Education Evolutions #59

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

While I had designs on getting this pout a bit early this week, given that its a holiday weekend and all, those plans ran aground pretty quickly. So hopefully this finds you well and enjoying some spring-like weather somewhere.

I am still culling through a smattering of articles from the last few weeks while ensuring that some more timely stuff is included. Believe it or not it is kind of fun. It is always a short memory walk for me, reflecting on the pieces I thought were interesting upon discovery.

This week is a mixed bag but definitely still deeply in the shadow of the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal. The reverberations of that story breaking are seriously sparking a rethink of a whole lot of things. Of course, there is not a lot that is new but the stakes seem to be getting bigger and creepier with every similar story.

All three of these are short articles, so I don’t really have a “If you read only one article…” pick. They are all worth your time. I suppose the last one,”Beware the smart toaster: 18 tips for surviving the surveillance age” is perhaps the most practical in terms of things that you can do given the circumstances we find ourselves.

Hope you have enjoyed the holiday weekend, however you liked. Maybe, just maybe, spring has finally sprung and warmer days are ahead.

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

How the “industrial era schools” myth is a barrier to helping educationtoday – Sherman Dorn – blog –  Sherman Dorn (5-minute read)

As an education historian and professor, Dorn makes truly some compelling statements about how much bad history is used as a stick to beat the field and teachers in particular. There is a lot to admire in his levelheaded analysis, brief as it may be. I am definitely with him on the idea “neither historians nor anyone else can definitively claim nothing has changed in a system such as schooling.”

The problem as Dorn implies so well is that the history of schooling in this country is both profoundly complex and complicated. It all reminds me a bit of the concept of backward or downward compatibility in the telecommunications industry. In order for new standards and technology to be integrated smoothly, old standards cannot simply be abandoned. They have to remain operable. Imagine if landline phones just stopped working the minute mobile phone technology was introduced. Change is always hard and often slow in highly developed, long-standing systems. And American schooling has existed a lot longer than telecommunications of any kind.

Where Dorn discusses the persistence of certain practices, about halfway through the post, is worth reading on its own. Yet, “Weak understanding of education history is actively harmful to improving schools,” might be the most profound statement of all. Anyone that says schools are still stuck in the Industrial Age not only has a weak understanding but is simply “making stuff up” to support an instantly dubious agenda if you ask me.

This Is So Much Bigger Than Facebook – The Atlantic –  Ethan Zuckerman (9-minute read)

We may be on the verge of a serious reckoning with regards to social media and the Internet on the whole. This piece highlights how the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica problem is merely symptom of a much larger problem. It is the business model of the platforms not bad actors that are “based on collecting this demographic and psychographic information and selling the ability to target ads to people using this data about them.” Still, believe it or not, I remain hopeful.

I especially like the paragraph in the middle of this piece where Zuckerman comes clean on what his publication, The Atlantic is doing. That kind of candidness is at least refreshing. If you have any doubts about just how big the problem is have a look at this Doc Searls blogpost “Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica problems are nothing compared to what’s coming for all of online publishing.” This makes the contention that all of us Internet users have been coerced into a bargain where we have had no negotiating power all the more true.

It is always hard to change the rules when their are forces making serious money leveraging existing circumstances. This is why I am often immediately dismissive of industries-should-regulate-themselves narratives. Too often it is in direct conflict with the notion if-it-can-be-done-it-will-be-done. Someone, bad actor or simply curious, will do it eventually. We humans are a flawed bunch. My hope is that this Facebook story is big enough and long enough to provoke recognition of just how flawed we can be as well assome genuine change.

Beware the smart toaster: 18 tips for surviving the surveillance age – The Guardian –  Alex Hern and Arwa Mahdawi (7-minute read)

While we may be on the verge of a reckoning, we certainly are not there yet. That is where this article from The Guardian comes in awfully handy. Considering just how little leverage we have had in the Internet bargain, here are some tips on how to take at least some power back from the uneven negotiation.

I have to admit that I often shudder at the mention of the phrase “best practices.” It is too often a soft start to some thinly veiled coercive behavior modification from someone who is interested in changing a culture, education‘s appropriation of corporate gobbledygook. In this case, these best practices actually might benefit you should you adopt them.

I particularly like the numbers 2, 16, 17, and 18. A variation on number 2, if you have started buying into the Internet of things, make sure that you can turn the devices off whenever you are not using them. If you can’t maybe its not worth owning. I also suggest one that is not in the list. Get an email address that is essentially for registrations and garbage that you don’t really use for anything else. Then routinely go in and wipe it clean. Hopefully, you will find some of these helpful. I knew some of these already but some were genuinely new to me too.


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