,
Freya Proudman, and Brian Best.

 

In first place, Himanshu Minocha developed a software application as part of his project Campus Safety Warning and Notification System Using 3D Geofencing.

In second place, Brian Best built upon his project from last year with Music Math: Does Music Follow a Zipfan Distribution?

In third place, the spoils were split. Tied were Freya Proudman continuing her work in the behavioral sciences with her project Young Women’s Optimism for Their Futures and the team of Kate Woelflein and Emma Beale who investigated The Effect of Global Warming in Spider Silk Proteins.

After finishing second as a sophomore, Minocha continued his evolution as a software developer, “I have been building applications since seventh grade. This year I wanted to build a heavier application that would do more complex computations and build upon the computer science knowledge I have gained,” Minocha said.

Last year’s winner and this year’s third-place finisher, Proudman captured the spirit of all the participants, “I think science fair is so special. It’s such a joy to share your research with others. It allows you to explore what you’re passionate about in science. It’s a really wonderful opportunity.”

Photo: 2017 HHS Science & Engineering Fair Mentors

Some of this year’s mentors
(From right to left) Tricia Noblett,
Kristen Baldiga, and Val Lechtanski.

High school chemistry teacher and mentor, Kristen Baldiga celebrated both the students and those involved in making the fair reality. “People have been able to dedicate their time and really step up. It really makes me proud to be in this department,” said Baldiga. “This is really a testament to the work Devon Grilly has done the last few years.”

The science and engineering fair would not be possible without contributions from the science department, the generous support from the Hopkinton Parent Teacher Association, Bose Corporation, Perkins Elmer, as well as the many individuals willing to donate their time and energy to helping the students explore science regardless of economic status.

Education Evolutions Newsletter #22


sas-ipad flickr photo by zandwacht shared under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

Education Evolutions:
Select Readings on Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

Here are four curated articles about education, technology, and evolutions in teaching.

  • Are We Innovating, or Just Digitizing Traditional Teaching?Edutopia – Beth Holland  (5 minute read)
    As compelling as the title of this piece is, the article remains a bit on the surface level. One of the problems is that so many terms in education and educational technology quickly get co-opted by commercial interests, making clarity difficult. Contrary to all the myths, there is significant data to support that using a learning management system does more to digitize traditional teaching than almost anything else. As Holland suggests, digital workflow is not blended learning. I would also submit that Holland also conflates blended learning and some other buzz phrases, like agency and personalized learning. Truth, tools do not compel blended learning, people do. The tools only make it easier to accomplish, if desired. Most simply automate traditional pedagogies. Moreover, the stronger efforts of standardization and testing remain the more ready-made, teacher-driven or even programmatic-driven content delivery will prevail. Allowing students to apply genuine choice and agency with regard to their learning is messy and far harder to test.

  • Battle of the Classrooms: Apple, Google, Microsoft Vie for K-12 MarketEdSurge – Sydney Johnson  (5 minute read)
    The opening paragraph strikes more directly at the heart of this battle. Yet, it is only the beginning for the biggest kids on the edtech block. In some instances, they might have been a bit slow or clumsy in appealing to Education but make no mistake it is definitely considered a major market. I am not sure how many people were even aware that all three now have Classroom products. This article does a decent job of comparing the three. None of them are actually learning management systems and they are all limited in what they can do. In fact, they are pretty good at digitizing traditional teaching with strong command and control affordances.

  • The Challenge of Non-Disposable AssignmentsCogDogBlog – Alan Levine  (7 minute read)
    The title of this post captures a genuine spirit that has influenced my thoughts on teaching for years now. In fact, Alan Levine has developed work that has had a most profound impact on me. DS106 is one of the coolest educational efforts I have ever come across on the web. If you have never taken a look at it, you should (Just beware, it is easy to lose a fair amount of time exploring.). What’s more, the structure and format used to power the DS106 Assignment Bank is something that I have tried to mimic in a limited way but would love to employ in a course fully. I have long advocated for what essentially are non-disposable tasks for students, although I had never used that term. I could not agree more with David WIley when he declares that disposable assignments, “add no value to the world, they actually suck value out of the world.” If only we could transcend the antiquated notion that every student will produce the same artifact to be seen by the teacher only. I also think the content trap is very real and pervasive.

  • Exploring film soundtracks with Radio 2 and BBC R&DBBC – Bruce Weir  (3 minute read)
    This is a pure technology showcase but one that is quite cool. I suspect most people have yet to hear about object-based media but it will likely become far more common quickly. One of the byproducts of the proliferation of the Internet and increased bandwidth is the ability to deliver multiple, simultaneous data streams. So BBC’s experimenting with delivering video, graphics, and audio separately allows for all kinds of novel ways to interact with their media. Click the link for Radio 2 – Friday Night is Music Night Remixed Videos, just below the first picture to play with a few of their experiments. It is hard not to be impressed with the results.

As always, thanks for supporting this newsletter.

Education Evolutions Newsletter #21


sas-ipad flickr photo by zandwacht shared under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

Education Evolutions:
Select Readings on Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

Here are three curated articles about education, technology, and evolutions in teaching.

  • Impersonal PersonalizationCurmudgucation Blog – Peter Greene  (3 minute read)
    In this dark scenario, Peter Greene paints the picture of personalization which is one of the next waves of edtech and edreform. The term “personalization” means different things to different people. It really depends on who you ask. Most often it looks and sounds a lot like what Greene explains upon a deeper investigation that cuts through all the hyperbole and promises. However, it is something everyone needs to learn a little something about because it is coming in some form or another. Rhode Island has already made serious top-down efforts to push this and Massachusetts has already begun preparing to advance it across the state with efforts like MAPLE and more. Not every effort towards personalization is awful but a whole lot of them are some variation on an adaptive, algorithmic assessment agony perpetrated on kids. Greene’s acerbic wit on the topic is sound regardless.

