Education Evolutions #81

The future of books flickr photo by Johan Larsson shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Thanksgiving may well be my favorite of all holidays. I love the even longer weekend, as well as all the food. Plus, it is a holiday for everyone nationwide, regardless of religious affiliation. Just taking some moments to reflect and remind ourselves of some of the good things also seems like a good thing to do too.

I wasn’t sure I was going to pull this off this weekend. I spent a lot more time just trying to enjoy the weekend without giving a lot of thought to other responsibilities. It was really a weekend of rest. I even thought I would do some work but ended up putting it off. Perhaps, I will take a look at some things this afternoon.

This week’s “If you read only one article…” is the first one. Yes, it is about the holiday that just past but it is a fascinating story with twists and turns that make for a great yarn. It is also short enough to get through in a few minutes while winding the weekend down.

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday.

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

The Thanksgiving Story You’ve Probably Never Heard – The New York Times –  Joseph Kelly (5-minute read)

While there are a lot of stories that crop up during the runup to Thanksgiving, like this one also from the Times, this one seemed equally as important beyond the holiday. Plus, I love the kinds of fresh looks at history that this story provides. The idea that a character like Stephen Hopkins links Jamestown, Bermuda, and Massachusetts is a glorious one. What’s more, the fact that he was a “troublesome stranger” makes it even better.

The idea that the Stephen Hopkins mentioned in all of these documents is one in the same person is really too wonderful to dismiss. At risk of raising up another single genius, what a great yarn to think that a wayward, quick-thinking, and shrewd individual would have persuaded his peers to form a democracy in the New World due to a corporation’s failures is almost too good to be true. In fact, it may still be but the historian Kelly seems to suggest that is worthy of note. It is even sweeter that he was criminalized for advancing such mutinous ideas as natural rights, democracy, and liberty. That strikes me almost as quintessentially American in the best sense of the word.

The act of drawing something has a “massive” benefit for memory compared with writing it down – The British Psychological Society Research Digest –  Emma Young (3-minute read)

Score one for the sketch-noters out there. This is a remarkable but not altogether surprising discovery. Given all the studies that keep suggesting that handwriting over typing contributes to greater retention, this seems like it would be related, albeit not necessarily the same. Even more, it seems like this is one of those kinds of things that should be already known, on some level. It seems logical that anyone drawing a word or concept has to use more cognitive ability to execute that action.

What is more fascinating is the fact that the quality of the drawing has almost no bearing, making me believe even more that it has more to do with all the thinking involved. Better still, that any of this might be helpful in addressing dementia or other memory disorders makes it possibly more important. Until then this is one more good reason to suggest drawing to students, even when they say that they can’t draw. It doesn’t matter and it is good for you.

Historians: What kids should be learning in school right now – The Washington Post –  Valerie Strauss (10-minute read)

I must confess the main reason that I was drawn to this article is that it included thoughts from UMass Lowell education historian Jack Schneider. He is one part of the podcasting duo on the show Have You Heard, which is well worth a listen if you if you are into that kind of thing. It is good. Schneider is an insightful academic with a lot to say about the privatization attacks waged on our public education system.

While Schnieder’s thoughts are excellent, the others are well worth a read. Being all historians, there is a definite slant toward that domain. Regardless, it is not without its merits. James Grossman’s suggestion that we should concern ourselves with the simple but imminently effective question “How do you know that?” warrants a whole lot of consideration.

However, the most interesting thoughts to me came from Sophia Rosenfeld. Her suggestion that “Evidence collection, interpretation, verification: these are all vital skills (more so than ever in the age of the internet and social media) that students can only learn from doing themselves,” only reinforces my belief that teaching journalism is now more important than ever. It is supposed to be the first draft of history anyway, right? As a journalism teacher, it is one of the challenges I find myself always chasing.

