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.