Education Evolutions #101

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

Well, this week’s issue is delayed as I have been basking in the victory of my beloved Reds who now reign as the kings of European football. Liverpool won their sixth European Cup and I couldn’t be happier. After absolute heartache last year and a near miss at a league title, the best club in the world won the biggest trophy in all of club football. Winning in Madrid Saturday night, the parade was most of the Sunday back in Liverpool which I couldn’t stop watching. Absolute scenes, even wilder than duck boats by Boston Garden.

Meanwhile, there was a lot of stories in the education world this week. It actually proved a bit tricky to pick from all that I had bookmarked since issue 100. Some of this looks a bit dire or dramatic, but there also is a bit of fun too. That is one of the cool things about curating a bunch of articles regularly, sometimes there are trends or themes that emerge and other times there is just a wide variety of cool things to read.

This week’s “If you read only one article…” has to be the first one. The rate at which we as a nation are employing surveillance strategies on everyone, let alone schools should be alarming to everyone, not just the ACLU. However, schools seem to be seduced by false promises of greater security even more unilaterally than other public spheres. Student data already enters a virtual black box in many schools, where software companies farm out server storage to third parties, and that is without even getting into Google which seems to be particularly opaque about its educational services. Give this one a read. It affects more than just students.

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

Schools Are Deploying Massive Digital Surveillance Systems. The Results Are Alarming – EdWeek – Benjamin Herold (15-minute read)

Fear of faux promises of security have stoked the surveillance gold rush in our country’s schools and we are only just starting to see the consequence of its viral spread. Security cameras are not exactly new in schools, although their proliferation has nearly tripled in the last 15 years. While cameras there is little evidence that suggests that the presence of cameras makes anyone safer, they certainly make policing students a lot easier and they often present a potential vulnerability to be exploited. However, the new array of tech tools to monitor students under the same stale promises of safety are far more chilling.

As schools rush to purchase new and more advanced surveillance systems to monitor a student’s digital life, one that they increasingly make mandatory often as part of the curriculum, there is very little public conversation about it. Administrators are spending no small amount of money on systems under the guise of protecting students while budget battles are waged across the nation around school funding. Far worse is the near acceptance that surveillance is simply a given in schools.

Students already have curtailed rights in a school but do we want to indoctrinate them into an actual Big Brother world? I suspect most parents have no idea to what degree their children are monitored and how far that reach extends. While some undoubtedly may feel safer, as a result, I suspect that there are plenty that would be shocked and possibly distressed. Only by that time, they will have found out about it is will likely be too late.

Federal jury: HISD staff repeatedly violated copyright laws, owe company $9.2M – Houston Chronicle – Jacob Carpenter  (5-minute read)

This story broke late last week and rippled through my online ecosystem. This is the first story that I am aware of where a school, in this case, district, has been punished for a major violation of copyright. Sadly, based on the evidence presented in this article, they seemed to deserve a ruling against them. There is not much of an argument to suggest that the district blatantly disregarded the law.

What makes this story so unfortunate, aside for the company that won in court, is that there is already so much confusion about copyright, especially in schools. It will likely stoke increasing fears and recriminations rather than sensible decision-making, more nuanced understanding of the law, or quality teacher training on the topic. Education has some special standing with regard to copyright and the provision of fair use. By all indications, this case was not even close to a fair use claim.

Fear of litigation already has a chilling effect on many educators and educational institutions with regard to their rights to fair use of copyrighted material. Add the oversimplified and blunt instruments of many technology platforms and user’s rights erode. As educators, we have a responsibility to learn about fair use of copyrighted material and pass that understanding on to our students or risk losing our user’s rights entirely, which is exactly what well-monied interests would like. Sadly, it looks like a principal in Houston failed on multiple counts, as did any staff commitment to righting wrongs, and now the entire district on the hook for major damages.

Nine Teaching Ideas for Using Music to Inspire Student Writing – The New York Times – Natalie Proulx (15-minute read)

This is definitely more upbeat but might be far more appealing to the English teachers out there. Not that using music is the exclusive province of English classes. In fact, I have helped a history teacher with quite a cool music-inspired lesson. Nevertheless, the writing emphasis in many of these ideas means that they probably are more likely to appeal to the English teachers who read this.

There are all kinds of cool lesson resources through The New York Times but this is one of the slickest offerings. One of the best aspects of this post is all the links to examples and other related readings. That can be really powerful, especially when trying one of these ideas for the first time. While a lot of these are not particularly new or novel necessarily, it is a nice compendium of possibilities that could be incorporated quickly and easily in a classroom.

A number of these items I could certainly fold right into my journalism class with almost no adjustments. However, there are some additional ideas that I could fold into any class. One thing I have learned in my years of teaching when students are given choices and can incorporate music it seems a lot less like work to them. I recently rolled out an assignment with a bunch of ninth graders that involved music, a bit like option #5. More than one student actually said things like, “This is going to be fun,” or “I love assignments like this.” It is not every day that a teacher hears that kind of sentiment, so taking advantage of it now and again is definitely worth it.

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