Education Evolutions #37


IMG_4227 flickr photo by Jemimus shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Select Readings and Thoughts on Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

Well, another week with a delayed delivery. Despite the best of my hopes of getting this out on Saturday morning, my children’s soccer schedule again conspired against me. Add a visitor for the holiday weekend and time moved a bit more fluidly than normal

No real theme for the week, more a smattering of different items that build on broader themes that I have returned to often in the newsletter. The importance of art, our propensity to favor profits over people, and going gradeless are all areas that have gotten play here in previous issues.

The first item is long but well worth the click. Filled with exceptional multimedia elements and fascinating content, I suspect it will be in the mix for awards later in the year even. It is an impressive piece of digital journalism. Take the time to dig into it. You will not be disappointed. Pius, it came to me from one of you which makes it an even cooler inclusion.

So hopefully, this collection will give you some thoughtful enjoyment over the holiday. Enjoy the extended weekend, if you have it.


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

This is Your Brain on ArtThe Washington Post – Sarah L. Kaufman (12-minute read)
This one comes courtesy of a reader of this newsletter and everyone should look at if for no other reason than to see an exquisite example of the kind of online publishing that the best newspapers, like The Washington Post, New York Times, and The Guardian can create. It is beautiful and a first class digital reading experience.

From a content experience, this piece highlights a host of things that we might have intuitively known but begins to introduce the scientific explanation and backing. The phenomenological investigation of the arts is nothing new but this article provides a window into some of the latest discoveries.

Perhaps most clever is how Swan Lake is used as a leitmotif through the whole feature, demonstrating the very neural turn-ons being highlighted. The whole work is as impressive as it is informative. If you only look at one article from this newsletter this week, this is the one.

Platforms Over PeopleA Long View on Education blog – Benjamin Doxtdator (7-minute read)
I have featured blogposts by Doxtador before in this newsletter because he often writes the kind of posts I wish that I had written. This is one of those posts. In a response to reading an article in MIT Technology Review, he keys in on one of the biggest challenges associated with artificial intelligence, the political one. It is the one that may get steamrolled in the rush for leverage and profits.

Looking at Accenture, Doxtador asks precisely the kinds of questions that we should always be asking, including “What returns will flow back to [citizens] instead of benefitting the corporation?” It would make a lot more sense to me if politicians began asking that rather than seemingly starting with how taxpayers can give the company a sweetheart deal. Companies will almost always leave if they think that they can get a better deal.

I am certainly more aligned with the idea that we should be mounting a resistance to surveillance capitalism which is a horse that has already left the barn and put in some distance before the chase. I have my doubts that it is even remotely likely to happen and the idea of nationalizing anything is definitely anathema to our current cultural climate. Still, referencing some spot-on observations by Noam Chomsky always catches my eye too.

The Gradeless Garden: Why natural, neutral, and nothing is not enough Identity, Education, and Power on Medium – Arthur Chiaravalli (7-minute read)
I have been highlighting some gradeless articles this year. The whole movement is interesting to me for a host of reasons. Yet, this post is one of the most honest and thoughtful examinations on the topic. Chiaravelli’s garden analogy is an apt one but it is the recognition that destroying-one-system-allows-another-one-to-emerge that is rarely addressed, if ever, by those advocating going gradeless.

Despite the best of intentions, academic spaces are never neutral spaces. They cannot be. As Chiaravelli understands, “our classrooms, our schools, our students, ourselves” are all contested ground, whether we like it or not. Furthermore, that ground is being increasingly contested with greater frequency and insidiousness.

What I like most of all about this is the interrogation at the heart of the discussion and realization that inclusion, like most of what we do in teaching is a process of constant construction. The work is so rarely ever done. The results cannot ultimately be controlled but the process and the building effort can continue, reach, grow, and improve.

Education Evolutions #36


IMG_4227 flickr photo by Jemimus shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Select Readings and Thoughts on Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age
Apologies for the delayed delivery this week. A combination other deadlines, more youth soccer than usual, and feeling a little under the weather all conspired to delay me a day.

