Education Evolutions #60

The future of books flickr photo by Johan Larsson shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

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

Another milestone of sorts seems to have been achieved with hitting issue number 60. I am not entirely sure that I envisioned getting to that number when I started this experiment. Considering I have taken the summers off, for better or worse, I guess I feel a certain degree of accomplishment. I suppose 75 would be the next serious marker.

I find myself a bit torn in curating this week’s list of suggested readings. I could easily have added a couple more but have grown to think that more very quickly becomes overkill. So I have been deliberately trying to limit myself from just adding all kinds of links. Although if anyone reading this thinks otherwise be sure to let me know.

Another thing I have been contemplating recently is how much crafting this thing has been influencing my own personal learning. Consequently, I want to invite anyone and everyone that does read this to share links and articles that you may have found on your Internet travels. I love including them but the invitation is more about sharing the opportunity as much as the resource. You may not have the time or inclination to make a whole newsletter but some thoughts on something you read and found really interesting is probably not out of reach.

All three of these are on some level are about democratic community, thin as that thread might be. I definitely have a pick for “If you read only one article…” this week. The third selection “The Grief of Accepting New Ideas” is not only important but immediately beneficial, although I probably liked “I’m Nowhere In-between” best. Of course, reading them all is a good idea too.

Still waiting for the lamb that went missing at the end of March so that April can kickstart spring. Here is hoping the weather may break soon.

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

Chinese jaywalkers are identified and shamed by facial recognition, and now they’ll get warnings over text message – BoingBoing –  Cory Doctorow (2-minute read)

I found this courtesy of Doug Belshaw and it has got to be the longest title to an article I have ever mentioned. The title is ironically long, given how short the actual article is to read. Still, this is the kind of terrifying development that haunts me. Granted China is not an exactly a free democratic state but this effort strengthens a couple of my fundamental claims.

First claim, “If it can be done, it will be done.” Unfortunately, I find this to be a truism whether or not it is a good thing. The fact that this kind of facial recognition technology exists is dubious enough to me but it the minute it became so it was always only a matter of time before we found it used in this Minority Report fashion. I’m sure that the citizens of Shenzhen had little or no say in the implementation of this program. In fact, click the link about social credit for some more eye-opening insights.

Second claim, “If you are not doing anything wrong, you don’t have anything to worry about is a stupid argument.” That tired self-righteous justification is how people allow their privacy and freedom to slowly be eroded without clear thought or necessary resistance. To think that abuses will not occur after passively accepting invasive surveillance efforts is naive at best. As we have already seen recently in stark relief, data can very quickly and easily be weaponized and used against people that provide it. The Chinese may not have a choice but I hope that we still do. After all, these are the lengths being gone to for jaywaliking!

I’m Nowhere In-between: Why we need ‘seriously uncool’ criticism in education – Long View on Education –  Benjamin Doxtdator (9-minute read)

Benjamin Doxtdator is one of those educators I feature often in this newsletter. His writing is both excellent and intelligent. It challenges and interrogates in the way that education does at its best. Plus, his keen interest in power and social justice is razor sharp. He may not be for everyone but rarely do I read something that he has written where I do not finish feeling impressed and inspired.

I will also say that I am ready to join him the great ‘Nowhere In-between.’ Far too often educators of all stripes eschew ‘seriously uncool criticism’ for expedience, fashion, flawed certainty, even laziness, just to mention a few reasons. Yet we do at our own peril. Blind acceptance is rarely good for anyone. If educators abdicate genuine academic inquiry, as messy and conflicted as it can be, what separates us from caretakers. This is not to denigrate caretakers in any way, teaching involves caretaking to be sure, but that is not it’s only concern.

There are so many good strands in here to think about, the reductionism of institutions, the seduction of skills agendas, the myth of apolitical scientific progress, and more. Yet, I recognize that far fewer people get excited about these ideas than those that get swept into the latest educational fad. I suppose simple acknowledgment would be a lot more valuable than excitement or outright ignorance. Everyone arrives at any topic with a different story and at a different point. Yet, I kind of believe that looking critically at pedagogy is part of a teacher’s job description. I am just not sure that is a universally shared belief.

The Grief of Accepting New Ideas – Association for Middle Level Education –  Rick Wormeli (11-minute read)

I like a lot of what Rick Wormeli has to say generally. His work on grades is really worth investigating. This article is filled with a lot of really insightful discussion on the idea at the center of the title. In fact, this is the kind of piece I wish more educators would read thoughtfully. In fact, my favorite part of this whole piece is the conclusion. Education, like life, is rife with a lot of dubious ideas but some compassion can go a long way.

I have long said that one of the reasons why change in education can be really slow and difficult is that the profession of teaching, at its core, always comes down to values. I am not sure that is recognized with the degree of prominence it should be. Wormeli articulates this notion in a clear and rather elegant way. He does it in a way I wish that I had written.

Another thing I have long thought and occasionally said is that there is a lot that we can learn an awful lot by looking closely at what we feel compelled to resist as educators. The resistance impulse is important and a genuine place for personal learning. I would even suggest it is necessary for being a reflective practitioner. Sometimes reasons for resistance are sound, sometimes not so much. Wormeli touches on that too. What he does not really address is from where the new ideas hail and who exactly is peddling them, which I would say is a bit of a blindspot but perhaps another piece altogether.

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