Education Evolutions #80

The future of books flickr photo by Johan Larsson shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

We got our first snow of the season in New England and, as usual, it was just enough to make everything a bit of a nuisance. No need to stop anything although it definitely delayed some. It might just stick around for the holiday weekend and makes things seem more holiday-like.

This week kind of ended up having a Facebook theme to it. Sometimes that happens even when I do not necessarily plan it that way. What is interesting is that these three articles are all different in scope but are united by some commonalities that are hard to ignore. If you ask me the obvious conclusion is that Facebook is not a very good company. They are certainly lacking considerably in the area of ethics, albeit that is not eactly a new notion.

This week’s “If you read only one article…” is the last one. It is just slightly longer and could quickly become a rabbit-hole if you are not careful. Still, it is really important to be aware of just how far things have been allowed to go without any plan or concern for individual or public welfare. Entire empires have emerged in the last 25 years that transcend national borders or governments. Yet all empires rise and fall, if only from under their own weight.

Have a great Thanksgiving holiday.

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

Brooklyn students hold walkout in protest of Facebook-designed online program – New York Post –  Susan Edelman (3-minute read)

This story caught my attention, despite being in a paper that I don’t necessarily read all that much. It is a bit sensational, which is the Post‘s stock and trade, but it is about Summit Learning which I have been following for some time now. For those that don’t know, Summit Learning is the Facebook personalized learning platform that has been gaining traction around the country. It began as a system built for the Summit Charter schools in California before Mark Zuckerberg discovered it and decide to put his money and resources into the product. I have seen it in action being used in multiple school settings in Rhode Island.

Summit sells all of the promises of “personalized learning” which are many. It is not a curriculum, although it can provide that too. It is more a learning management system with dashboards and analytics built-in. The first thing to understand, however, is that every personalized learning system that is being peddled by edtech is significantly deficient in the “person” part of that phrase. They are “teaching machines,” which Audrey Watters points out in this Twitter thread is an ill-fated idea that has been around a very long time. Having seen Summit, I can only amplify Watters and sympathize with the students. It is not personal, personalized, or even all that good for that matter. The only thing a student can really exercise any control over is pace and even that is iffy.

On a side note, as a journalism teacher, I read this and immediately thought I have a model article here. If ever there was an example of a golden quote it is this “It’s annoying to just sit there staring at one screen for so long,” which is the first one used in the article. To hear something like that as a reporter covering a story like this has to make the eyes light up.

Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis – The New York Times –  Sheera Frenkel, Nicholas Confessore, Cecilia Kang, Matthew Rosenberg and Jack Nicas (24-minute read)

Continuing on the anti-Facebook theme, this lengthy Times piece is a consolidation of a lot of coverage of the company over the last couple of years. While there is a lot more nuance and backroom insight in this piece, there is not as much new as might be expected for anyone that has been following this closely. Anyone that did not think that the company was not employing the very politically motivated delay, deny, and deflect strategy was not paying attention.

The main revelation that seems to have fueled the most subsequent fallout is the role that Sheryl Sandberg played in the whole affair. I also must admit, I was not aware of just how politically connected she was in Washington, although I am not altogether surprised. Sandberg has been getting a bit of a hammering as everyone seems to have some trouble reconciling the operator that now emerges from the Lean In evangelist she became a couple of years ago.

Still, I am amazed anyone continues to use Facebook at all, anymore. Never a fan, I so rarely look at it, I have all but deleted my account entirely. The only reason I haven’t is so many people continue to insist on using it despite it being a pretty awful outfit. Plus, this kind of information is just one more reason why we as a culture need to stop raising up corporate CEOs as some kind of heroic figures. Simply put, they are not – so far from it, in fact.

Targeted Advertising Is Ruining the Internet and Breaking the World – Motherboard –  Dr. Nathalie Maréchal (12-minute read)

Sticking with the Facebook theme once again, this article begins with them but expands to include all of the tech giants and their flotsam and jetsam of companies that feast on their wake. This piece is well sourced with all kinds of links to additional sources and stories that are referenced. It is pretty sobering reading.

