Education Evolutions #109

Close up of smartphone in hand flickr photo by shared under
a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

It remains a slight mystery to me how we have managed to get to mid-October in the school year seemingly so quickly. The fall semester always takes some time to get going, despite feeling a bit like a sprint. Yet, it can often feel more like a mile run, which pretty much is a long sprint, despite plenty of non-runners thinking of it more as a distance event.

This week’s selections include three short reads once again. They are a mix of current events, related issues, and some quality reminders for teachers. It is a mix of some old and very recent material. A few of the items have some pretty interesting links worth clicking too.

This week’s “If you read only one article…” is a bit of toss-up. The first one is probably the one I found the most interesting, personally. Yet, the last one probably has some lasting impact for anyone still working in a classroom. They are all short reads so consider giving them all a look.

I hope you too were able to enjoy the day.

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

This Map Exhibit Draws A Darker U.S. History — Of Expansion Into Native Lands – WBUR Artery – Frank Redner (4-minute read)

This post is all about an exhibit currently running at the Boston Public Library. The map center has a series of maps on display that are accompanied by some distinctively different points of view. There is the traditional historical perspective, like that which we have all seen for years. Then there is a Native American perspective that reveals a very different and darker point of view.

It might not be obvious to everyone just how much maps are a vehicle for perpetuating a point of view. There is a notion that maps are simply representing the land, a way to orient ourselves. They may be that but that orientation may not be quite as direct or straightforward as we might have believed. Adding native voices to this exhibit makes is a great way to force a reconsideration that requires confronting some much more uncomfortable realities. The United States as an entity has essentially broken every promise ever made to Native Peoples. It is not an admirable legacy.

By paying attention to that fact and giving voice to those marginalized and worse in an exhibit like this is not only a great way to reconsider maps as a representation of reality but to interrogate the very reality being represented. It strikes me as a remarkably insightful and culturally sensitive approach to artifacts that may seem far more simple than they actually are. I love exhibits that force a reassessment of things we might take for granted, like this. I hope I get a chance to go see it.

California becomes first state in the country to push back school start times – Los Angelos Times – Taryn Luna (4-minute read)

This story is fascinating for a whole host of reasons. For one, the fact that California becomes the first state to mandate schools start later is an interesting development by itself. The reasons and justifications as to why are even more interesting and revealing. While there seems to be some flexibility for schools to work within this new mandate, it remains a pretty bold move on the part of the state government.

There is a lot of compelling research about adolescent sleep schedules being not only different from adults but at odds with the way we schedule schools with high schools generally being the earliest start times. California has now addressed this legacy issue. Why everything has to be couched in terms of outcomes is symptomatic of just how wrong-headed we can be about education. The fact that it is simply better and considerably more healthy for adolescents ought to be enough of a reason to make a change like this.

It is fascinating that the teacher’s union seemed to not be in favor of this change. While I understand their point, I just do not agree with it. If we have overwhelming evidence that this would be good for kids, there is not much more to defend. There is no question that any change in schedule could potentially impact families adversely in the near term. However, many of these should be able to get sorted in the long term. Continuing to ignore the evidence about this issue is not entirely unlike saying, “The school building is making your kids sick but it is really difficult to do anything about it, so we won’t.” Wait, that happens too sometimes.

A veteran teacher turned coach shadows 2 students for 2 days – a sobering lesson learned – Granted, and… ~ thoughts on education by Grant Wiggins – Grant Wiggins (9-minute read)

I stumbled upon this recently when, Alfie Kohn reposted this account from a post by the late Grant Wiggins about five years ago. It is about a teacher turned coach shadowing a student for a couple of days, what they observed and their reflection on the experience. I may have read this before, I cannot remember but it that makes it no less valuable today.

Part of my interest is that I am going to be shadowing a student in a high school different from the one where I teach in the next month or so for some research as part of a fellowship I am currently doing. There was an outside chance that there wasn’t going to be time to schedule the student shadow but I pushed for it. While I have observed a lot of classes, especially in my past role as a technology specialist, my focus was always more on the teacher. I am kind of eager to shift focus and limit my view to that of a student only. Not only do I suspect it will inform my work in the fellowship, I am interested to reflect on it as a teacher too.

I think some of the points here are strong and I must admit that I regularly forget about some of these things too. Simply finding ways to get students out of their chairs and moving a bit more is something I could definitely do more. Yet, one thing that often creates challenges to this is not just the time but the students. I am always amazed by how much students can fight the idea of moving around the room when asked. There are plenty of times where moans and groans greet the request.

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