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 – 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.

As always thank you for supporting this newsletter.

Education Evolutions Newsletter #17

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

  • Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s education chief, is living proof white people haven’t gotten over Brown v. Board of EducationSalonAmanda Marcotte  (7 minute read)
    In light of the DeVos hearings this week, it is hard to avoid including more about her. This is a fascinating opinion piece that traces the legacy of the landmark case to today’s class and race problems persist, especially in urban school systems. I find all this emphasis on “choice” to be extremely disingenuous. Parents have been able to choose private schools over public for quite some time. Who can afford a private school is another matter but Marcotte highlights just how much this rhetoric of choice will ultimately be a ruse that results in even more segregation than we already have. There is not a voucher that is going to cover the difference between the gutted public schools and where Trump or DeVos sent their kids.

  • Some Colleges Have More Students From the Top 1 Percent Than the Bottom 60. Find Yours.The UpshotThe New York TImes (9 minute read)
    The fact that access to the most elite colleges has not really changed all that much should not seem all that surprising. It mirrors the society and culture at large. At many of the most selective institutions of higher education, including half the Ivy League, the top 1% dominates the student body. Given the rise in tuition costs, schools can easily, even consciously, segregate their student body by socio-economic class even more than the public K12 system, if they choose. What deserves more genuine concern is the impact on social mobility universities can have. Given declining financial support it is hard to see how students from lower incomes have much of a shot attending the most selective institutions and reaping the benefits therein.

  • How Dropping Screen Time Rules Can Fuel Extraordinary LearningMediumMimi Ito (3 minute read)
    There has been a lot of attention paid to the idea of screen time, even in this newsletter, since the American Association of Pediatrics changed their stance on the topic. Mimi Ito is one of the leading scholars on adolescents in the digital age and makes a strong case that the very notion of screen time may have outlived its usefulness. In a world filled with screens, it is increasingly hard to limit exposure. Plus, not all time in front of a screen is equal. Her recommendations are insightful, particularly the list of questions to consider from Blum and Livingstone. This is practical, positive stuff.

  • CWRU, Cleveland Clinic and Microsoft Transform LearningYouTubeCase Western Reserve University  (3:19 minute view)
    Also courtesy of a newsletter reader, here is a video that showcases some awfully cool technology that could serve education in some actually transformative ways. As interesting as the anatomy example might be, I couldn’t help but wonder about possibilities of just how powerful visualizing information three-dimensional holographic ways can be. There have to be so many opportunities that have not even been dreamed of yet. While a few are listed, I am not sure that it even scratches the surface. The bigger problem is likely to be the cost and time associated with developing content like this. It strikes me as something that could take a while but have heavier long-term  implications.

  • Pixar Easter Eggs – Facebook Video – Disney (2:40 minute view)
    This one is simply for pure fun. If you are not one of the people who has already added to the 9.5 million views of this video give it a look. If you have children or have just watched a lot of Pixar’s films it is a real treat to see how many little elements linked between films.

As always thank you for supporting this newsletter.

Education Evolutions Newsletter #16

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.

  • Poet: I can’t answer questions on Texas standardized tests about my own poemsThe Answer Sheet @ The Washington PostValerie Strauss  (14 minute read)
    This piece presents quite a dark irony that makes for fascinating reading. Reading a poet wrestle with the poor questions that were conceived about her work is interesting enough but Sara Holbrook’s eloquent takedown of the entire standardized testing juggernaut is even more so. For one, the fact that one of her poems was not even formatted correctly only kicks off the calamity. The way she addresses the questions is both clever and poetic. Plus, I lover her final reflection. Best of all, this is a call to action to end the madness.

  • There is no “technology industry”Medium – Anil Dash  (6 minute read)
    Dash makes an important argument in this piece which requires us to examine how we think about the conglomerates that call themselves technology companies and all of its implications. Companies that we often think of technology companies have more in common with General Electric now than the romanticized Silicon Valley start-ups. Technology has become so pervasive that nearly all commercial enterprises are tech companies. Even more important, Dash explains how the labels and language we use matters. It is central to how we understand these companies and their impact on society and our lives. Unquestionably best line in the piece, “ Marc Andreessen famously said that “software is eating the world”, but it’s far more accurate to say that the neoliberal values of software tycoons are eating the world.” Education just happens to be one more morsel for those omnivorous values and tycoons.

