Education Evolutions #131

Person looking at smartphone in the dark
Person looking at smartphone in the dark flickr photo by
shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

This week I got caught out a little on the timeline. A couple of interruptions and a couple more technical challenges and before I knew it I missed my traditional late Sunday send. Still, I always figure better late than never. Plus, I have noticed the service I have been using is not the most instantaneous distribution. So many may not actually receive these messages on Sunday as I generally intend.

There is no real theme to this week’s selections. There are some stories about teaching specifically and a beautiful collection from the like of those that many of us teach. This group of pieces spans a wider timeframe. Usually, I try to stay relatively current, but that has a lot more to do with when my eyes have come across the work rather than when it might have been published. Sometimes, it takes me a little longer to get to an article, and other times I only discover it long after it has been out there for a while. This trio is that kind of mix.

This week’s “If you read only one article…” is the second one. I suppose I have chosen it because it is something that many teachers could read and make use of tomorrow. At least, that is how it has worked for me already. The first article might be particularly significant for a certain section of readers but not everyone. Yet, I highly recommend the last one if you are even remotely tempted by my thoughts about it..

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

Teaching in-person and virtual students at once? It’s an instructional nightmare, some educators say – Chalkbeat – Kalyn Belsha (7-minute read)

The pandemic has brought about a number of disturbing trends across the education landscape, chief among them is the merging of in-person and remote students simultaneously. This is an issue that I have no shortage of comments about but will keep them mainly brief. I am not going to even get into the abundance of profoundly problematic privacy and ethical considerations. I am not even sure how this idea got started, let alone managed to traction because it is so profoundly flawed. It is one of a handful of ultimate examples of complete and utter edtech nonsense, if not an all-new just-because-you-can-doesn’t-mean-you-should standard.

Apart from the myriad of technological challenges required to even do this close to well, nevermind the cost, this is terrible pedagogy. It benefits no one. Nobody can be in two places simultaneously, which is at the core of this newfound demand being placed on teachers. Attention is finite and multitasking is a myth. No teacher can be present and engaging with students in completely different contexts. What works face-to-face does not necessarily transfer in a remote setting and vice versa. The notion is farcically foolish, devalues the whole enterprise of teaching to little more than content distribution, and is hastening teachers’ exits from the profession.

As Douglas Rushkoff elegantly explains in Program or Be Programmed, digital technology favors decentralization and is biased toward dislocation. Simply put, the presence of remote students in a real-time brick-and-mortar classroom permits barely the weakest relationship and engagement with the teacher or classroom experience while intruding on those very benefits afforded the attending in-person students. Remote access to a face-to-face classroom simply simulates the experience of presence, reducing and devaluing the entire teaching and learning experience for all involved. It takes away the best possibilities and affordances of both contexts for faux facsimiles of each. I could go on almost ad infinitum.

A Simple Technique for Affecting Belonging, One Genuine Connection at a Time – Dave Stuart Jr. blog – Dave Stuart Jr. (5-minute read)

This is an older blogpost I came across courtesy of Ian O’Byrne but I think it found me serendipitously. Checking-in with students personally is something that I endeavor to do every semester. In fact, I think most teachers try to do this. This year has made this prospect so much more challenging in a host of ways. Masks, Zoom, schedules, and the sheer volume of decisions that need to be made just to get through a day are exhausting and interfere with the connections we make with students. So, it is even more important than ever.

I like how Stuart narrates the types of connections that he pursues with students. Labeling the interactions and providing a short narrative not only makes those moments real it provides a window into what he values as a teacher. While the types are not exactly out of the ordinary by any means, that seems part of the point. Reaching out to students who have overcome setbacks or a shy student when they come out of their shell seems obvious but circling back on the student that gives a flip answer about plans after graduation might not come readily to mind, at least for me.

What I like best about this is the justification for tracking the connections. This is something I had contemplated doing in the beginning of this year, even started, only to falter in keeping it up. Yet, it might be more important this year than ever. Everything is strange about school now. The number of times I see any specific section and the masks had me worried I wouldn’t even know most of the students’ names before Thanksgiving. Fortunately, I am doing all right. Yet, I have only met any one class eight times and we are about to enter the sixth week of school. In part because of the masks and all the strangeness, I started asking students to complete a quick form that invites them to share things like stress level and a discreet way to inform me of anything helpful for me to know. I have been pleasantly surprised at what I have learned and it has made reaching out to a few easier and more meaningful. Now I just need to be a bit more methodical.

YOUNG BLACK POETS – The New York Times – Ten Teenage Poets (30-minute read)

Subtitled “Ten teenage writers show the future of poetry” this is powerful, powerful stuff. It was published a week or so ago and it took me some time to finally get around to it and it so worth it. Even if you think you are not a fan of poetry, these young people have something to say and it desperately needs to be heard. Apart from that is a majestic piece of digital publishing, the kind of innovative technical presentation that often requires outfits like the Times to pulling off.

Despite the reading time in the headline, you do not need to spend that much time, but you do need to spend some time, clicking around and listening. If you are not surprised and maybe a little bit amazed, I would be surprised. Anyone who works with young people, especially in a writing capacity, knows that there is powerful potential often waiting to be released. This collection of young black writers from across the country is an unbelievable expression of that power.

Simply clicking around at the pictures that render the audio of each poet reading their own work is impressive enough, but take the time to read the interviews below all the multimedia. There is some stunning wisdom in this group of kids. To have curated such a collection is exciting and a wonderful reminder of what young people are capable of producing when they possess focus, talent, and technique. Spending time exploring this set of voices is time well-spent.

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