Monthly Archives: March 2017

Education Evolutions Newsletter #25


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

Hard to believe that this is the 25th newsletter. Nearly half a year has passed since I began this little pet project. It has been a fun endeavor. I hope it has been as worthwhile for those reading as it has been to collect and comment.

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

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

  • Not all heroes wear capes – but some carry tubes (Pi Day 2017) – MIT Admissions – MIT Bloggers  (3 minute watch)
    This would have been better had it made into the newsletter last week, seeing as it was in connection with Pi Day. The day happened to correspond with regular action admissions to the institution. Still, this is a super cool project made by a bunch of students. They riff off of Iron Man, even going full-on nerdy with its references to the recent comic reboot that involves a young black woman taking over for the famous Tony Stark. This is MIT after all. It is definitely worth a watch, just for the fun of it. It even inspired a “making of” blogpost.

  • Lack of Oxford Comma Could Cost Maine Company Millions in Overtime DisputeNew York Times – Daniel Victor  (6 minute read)
    This story made the rounds a bit in the last week. I even saw a television news story about it. Perhaps it is the English teacher in me but I am not even a nutter about these kinds of things. I definitely believe in the Oxford comma and this certainly brought out all the wonks. Still, I love stories like this about how language precision can prove costly, in real financial terms. We do not necessarily expect students to be perfect but they should definitely know that some mistakes matter a whole lot. A goal of writing is clarity and precision of expression, regarding comma use or not. Fortunately, lack of clarity does not involve the loss of $10 million.

  • For Online Class Discussions, Instructors Move From Text to VideoEdSurge – Jeffrey R. Young  (5 minute read)
    Having taught online for some time now, I have administered a whole lot of online discussions. Often, they are more like compulsory blog posts than actual discussions. It can be difficult to facilitate genuine conversations. It certainly can be done but I using video does change things. While I do not make it a requirement, whenever students opt to use video in discussions it can be transformative. I definitely support Joyce Valenza’s comment, “Literacy comes in a variety of exciting flavors.” Plus, it is becoming easier to post video in discussions, using outside tools or course software. Canvas, among others, have a built-in tool that allows for recording and posting audio or video directly to discussions.

  • The Guilty Secret of Distracted ParentingNew York Times – Perri Klass, M.d.  (6 minute read)
    This is an issue that seems to rarely get as much attention as kids and screen time. However, the amount of time adults, with or without children, spend with their faces staring at their phones is pretty stunning. I am not by any means guiltless, and I have definitely brought a book to the playground, but I sincerely make an attempt not to be that parent who reaches for their phone every chance I get, all but ignoring my kids. I spend a lot of time on various devices but I do try to put them aside when I am with my kids. We adults need to be better models for all kids. We are not meant to be always on and always connected. It definitely is not easy but it is worth it.

  • The Big List of Class Discussion Strategiescultofpedagogy.com – Jennifer Gonzalez  (12 minute read)
    This is a blogpost and podcast episode. Even if you do not listen to the audio, reading the post is worthwhile for the list of alternative strategies for approaching discussions in class. Whole class discussions remain a goto activity for a lot of teachers, especially in the humanities. They can be effective, engaging, and make a classroom far more interactive. Discussion is a valuable tool in a teacher’s stock and trade. Yet, a lot of class discussions look remarkably the same from classroom to classroom. What is great about this post is that the different approaches are divided into categories based on preparation. There are higher prep, lower prep, and ongoing strategies that can add a bit more variety to the well-worn activity. Some of these easily port online too.

As always, thanks for supporting this newsletter.

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Education Evolutions Newsletter #24


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.