  • Rich and poor teenagers use the web differently – here’s what this is doing to inequalityThe World Economic ForumRosamond Hutt (3 minute read)
    I am admittedly not the biggest fan of PISA but this is a fascinating development. It would seem that the OECD’s information correlates with what we have known here in the United States for some time. Want to know where the good schools are? Look where the money is. As the report explains, “Equal access does imply equal opportunities.” This is a truth that should be more obvious than it is. Too many assumptions are made about the availability of information and opportunities online. It is interesting that the recommendation is more about basic literacy than tech devices or service. All that being said, I am tired of test results being used as the data and justification for decisions and conclusions.

As always thank you for supporting this newsletter.

Innovative Smartphone Photography Course Grows

Reflecting on her experience taking Smartphone Photography at the high school, senior Sadie Morgan explained, “If you commit to the class and really do the projects, you can end up with really cool stuff from it. You learn so much that you can use in the future. It is cool. I now use one of the editing apps whenever I do smartphone photography and certain tips on composition.”
Photo: Sterling Worrell

Photography teacher Sterling Worrell.

Last year, Sterling Worrell created and began teaching Smartphone Photography, a hybrid course, in the high school art department. The course focuses on the fundamentals of photography, specifically creating with the tools and technology available using mobile devices. It is one of the school’s more innovative efforts that integrates technology and teaching in new ways that capitalize on changes forge new possibilities. Since the beginning, the course and students have featured at major educational technology events in the commonwealth, including Learn Launch’s 2016 Across Boundaries Classroom of the Future and Massachusetts Computer Users in Education (MassCUE) fall Global Connections, Digital Learning conference. Looking back on the inspiration for the course, Worrell said, “Two things: I was looking forward to the challenge of utilizing mobile devices in the classroom, instead of banning them like so many teachers do. Also, there are just a lot of bad pictures taken with phones. So I wanted to teach students how to treat their phone like a camera.” Worrell has been teaching film and digital photography for years, making this course a natural progression. “This is taught like a photo course. It is almost all about how to take good images. The focus is on the type of technology and learning how to use the tool to create the images. Each kind of camera has different pros and cons.”
Photo: Paige O'Connor editing photographs

Paige O’Connor reviewing photographs with fellow students.

Freshman Paige O’Connor underlined the importance of capturing and making high-quality images. “The angles and composition of you place your subject is so important,” O’Connor said. “I enjoyed just learning how to compose, how to compose, and bring the audience’s eye to the actual subject of the image, as opposed to all of the other things that might be in the picture.” Course alumnus Morgan had previously taken film photography and explained some distinctions, “This was different in that you can see right on the screen and take as many pictures as you want. It was a cool course to take because I got to learn different functions that were on my phone that I didn’t know that were there and basically how to take good photos.” With such a sharp technical focus on how to take a good photograph with a phone, Worrell can be more flexible in the course. While there are tasks to develop keener vision, like lessons in composition or light and shadow, students drive the goals and inquiry of the course. One significant and consistent development is student interest in how to skillfully edit their images. This has become a theme in every iteration of the course so far.
Photo: Sadie Morgan in art class

Sadie Morgan inking a drawing for art class.

“It is a different kind of platform that you are working with. Everything can be so easily edited on a smartphone. There is such instant gratification with smartphone photography,” Morgan said. “We learned the best apps to use for editing, the best ways to edit without overdoing, so you can make a nice photograph. You learn to edit yourself, instead of just using Instagram filters.” The hybrid nature of the course means that class meets three times face-to-face in traditional classroom sessions and two sessions are conducted completely online. It is a format that the high school has employed for several years now, a blended learning experience that also includes flexibility in scheduling. Worrell helped pioneer the approach in Hopkinton beginning over six years ago. Worrell has been an avid advocate for hybrid courses and sees multiple benefits. “It gives students the chance to be more efficient. They have more freedom to do what they need to get done during a day. Another thing is if I present something online, the student that already knows it can move on and the student who might need more time can review it as much as they need. No one has to be limited to the speed of my presentation.” Online sessions provide lesson content delivery based on course themes and broader opportunities for student-to-student interaction. Using the learning management system (LMS) Canvas, students access project tasks, review photographic works from professionals and fellow students, as well as engage in virtual critiques which compliment the face-to-face ones that are at the heart of any art course.
Photo: John Thornton edits photographs

John Thornton editing photographs for class.

Current student and senior John Thornton has found the hybrid schedule to be truly beneficial. “It’s given me the first and last periods free which has given me a lot more flexibility with my schedule, especially with applying to colleges and managing my other classes. I can actually do more,” Thornton said. O’Connor added to the benefits of the hybrid aspect, “It’s good because you can do a lot on your own with more independence.” The course also attempts to develop responsible and effective use of social media to find and reach audiences for student work, although negotiating the division between personal and school presences online poses a challenge. The pros and cons of personal versus professional accounts on social media channels remains a theme that is discussed in the course. “We use VSCO as our portfolio but we don’t spend as much time on the sharing of work on social media,” Worrell said. Still, considerable amounts of student work are made public with the possibility of reaching broader audiences. In fact, the culminating project for the class is ambitious with Worrell challenging students. “They have to use photography to make the world a better place, to bring awareness, and try to provoke change around their topic of choice. Then get it to their target audience,” Worrell said.
Photo: Student editing photographs on smartphone

Student reviewing photographs from a recent shoot.

