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Whens-day Wednesday: Education edition

  • When you want to celebrate your child’s critical thinking skills but pride gets in the way;
  • When you become the object of data-driven decision making;
  • When you can correlate your child’s math skills with not getting what she wants (chart on top) and getting what she wants (chart on bottom);
  • When, speaking of correlation, you can tell which chart was created with more care and detail;
  • When you wonder what your child’s teachers must think of you;
  • When you can’t wait for language arts homework;
  • When you realize that poetry and essay assignments could have unlimited potential for qualitative data ;
  • When you love it all.

Common Core math

Common Core “makeup” math

Teaching Is the Greatest…

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One of my parents passed away earlier this month.  Pictured above is a homemade sympathy card from one of my students (I teach a college course on Doctor Who:  “Doctor Who:  TARDIS Travels in General Education).

Teaching & advising have their own priceless benefits & rewards…

The Stygian Stream of (Educational) Techno-obscurity?

Is DVD the new VHS?

My response to a piece I read yesterday:  Top 10 Education Technologies that Will Be Dead in Gone in the Next Decade

The perpetual problem with educational technology is that, collectively speaking, educators do not take time to really think about the affordances and (dis)advantages of the particular technology. In other words, will the technology really be a boon for student learning, or will it just be another fad to be momentarily (and expensively) embraced in the beginning, only to be quickly relegated to the storage closet. Here’s a quote from a piece I read a couple of years ago:

“Every technology is used before it is completely understood. There is always a lag between an innovation and the apprehension of its consequences.”–From “Among the Disrupted,” New York Times Book Review, 1-18-15

As for dead technology # 7 (from the article/link above), last semester I assigned each of my students a DVD with content that was to be the central source for an upcoming research project. The material is only available on DVD. One student was truly puzzled and asked what she could do about her dilemma: she did not own or have access to a basic DVD player (Blu-Ray wasn’t even mentioned). As I write this post, I look to my left and remember that laptops are now manufactured without DVD drives. “Stream” is a verb…for now…and a river runs through it

Monday Meme: The First Doctor

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I made this meme for my Doctor Who college class I teach.

Goodbye, yellow-black read…

An appropriately literary farewell: the once mighty and ubiquitous sidekick and Checker Cab to non-readers everywhere is now parked on the clearance shelf…

 

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Just when I thought I wasn’t a half-bad educator…

…an ersatz scholar takes the front row.  Thankfully, I hadn’t started class yet 🙂

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Book review: “Schools on Trial: How Freedom and Creativity Can Fix Our Educational Malpractice”

Originally written for NACADA Journal, July 6, 2016:

The melodramatic title of Nikhil Goyal’s new educational “manifesto” denotes that he will deliver a scathing piece of journalism, an exposé that will indict the American educational system. The sub-title then promises solutions for fixing this “malpractice,” in case readers missed the judicial metaphor of the main title. Unfortunately, what he provides are large passages of paraphrased or directly quoted documents and studies, interspersed with awkwardly written journalistic descriptions of modern-day people who are working hard to create the free, democratic, nontraditional schools that are the ostensible solutions to the schools on trial.

Every chapter follows a maddening pattern. The author will put forth a canned-feeling platitude or indictment: “[W]e should craft institutions that are grounded in the attributes we want to see in citizens in our society and designed to foster critical thinking and lifelong learning” (p. 134). Then, instead of providing a systematic and thoughtful plan as promised in the subititle, he will merely launch into a magazine-style description of an autonomous, project-based school and reports to us a “day in the life” of the school and its founder or creator. He almost always begins with a sentence like this: “A short-sleeved plaid or solid-colored shirt tucked into blue jeans held up by a belt is Simon Hauger’s classic garb” (p. 194).

Early on, the author broadens his central trial metaphor in favor of one depicting war crimes: “Schools have also committed systematic human rights abuses” (p. 21). In one four-page stretch in chapter one, he even “provides” (an action that in this book is synonymous with “over-quotes”) eight teachings from Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner’s Teaching as a Subversive Activity and immediately lists no fewer than four articles from the Geneva Conventions. That’s right, American schools should be prosecuted according to “the rules concerning the treatment of captured or wounded soldiers in war” (p. 21).

All of these (non) structural tendencies leave the reader exhausted and unintentionally create a self-important and pious tone. Consider this proclamation from early in Chapter Six: “Thousands of years ago, in the opening to the Metaphysics, Aristotle stated, ‘All men by nature desire to know.’ He was right” (p.113). Goyal, writing as an extremely well-read undergraduate college student, sounds like he is bestowing his approval on one of history’s greatest thinkers and philosophers.

In fairness to the author, however, the book is not without merit. If readers can move beyond all the aforementioned shortcomings—and also have little to no knowledge of education-related history and basic theories—they will get a quick and reasonably detailed overview that would be a good starting point for further study. Aristotle notwithstanding, they’re all here to varying degrees: Dewey, Bloom Vygotsky, and even today’s Ken Robinson, whose Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative (2001) is a much more engaging read (and whose “Do schools kill creativity?” TED Talk is required viewing for anyone in education).

With regard to academic advising, the redeeming quality and best feature of the book is undoubtedly Chapter 8, “Enrolling in the Real World.” Thankfully, its thought, structure and tone are far superior to the other chapters. Here, Goyal discusses MOOCs (massive open online courses) and does a very good job of both describing their origins and of cautioning readers about how MOOCs can sometimes (often?) border on fads that have the real potential to “exacerbate inequality and sustain the most oppressive elements of education” (p. 217). The author also intelligently (and less radically) discusses alternatives to “traditional” liberal arts, including such models as fellowships, apprenticeships, and (computer) coding schools that may be of interest to more non-traditional students and their academic advisors.

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