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.

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

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.

As always thank you for supporting this newsletter.

Education Evolutions Newsletter #19


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.

  • Why we teach our students to read between the liesThe Times of Higher EducationDonald E. Hall  (5 minute read)
    It is remarkable just how many references to Germany in the 1930s have been surfacing in the media since the inauguration. Here Hall extends the same type of “lie-based storytelling environment” to 1990s Rwanda, where he taught prior to the nation’s collapse. He suggests that our nation has arrived at a crossroads, where we are bombarded fact and fiction with such speed and volume that it is easier to be fooled than ever. As a college professor, he claims this has never been more true for our young people. This is ultimately an impassioned plea for the best of what the liberal arts and sciences offer, a strong focus on inquiry, research, focusing on facts and evidence, critical thinking, argument, and valuing a diversity of models and interpretations for a given challenge. That list is diminished the more all schools and universities are expected to operate in a vocational capacity, despite the genuine value of vocational education. Any kind of education must be more than job training.

  • Can Democrats Save Public Schools from Trump and DeVos?The New RepublicGraham Vyse  (11 minute read)
    There was a time when the Democratic party included an education caucus that has long died away. Vyse’s incisive read on the current political situation as it relates to education includes an uncomfortable truth, that it requires Democrats walking away from “our school’s are failing” narrative and the failed policies of the Obama administration. Considering that they were little more than the continuation of his Republican predecessor’s policies, it might seem to be an obvious move. Yet, as recent events have shown the current political climate is fraught with a number of challenges which could complicate things considerably. Vyse truly shows understnading, however, when he suggests that Democrats “let the GOP own testing tedium and teacher-trashing. Make Republicans the sole defenders of schooling as a market commodity, not an enlightened egalitarian ideal.” Were that to happen and the failures truly laid bare with the likely incoming DeVos, we could see a genuine turnaround instead of flashy propaganda.

  • Community-Focused Versus Market-Driven EducationDigital Pedagogy LabMatthew Metzgar  (11 minute read)
    Should DeVos head the Department of Education, the market-driven, competition-is-good approach to education will likely kick into overdrive under the guise of school choice. Yet, we have been operating in an increasingly market-driven, league tables type paradigm for quite some time now. It might be hard to remember that there are alternatives. Metzgar outlines four specific reminders that are backed with evidence and proven results, just click some of the links. Best of all he explains them in a clear and understandable way without oversimplification. Arguably, the best item of the bunch is number three Use of Test Scores versus Portfolios/Public Exhibitions, which involves human judgement and takes more time. Furthermore, he shares relevant insights about what a public education is intended to be and why. Forcing schools to compete and creating a market deprives the public from owning the system they fund with their taxes. Profit-driven, school choice goes one step further and extracts funding from a community, benefitting corporate interests and not necessarily the community they serve.

As always thank you for supporting this newsletter.

Education Evolutions Newsletter #18


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.

  • Once a fearsome murderer invaded a Zen master’s homeseanmichaelmorris.com – Sean Michael Morris  (9 minute read)
    Fair warning, this is a politically charged post that takes direct aim at our newly inaugurated president, cleverly comparing him to the fictional character Veruca Salt. Yet it is all the foundation for a penetrating examination of agency and its relationship with power. One of Morris’ best lines, “agency doesn’t so much exert itself upon others as it does float within the intersection of freedom and authority.” It also becomes a damning indictment of the current state of our educational system. Regardless of your political leanings, this is worth reading if for only a deeper look at this sentiment, “[Agency] does not give us power over another, but it gives us mastery over ourselves. And an education that does not encourage or facilitate this agency is not an education.” As a professor he is talking about higher education but he might as well be addressing any level of education.

  • Why paper is the real ‘killer app’BBC Capital – Alison Birrane (9 minute read)
    As techno savvy as I might be with all the various devices I might use in a day, I am a serious advocate for paper. Quite simply, tools matter. Tools shape how and what we think. This is especially true for writers. Plus there are few things as liberating and expedient as a piece of paper. I have often made statements like, “a notepad will never run out of batteries or have a screen freeze half way through a task…And you can sketch, draw a diagram or stick-figure illustration — sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words — which isn’t as easily done on a smartphone.” Digital devices and apps require humans to meet them on their terms, for the most part. Pen and paper has its limitations but they are less about dictating terms of use.

  • Mississippi Attorney General Sues Google Over Student-Data PrivacyEducation Week’s Digital Education blog – Benjamin Herold (3 minute read)
    This legal development is likely the beginning in a wave of litigation that could gather strength regarding student data. There are already multiple efforts arising dedicated to a deeper, clearer understanding of what kind of data is being collected about students and why. The Consortium of School Networking (CoSN) a leading education technology organization has made student data privacy a major agenda item and locally Cambridge Public Schools has is one of a handful of school systems that has begun demanding more from vendors. Mississippi’s attorney general is brave to be taking on a company with the size and power of Google. It may take others to join, however, to gain any real traction, especially in an era where the administration is already suggesting a that 75% of regulations on business can be cut.

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