Education Evolutions #56


The future of books flickr photo by Johan Larsson shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

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

Well, if you are in New England, I hope that you have endured the late winter storm without too much trouble. Furthermore, I hope that you get everything sorted before the next one arrives in nary a day. I suppose March really does “come in like a lion” sometimes. I can only hope the lamb awaits.

So if there is a theme to this issue it has to be around media literacy. Even the first item about the teacher strike West Virginia has a media literacy component to it, as the grassroots membership was able to wield considerable power through traditional and social media to organize and prevail. The second two pieces get more into the weeds on the theme but it is one that probably requires a deeper dive than most.

I don’t really have a pick for “If you read only one article…” this week. Not because they are all so strong but more because I jammed a whole lot of extra links and references in this week. Nearly any one of the top-level articles may well be a rabbit hole all its own. The journey would be well worth it for any of the picks. I do always hope that commentary might serve as a guidepost for the start of your reading adventure.

Stay well and warm. With more winter weather on the way in the northeast, may the power remain intact and you have a chance to enjoy what is hopefully that last snowfall of the season.


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

West Virginia Walkouts a Lesson in the Power of a Crowd-Sourced Strike – The New York Times –  Jess Bidgood & Campbell Robertson (7-minute read)

I find it pretty hard not to be inspired by the teachers in West Virginia. Steeped in historical resonances of labor history, the teachers bravely acted with the kind of collective resolve that one would think unions can only dream about. Yet, this article points out just how incapable the union leadership was in organizing this collective action. If anything that should be an even more powerful lesson. Union leadership needs to represent their membership, not their personal interests, or become too cozy with the other side. Here the membership ensured that they were heard by all parties and may be a preview of what can be expected in the inspired movements already afoot.

Also, this Guardian piece provides a little more background for those not closely following the story. Another element this Guardian article highlights is the wider implications of the strike. Oklahoma, are already the lowest paid teachers in the nation, not to mention most schools already only meeting four days a week for budget reasons. Despite some tradeoffs, there is good reason for Okie teachers to be emboldened by what happened in West Virginia. Still, an even bigger catalyst may yet be in the offing, for those that may be unfamiliar with Janus v. AFSCME.

No, ‘cognitive strengthening exercises’ aren’t the answer to media literacy – A Long View on Education –  Benjamin Doxtdator (12-minute read)

I think I state this every time I include something by him but I really like Benjamin Doxtdator’s writing. He is clever, insightful, extraordinarily well-read, and sources his blogposts better than almost anyone. Here he reacts to a keynote by another extremely clever thinker and writer Danah Boyd, someone I have referenced here previously too. This piece goes deep but it covers a lot of ground that is becoming increasingly important to educators across the spectrum. Literacy of all kinds is both complex and complicated, the media version notwithstanding.

While Boyd’s talk is also worth a look, reading Doxtdator’s response might be enough. He by no means cherrypicks bits and pieces to take Boyd to task. In fact, Boyd readily admits being at a bit of a loss in her keynote. In fact, knowing this makes the response that much more powerful. Reading this is like sitting at the table for a conversation between two really clever people, although the number is growing and now also includes another powerhouse Renee Hobbs, wrestling with an exceptionally thorny problem. Of course, there are no easy answers but this conversation is an important one and educators need to be paying closer attention to it. It kind of gets at one of the broader aspects of education as an enterprise.

YouTube, the Great Radicalizer – The New York Times –  Zeynep Tufekci (6-minute read)

Sticking with the theme this opinion column from Tufekci seemed like an almost too perfect way to wrap up this issue. While the way YouTube’s algorithms make suggestions is sobering, our concerns should not be limited only to Google. Amazon and Netflix, just to name a couple more super suggestors, might all be worthy of far greater scrutiny (a topic I have included previously). YouTube might hold an even more acute status, however. What a lot of adults and educators, in particular, may not realize is how YouTube has become an almost default search engine, replacing the more often assumed Google search page.

If ever there was a clarion call for us to redouble our efforts on the media literacy dilemma showcased in the previous installment, this commentary is it. If you have a look at the Danah Boyd piece, Tufekci’s comment “What we are witnessing is the computational exploitation of a natural human desire: to look ‘behind the curtain,’ to dig deeper into something that engages us,” seems like exhibit A for what Boyd calls weaponizing the very act of asking a question. Plus, I couldn’t agree more with her final thought on the topic.

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