How on earth it is legal for these companies to harvest your data even if you are not a user of their products or aggregate credit card purchases to be folded into profiles about you is unconscionable. In my mind, there is an emerging dystopian story in which an individual’s behavior will be bought and sold in a future’s market just like any other commodity.

One major takeaway is that tech companies have long lost their ability to even remotely claim that they are capable of policing themselves or should not subject to regulatory oversight. As I have mentioned and this article does too, Europe is way ahead on this although it is unclear how effective it is or if it goes far enough.

Education Evolutions #79

The future of books flickr photo by Johan Larsson shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Well, this weekend certainly got away from me. The prospect of an extra day off meant even more things were packed into the available time and my Sunday was spent racing around considerably more than normal. That is why I was so late getting this issue out.

So here is hoping that everyone celebrated a meaningful Veteran’s Day. To think that it was the 100 year anniversary of The Great War – the war to end all wars. How foolish we can be. It only seemed to light the fuse of an even bigger war and almost perpetual global conflict of some kind.

This week’s “If you read only one article…” is the middle one. It kind of comes from a study published in England but it might as well have been America. In some ways, it is more likely that a European nation would take the lead on a study of this nature. It wouldn’t surprise me if there was some statutory restraint on even conducting a study like that in the States. That might get in the way of people to take advantage of a situation and make some money., even if it is only kids. Making money on kids might actually be the theme of this issue, in fact.

Hard to believe Thanksgiving is barely two weeks away.

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

American Meritocracy Is Killing Youth Sports – The Atlantic –  Derek Thompson (7-minute read)

Ironically I was having a conversation recently when I was asked why club soccer teams are so expensive, to which I replied, “Well, there is an entire industry that sprouted up around youth sports in our lifetime.” I wish I had that $17 billion figure at command. That is a staggering number made even more so given the decline in participation numbers also mentioned in this piece.

Despite having coached soccer for 20 years, working with ages 4-18, I have plenty of stories that have always left me feeling adults are almost always the problem when it comes to kids and sports. I have seen far too many adults operate as if their kid’s team sports are their personal fantasy league. I currently coach a 10-year-old team that travels because there is no alternative option for my kids. Sunday, it took longer to drive to the away game than it did to play the match, which is only one of the heights of absurdity that seems all too commonplace now.

Children are being “datafied” before we’ve understood the risks, report warns – TechCrunch –  Natasha Lomas (7-minute read)

Massachusetts and California seem to be leading states in America taking a hard look at student data privacy but privacy for everyone doesn’t seem to be a real high on the priority list of anyone in Washington. There was a moment when it seemed like maybe there was some mild interest restricting the tech giants but that has faded. Given the current state of politics at the national level, I would not be expecting much of anything to happen in the foreseeable future.

Europe at least made some early efforts in this area. They might not go far enough but at least they have started to take the issues seriously. Best line in this article has to be “In effect [children] are the canary in the coal mine for wider society, encountering the risks before many adults become aware of them or are able to develop strategies to mitigate them.” If that does not have the ring of truth than I do not know what does.

New civics education law misses the mark – Commonwealth Magazine –  Jack Schneider (4-minute read)

This is an insightful look at a new requirement for students in Massachusetts. However, I suspect that the Commonwealth will just be one of the forerunners on this kind of thing. For anyone not familiar with Jack Schneider, he is an exceptionally sharp education historian. Well worth following. In this piece, his argument is one that could be made for so many education initiatives, because schools “always end up as the target.”

What Schneider is particularly adept at is explaining why, as well as simultaneously making a strong case as to why scaled solutions rarely work all that well in education. As the saying goes, care doesn’t scale and scale doesn’t care, which is all I could think as I read this. It is hard to see how legislating civics education, at least in its current form, is any more likely to foster civic engagement and democratic action. What’s more, if it did, it seems more likely to prompt a reaction that claims education has become too political. Wait, there are plenty of people already making that claim.