Winter breaks…

If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

-Percy Bysshe Shelley
low angle photo of snow field

There are only a few days left before Winter Break for most schools here in the US, and the holiday feelings are already very strong. I’m wrapping up a couple of projects (and another semester of doctoral work) before settling in for a long winter’s nap.

At least, I hope I’m able to get a few naps in 😉

Anyway, here are 10 things I think you might enjoy…

10 Things Worth Sharing

That’s all, folks. Thanks again for hanging out with me on another Friday. I hope you continue to find value in this weekly newsletter.


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.

Are We Reading Right in the Digital Age?

person holding a kindle
Photo by Eugene Liashchevskyi on Pexels.com

Just like schools grappling with the cell phone conundrum, there’s another digital dilemma brewing – our reading habits. In a compelling study by Altamura, Vargas, and Salmerón, we’re forced to question: Are digital reading habits benefiting us, especially our younger readers?

The research dives into the effects of leisure digital reading from 2000 to 2022, involving a staggering 469,564 participants. The findings? It’s a mixed bag. Digital reading, while convenient and interactive, doesn’t always enhance comprehension, particularly in younger readers. In early education stages, digital reading could even hinder learning. But, as students grow, the digital format shows promise, especially in high school and university settings.

So, what’s the catch? It seems the way we interact with digital content is key. Interactive elements like feedback questions and digital glossaries can spike engagement and understanding. Yet, the ease of digital access might be a double-edged sword, leading to superficial reading instead of deep comprehension.

Educators and parents are left pondering how we balance the digital reading revolution with the need for deep, thoughtful comprehension. It’s a puzzle we must solve, much like the ongoing battle with cell phones in classrooms.


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.

Mortality, Music, and the Meaning of Life

There’s perhaps no better reminder of your own mortality than when the people you grew up watching, reading, and listening begin to slip the surly bonds of earth.

While I’m not a huge fan of The Pogues or Shane MacGowan, I’m quite familiar with their impact as an 80s kid. And I’m shaken by the increasing number of deaths of artists I know. But they’ve all left their mark on the world

In the great critique on controlling your own destiny that is “City Slickers,” Curly reminds us that life is all about “just one thing.”

Curly was right. We all must find “just one thing” that matters to make our life incredible. Maybe Shane did that. Maybe.

“Shane, my friend in life and in whiskey. May the wind be at your sails. Keep River company and all our brethren who passed way before their time.

“I’ll never forget your support the last few years chum. LOVE Always, JD.” 

— Johnny Depp

I can only hope that those I love can celebrate my life and our time together when I’m gone, regardless of whatever else I’ve done. And maybe I’ll get to go out to a banger like this…

Leveraging Games in the Classroom: The Issues and the Benefits

game cartridges
Photo by Kevin Bidwell on Pexels.com

In January 2022, a review of 17 research studies showed that young kids can learn from “guided play” as well as if they were being directly instructed by an adult or a teacher. More play in the classroom also addresses issues currently burning precarious holes in the education system. In an email survey conducted by Lego Education in September, 98 percent of 1,000 K-8 teachers indicated that play-based learning “reduces their feelings of burnout.” The same study also captured responses from 1,000 K-8 students, of whom 89 percent said play made them “more excited” to go to school. Lego has used its signature building-block toys as a basis for play-based activity guides for teachers.

Gamification in classrooms has both advocates and critics. Some discourage using external rewards for learning, but others argue that the benefits can be profound when games and rewards tap into a student’s intrinsic motivation to learn. Students can learn to value learning as its own reward and become active, engaged learners over time.

Additionally, a program focused on the social-emotional learning aspects of gaming has shown positive results in student behavior and confidence. Many participants who may not have excelled in traditional classroom settings have become leaders of their gaming teams, showing that games can provide a platform for students to feel successful and express themselves.

Teachers like Philip Baselice and Jonathan Nardolilli use games to teach subjects like history and math, making lessons more engaging. This method, supported by research, helps in enhancing learning and memory. However, teachers face challenges in integrating games with curriculum goals, often leading them to create custom games for effectiveness.

