Education Evolutions #96

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

This week’s newsletter includes a broad selection of topics. Some of them include writers or subjects that I have included in the past but remain relevant, interesting to me, and are worthy of tracking, especially given the focus of this newsletter.

Most of these reads are of similar length, so it would be easy to give them all a try while you enjoy a cup of coffee or something. These also inspired a number of connections to other pieces that either probe in more depth or provide more background. Those links tend to be a bit longer reads but are worth exploring.

This week’s “If you read only one article…” is a pick ’em. They are so different in focus and subject that I can see them being appealing to different people for very different reasons. However, even if sports are not your thing, the first one might get a slight edge. Still, hopefully, there is a little something for everyone.

For those in New England, it looks like spring has teased us a bit. Yet the bloom looks like it has begun.

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

Why Are So Many Teen Athletes Struggling With Depression? – The Atlantic – Linda Flanagan (7-minute read)

When I came across this article I was instantly intrigued. I discovered this right on the heels of reading a quality personal research paper one of my students wrote about managing stress and anxiety as an athlete. Also, considering the level of importance placed on sports by many adolescents, this is the kind of article that high school teachers should give a read. Even if you are not interested in sports recognizing what many of our students could be experiencing is helpful.

Flanagan dives into the bigger issues that seem to contribute to the rise in mental health issues experienced by younger and younger athletes. The professionalization of sport, parent’s vicarious hopes and dreams, as well as other factors are all included. It is a quality introduction to the concept and growing challenge. There is an irony in part of the solution being something that may trickle down from the college level to high school but considering screening student-athletes for mental health concerns has some merit.

One thing missing from the article is the very real factor of high school athletes having to come to grips with the fact that they may be at the end of their highly competitive athletic lives, which affects everyone differently.  Interestingly when I teased this article to a colleague, a reader of this newsletter, they mentioned The Mindful Athlete to me. The book looks like a great resource and one I look forward to reading over the summer.

Silicon Valley Came to Kansas Schools. That Started a Rebellion – The New York Times – Nellie Bowles (8-minute read)

This article got a lot of play across the interwebs recently as Summit Learning continues to take a beating and for good reason. Facebook’s efforts into education with their personalized learning platform is not what the marketing buzz suggests – imagine. Given the heat that the company has been taking on the meta level, I would think anyone considering what they have to offer for education would have a word with themselves, but alas.

I have written about Summit before and have seen it in action at multiple grade levels. For all the talk of personalization, there are remarkably few persons involved, which is my general criticism of the “personalized learning” myth. Apart from the fact that the term has been completely co-opted by commercial edtech entities looking for the latest marketing buzzwords to advance sales, it is a term that has been reduced for the most part to mean learning by machine, as the kids in Kansas found out.

While this Chalkbeat article is interesting and captured a moment in some detail, this article provides a lot more background on Summit, its origin and evolution, as well as its clever connection to Harvard for self-serving purposes but not necessarily valid ones. There are few if any long-term objective research studies on any of these “learning platforms” that are involved in effectively a landgrab across education. Facebook was late to the game and invested heavily in their charter-based-techno-solutions-for-everything experiment to try and catch up. Yet that’s all it is – a grand experiment on children in what me better called “de-personalized lack-of-learning.

Why The Big Standardized Test Is Useless For Teachers – Forbes – Peter Greene (4-minute read)

As schools around the country administer tests to their students, there have been plenty of articles on the topic. I have forwarded pieces by Peter Greene before and it looks as though now he is writing regularly for Forbes. Here he offers a pretty shrewd takedown of standardized tests.

Greene’s early metaphor about coaching a team for a game you will neither see nor be able to even talk about is apt, but he furthers it with an even sharper edge of truth. Still, where he really gets to task in exposing the level of secrecy. I wonder how much people outside of education really understand a whole lot about the testing that their children are subjected to for the major standardized tests. Unless they have a child that has experienced a truly aberrant experience, I imagine most rely primarily on the oversimplification of high scores are good and low scores are bad.

Yet, what I always find most frustrating about all the testing conversation is how infrequently the cost is invoked as deeply suspect. All efforts in academic accountability simply increase the cost of that accounting, in both quantifiable and qualitative concerns, never mind the even more deeply suspect notion of measuring learning outcomes. The testing only gets more expensive and it is spreading to the university level too. It is a whole lot of money that could easily be better spent on better results even.

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