Category Archives: Teaching & Learning

Education Evolutions Newsletter #24


sas-ipad flickr photo by zandwacht shared under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

Education Evolutions:
Select Readings on Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

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

  • Education as Poetry & Explanation Versus Understandingetale.org – Bernard Bull  (4 minute read)
    This blogpost resonated with me quite a bit. Bull’s rediscovery of TS Eliot’s lecture on literary criticism with its notion that sometimes we “confuse explanation with understanding” and the chord he draws from Eliot to the current education climate is insightful. In fact, Eliot’s lecture just moved up my reading list. We are currently deeply into an era that raises the science of learning, including a growing obsession with data and economic models for education. Of course, key to accountability is counting. Thus, the political, technological, and scientific demands of the times have often meant that if it cannot be counted it does not count all that much at all. Perhaps it is the English teacher in me, but the idea of thinking about education institutions as poetic expressions seemed like a fascinating idea and counterbalance to much of the current fashion.

  • Becoming Literate Digitally in a Digitally Literate Environment of Their Own – Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy – W. Ian O’Byrne & Kristine E. Pytash  (10 minute read)
    I think I first advocated for a Domain of One’s Own approach in the high school three years ago. Obviously, it has not happened yet. Still, I remain convinced that the benefits would be enormous. This article actually outlines a host of ideas that I have held dear for some time. A few people have even endured my impassioned appeals about how cool many of the references included here, like University of Mary Washington’s Domain of One’s Own and DS106. Honestly, I modeled an entire class on many of the principles of DS106, which I still think is one of the most innovative approaches to learning on the web. I even led a class engaged with YouthVoices in one of its earliest iterations. The ideas of Gardner Campbell, Jim Groom, Howard Rheingold, Audrey Watters, among others continue to have a long influence on my thinking about technology, education, and literacy. Some of their work has even appeared in this newsletter from time to time. They are all worth a look.

  • The Critical Thinking Skills CheatsheetGlobal Digital Citizen Foundation – Lee Watanabe-Crockett  (3 minute read)
    This includes a nice infographic that can serve as a pretty handy reminder of a range of questions that can certainly advance critical thinking. It certainly is not a substitute for a more robust and sustained program but it can definitely remind students of the kinds of purposeful questioning they should engage in regularly. I especially like that it is built on the 5W1H model which can be applied across a range of subjects and contexts. There is even a poster version that can be downloaded.

As always, thank you for supporting this newsletter.

Education Evolutions Newsletter #23


sas-ipad flickr photo by zandwacht shared under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

Education Evolutions:
Select Readings on Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

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

  • Ask the Cognitive Scientist: Distributed PracticeDigital Promise – Aubrey Francisco  (8 minute read)
    On some level, the idea of studying or practicing material in intervals is not exactly a new idea. So suggesting that there are better ways to learn something besides cramming may not be the most radical conclusion. However, this piece does provide some of the scientific explanation as to why this is true. For that reason alone, it is worth a look. It even provides some details on the spacing required for optimal impact. Perhaps more interesting is section 5, where a brief but bright case is made for how applying technology might enhance the planning and performance of distributed practice. I have long thought that uses like this are the kind of low hanging fruit that is not well-picked, and it can be far more than simple drill and kill procedures.

  • 8 Compelling Mini-Documentaries to Teach Close Reading and Critical Thinking SkillsNew York Times Learning Network – Michael Gonchar  (13 minute read)
    Sticking with the theme of reading, this post is a progressive approach to using video as texts. There are so many mini-documentaries that can serve as short non-fiction stories in all kinds of classes. Apart from being excellent pieces of journalism, produced by The New York Times, the student responses provide a kind of guide about how they might be used. Better still, there additional resources at the end of the piece to widen the options available. While it can take time to assemble a list of appropriate videos for a given course, they can be excellent ways to front or back load topics for a specific class or serve as a part of a wider text set. Plus, the videos included here are pretty compelling in their own right.

  • What you read matters more than you might thinkPsychology Today – Susan Reynolds  (4 minute read)
    In the last few years, there have been a number of articles that validate the importance of reading with almost continual research studies as evidence. This one adds the obvious connection to writing before diving back into the virtues of deeper reading and its benefits. While this is part plug for the writer’s book about the neuroscience of writing, it has some quality suggestions. So quit reading these brief online articles and go read a book of poems or a grand novel and enjoy, whether you want to write anything or not.

As always, thank you for supporting this newsletter

Education Evolutions Newsletter #22


sas-ipad flickr photo by zandwacht shared under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

Education Evolutions:
Select Readings on Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

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

  • Are We Innovating, or Just Digitizing Traditional Teaching?Edutopia – Beth Holland  (5 minute read)
    As compelling as the title of this piece is, the article remains a bit on the surface level. One of the problems is that so many terms in education and educational technology quickly get co-opted by commercial interests, making clarity difficult. Contrary to all the myths, there is significant data to support that using a learning management system does more to digitize traditional teaching than almost anything else. As Holland suggests, digital workflow is not blended learning. I would also submit that Holland also conflates blended learning and some other buzz phrases, like agency and personalized learning. Truth, tools do not compel blended learning, people do. The tools only make it easier to accomplish, if desired. Most simply automate traditional pedagogies. Moreover, the stronger efforts of standardization and testing remain the more ready-made, teacher-driven or even programmatic-driven content delivery will prevail. Allowing students to apply genuine choice and agency with regard to their learning is messy and far harder to test.

  • Battle of the Classrooms: Apple, Google, Microsoft Vie for K-12 MarketEdSurge – Sydney Johnson  (5 minute read)
    The opening paragraph strikes more directly at the heart of this battle. Yet, it is only the beginning for the biggest kids on the edtech block. In some instances, they might have been a bit slow or clumsy in appealing to Education but make no mistake it is definitely considered a major market. I am not sure how many people were even aware that all three now have Classroom products. This article does a decent job of comparing the three. None of them are actually learning management systems and they are all limited in what they can do. In fact, they are pretty good at digitizing traditional teaching with strong command and control affordances.

  • The Challenge of Non-Disposable AssignmentsCogDogBlog – Alan Levine  (7 minute read)
    The title of this post captures a genuine spirit that has influenced my thoughts on teaching for years now. In fact, Alan Levine has developed work that has had a most profound impact on me. DS106 is one of the coolest educational efforts I have ever come across on the web. If you have never taken a look at it, you should (Just beware, it is easy to lose a fair amount of time exploring.). What’s more, the structure and format used to power the DS106 Assignment Bank is something that I have tried to mimic in a limited way but would love to employ in a course fully. I have long advocated for what essentially are non-disposable tasks for students, although I had never used that term. I could not agree more with David WIley when he declares that disposable assignments, “add no value to the world, they actually suck value out of the world.” If only we could transcend the antiquated notion that every student will produce the same artifact to be seen by the teacher only. I also think the content trap is very real and pervasive.

  • Exploring film soundtracks with Radio 2 and BBC R&DBBC – Bruce Weir  (3 minute read)
    This is a pure technology showcase but one that is quite cool. I suspect most people have yet to hear about object-based media but it will likely become far more common quickly. One of the byproducts of the proliferation of the Internet and increased bandwidth is the ability to deliver multiple, simultaneous data streams. So BBC’s experimenting with delivering video, graphics, and audio separately allows for all kinds of novel ways to interact with their media. Click the link for Radio 2 – Friday Night is Music Night Remixed Videos, just below the first picture to play with a few of their experiments. It is hard not to be impressed with the results.

As always, thanks for supporting this newsletter.