  • 5 Radically Different Approaches to Technology in SchoolsThe Huffington Post – Lynn Perkins  (7 minute read)
    This might be a slight oversimplification but it does provide a nice high altitude survey of some major technology efforts that are being tried across the country. Notice the first one, A Fully Personalized Curriculum, especially after the article above. AltSchool is just one of a handful of systems that are advocating this approach. At the minute, personalization technology efforts have the strongest foothold in charter schools. Of course, STEM continues to be a viable approach for anchoring technology and is regularly being combined with a number of other trends like design thinking and makerspaces. Despite the Google focus being articulated in the Collaborative Learning section that is often paired with Project Based Learning (PBL) too. Promoting Equality sounds like a great approach but there is mounting evidence that edtech efforts are accomplishing quite the opposite. Last, what might be most ironic about the No-Tech Perspective is how popular it is in places like Silicon Valley, especially at schools where titans of the tech industry decide to send their kids.

  • The IKEA Effect in EducationMy Island View blog – Tom Whitby  (10 minute read)
    “Caring doesn’t scale, and scaling doesn’t care” is an aphorism occasionally voiced around edtech circles by some of the more insightful proponents, although probably not enough. Education companies are forever chasing scale. It is where so much boxed curricula is designed and distributed, even better if it involves technology. Yet, so few of the things that really impact learning, especially personal, as opposed to personalized, learning are all that easy to scale. Whitby’s blogpost uses a clever turn of phrase to capture what is almost the diametric opposite from the worst kind of personalization Peter Greene showcases. Even though the metaphor uses IKEA, when some assembly required, customization or do-it-yourself phrasing might be better fit for purpose, it puts the person at the center of any personalization not technology, When framed as Whitby writes, technology can serve as an amplifier for the best kind of personal learning, the kind that requires genuine craft and workmanship by human beings for other human beings.

As always, thanks for supporting this newsletter.

Education Evolutions Newsletter #20


sas-ipad flickr photo by zandwacht shared under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

Education Evolutions:
Select Readings on Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

Here are four curated articles about education, technology, and evolutions in teaching.

  • The Essential Selfishness of School ChoiceGadfly on the Wall – Steven Singer  (10 minute read)
    This blogpost is not new and I am surprised that I did not include it earlier. This might be the best explanation of school choice I have ever seen. The single line, “You took your slice, and now the rest of the pie is ruined. No one else can take a whole piece. Your choice has limited everyone else’s.” cuts to the core of precisely the kind of “choice” that will become advocated with increasing frequency now that Betsy DeVos has ascended to head the federal Department of Education. What’s more, so much of the recent talk about “choice” advances as if there has never been any which is complete rubbish. Parents have always had options and Singer does a good job of explaining them, as well as the problems associated with the current bunch. The “choice” we will see advocated is the worst kind of aspirational con job, peddling the false idea that people will somehow be able to take the tax dollars associated with their child to pay for the kind of elite private schools that people like DeVos and other political operatives sent her children too.
  • How Playing With Math Helps Teachers Better Empathize With StudentsKQED MindShiftKatrina Schwartz  (10 minute read)
    While this title is a little misleading, this article highlights some of the best kind of professional development. It is about a K through college kind of atmosphere that brings together like-minded educators interested in learning more. Math Teachers’ Circles are those chances when K12 teachers get a chance to work with professors from the academy in a way that reminds everyone why they may have fallen in love with their discipline in the first place. Even better it is the kind of environment that fosters the idea that we are all learners first and that may be the best way to truly improve teaching. I immediately identified with the teacher that needed to revise the narrative she held about her math ability. If there was a Math Teachers’ Circle close, I might be tempted to attend and I am not even a math teacher. Alas, there are no active ones all that close I looked.
  • DeVosian Threat InventoryCurmudgucation Blog – Peter Greene  (10 minute read)
    Peter Greene is a teacher and active blogger with a razor-sharp eye on edreform. In this post, he runs the rule over what can be expected from a Betsy DeVos-led DoE. Most of these topics are based on a lot of the efforts already afoot that are likely to be super-charged under DeVos’s direction, if it can be called that. Perhaps more than anything, preparation needs to start in earnest for the fresh waves of coming attacks that will rain down on teachers and unions. That is no joke. The energy and action that fueled the rallies against her confirmation will need to be sustained to resist the normalizing of a whole host of efforts that can potentially damage the very notion of a public education. As Greene notes, DeVos may not be able to get states to do exactly what she wants but that is what many thought about Arne Duncan and the Common Core.
  • Ed-Tech in a Time of TrumpHacked Education – Audrey Watters  (29 minute read)
    As I looked back on previous newsletters, I was kind of surprised that Audrey Watters has not made more appearances. This is the text from a presentation given at University of Richmond by edtech’s Cassandra. It is long but a very worthwhile read. As much as I advocate for technology use in education, I am not a technological evangelist. The issues raised in this talk are things that I spend a lot of time thinking about actually. What troubles me most is how ignorant or wildly misinformed a lot of education’s administrators and decision-makers are about what Watters highlights in this piece. For some time now, I have grown more gravely concerned about just how much students, including my own children, are increasingly living in a state of almost constant surveillance. The depth and breadth of what is already in place are startling and most parents and educators remain almost entirely unaware. Data, big or otherwise, can deliver enormous power. In fact, in our digital age, data can easily lead to precisely the kind of power that can absolutely corrupt.

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