Education Evolutions #45

IMG_4227 flickr photo by Jemimus shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Select Readings and Thoughts on Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

As we move into the holiday season time seems to get shorter I certainly have fallen victim to this compression of time as I began putting this issue together, a little later than I would like. I have been pulling together a lot of newsletter-like material for a number of other publications which encroached on my efforts here.

This group of articles is a bit more of a hodge-podge. Not sure any real theme emerged as I curated the list. If anything, If anything, there might be something about relationships, care, and building communities, and not the coopted versions Mark Zuckerberg has started talking about at every turn.

Similarly, I am not sure that there is an “If you read only one article…” this week. The last one is the longest and might be the most useful in terms of applying to a classroom tomorrow. It reminded me of how often I have been inclined to simply write questions on student work, as feedback, without any grades, as an English teacher. The thing about that strategy is that questions invite a response or an answer, which is a conversation. Conversations can be pretty effective at building trust. And trust seems like the only truly genuine influence for greater learning, although that last statement may make more sense after reading the end of this newsletter.

Enjoy what is left of the weekend.

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

Why Teachers Are The Sleeping Giant In The Fight For Net Neutrality – TeachThought – Terry Heick (7-minute read)

When I read this headline, I so want it to be true. As I continued to read, I was reminded how much I often like what Terry Heick contributes to the teaching information landscape. I do not always agree but I appreciate his contributions and they make me think harder. Here I agree with a lot of what he writes. There is no question that the Internet matters. It might matter more now than it ever has. Most humans now carry it with them everywhere they go. There are not many things that we carry with us daily that are not important.

I also hope that teachers are the sleeping giants he suggests, not just about net neutrality but about so many issues and challenges that we collectively face. At the risk of making things messier, net neutrality matters too because it is neutrality that has enabled all of the very corporations lined up to divide it into their little fifedoms to thrive. The Internet was a publicly funded and founded phenomenon that has benefitted commercial interests.

One old metaphor used for the Internet was the superhighway. Our country built highways and interstates to help people travel and commerce to thrive. To hand over our highway and interstate system to a handful of private interests with their own agendas would be a profound betrayal of the public interest and devastate the very notion of a public good. We messed this up pretty spectacularly when rivers and waterways were the highways, by the way, at great expense. Net neutrality, with all of its imperfections and problems, at least harbors some value in the public interest. Without it, only the biggest corporate interests get their way. Corporate good, and the market carousel, completely replaces the public in virtual space, which should be increasingly referred to simply as space. In general, I believe public spaces should be protected.

The End of the Social Era Can’t Come Soon Enough – Vanity Fair – Nick Bilton (8-minute read)

Social media and the companies behind its rise have certainly been enduring a rough few months. I would humbly submit that it is for good reason. The notion that these are just platforms and that platforms are somehow neutral is quite problematic. I hope that we will come to a future point, where we will see the current state as a destructive fad, as the subtitle suggests. However, I am not sure it has quite the inevitablity that Bilton seems to suggest.

One problem is that for all the destruction, a lot of us are really very fond of many of the social media outlets we use regularly. Plus, for some reason, the drug analogies have never quite fit for me. It might be a better comparison for devices themselves but the social media component amplifies too many elements of social interaction, sans technology mediation, for me to feel it is helpful or illuminating. Still, I appreciate a lot of what Bilton is advancing here. There are a lot of problems associated with how we have taken to social media and technology-mediated platforms. Riffing off poet and bioregionalist Gary Snyder’s sentiment, “The most radical thing you can do is stay home,” I find myself saying, “The most radical thing you can do is turn it off,” which applies to social media or even computers.

The Secret of Effective Feedback – TeachThought – Dylan William (16-minute read)

I stumbled across this article in the last week by way of prolific edublogger Larry Ferlazzo, which he claimed as being the best article of student feedback he had read. That seemed like high praise, so I wanted to give it a read. I am not sure that it is the best I have ever read but no alternative readily comes to mind either. It is a topic that gets a whole lot of coverage but I rarely feel like much of it is all that good. This article is definitely good.

Most valuable is the recognition just how much trust plays a part in the feedback loop. That seems so simple but there may be no factor more critical. I wish that it was not added at the end of the piece and rather led with that. Without trust, there is no feedback, at least as we think of it. It is simply noise. I would also argue that William’s contention that “Looking at student work is essentially an assessment process,” is actually incomplete and slightly inaccurate because too often assessment is confused with evaluation. What’s more evaluation and its association with judgment is anathema to building trust. In fact, that might be why feedback is so often ineffective. These distinctions matter and all too often they are blurred or misunderstood. Perhaps that is the seed of a future article of my own.


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