Education Evolutions #110


Close up of smartphone in hand flickr photo by Japanexperterna.se shared under
a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

As October comes to a close, New England remains in the full fall bloom. The colors continue to be bright and the air is getting sharp. However, this week the rains are supposed to arrive and will likely knock most of the color to the ground just in time for November.

This week’s selections include a more common trio with an extra thrown in the mix. There are the typical couple of short reads and a long one. All are interesting and worth a look. One is more about challenges to teaching, the other about the realities of being a teacher, and the third about technology use in higher education.

This week’s “If you read only one article…” is the last one. It is the longest one but probably the most startling and informative one. I suspect that there are very few people knew that this kind of data tracking thing was going on. Like so many things, it has all the hallmarks of only exacerbating the gaps between haves and have-nots, particularly in an area where politicians continually claim as a solution to economic inequality.

Have a good week.


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

How Not to Get a Standing Ovation at a Teachers’ Conference – Alfie Kohn’s blog – Alfie Kohn (5-minute read)

I hope I get the chance to hear Alfie Kohn speak at some point in future. I always say the longer I teach the more I find myself agreeing with him. Similarly here, he kind of nails both the paradigm and paradox of working with teachers. I think what I like most about what he has to say in this post is that just because edrefrom is pox, generally, that does not mean that there is not plenty of room for improvement. Many of the uncomfortable truths he shares here remain in fact true.

I especially like how he challenges teachers to consider students both as co-creators of curriculum but also in shaping the environment of the classroom. The sentence, “teachers need to decide whether they’re going to treat their students essentially the same way they’re being treated by politicians — as opposed to the way they wish they were being treated,” might be the most powerful one in the whole piece for me. It is a great reminder to us all.

It is so easy to default to I’m-the-adult-in-the-room kind of thinking without remaining completely conscious of it, especially when feeling the pressure to cover content. The more the demands of pre-packaged content reign, either purchased for teachers or developed by teachers, the more challenging it is to create rich learning environments that are high quality for all students. Also, while applause does not usually accompany a lesson, the spirit of this sentence, “Applause is a reasonable metric of whether a presentation was entertaining, not whether it did any good,” could also be applied to classroom teaching too.

Chicago teacher strike enters second week, with patience wearing thin – The Washington Post – Susan Berger (4-minute read)

This story from The Washington Post summarizes the Chicago Teachers Union strike, which at last check Sunday afternoon continues. What is interesting about this particular strike is that the media coverage has been decent. There is less of the typical teacher-blaming going on despite the school being halted.

What is getting more coverage is the effort by the teachers union to secure more personnel and services for their students. There is even a bit more positive news, as rapper Chance wore a CTU shirt in solidarity during his appearance on Saturday Night Live, as mentioned here in the local coverage. Also included in that piece is just how far apart the city and union remain.

What I find fascinating is that both articles reference the frustration about student athletics being interrupted. As sympathetic as that issue might be, it is not even relevant. It is precisely the kind of spin used to paint teachers in a bad light. As important as state playoffs might be for individual athletes and teams, reasons like that are not even the primary point of schooling. Interestingly, when Dedham teachers also decided to strike after two years of failed negotiations, despite the legal prohibition, administrators also invoked student athletics as a way to curry public sympathy.

Student tracking, secret scores: How college admissions offices rank prospects before they apply – The Washington Post – Douglas MacMillan (13-minute read)

This article is yet another harrowing tale of how user data is being collected and used in with increasingly questionable ethics. The internet has ushered in an if-it-can-be-tracked-it-will-be reality that raised all kinds of questions about privacy, profiling, and principles. The fact that some colleges and universities do not even disclose the tracking should cause even greater concern, especially as they attempt an end-run around the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Aside from being extraordinarily shifty, this is the least of what can be expected without any real regulation. The whole predictive analysis is already running amock in other areas, so why not in higher education where big data has been racing in a digital land grab. As funding has fallen and tuition has soared, schools are now looking to leverage this kind of tracking to pursue out of state students, who pay more, as well as preemptively get a jump on whether or not students and their families can foot the bill.

All the claims that these tools simply provide ways for admissions offices to better help applicants or potential students. These are the same kind of claims companies say about helping customers, as they hoover up as much data as they can with next to no privacy restrictions. The idea that even more algorithms are potentially in play for students hoping to gain admissions to their desired school, based on their exploration of a school’s website, couldn’t possibly produce flawed conclusions either. It is not like that kind of thing happens anywhere or anything.

So what do you think?

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