The City of the Singing Flame

clark ashton smith the city of the singing flame

As I attempt to finish this year’s reading challenge, I’m looking for some shorter books than my usual fare. As luck would have it, J. Michael Straczynski shared something great on his Patreon.

Back in 1986, Harlan Ellison did a reading of Clark Ashton Smith’s “The City of the Singing Flame,” and let me tell you, it did not disappoint.

I’d never heard of Clark Ashton Smith, much less read any of his work. Gang, this one is an unqualified banger.

In the recording, Ellison notes that this story was the first fantasy/sci-fi story he had ever read, and it impacted him greatly. If you’ve read Ellison’s work and read this story, you’ll see the impact clearly.

This is the beauty of always being open to reading, listening, or watching new things. Don’t get me wrong, I’m the world champion at rewatches and rereads. But sometimes you need to broaden your horizons.

I’m so glad I did. I’m absolutely reading more of Smith’s work in the future.


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Yes, We Need to Get Rid of AP Courses

classmates doing studies for exam together
Photo by Armin Rimoldi on Pexels.com

There, I said it. That’s my hot take. We need to get rid of AP courses.

Why? Because they’ve been pushed down the throat of our education system for the past twenty years, pitched as an equity solution because we should be offering the best content to everyone.

I agree 100% with that statement. Every student needs access to the same high-quality, highly relevant, highly personalized content and pedagogy. We need our teachers to be the very best, to create authentic, engaging learning environments that not only teach our students how to learn and grow but also how to be good people and participate in society.

That’s not what AP tests or courses do. They certainly don’t do it for most students.

Some 60 percent of A.P. exams taken by low-income students this year scored too low for college credit — 1 or 2 out of 5 — a statistic that has not budged in 20 years.

I know the argument for having AP courses is that they are more rigorous and require more from students. But the reason they do those things is because of the AP test students take at the end of the course.

And they take that test to earn college credit. And that is the only reason. No one takes an AP course because it sounds exciting or they want to be a professional AP course taker.

They take them so they can pass the test and get college credit. Which doesn’t happen for most of them.

Getting college credit after taking an AP course is a crap shoot, at best. At worst, it’s a waste of time. This isn’t a new argument, and I’m sure it will continue to be argued long into the future. Students hate it, and some professionals have noted the need for improvement in the system or even other companies entering the arena to give the College Board some competition.

I don’t want competition. I want the AP system gone. It isn’t serving the purpose we need, which is rethinking and redesigning Tier 1 instruction in ALL classrooms for EVERY student.

That’s the goal.


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Are We Entering an Edtech Renaissance?

low angle photo of the florence cathedral
Photo by Chait Goli on Pexels.com

I remember the days of the early 2010s as a number of edtech tools we now all know and use regularly first hit the scene. And everyone talked about the coolest thing they’d seen and how it would “revolutionize the classroom.”

Plot twist: It didn’t.

Now, we see all the hype around AI and the onslaught of new AI apps made specifically for education. Of course, I’m excited about the potential, but I also see the problem of focusing on the wrong questions.

Catlin Tucker has a good take on what’s happening right now in the world of edtech:

It reminds me of the early days of the edtech boom when I would attend the Computer Using Educators (CUE) and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conferences, and the most popular sessions had titles like “50 Tech Tools in 50 Minutes.” I remember questioning how effective those sessions would be at improving teaching and learning. Yes, attendees were exposed to a list of fun tools they might use, but they were not learning how to use those tools in service of strong pedagogical practices. That is the same concern I have now.

Scrolling through Instagram or TikTok, I see endless videos of teachers sharing AI-powered tools. They demonstrate the efficiency and simplicity with which these tools generate lists of questions, create quick assessments, and plan lessons or entire units. I can appreciate the excitement since lesson planning is a time-consuming endeavor. The piece of the design puzzle missing for me is how educators can use these AI tools to architect student-centered learning experiences that better meet the specific needs of learners.

