Select Readings and Thoughts on Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age
I hope everyone who had a February break enjoyed it. It was nice for me, although I felt like I arrived back at school and spent the week swimming the length of the pool on one breath. It was a bit intense upon reentry. Still, it made me look forward to curating and commenting on some articles to share with all of you.
If there is a theme in these selections, I suppose it is the political realm. A dear friend informed me when I was a young man, “It’s all politics. There is a political dimension to everything.” I remember resisting that, at first but recognized its wisdom over time. We humans are always engaged with assumptions about power and status, even we are not always entirely conscious of it. On some level, I hope these articles, maybe even this entire newsletter effort, makes us all a little more conscious and aware in general.
I don’t really have a pick for “If you read only one article…” this week. They are all pretty strong in their own right. If anything it might depend on your mood. Hopefully, the commentary might be the thing that invites you to peruse and ponder one or more of the issues included here. If privacy is becoming a concern, give the first one a look. If you are a bit tired of assessment mumbo jumbo, the second is definitely worth your time. And if you know nothing about how students protests are protected the third one will be eye-opening.
It is nice to be back in the swing of preparing this newsletter. I hope it finds you well and refreshed for the new week. Also, enjoy the Oscars, if you are in that kind of thing.
Here are three+ curated articles about education, technology, and evolutions in teaching.
This is a pretty strong short list of things that we should all be giving some deeper thought. Sadly, policymakers have still yet to truly take up these concerns with any real threat of action. Legislative action is the only way to even truly address all but perhaps the third one, which is more about individuals. I think the biggest challenge is that these issues kind of exist in the abstract for most of us. Yet, these concerns are why there has been an increased push to start protecting our children. It is certainly a good place to start.
One of the many unfortunate byproducts of something like the Parkland event, albeit not the most immediate, is the rising call for increased security. The surveillance state expands significantly on the back of security and convenience. The rise of more cameras and more tracking is almost certain, while any gun control efforts will require far more labor. Also, our fondness for the free and easy continues our passive passage to making products of ourselves, as companies like Google and Amazon stockpile the data we generate and claim it as their own.
The Misguided Drive to Measure ‘Learning Outcomes’ – The New York Times – Molly Worthen (12-minute read)
While this opinion piece is written by a college professor, I think she taps a series of resonant chords that K12 education has been feeling more acutely and longer than higher education. The accountability mandates simply are not the same between secondary and higher education. However, so many of the points made here apply to the deeply flawed notions we have about assessment, culturally, and our collective failure to resist efforts to blame with an upstream mentality. Businesses blame universities for not delivering prepared employees, universities blame secondary schools for not delivering prepared students, and so on with an eye toward each tributary.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy is how education as a field continues to use and even cede the very language of our field. As Worthen states, “We end up using the language of the capitalist marketplace and speak to our students as customers rather than fellow thinkers.” We have been started doing that at the K12 level some time ago and we don’t even charge for it at in public schools. The list of ironies laid bare in this piece are more than worth the reading and consideration. I only wish more administrators had the courage to consider them too, not to mention the need for them to lead the resistance rather than lead the acquiescence.
Here’s What Happened When the Supreme Court Ruled on Whether Students Can Protest During School – Time – Olivia B. Waxman (7-minute read)
As a journalism teacher, I have to confess a bit more familiarity with the Tinker case, but I am by no means an expert. This article provides a nice primer on the topic for anyone not aware of what the law allows. I add this with the obvious nod to the protests that are likely to be seen across the country in the coming weeks. Students are protected far more than schools sometimes seem to recognize, as is the case with the Houston superintendent. There are a whole lot of ways that adults can be the ones that get in the way of students, despite the best of intentions.
I mentioned on Twitter that the Houston superintendent was so backward that he thinks he is facing the right direction and still believe that. There is no way that his proclamation would stand up in court. Furthermore, he would do well with a refresher on the Tinker case. Yet, as Mary Beth Tinker states in the piece,”You can’t stop students from expressing themselves peacefully in schools — and besides, why would we want to?” That to me is the deepest and most profound question. Discovering what you truly care about, recognizing political implications of life, and exercising your agency in the political process, especially as our democratic experiment seems more fragile than it has in decades, that is the very stuff of growing up and becoming a truly educated adult.