Education Evolutions #95

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

While this is a bit later than normal, I wanted to get it out no matter what. With next Sunday being Easter, there will be no newsletter next week. Plus, I missed a week recently, so I felt a bit more compelled to get this out on the normal day.

This week is a bit more of a mixed bag, which is more often the case than not. This is a collection of short to long reads that covers a lot of ground. It is an eclectic array of articles that have generated a lot of thinking this week. I know I am not alone on that front either.

This week’s “If you read only one article…” is the last one. It is long but powerful. Of all the articles this week it is the one that has lingered the longest, and I suspect it will stay in my mind for some time to come. It is worth the time and effort to finish.

For those in New England, enjoy the break.

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

How Deep Listening Can Help You Be More Creative – Adobe 99u – The 99U Team (4-minute read)

While the framing of this idea as “deep listening” has a whiff of pretentiousness there is some genuine value, if you can get past that initial response. At least, that was how I read it and decided to include it here. Teaching journalism has made me even more keenly aware of the importance of listening than I may have been previously.

Reading this piece reminded me of thought from Baltimore NPR reporter Aaron Henkin, one of the hosts of the WYPR show Out of the Blocks, where he explained “When you listen to people you’re giving them a very rare and special gift.” Orkin’s idea of deep listening extends beyond just listening to a single person but the idea reminded me of giving someone a gift.

Probably the best aspect of this article is the list Orkin provides at the end about getting better at deep listening. All six pointers are pretty strong independently, regardless of their connection to this idea. The first two, in particular, I find particularly useful in almost all endeavors. Pursuing curiosity and leading with questions are pretty good practices in almost any pursuit. They are good ways to avoid the feeling of boredom too.

margin of error in data-driven decisions – actualham – Robin DeRosa (6-minute read)

This blogpost is a fascinating response to some strong claims made by a proponent of direct instruction. The very notion that an educational psychologist seems bent on discrediting an entire educational approach seems slightly suspect to me from the jump. While theories do get disproven from time to time with justification The claims of Kirschner makes strike me as overly simplistic conclusions, something DeRosa takes on with great thought.

Keying on defining what learning is, first, quickly pulls on a thread that unravels a sleeve. While memory is certainly important in learning, it is not the only facet. To suggest otherwise strikes me as highly reductionist. This seems to be a point on which I agree with DeRosa, although that is not entirely surprising. However, it is her point that science and the humanities are “epistemelogically distinct” is where I agree most.

Also, like DeRosa, I would not reject direct instruction. It has been working more or less for a few thousand years, but it is not the only way to teach. It is a method I certainly use but not exclusively. In the Kirschner interview cited, he clarifies a definition of direct instruction that is not as narrow as simply lecturing, which is an important qualification. However, he does invoke the word efficiency, which where he loses me. Learning is not about efficiency, almost ever. There is a lot to be said for “increased questioning rather than solving a problem or stating a singular conclusion.” Although, Derosa might be at her most elegant when she writes, “Literature is not an alternative to science. It’s a different lens on the world.” What a magnificent take that is. There is room for both and more.

The ethics of education – What is Education? – R. Graham Oliver (21-minute read)

This is one of those long but well-worth reading pieces that tackles a core aspect of our field. I am with Oliver. Education is at its core an ethical enterprise. In fact, I think the word is always value-laden, not “almost always.” I would add both the words teaching and learning to the same list as well, always value-laden and involving ethics too.

I tend to appreciate manifesto-type documents like this for their scope and scale. I appreciate the depth of thinking and philosophical approach in the primary premise Oliver shares. Drawing a distinction between education and schooling is also of vital importance in a discussion like this. They are not the same no matter how much anyone conflates them. As Oliver eloquently states, education “goes to the heart of what a person is worth, among us,” yet “each of us is of equal value.”

Education, when undertaken ethically, endeavors to makes us all better with the recognition that every life is as important as the rest. We all need reminders of this from time to time. It is a reminder of humility and endeavor, as is this post. I think number five in the outline may just be the one that resonates the most for me. It certainly has given me a lot to ponder.

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