Catlin Tucker, PhD

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Some days are sad days…

funeral

“Don’t wait until the fourth Thursday in November, to sit with family and friends to give thanks. Make every day a day of Thanksgiving!”

— Charmaine J. Forde

It’s been a week here at the Paul house as we processed the passing of my wife’s grandmother. Most days are great, but some days are sad days.

Anyway, here’s this week’s 10 things:

10 Things Worth Sharing


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A master printer makes his last print

prints

What makes a 500-year-old printing process new? Master printer and publisher Jacob Samuel has brought etchings—prints created by transferring ink from a metal plate to paper—into the 21st century through collaborations with more than 60 contemporary artists. In this video, we filmed Samuel making his last print.

As he inks, hand wipes, and rolls his final print through the press, he reflects on his philosophy. “My goal is to leave no fingerprints,” he says. All you see is the artist’s work. I’m just another pencil. I’m just another brush. But I want the pencil to be sharpened really well. I want the brush to be sable. And to do that and be completely spontaneous, I trust the materials.”

Truly, an exercise in mastery learning.

Students are missing more school–and maybe that isn’t bad

getting sick

You’re already hearing a lot of noise about student attendance and how many kids are chronically absent since the COVID-19 pandemic. You’ll hear people saying how much kids need to be in school, especially those who are “behind” and need to “catch up.”

Hogwash.

If kids are sick, they need to stay at home. As do their parents rather than going to a job and spreading the sickness. Did we learn nothing from a global pandemic that began just four short years ago?

“Learning loss” is the current buzzword bandied about by Pearson-infused cronies who want students to take more tests and get more focused learning so that they can score higher on end-of-the-year standardized tests that don’t mean anything. Learning loss comes from a deficit perspective which implies that students learned nothing during school closures.

Which is a ridiculous sentiment. Students learned all kinds of things during pandemic school closures, including maybe the most important lesson that standardized tests don’t matter.

If students are sick or think they may be sick, they should stay home. We now have structures in place to keep them connected when they’re gone. Or perhaps we’ve abandoned those structures just like we’ve abandoned common sense around attendance.


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Embracing AI isn’t just about using flashy edtech

Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@add_rien_20?utm_content=creditCopyText&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=unsplash">Adrien</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/photos/diagram-2IX3TlrCuZQ?utm_content=creditCopyText&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=unsplash">Unsplash</a>

Prince George’s County Public Schools, under the leadership of Superintendent Millard House II, is at the forefront of integrating Artificial Intelligence (AI) into their educational system. House believes that AI tools like ChatGPT can revolutionize classrooms by equipping students with essential digital-age skills.

House’s focus on technology and AI aligns with the district’s commitment to preparing students for a technologically advanced future. The partnership with the AI Education Project, as part of Maryland Gov. Wes Moore’s broader economic initiative, aims to provide cutting-edge education to students, teachers, staff, and school leaders. The district has also prioritized AI literacy and training, empowering nearly 1,500 educators to confidently use and innovate with AI tools. Addressing challenges such as data privacy, algorithmic bias, and ethical use, Prince George’s County Public Schools is dedicated to shaping a future where their community thrives in the age of AI.

AI is no longer a futuristic concept; it is a tangible reality with the potential to enhance and individualize the educational experience for a student population with diverse needs and teachers in our district. So far during the course of this school year, we have trained nearly 1,500 educators. It was amazing to watch the excitement on the staff’s faces when they got to engage with AI tools to support their work and help their students understand the power of AI.


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Common Sense launches AI tool reviews

Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@possessedphotography?utm_content=creditCopyText&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=unsplash">Possessed Photography</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/photos/robot-playing-piano-U3sOwViXhkY?utm_content=creditCopyText&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=unsplash">Unsplash</a>

One of my favorite places to check for reviews of tech tools, sites, and such is Common Sense Media. I like their content so much, that I use their digital citizenship curriculum in my schools.

