Education Evolutions #106

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It took a while but I finally got the fall cold that seems to haunt nearly every teacher I know. Once we return to school inevitably some kind of virus spreads with remarkable effectiveness. In the past, I have usually already had it and recovered. However, this year I held it off until nearly October. Consequently, it slowed me down this week and delayed the delivery of this issue.

Apart from feeling a little weakend from a cold, this fall has been a remarkably grand experience so far. School started with even more buoyance than in many previous years. I love being back in the classroom and after a year of reacclimating, I feel more comfortable and energized than ever. Students are great, classes are exciting, and I am enjoying the year as it unfolds. I am sure there will come a point when grinding is required but, right now, I feel out front of the peloton.

This week’s “If you read only one article…” is the last one, surprise. It is the longest, which is often the case too. Still, it is an excellent summary of the forces that are interrogating and out and out resisting the indiscriminate expansion of edtech. As someone who has grown to be a wary advocate over time, I cannot recommend reading material like this enough. It is a fair introduction to the resistance that is gaining ground in education.

Hope these readings find you well and healthy. Wash hands often.

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

Teaching Students How to Use Wikipedia Wisely – Edutopia – Benjamin Barbour (3-minute read)

Anyone that still readily dismisses Wikipedia might want to reconsider. It is one of the marvels of the Internet and can be a remarkably useful resource. It is far from perfect. However, as pointed out in Web Literacy for Student Fact Checkers, “If you are researching a complex question, starting with the resources and summaries provided by Wikipedia can give you a substantial running start on an issue.” It is a message I try to impress upon my students all the time.

What this article does nicely is breakdown a sound approach for using Wikipedia intelligently with students, as well as how to function in a more digitally literate way. Encyclopedias of all kinds provide an introduction to basic information on a topic. Deconstructing a Wikipedia article can serve as an entre to conducting actual research. It really can serve as a model starting point. Better still, it can be a filtering tool for fact-checking.

One item I take issue with is that the CRAP test referenced is no longer really sufficient if it ever really was (In fact, the acronym is not even accurate. It should be CRAAP). Mike Caulfield, author of the book linked above, has an excellent explanation. The Four Moves and a Habit is not only better but pretty much a must-read at this point.

Classroom Technology Doesn’t Make the Grade – Bloomberg – Editorial Board (3-minute read)

As an opener for the third selection below, this article is an example of the growing edtechlash that is gaining traction. It is a symptom of the greater tech backlash that is swelling more broadly. Here the editorial board of Bloomberg takes issue with technology spending. I am actually surprised that the kind of argument being made here is not used with greater frequency and at a higher volume. Yet, it still is an argument with relatively weak warrants at its core.

Test scores should not be the evidence used to evaluate whether technology is valuable in schools. There is very little evidence that technology increases standardized test scores, but that is not really the point anyway. Without getting into the flawed nature of those tests, that is not even a valid reason for adopting technology in the classroom. Of course, there does not seem to be an article about education in the mainstream press without a little teacher-bashing, so there is the requisite mention of how poorly trained teachers are too.

Similarly the potential solutions offered in this piece are equally silly. They embrace a pervasive market-think, focusing on efficiency and the kind of return on investment nonsense that already pollutes too much of the entire education field. Schools should use technology not because it raises test scores or is more efficient or any of that foolishness. Schools need to invest in technology on some level simply to remain relevant in a world teeming with it. Strong classrooms need to reflect the greater context in which they exist, and that does not mean buying computers to indoctrinate students as worker drones either.

EdTech Resistance – code acts in education – Ben Williamson (17-minute read)

Anyone who still finds all the edtech back-and-forth complicated or confusing the text of this presentation from University of Edinburgh’s Ben Williamson is well worth a look. In it, he deftly highlights the fault lines in the growing resistance to current trends in edtech and, in some ways, the tech sector more generally. It is a longer read but designates and classifies the origins of the developing resistance movement.

More than chronicling the resistance, however, he explains the reasoning of the factions in a kind of primer on the subject. He does a great job of framing the problem and the players. Being an academic in Europe, he also brings a slightly different perspective from the Silicon Valley influenced American point of view.

Apart from the straightforward presentation, possibly the best thing about this post is the list in the conclusion that amplifies the key issues in play, which actually cut to the core of education itself, as a human endeavor. Values, ethics, money, law, even epistemology and more are all in play. Those are high stakes, but Williamson’s presentation provides a quality introduction to thinking about it all.

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