Education Evolutions #40

IMG_4227 flickr photo by Jemimus shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Select Readings and Thoughts on Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

This week finds a series of items that are far less about technology and more about individual experiences in education, from the view of higher ed professor, K-12 teacher, and disenfranchised student. Each offers a different window into fundamental elements of learning and literacy. They are also primarily reflective in nature.Perhaps I am simply in a reflective mood. There were some other pieces about technology that almost made the cut but these three pieces seemed to talk to one another, in a way, as I read them. Hopefully, that will resonate with some of you too. None of them is particularly long. So taking a look at all of them is not too much trouble.Also, these pieces are a bit more upbeat, which is good medicine as the days seem ever shorter and the weather gets cold and wet. Some positive reflection can do us all some good.

If you read only one, take a look at the first one, Why I Don’t Grade. The list of terms associated with grading reads like a glossary with thoughtful commentary.

Hopefully, you enjoy these readings on a wet, autumnal Sunday afternoon.

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

Why I Don’t Grade – Digital Pedagogy, Critical Edtech, and Public Humanities – Jesse Stommel (11-minute read)

This is definitely not the first item I have shared about going gradeless but it might be the piece I wished I had written myself. I have chronicled some of my issues with grading students within these 40 newsletters, although it has been in bits and pieces. This post shares Stommel’s fairly overall approach and it is pretty insightful for its length.

Just reading through the thoughts on buzzwords associated with grades is enough to invite some contemplation. The ease with which he skewers some of the absolute silliness that is used to justify grades is impressive. One of my favorites is the first one on learning outcomes and just how “strange” it is to pre-determine what students will learn. How can we honestly expect students to value learning all that much if they don’t have at least some say in what the goal is?

Beyond that, I have been a proponent of self-assessment almost as long as I have been a teacher. However, students rarely arrive with the skill or the understanding of how to do it. In fact, there are quite a few adults that struggle with this. Helping students with this kind of effort actually proves to be one of the most teachable, always evolving and emergent. While Stommel is in higher education, not K12, everything in this post connects to all educators, regardless of level.

I’ve Been Thinking – edifiedlistener – Sherri Spelic (6-minute read)

This is a lovely chronicle of one individual’s journey of self-reflection and assessment. Also, it beautifully points out just how unfinished that process will always be. Spelic is a curious and thoughtful educator that can serve as an excellent example of a teacher that has sought to expand their own knowledge and practice in this new digital era. She has built a network of some pretty savvy thinkers too.

I particularly like her focus on writing as a way to think, learn, and understand. I know I am an English teacher but there may be no better way to do those three things than through writing. Yet, school has kind of hijacked the practice of writing almost exclusively for assessment or more precisely evaluation. Then we wonder why students hate doing it so much.

Here, Spelic writes to document just a part of her story but a part that invites others to do the same. Her reflection serves as an example of what she thinks, how she has continued to learn, and the many ways that her understanding continues to grow.

How a kid who didn’t read a book until he was 17 grew up to become a literary star – The Washington Post – Nora Krug (8-minute read)

This story is another journey of sorts, even though it is being reported more than shared directly. The first part of this is a story that is far more common than we would like to admit. I have lost count of how many students I have encountered who tell me they have never read an entire book, usually said with a sense of pride. Reynolds’ work might speak to them better than I could.

it is so easy to forget how difficult it can be for some youth to truly see themselves in the media they are asked to consume in school. This forgetting is even easier when working with fairly homogeneous student populations. Yet, regardless of context, youth of all kinds can struggle to identify with characters and points of view that are too far removed from their own. Opportunities to begin with themselves and then build on that can be too few. Moreover, I humbly submit, this fact can slow students’ ability to empathize and abstract more widely.

I have to admit I was not at all familiar with Reynolds’ work until I recognized one of my kids just checked out one of his more recent books in preparation for a book club at our public library. The timing couldn’t have been better to take a closer look.

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