They’ve launched an AI tool review system to help everyone understand a little more about the current AI invasion.

Key components of the initiative include:

  1. AI Product Reviews: Common Sense Media recognizes that AI is a socio-technical system, meaning it’s inseparable from the humans and processes that shape its development and use. Their AI product reviews provide contextual analysis, examining how these products fit within society and identifying potential blind spots in AI systems. These reviews serve as “nutrition labels for AI,” detailing a product’s opportunities, considerations, and limitations.
  2. AI Principles and Assessment: The initiative grounds its AI product reviews in eight principles that reflect Common Sense Media’s values for AI. These principles create a shared understanding and guide for evaluating AI products.
  3. Review Categories: AI products are categorized into three types: Multi-Use (like generative AI for chatbots, image creation, translation tools), Applied Use (specific-purpose AI not designed for kids, like streaming recommendations), and Designed for Kids (AI specifically built for children’s use at home or in school, including educational products for teachers).

Currently, they have 10 reviews posted, including reviews for ChatGPT and Bard.


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16 November 2023

Quote of the Day

"To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, Donald Trump does not appeal to “the better angels of our nature.”" (Michael V. Hayden, The Assault on Intelligence)

“To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, Donald Trump does not appeal to “the better angels of our nature.”” (Michael V. Hayden, The Assault on Intelligence)

Musical Interlude

Philip Glass has a new album releasing in January 2024, recorded at his home during the pandemic.

This is my piano, the instrument on which most of the music was written. It’s also the same room where I have worked for decades in the middle of the energy which New York City itself has brought to me. The listener may hear the quiet hum of New York in the background or feel the influence of time and memory that this space affords. To the degree possible, I made this record to invite the listener in.

– Philip Glass

Long Read of the Day

Taruna Goel highlights how digital literacy has transformed from basic computer skills to a complex skill set involving creation, curation, and critical evaluation of digital content.

This framework includes eight thematic competencies: ethical and legal; technology; information literacy; digital scholarship; communication and collaboration; creation and curation; digital well-being; and community-based learning. Through a scenario involving an educator, Professor Emily, and a student, Alex, the article demonstrates the integration of these competencies into the educational journey, emphasizing that digital literacy is crucial for academic, professional, and personal success in a digitally-driven world

The Digital Literacy Framework is a part of the overall B.C. Digital Learning Strategy developed by the Digital Learning Advisory Committee, a collaboration between the Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills and the post-secondary system. The Digital Literacy Framework has been developed to enhance digital literacy knowledge, skills, and abilities across post-secondary communities. The framework includes eight thematic competencies within digital literacy: ethical and legal; technology; information literacy; digital scholarship; communication and collaboration; creation and curation; digital well-being; and community-based learning.

Photo of the Day

I didn’t realize it this morning, but it’s Red Cup Day at Starbucks. In my ignorance, I also didn’t know that many baristas walked out today to fight for better wages. Kudos to them. And thanks for my demon cups.

starbucks red cups

Final Thoughts

I love tools that let us learn more about our universe, especially when they are available online.

Astronomers have created the Siena Galaxy Atlas, freely available online. The SGA catalogs 383,620 galaxies, a small fraction of the estimated 200 billion to two trillion galaxies in the observable universe. This atlas stands out for its extensive coverage and advanced data collection, encompassing 7,637 downloadable pages with detailed information on each galaxy’s size, morphology, and images in optical and infrared wavelengths.

The data is drawn from three Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument Legacy Surveys, making it one of the largest surveys ever conducted. The SGA is noted for being the first cosmic atlas to feature light profiles of galaxies, providing a unique insight into their brightness changes from center to edge. It’s a valuable resource for scientists studying galaxy evolution, dark matter distribution, and gravitational waves, as well as for enhancing the public’s understanding of the universe.


Thanks for reading. This site and all the work shared here are completely reader-supported. The best way to support it is to check out my recommendations or subscribe to my weekly newsletter.