  • Education as Poetry & Explanation Versus Understandingetale.org – Bernard Bull  (4 minute read)
    This blogpost resonated with me quite a bit. Bull’s rediscovery of TS Eliot’s lecture on literary criticism with its notion that sometimes we “confuse explanation with understanding” and the chord he draws from Eliot to the current education climate is insightful. In fact, Eliot’s lecture just moved up my reading list. We are currently deeply into an era that raises the science of learning, including a growing obsession with data and economic models for education. Of course, key to accountability is counting. Thus, the political, technological, and scientific demands of the times have often meant that if it cannot be counted it does not count all that much at all. Perhaps it is the English teacher in me, but the idea of thinking about education institutions as poetic expressions seemed like a fascinating idea and counterbalance to much of the current fashion.

  • Becoming Literate Digitally in a Digitally Literate Environment of Their Own – Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy – W. Ian O’Byrne & Kristine E. Pytash  (10 minute read)
    I think I first advocated for a Domain of One’s Own approach in the high school three years ago. Obviously, it has not happened yet. Still, I remain convinced that the benefits would be enormous. This article actually outlines a host of ideas that I have held dear for some time. A few people have even endured my impassioned appeals about how cool many of the references included here, like University of Mary Washington’s Domain of One’s Own and DS106. Honestly, I modeled an entire class on many of the principles of DS106, which I still think is one of the most innovative approaches to learning on the web. I even led a class engaged with YouthVoices in one of its earliest iterations. The ideas of Gardner Campbell, Jim Groom, Howard Rheingold, Audrey Watters, among others continue to have a long influence on my thinking about technology, education, and literacy. Some of their work has even appeared in this newsletter from time to time. They are all worth a look.

  • The Critical Thinking Skills CheatsheetGlobal Digital Citizen Foundation – Lee Watanabe-Crockett  (3 minute read)
    This includes a nice infographic that can serve as a pretty handy reminder of a range of questions that can certainly advance critical thinking. It certainly is not a substitute for a more robust and sustained program but it can definitely remind students of the kinds of purposeful questioning they should engage in regularly. I especially like that it is built on the 5W1H model which can be applied across a range of subjects and contexts. There is even a poster version that can be downloaded.

As always, thank you for supporting this newsletter.

Education Evolutions Newsletter #23


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.

  • Ask the Cognitive Scientist: Distributed PracticeDigital Promise – Aubrey Francisco  (8 minute read)
    On some level, the idea of studying or practicing material in intervals is not exactly a new idea. So suggesting that there are better ways to learn something besides cramming may not be the most radical conclusion. However, this piece does provide some of the scientific explanation as to why this is true. For that reason alone, it is worth a look. It even provides some details on the spacing required for optimal impact. Perhaps more interesting is section 5, where a brief but bright case is made for how applying technology might enhance the planning and performance of distributed practice. I have long thought that uses like this are the kind of low hanging fruit that is not well-picked, and it can be far more than simple drill and kill procedures.

  • 8 Compelling Mini-Documentaries to Teach Close Reading and Critical Thinking SkillsNew York Times Learning Network – Michael Gonchar  (13 minute read)
    Sticking with the theme of reading, this post is a progressive approach to using video as texts. There are so many mini-documentaries that can serve as short non-fiction stories in all kinds of classes. Apart from being excellent pieces of journalism, produced by The New York Times, the student responses provide a kind of guide about how they might be used. Better still, there additional resources at the end of the piece to widen the options available. While it can take time to assemble a list of appropriate videos for a given course, they can be excellent ways to front or back load topics for a specific class or serve as a part of a wider text set. Plus, the videos included here are pretty compelling in their own right.

  • What you read matters more than you might thinkPsychology Today – Susan Reynolds  (4 minute read)
    In the last few years, there have been a number of articles that validate the importance of reading with almost continual research studies as evidence. This one adds the obvious connection to writing before diving back into the virtues of deeper reading and its benefits. While this is part plug for the writer’s book about the neuroscience of writing, it has some quality suggestions. So quit reading these brief online articles and go read a book of poems or a grand novel and enjoy, whether you want to write anything or not.

As always, thank you for supporting this newsletter