Education Evolutions #75

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

It is kind of hard to believe but this is the 75th time I have sat down to share articles in this fashion. It has extended over more than two school years now, albeit taking the summers off. I am not entirely sure that I ever envisioned doing it this long when I started. It was just kind of an experiment that I wanted to try. Eventually, it grew into an almost compulsive urge to share what I was coming regularly across in my reading. I hope people find it worthwhile. I have even tried expanding its reach by regularly post it online after sending it out via email to those most interested in following.

This week’s “If you read only one article…” is the last one. It started me off on a little reading journey. It also proposes some things that can be applied directly into just about any classroom. If politics don’t scare you, read the first article. It is a really compelling read. I tend to be pretty critical of any majority leader, regardless of party, but I hold particular rancor for all policymakers that mess with democratic norms or change the rules to serve themselves rather than their constituencies. Also, this particular article has received a fair amount of buzz since it was published online. It is one of those pieces that is in the air.

We are right around the corner from peak leaf-peeping as they say in Massachusetts.

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

The Suffocation of Democracy – The New York Review of Books –  Christopher R. Browning (15-minute read)

This article might not be as connected to technology, education, or evolutions in teaching as directly as most of the stuff I curate. However, public schools are supposed to be democratic institutions, at least in theory, and are often raised up as a bulwark for preserving democracy. Thus, recognizing faultlines that seem to be emerging in our current climate seems particularly relevant, even if in a tangential way. It is definitely a political informed piece that takes a hard look at the current party in power but it should serve as a reminder of what can be corrupted and lost regardless of particular party.

Written by a historian that lived through the rise of fascism in Europe, the threats identified here can still be addressed. However, failing to recognize them or denying their existence may expedite their peril. On a broad scale, schools very possibly have faltered, not necessarily failed, in preparing students for full participation in a democratic republic. Every time, schools model, top-down authoritarian methods instead of messier democratic ones, we implicitly and sometimes explicitly send a message to our youth.

Regardless, this article has gotten a lot of play across my Internet travels in the last couple of weeks. I didn’t get a chance to read it immediately but when I finally got around to doing so, I thought it was too well-written and poignant not to share on a wider scale. Plus, it certainly could be used as a reading in a humanities-related class tomorrow to spark a spirited discussion.

Home Libraries Confer Long-Term Benefits – Pacific Standard –  Tom Jacobs (5-minute read)

As a long time book buyer and owner of a pretty substantial home library myself, I couldn’t help myself adding this piece to this issue. We have long known that books in the home heavily correlate with strong student achievement but this new study seems to prove that across nations and cultures. I wish studies like this would not always default to things like standardized tests as a unit of measure, at least this one uses an adult test rather than a poorly designed one for students.

Interesting to me was how the volume of books increased the achievement. While the increase tops off and plateaus, I was surprised how much of a spectrum of impact there was. Also, just as fascinating to me was how much it impacted numeracy too. That would not have been something that I necessarily would have connected. It even had an impact on technological skills.

I confess to living in a house that definitely holds well over 500 books. At this point, it has to be in the 1000s actually, much to my wife’s occasional consternation. My wee ones are not yet adolescents, but I think I will be using this study as further justification for keeping all the books. I may or may not share the bit about the benefits plateauing at a certain point.

When Kids Have Structure for Thinking, Better Learning Emerges – KQED’s MindShift –  Katrina Schwartz (6-minute read)

This is a short article that links to some additional fascinating stuff from Harvard’s Project Zero. I have had an informal familiarity with Project Zero for a few years. The work that they do always can hook my interest, although I have to admit that I do not follow it as closely as perhaps I should, especially since it is so close to home. Still, this idea of giving kids thinking strategies has a lot of power. While that may seem a pretty obvious thing, I am not sure how much we teachers actually do it as much as we might think.

I think the shortlist of thinking moves is a great introduction to this concept and something I have given great consideration to in various installments along my teaching career. A few of these listed moves have become sort of private obsessions in my practice over the years. For example, I spent a considerable amount of time focused on specifically helping students develop and ask their own questions with decent results before leaving the full-time classroom to be a technology integration specialist. I definitely think the subject of this article is on to something.

This was a little bit of a rabbit hole article for me too, by the way. There is plenty to explore once you click on a few links. Plus, it has some cool videos included which are worth watching

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