Monthly Archives: February 2017

Education Evolutions Newsletter #21


sas-ipad flickr photo by zandwacht shared under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

Education Evolutions:
Select Readings on Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

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

  • Impersonal PersonalizationCurmudgucation Blog – Peter Greene  (3 minute read)
    In this dark scenario, Peter Greene paints the picture of personalization which is one of the next waves of edtech and edreform. The term “personalization” means different things to different people. It really depends on who you ask. Most often it looks and sounds a lot like what Greene explains upon a deeper investigation that cuts through all the hyperbole and promises. However, it is something everyone needs to learn a little something about because it is coming in some form or another. Rhode Island has already made serious top-down efforts to push this and Massachusetts has already begun preparing to advance it across the state with efforts like MAPLE and more. Not every effort towards personalization is awful but a whole lot of them are some variation on an adaptive, algorithmic assessment agony perpetrated on kids. Greene’s acerbic wit on the topic is sound regardless.

  • 5 Radically Different Approaches to Technology in SchoolsThe Huffington Post – Lynn Perkins  (7 minute read)
    This might be a slight oversimplification but it does provide a nice high altitude survey of some major technology efforts that are being tried across the country. Notice the first one, A Fully Personalized Curriculum, especially after the article above. AltSchool is just one of a handful of systems that are advocating this approach. At the minute, personalization technology efforts have the strongest foothold in charter schools. Of course, STEM continues to be a viable approach for anchoring technology and is regularly being combined with a number of other trends like design thinking and makerspaces. Despite the Google focus being articulated in the Collaborative Learning section that is often paired with Project Based Learning (PBL) too. Promoting Equality sounds like a great approach but there is mounting evidence that edtech efforts are accomplishing quite the opposite. Last, what might be most ironic about the No-Tech Perspective is how popular it is in places like Silicon Valley, especially at schools where titans of the tech industry decide to send their kids.

  • The IKEA Effect in EducationMy Island View blog – Tom Whitby  (10 minute read)
    “Caring doesn’t scale, and scaling doesn’t care” is an aphorism occasionally voiced around edtech circles by some of the more insightful proponents, although probably not enough. Education companies are forever chasing scale. It is where so much boxed curricula is designed and distributed, even better if it involves technology. Yet, so few of the things that really impact learning, especially personal, as opposed to personalized, learning are all that easy to scale. Whitby’s blogpost uses a clever turn of phrase to capture what is almost the diametric opposite from the worst kind of personalization Peter Greene showcases. Even though the metaphor uses IKEA, when some assembly required, customization or do-it-yourself phrasing might be better fit for purpose, it puts the person at the center of any personalization not technology, When framed as Whitby writes, technology can serve as an amplifier for the best kind of personal learning, the kind that requires genuine craft and workmanship by human beings for other human beings.

As always, thanks for supporting this newsletter.
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Education Evolutions Newsletter #20


sas-ipad flickr photo by zandwacht shared under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

Education Evolutions:
Select Readings on Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