Similar to last week’s mindfulness theme, this week must be more explicitly about race and class. Perhaps I am just responding to the popular zeitgeist or maybe I am just more ready to think and discuss those issues more lately. Neither issue ever gets enough attention, in my opinion.

Unfortunately, many of us conveniently brush away those elements of our society that may reveal its greatest ugliness. They are often too unpleasant to discuss in polite company. Yet they are far too real to deny, even if we have found ways, by and large, to insulate ourselves from them, both consciously or unconsciously.

So, this trio of articles show bravery and dig into some discomfort. The only way to have any chance of dealing with any challenge is by facing it directly and reflecting. I suppose that whole “unexamined life” tip from the ancient Greeks has been turning over in mind as well.

I have been repeating this part but I hope people like the new format and delivery. Also, I love the feedback and exchange of comments. That makes the effort even more worthwhile. If anyone comes across an article or even has a topic or theme they’d like to see shared let me know.


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

James Baldwin’s Lesson for Teachers in a Time of Turmoil – The New Yorker – Clint Smith (10-minute read)
Over the summer I finally got the chance to watch to watch the James Baldwin documentary I Am Not Your Negro, which I highly recommend. It rekindled my interest in Baldwin’s work. There is a reason why he is resurfacing as a cultural agent at the minute. His courage and eloquence are unmistakable but his penetrating insights make him a formidable American intellectual that should be more widely read.

In this piece, Smith shares the poignancy of his annual experience of rereading Baldwin’s essay “A Talk to Teachers,” an additional item more than worth a look. Smith’s personal wrestling with introducing political discourse into his lessons is interesting enough. More interesting is how doing so is presented as a kind of subversive act which is telling.

It would be naive to ignore that at least a part of the standards movement reinforces an order, also keeping people in their place. While not entirely explicit, Smith’s recognition and reading of Baldwin “that the world was molded by people who came before, and that it can be remolded into something new” strikes a recognition of this consequence. Plus, I could not agree more that a teacher must help students confront not only the problems shaping the world but also challenge them to examine their own place in it.

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

The Very Seriously Humorless Education of Students – radical eyes for equity blog – PL Thomas (4-minute read)
I am a frequent reader of PL Thomas and have featured him in previous issues of this newsletter. In this blogpost, his personal confession highlights something that is perhaps more common than we teachers can sometimes realize, a whole lot of students, and a fair number of adults, completely miss humor when reading. Part of this is humor can be difficult to identify on the page. However, a much bigger factor is the lack of preparation and even exposure to humor in text form.

Exposing students to a wide range of authors and texts is an absolute necessity to preparing readers of any sophistication. Yet, one of the well-known consequences of the standards reform is a narrowing of curriculum to serve the demands of accountability. Again, accountability regimes are excellent mechanisms establishing or preserving a social order.

Sadly, any student that struggles with reading is typically served up a heaping dose of humorless, text-prep texts. As if the remedy is more drill-and-kill readings that commit readicide against students, instead of embracing the struggle and guiding them through the hardest yards any reader sometimes face. It does not have to be that way but it often is. “Oh, but we do a satire unit, so we are all set.”

Second Guessing My Kids of Color? – The Tempered Radical blog – Bill Ferriter (8-minute read)
Another teacher brave enough to expose themselves a little in critical reflection, Ferriter’s admission is both heartfelt and instructive. His challenge in the opening note is probably even more so. Taking a hard look at himself and the subtle aspects of his interactions with students of color is an examination I hope would be a cause for pause and heightened awareness.

It is far too easy to put on blinders or even become defensive when confronted with the kind of uncomfortable situations presented by Ferriter. That is what is refreshing and brave about his admission. No one is perfect and conversations that involve race or even class need not be a zero-sum game. We are all human and make mistakes. Yet we can all benefit from remembering that being a good kind person is never a fixed state. It is a practice, in the truest sense of the word.

Ferriter’s willingness to throw caution to the wind and take a step forward in an effort to be better is admirable. His razor-sharp recognition, “imagine the impact that being doubted over and over again, day after day, year after year has on our kids of color” is enough to make this post worth the read. If you are interested in exploring conversations about race a little more, give this Jay Smooth TedTalk a look. It is one of the best takes on the topic I have ever encountered.

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.

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