Education Evolutions #39


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

Another Sunday delivery, a little later than expected. It has been tricky to settle into a regular routine this fall for some reason. Not quite a theme this weeks as much as a collection of disparate things. Each article brings a slightly different take on our ever-growing relationship with the technology in our lives at home, work, and school.

What interests me most are the biggest and most complicated of problems relating to education, technology, and teaching. So many of them are predicated on some impending sense of urgency, usually imagined. Our collective rush to gain some kind of perceived edge or fight the feeling of being left behind drives a lot more change than we sometimes realize. If there is any unifying thread in these articles, perhaps it is to be found in that notion.

So a lot less overt politics this week than last but it is hard to avoid them altogether. Fighting the fallout of truly fake news during an administration that labels any unfavorable news as fake makes the challenge all the more difficult. Plus, how we manage our youngest and most vulnerable to discern fact from fiction, let alone manage their use of access devices is an ongoing, ever-evolving obstacle.

If you read only one, take a look at the first one, How Fiction Becomes Fact on Social Media. There are a number of angles and nuance attempting to be addressed as the issue is explored. It certainly frames the problem as a far more complicated one than we may realize without more serious thought.

Hopefully, you enjoy some of this reading on a slow Sunday evening, especially if you have no interest in the Super Bowl rematch.


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

How Fiction Becomes Fact on Social Media  – The New York Times – Benedict Carey (10-minute read)

One of the most interesting elements of this article is that it appears in the Health section of The New York Times. Of course, there is plenty of psychology at play in the article, as it tackles cognitive biases and more aspects related to the brain. Still, things like fake news and social media being health concerns will likely get increasing play going forward.

Beyond that, this piece does reveal some of the complications that contribute to the fake news phenomenon that has nothing to do with bots and ne’er-do-wells leveraging technology. I have advanced some ideas here on how platforms are not neutral. In some instances, we are as much of the problem as the platforms, however.

Perhaps my favorite example is “Merely seeing a news headline multiple times in a news feed makes it seem more credible before it is ever read carefully, even if it’s a fake item being whipped around by friends as a joke.” I am not sure algorithms have much of a sense of humor. Even if they did, is it likely to be all that fun

We Need to Talk About Kids and Smartphones  – Time – Markham Heid (18-minute read)

This article is a sort of follow-up to a piece in The Atlantic which met with some controversy over the summer. It features the same researcher Jean Twenge penned the aforementioned item. There is plenty to interrogate about Twenge’s forthcoming study but it is precisely deep and rigorous questioning that should be at the heart of young people’s use of current connected technologies.

As we have collectively conspired to live more of our lives inside a computer, we have not always considered the consequences with as much enthusiasm. This has never been truer than with regards to our young. The television as a babysitter has long been supplanted by a smart device. I’ve seen iPads strapped to infant car seats – no lie.

Regardless of Twenge’s results, it is much harder to deny what University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine chair of neurology Frances Jensen said, “What this generation is going through right now with technology is a giant experiment, and we don’t know what’s going to happen.” It would be far too easy to dismiss that sentiment with a “Well, that’s always been the case,” kind of response.

The Makings (and Misgivings) of a Statewide Effort to Personalize Learning in Massachusett – EdSurge – Tony Wan (10-minute read)

While this article serves up quite a bit that reads like cheerleading, it is probably more important that educators know about the MAPLE initiative in Massachusetts. It may not have been on as many people’s radar, in fact, but it is an effort that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education couldn’t be more excited about. Many of the quotes included here ring all the right notes but we should all seriously examine exactly what anyone means when they talk about “personalized learning.” Quite often it doesn’t involve a lot of persons, actually.

There is an other-side-to-the-story source, of course, but it is from that pesky teacher’s union. Teachers unions as the chief obstacle to innovation and educational progress is a quite a tired trope. EdSurge is by no means the most unbiased online publication but they are far from the only media outlet that cannot let go of falling for that point of view.

Interestingly, the fact that LearnLaunch does not “recommend solutions” is hardly enough of a response to concerns about the “public/private partnership” in play here. LearnLaunch need not ever make a single recommendation to a school. Yet, they are getting the best market research available for free to pass on to the start-ups in their incubator program. Those companies can recommend all kinds of solutions with acutely aware knowledge and contacts. That notion seemed to elude Wan and all the favorable sources.

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