The project requires students to research and speak through photographs about a concern of interest. It can be personal, local, regional, or even global. Students are asked to bring attention to the topic and use photographs to provoke others to act. It is driven by the challenge of empowering young artists to institute change through their work. The project yields thoughtful results. Morgan’s final project examined human obsession with media and digital devices. “It is a common theme in pretty much all the work I do,” Morgan said. “It is so prominent in people today. It is a problem that I have too. So I wanted to get that across, that it is important to disconnect, and see the world a little bit.” O’Connor’s “The Bystander Effect” project responds to the stormy topic of bullying. “I wanted to show the effects of bullying and its bystanders. So I have someone covering their eyes, ears, and mouths,” O’Connor said. “If they didn’t see anything, they pretend nothing happens. If they didn’t hear anything, they can pretend nothing happens. If they didn’t say anything, they can pretend nothing happens.” Thornton’s The Faces project takes on an even more politically charged topic. “It’s a collection of portraits of queer students at our school. Because of a lot of contemporary media, we can’t have “coming out” stories anymore. So, I wanted to show more than that narrative about this community.” Photo: From "Overconnected" photography project by Sadie Morgan Photo: From "The Faces" photography project by John Thornton The course serves as a gateway to a more formal study of visual imagery, its ability to communicate power and provoke. Worrell sees additional benefits as well. “It definitely is attracting kids that are not usually taking art classes.”
Photo: Group of students reviewing photographs

A group of students reviewing photographs after a class shoot.

Reds Stop Slide in Sofia

Originally published on website.

Having lost four straight, Liverpool skidded into Sofia desperate to keep their Champions League hopes alive, while turning around their recent form and fortunes.

The night could not have started more poorly for Liverpool, when after three minutes their defense was scrambling all over the pitch and conceded the opener. Ludogorets advanced directly with pace. Kolo Toure could not clear and Marcelinho lashed 30 yard effort that bounced off Simon Mignolet, in a bungled save attempt. Dani Abalo knocked in the rebound, capping a dream start for the home side.

Five minutes later, Liverpool benefitted from some much needed good fortune when Ludogorets fullback Yordan Minev misplayed a cross, letting it bounce in the penalty area. The ball looped, giving Rickie Lambert time to snap a header across the face of goal and into the side netting.

Clear errors on both ends resulted in each of the first two goals.

For large portions of the first half the Bulgarian side gained the upper hand and looked to go ahead. At times, Liverpool could hardly string more than a pass together, struggling to regain their composure.

In the 37th minute,  against the run of play, Liverpool benefitted from another mistake. Ludogorets gave the ball away to Raheem Sterling, who raced down the left channel, before curling a cross low on the far post for a tight angle Jordan Henderson tap in. It was not an easy finish, despite Henderson making it look so.

The second half grew scrappier but produced little more than fits and starts. Apart from one dangerous chance for Sterling to seal it, neither side could craft any true threat.

However, Liverpool dropped deeper, yielding possession and absorbing the Bulgarian side’s pressure. For the final ten minutes, Ludogorets set up shop in the Liverpool defensive end, which would pay dividends.

In the 88th minute, Ludogorets equalized on a late corner. It was a poor kick towards the near post, but the flick by Svetoslav Dyakov found its way to Georgi Terziev, who smashed in a header at the far post. The Reds were beat to each touch in the sequence.

While a draw keeps Liverpool in the tournament with control of their own fate, this one has to feel like another defeat. The Reds were a few minutes away from grinding out the kind of away European win, upon which they could potentially build some confidence. However, the Merseysiders failed to hang on. They continue to miss opportunities but at least stopped the slide before hosting Stoke City at the weekend.

More Problems for Reds at Palace

Originally published on website.

News of Daniel Sturridge injuring his thigh fell hard on Merseyside this week, but the mood only darkened after Liverpool lost 3-1 to Crystal Palace at a soggy Selhurst Park.

International breaks, combined with poor performances, continue to wreak havoc on the Reds’ current campaign. More injuries, this time to Jordan Henderson and Mario Balotelli, forced manager Brendan Rodgers into some lineup changes, giving Rickie Lambert his second start.

