Select Readings and Thoughts on Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age
Happy holidays to everyone, especially for those whose holidays have already begun. Given the calendar, it is very likely that there will not be an issue of this newsletter next week. I may be able to put a quick one together early but I am not sure yet. Plus, I am considering seriously downing my technology use over the holiday break to take advantage of time with the kids. It wouldn’t be a complete blackout but seriously limited. I am thinking of it as a kind of refresh.
This group of pieces is a bit more about culture than anything if there is any emergent theme. It is not entirely based on American culture but definitely Western. Technology and how we use it may be a major thread but all of these articles examine some hard decisions about problems that loom for all of us in one way or another, whether we realize it fully or not.
This week the honor of “If you read only one article…” is the final one on net neutrality. Part of it is the timing but more than that just because the FCC voted the way they did doesn’t mean that the issue is resolved or even finished. What comes next may be the most interesting thing yet, in fact. Especially interesting to me is how educators will respond, which has me adding this piece as a bonus from the outstanding academic mind of Bryan Alexander.
Enjoy the week before the break, not to mention the holidays themselves.
Here are three+ curated articles about education, technology, and evolutions in teaching.
France to impose total ban on mobile phones in schools – The Telegraph – Henry Samuel (4-minute read)
I have to admit that the first time I saw this story, I was seriously skeptical that it was some kind of fake news story. My first exposure was from European news outlet (The Local) which devotes a site to individual countries and publishes in English. However, I had never heard of it before. Then as I saw it reappear across a number of sites, including The Telegraph, I took more proper notice.
It is an awfully bold idea, to be sure. I cannot honestly decide whether I think it will work or not. Something seems desperate about it. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is an awful idea either. As this piece points out, adults are not exactly exemplary users of mobile technologies, further complicating an issue like this. There is also the feasibility challenge, something acknowledged and likely a lot easier to deal with at the elementary level than the secondary. Yet, the fact that the French are willing to examine this as a public health issue may be most instructive. Younger children are handed mobile devices at younger and younger age. Have a look at this item about when children receive mobile devices around the world. It is interesting, albeit constantly changing.
This is not the first time that Nikole Hannah-Jones has made an appearance in this newsletter. As a fierce advocate for students of color disenfranchised by existing public school structures especially in urban areas, she offers a lot of interesting perspectives that may not be amplified to certain demographics. Given the racially charged history of vouchers and charter schools, as well as the problems faced by urban and rural schools, in particular, there is a lot here worth reading from a broader perspective. Whenever I read facts like, “There are more black men incarcerated than were black men enslaved during slavery. There are more black men killed by police than there were black men lynched in a year,” it is hard not to take notice.
This is the kind of article that can be really hard for some people to read and even easier for some to dismiss. That does not make any of the problems that Hannah-Jones raises go away. To deny or dismiss the problems strikes me as rather dangerous, even if someone doesn’t like what Hannah-Jones has to say about them. For me, there is razor sharpness in claims like, “Our public schools are not broken, but are operating as designed. Our public schools were set up to provide unequal, inadequate education for black children. So that’s what they do,” or “We have a system where white people control the outcomes. And the outcome that most white Americans want is segregation. And I don’t mean the type of segregation that we saw in 1955. I don’t mean complete segregation.” When I read that and look around, I guess I just find that really hard to dismiss out-of-hand.
A lot of drama surrounded the FCC’s party-line vote to end the Obama administrations policies that maintained net neutrality. It is hard not to view the process and new policy direction with anything but dark cynicism. Still, it is a complicated issue and has been for some time. Bogost unpacks the issue far beyond the 3-2 vote and its potential consequences. There is a sharp insight in his assertion that changes will likely be slower and more invisible to consumers than the hyperbole might suggest. Perhaps more alternatives will appear but with their newfound power and influence, I imagine the telcos will lobby and litigate most alternatives out of existence.
Still, Bogost strikes some deeply resonant chords when he maintains the Internet “has become this era’s heartbeat. Data has become the blood that courses through the veins of ordinary life.” That is a powerful image that is awfully hard to oppose. Equally hard is rebut is his criticism of our collective inability to truly wrestle with our dependence on the Internet, as well as the consequences it has wrought.