Education Evolutions #91

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

Well, apologies for the delayed distribution. the weekend just got away from me. Honestly, the snow did not help, despite it being a rather milder accumulation.

This week I included a couple of pieces from The Atlantic. Normally, I try to mix it up a bit more source-wise but both of these articles caught my eye for different reasons. Each sheds valuable insight into our culture and some of the less laudable aspects.

This week’s “If you read only one article…” is sort of a reader’s choice, although I am partial to the last one. Study strategies can be rich terrain. The article and the links that are included are chock-full of the kind of put-into-practice-tomorrow practices that teachers tend to love.

Spring seems just around the corner now in New England. After all the snow, we may well be in the soup before we know it.

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

Could Artificial Intelligence Automate Student Note-Taking? – Education Week – Benjamin Herold (5-minute read)

As if Artificial Intelligence cannot get enough play in the mainstream media, now education is going to be next. What always confounds me about articles like this is how infrequently the question “Is this even a good idea?” gets asked. Just because some tech company has some “innovative”  idea that works in the workplace, read with caution, why is the next obvious place the classroom? Fortunately, Herold eventually does ask the right kinds of questions and even answering them thoroughly.

Are there some specific contexts where automated notetaking might have some benefit, sure – maybe. However, the part of the point of taking notes is that it is a practice of engaged listening and aid to memory, among other benefits. So, having a macing that takes notes for you has all the allure of shiny buttons but possibly undermines the enterprise, as Dr. Linlin Luo explains in more detail.

Obviously, students with disabilities might benefit in certain situations. Even teachers might find something like this useful during conferences with students. Yet there are a host of additional problems and concerns that arise with this idea, not to mention the interface issues that are mentioned at the end. Plus, there are automated transcription tools appearing, like Google’s Live Transcribe (only available for Android) that are free. Still, transcribing is not notetaking anyway.

Deconstructing “Scaffolding” – – Alfie Kohn (6-minute read)

This is a recent post from Alfie Kohn. Kohn is one of those education writers that I was skeptical about when I was a newer teacher. Yet the longer I have been a teacher the more I find I like him. My appreciation of his work often reminds me of something my father was once fond of saying, “Funny, how the older you get the smarter I look.” Kohn continues to look a whole lot smarter to me as my experience as a teacher has deepened.

What I love about Kohn and this piece is the iconoclasm. He asks important penetrating questions about education issues and is really thoughtful in attempts to answer them. This post is no exception. I think he is right that far too often scaffolding is a means to students adopting a teacher’s meaning, methodology, or even thinking. Reduced to that application, it makes accounting easier but does it necessarily facilitate any learning? So often, something like scaffolding gets reduced in service of accountability or pace, whether a teacher even realizes it. “There is just so much to cover. There is no way they will be able to get this all themselves…” so thinking goes and before anyone realizes scaffolds are everywhere with little thought to how they will be removed.

This also brings me back to something that I have been thinking a lot about again, recently, which is issues of curriculum. The more curriculum is thought of as content, something that can be captured in a document or database, the more misguided the idea becomes. Curriculum always includes the students too. They are just as much the curriculum as any content. It is never content alone. The more that fails to be acknowledged the more scaffolding needs to be erected, by the way. Yet, using scaffolding in service of a collaborative learner-centered question-based approach, as Kohn references toward the end, reclaims the idea and puts to much better use.

Why Teachers Should Help Students Learn Effective Study Strategies – KQED’s MindShift – Katrina Schwartz (10-minute read)

I am not sure that there is a whole lot of new information in this article but it is put together nicely and packed with some quality links to additional resources. I have long had a fascination with specific strategies that can help students. This article highlights some pretty sound ones that have some research backing and are easily usable.

One of the first links alone could have been the subject of its own entry into this newsletter. Professor John Dunlosky’s article “Strengthening the Student Toolbox: Study Strategies that boost Student learning” is well worth time to read on its own. However, this MindShift piece broadens the topic a bit and includes some other voices with solid contributions. It has a little something for just about everyone.

Also, it should not come as a terrible surprise that left to their own devices students struggle to employ strategies that give them the best chance to be successful. Students do not opt for sophisticated methods, even from their own reports. The unfortunate consequence is that poor results can make preparation and learning seem problematic or more fixed when some of the strategies here might garner better results. I quite like the retrieval practice for some concepts or information that, in fact, need to be applied more flexibly. It is something I plan on employing as soon as I can.

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