Education Evolutions #120

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

This holiday weekend was jam-packed with end-of-term grading, subsequently contributing to my getting this issue out a day later than normal. With exams coming up, there is always a bit of a bottleneck of things to do, especially in my classes that will restart with a new group second semester.

This week’s “If you read only one article…” is the second or middle one. As I compose this newsletter every week on an Apple Macbook, I have long been a user of Apple products and maintain a mild interest in the evolution of the company, I couldn’t help but including this piece looking at the first trillion-dollar company as a country. Plus, it is a gateway to a much longer and deep dive into Apple for anyone interested in following that fancy.

As I continue to consider videos for this newsletter, this one How Big Data Will Creep Into Your Life, Like It Or Not (2:54) seemed like a perfect fit for the kind of topics I tend to include here. It really is about the ever-expanding and unregulated internet of things and just leaves me wondering when, if ever, we will get wise to our lack of rules or understanding of the consequences of all these connected products.

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

Electric school buses are batteries for the grid – Axios – Joann Muller (2-minute read)

This is a quick read with a couple of links to some other brief stories of more depth on the prospects of electric school buses. My initial reaction was this seems like a great idea. There are so many school buses in service across the country, it is a fleet of diesel vehicles that would potentially be a genuine boon to transform to electric. Removing the pollution alone should be reason enough to look into the possibilities.

It was encouraging to see that Massachusetts is one of the places experimenting with electric school buses. The linked article offers some more information about the current pilot program and calls for the city and regional transit authorities to consider a change. Yet, the real incentive may be in the vehicle-to-grid possibilities raised in this short piece. While the current Bay State effort does not seem to be part of the evolution, it is precisely the kind of large-scale efforts that are enhanced by public investment.

Welcome to Apple
A one-party state
 – Tortoise – Peter Hoskin and Alexi Mostrous
(11-minute read)

The very premise of this article is perhaps the most intriguing of all. Essentially, this is the first part of a multi-part, long-form piece of journalism based on the premise “If Apple were a country…” It comes from a newer publication outfit named Tortoise, a subscription-based publication from England specializing in longer, slower, in-depth journalism. What I have read of there work so far is strong, this being one example.

On some level, I am surprised I have not seen more pieces that treat the largest multi-national corporations with the same paradigm, looking at them as nation-states. Of course, there only three trillion dollar companies (Apple, Microsoft, and Alphabet/Google), which might have something to do with it. Still, based on the treatment given to Apple here, I am definitely curious about Tortoise’s next steps and where this series is headed.

Even if you only read the opening part, this is a fascinating read, especially if you have ever had more than a passing interest in Apple. For me, a kid who remembers the first time I sat in front of an Apple IIe in the library of elementary school, Apple has made the most enduring technology products of my life. I was always partial to the Macintosh from the very beginning over all other computer choices. Of course, I spent plenty of time in the Microsoft/PC world but was more than happy to return to the Mac lineup when the opportunity came. Add to that personal experience, in a world that venerates corporate CEOs it is difficult not to find the late Steve Jobs a fairly compelling figure. In this piece, Jobs is more a shadow of the past as this focuses much more clearly in the company’s present. I am slowly parsing through the rest of the sections.

The Market Fails Education – Radical Eyes for Equity – PL Thomas (8-minute read)

I am a regular reader of PL Thomas’ blog and have cited a number of posts from it in this newsletter. He is an exceptionally good writer and a keen observer and critic within the field of education. His focus on equity within education and observations about it are excellent. He is a bright light in a constellation of strong voices. In this piece, he uses a specific example of an outside professional development vendor as evidence why, as the title suggests, the market fails education.

He makes a case that is both short and strong, exposing that the market approach begat the very parasite that he highlights. Yet, he goes further and exposing the fault lines that make the whole endeavor even more vulnerable. The example, a less than credible source with solutions for dealing with students in poverty afforded an opportunity to not only grow and profit from the very schools and districts that are battling poverty is one of the grand ironies that our current system fosters. the problems are systemic, as Thomas explains.

His counterpoint, using the highway system as an example of a positive symbiotic relationship are exactly the kind of projects that are dismissed or ignored by policymakers seemingly intent on blaming victims of systems that have at best yielded unintended consequences to keep oppressed people down and at worst been designed ensure they stay there. The majority of my life an insidious message that anything publicly funded means “inefficient, corrupt, and/or failing” has only lead to the greatest inequality in over a century. Thomas’ final sentence says it all, “The U.S. needs and deserves a robust and autonomous public education system free of bureaucracy and outside the market that invariably fails education and our students.”

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