The move looked to pay dividends from the start, as Lambert netted his first goal for the club in the second minute of the match. Receiving an excellent diagonal pass over the top from former Southampton teammate Adam Lallana in a deep midfield position, Lambert darted into the penalty area from the left. A sublime first touch and a cool finish opened both his and the Reds’ scoring account. It was a well-worked goal, almost training ground stuff from the visitors.

However, the early tally would be the height of Liverpool’s performance on the afternoon. Almost immediately from the ensuing kickoff Crystal Palace caused a scare. Still, Liverpool were able to regain composure and possession, cautiously moving the ball around the back, rarely advancing beyond midfield.

To their credit, Palace were prepared to drop deep banks of four and absorb any real Liverpool threat. Apart from a handful of offsides, the Reds were unable to build on the early lead and capitalise on the bright start.

Then in the 17th minute, Liverpool conceded the equalizer. After dealing a minor cut to the head of Joe Allen, who needed to receive treatment, Yannick Bolasie carved open the Liverpool defense. Driving hard into the middle of the pitch, Bolasie unleashed a rocket shot that would ping off the post and rebound to a fast-reacting Dwight Gayle for an easy equalizer.

The goal breathed life into the Selhurst Park faithful and the home side who grew even more resolute in the desire to catch Liverpool on the counter attack with pace and power. Bolasie, in particular, caused all kinds of problems for a Reds defense that looked increasingly slow and shabby after conceding.

Space between Liverpool’s attacking line and midfield widened as midfielders continued to drop deeper in their effort to pick the ball up from a defense that was shaky playing a high line. Combined with little movement or outlets available up front, Crystal Palace easily absorbed any attack prior to the final third.

In the 34th minute, the Reds mounted a counter attack of their own, when Allen drove down the left side before peeling back and crossing a quality ball to Lambert on the far post, but the striker couldn’t find the target. It was the best threat Liverpool would mount in the first half after the early goal.

The second half started with no changes from either side and proved equally sloppy as the first. Liverpool continued to concede ground, combined with poor clearances, and looked vulnerable defensively. In attack, it seemed that the best threat would come from hopeful free kick opportunities. Steven Gerrard, however, could not put any of his chances on goal, repeatedly firing high and wide from a variety of dead ball positions.

After an hour, the game began to grow increasingly stretched as each side tried to break the stalemate. The Eagles began to press forward, routinely building attacks from poor Liverpool clearances and inability to maintain any kind of sustained possession.

The 70th minute was illustrative of the match for most of the second half, when Liverpool advanced in numbers, Glen Johnson crossing a dangerous ball that tempted Palace goalkeeper Julian Speroni off the line to knock the ball down. With no Reds runners following up, the ball was cleared quickly for what nearly developed as a dangerous three-on-two break the other way for Palace. One of the few poor touches by Bolasie would see the counter falter.

Liverpool did try to throw numbers forward in an attempt to get a win. Yet, the final ball continued to be wanting and Palace easily scuppered anything that entered the box.

Beginning in the 72nd minute a series of three substitutions every two minutes slowed the match for both sides temporarily. Liverpool’s Fabio Borini replaced Lallana, and Emre Can substituted Allen. Then James MacArthur came on for the home side, taking off Jason Puncheon.

Soon after, Palace’s Bolasie, who had switched to the right side, easily rounded Dejan Lovren on his way into the penalty area, before cutting the ball back to a wide open Joe Ledley, who calmly slotted home the finish.

Three minutes later, the match would be put out of reach entirely. After a marginally dodgy foul by Martin Skrtel, Palace were awarded a free kick centrally, about 25 yards from goal. Eagle’s captain, Mile Jedinak then curled an exquisite right footed strike into the top corner of the goal. Despite Simon Mignolet’s efforts to reach it, there was not stopping it.

From that point, Palace coasted to victory sustaining possession and bossing the match past a physically and mentally fatigued Liverpool.

In spite of the positive start, Liverpool again conceded and looked bereft of solutions to the problems that only have deepened for the club. Rodgers too seems unable to remedy the troubles that have now undoubtedly destroyed any fragile confidence that his side has been able to muster.

Defensively, the Reds continue to be easily pulled out of position and exploited by pace and power. Additionally, the inability to address arial attacks seems to worsen with each match. The midfield continues to be overrun and outnumbered, causing countless disruptions to any sustained effort at seizing control and building an attack. Few genuine goalscoring chances are being created and even fewer goals are being scored.

Twelve matches into the season, Liverpool are currently not even a shadow of the swashbuckling side that took the Premier League by storm last year. Perhaps more worrying, every time it seem as though the side has hit bottom, they find a way to fall a little further.