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

  • The Essential Selfishness of School ChoiceGadfly on the Wall – Steven Singer  (10 minute read)
    This blogpost is not new and I am surprised that I did not include it earlier. This might be the best explanation of school choice I have ever seen. The single line, “You took your slice, and now the rest of the pie is ruined. No one else can take a whole piece. Your choice has limited everyone else’s.” cuts to the core of precisely the kind of “choice” that will become advocated with increasing frequency now that Betsy DeVos has ascended to head the federal Department of Education. What’s more, so much of the recent talk about “choice” advances as if there has never been any which is complete rubbish. Parents have always had options and Singer does a good job of explaining them, as well as the problems associated with the current bunch. The “choice” we will see advocated is the worst kind of aspirational con job, peddling the false idea that people will somehow be able to take the tax dollars associated with their child to pay for the kind of elite private schools that people like DeVos and other political operatives sent her children too.
  • How Playing With Math Helps Teachers Better Empathize With StudentsKQED MindShiftKatrina Schwartz  (10 minute read)
    While this title is a little misleading, this article highlights some of the best kind of professional development. It is about a K through college kind of atmosphere that brings together like-minded educators interested in learning more. Math Teachers’ Circles are those chances when K12 teachers get a chance to work with professors from the academy in a way that reminds everyone why they may have fallen in love with their discipline in the first place. Even better it is the kind of environment that fosters the idea that we are all learners first and that may be the best way to truly improve teaching. I immediately identified with the teacher that needed to revise the narrative she held about her math ability. If there was a Math Teachers’ Circle close, I might be tempted to attend and I am not even a math teacher. Alas, there are no active ones all that close I looked.
  • DeVosian Threat InventoryCurmudgucation Blog – Peter Greene  (10 minute read)
    Peter Greene is a teacher and active blogger with a razor-sharp eye on edreform. In this post, he runs the rule over what can be expected from a Betsy DeVos-led DoE. Most of these topics are based on a lot of the efforts already afoot that are likely to be super-charged under DeVos’s direction, if it can be called that. Perhaps more than anything, preparation needs to start in earnest for the fresh waves of coming attacks that will rain down on teachers and unions. That is no joke. The energy and action that fueled the rallies against her confirmation will need to be sustained to resist the normalizing of a whole host of efforts that can potentially damage the very notion of a public education. As Greene notes, DeVos may not be able to get states to do exactly what she wants but that is what many thought about Arne Duncan and the Common Core.
  • Ed-Tech in a Time of TrumpHacked Education – Audrey Watters  (29 minute read)
    As I looked back on previous newsletters, I was kind of surprised that Audrey Watters has not made more appearances. This is the text from a presentation given at University of Richmond by edtech’s Cassandra. It is long but a very worthwhile read. As much as I advocate for technology use in education, I am not a technological evangelist. The issues raised in this talk are things that I spend a lot of time thinking about actually. What troubles me most is how ignorant or wildly misinformed a lot of education’s administrators and decision-makers are about what Watters highlights in this piece. For some time now, I have grown more gravely concerned about just how much students, including my own children, are increasingly living in a state of almost constant surveillance. The depth and breadth of what is already in place are startling and most parents and educators remain almost entirely unaware. Data, big or otherwise, can deliver enormous power. In fact, in our digital age, data can easily lead to precisely the kind of power that can absolutely corrupt.

As always thank you for supporting this newsletter.

Education Evolutions Newsletter #19


sas-ipad flickr photo by zandwacht shared under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

Education Evolutions:

Select Readings on Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

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

  • Why we teach our students to read between the liesThe Times of Higher EducationDonald E. Hall  (5 minute read)
    It is remarkable just how many references to Germany in the 1930s have been surfacing in the media since the inauguration. Here Hall extends the same type of “lie-based storytelling environment” to 1990s Rwanda, where he taught prior to the nation’s collapse. He suggests that our nation has arrived at a crossroads, where we are bombarded fact and fiction with such speed and volume that it is easier to be fooled than ever. As a college professor, he claims this has never been more true for our young people. This is ultimately an impassioned plea for the best of what the liberal arts and sciences offer, a strong focus on inquiry, research, focusing on facts and evidence, critical thinking, argument, and valuing a diversity of models and interpretations for a given challenge. That list is diminished the more all schools and universities are expected to operate in a vocational capacity, despite the genuine value of vocational education. Any kind of education must be more than job training.

  • Can Democrats Save Public Schools from Trump and DeVos?The New RepublicGraham Vyse  (11 minute read)
    There was a time when the Democratic party included an education caucus that has long died away. Vyse’s incisive read on the current political situation as it relates to education includes an uncomfortable truth, that it requires Democrats walking away from “our school’s are failing” narrative and the failed policies of the Obama administration. Considering that they were little more than the continuation of his Republican predecessor’s policies, it might seem to be an obvious move. Yet, as recent events have shown the current political climate is fraught with a number of challenges which could complicate things considerably. Vyse truly shows understnading, however, when he suggests that Democrats “let the GOP own testing tedium and teacher-trashing. Make Republicans the sole defenders of schooling as a market commodity, not an enlightened egalitarian ideal.” Were that to happen and the failures truly laid bare with the likely incoming DeVos, we could see a genuine turnaround instead of flashy propaganda.

  • Community-Focused Versus Market-Driven EducationDigital Pedagogy LabMatthew Metzgar  (11 minute read)
    Should DeVos head the Department of Education, the market-driven, competition-is-good approach to education will likely kick into overdrive under the guise of school choice. Yet, we have been operating in an increasingly market-driven, league tables type paradigm for quite some time now. It might be hard to remember that there are alternatives. Metzgar outlines four specific reminders that are backed with evidence and proven results, just click some of the links. Best of all he explains them in a clear and understandable way without oversimplification. Arguably, the best item of the bunch is number three Use of Test Scores versus Portfolios/Public Exhibitions, which involves human judgement and takes more time. Furthermore, he shares relevant insights about what a public education is intended to be and why. Forcing schools to compete and creating a market deprives the public from owning the system they fund with their taxes. Profit-driven, school choice goes one step further and extracts funding from a community, benefitting corporate interests and not necessarily the community they serve.

As always thank you for supporting this newsletter.