While games increase student engagement and aid long-term learning, they must be thoughtfully incorporated into educational strategies. This innovative approach signifies a shift in traditional teaching methods, embracing interactive and enjoyable learning experiences.


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.

Sources:

Until We Fix This, We’ll Always Fight Against Student Cell Phones

pokemon-pokemon-go-phone-game-159395.jpeg
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Yes, it’s almost 2024, and schools are still fighting the losing battle against student cell phones in class.

Sigh.

Some schools have partnered with companies to implement the use of pouches that students are required to put their phones into at the beginning of the day and that don’t unlock until the final bell rings, while others are threatening punishments including suspension if a student is caught with their phone, even at lunch time.

Yes, because even during lunch, we must ensure students have no control over their personal time. Good grief.

Renesha Parks, chief wellness officer at Richmond Public Schools in Virginia, told The Hill of a pilot policy being implemented in six schools at the beginning of 2024 to stop cellphone usage, partnering with Yondr, which creates magnetic pouches for cellphones. The measure will impact around 4,200 students and cost approximately $75,000. (emphasis mine)

Here’s an idea: shift the educational focus from boring content without connection to the real world to more authentic learning experiences. I bet cell phones only come out when they are needed to accomplish a task.

Also, educators, how many of you put your phone away during a training session? A staff meeting?

Just sayin’…


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.

Backward Design and the Portrait of a Learner

gray tunnel
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Education’s landscape is shifting, shifting from focusing on rote learning to fostering 21st-century skills like collaboration and self-awareness. This evolution is captured in the emerging concept of “Portraits of a Graduate” (POG), which underscores the skills vital for success in today’s world.

To navigate this shift, the “Portrait of a Learner” (POL) model, steeped in research from diverse fields, provides a roadmap. It highlights the importance of nurturing curiosity, critical thinking, and collaboration while emphasizing identity and belonging in the learning process. This approach is about understanding learners as they are and designing education that supports their holistic growth, ensuring they are equipped to thrive in a rapidly changing global economy.

More and more school districts are crafting Portraits of Graduate (POG) to highlight the core skills and characteristics they believe students need to be successful in a 21st century global economy. What many of these portraits capture is a distinctive shift away from content knowledge and towards the 21st century skills and dispositions that drive lifelong learning—things like collaboration and self-awareness. This mirrors research on the science of learning that demonstrates how learning includes social emotional processes and is driven by interactions between the learner and their environment. In education there is often a disconnect between what exactly we are trying to teach students, and why, especially as the goals of education are shifting.

Alison R. Shell and Jessica Jackson

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.

Does the new AI Framework serve schools or edtech?

architecture building campus clark hall
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Australian Federal Government released the Australian Framework for Generative AI in Schools on November 30, 2023, as a guide following the introduction of ChatGPT. While acknowledging AI’s potential in education, the Framework emphasizes human wellbeing, privacy, and safety. However, concerns are raised about its relevance and adequacy due to the rapidly evolving nature of generative AI. Critics argue that the Framework, with its six core principles, underestimates AI’s inherent biases and reliability issues, placing unrealistic expectations on educators.

At the 2023 Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) conference, Jane Kenway encouraged participants to develop radical research imaginations. The extraordinary impacts of generative AI require a radical policy imagination, rather than timid or bland statements balancing opportunities and threats. It is increasingly clear that the threats cannot readily be dealt with by schools.

Lucinda McKnight and Leon Furze

The article suggests improvements to the Framework, such as redefining generative AI, acknowledging its limitations, addressing the digital divide, and emphasizing evidence-based policies. It also calls for policies that are inclusive and consider diverse perspectives, stressing the need for teacher-led policy development in AI education. The authors advocate for a radical policy approach that accounts for the far-reaching impacts of AI and ensures that schools play a pivotal role in shaping a just future with AI.

For a comprehensive understanding of these issues, the full article can be read on EduResearch Matters.


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.

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.


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.

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.


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.