Education Links – Summer 2014

Well I have been in school most of the summer but I finally have a  week off and am getting caught up on my internet reading!  Of course, much of it is school related so here are some of the best stories.


It’s summer time so you should be playing!  Sadly not enough of our kids are and I fully agree with Peter Gray that “without the freedom to play they will never grow up.” The play deficit is real and it is short sighted to overlook it.  In fact scientists have clearly documented that play leads to crucial brain development.  Creativity demands play (…and, of course, our economies need more creativity).

I have spent a lot of time lately reading about gamification in the classroom.  First this Atlantic article on a game designer turned professor who realized he was a terribly boring teacher and that gaming could work in the classroom.  (which lead me to this very helpful paper).

Of course the reason I am so interested is because I want to mimic these amazingly inspiring teachers who are using Civilization in the classroom (Norway and Sweden respectively).  I do intend to try this one day and have been taking notes. My hat’s off to…for sharing their classroom experiences.  I have particularly enjoyed the student posts.  I will be in contact.

NPR has done a great series on common core in the classroom this summer. And there are several individual stories I would recommend.  Begin with this introduction, then move on to this model lesson, and then on to the wonderful Postcards from a common core classroom.

I can’t tell you what a tragedy I find it that common core has become the latest target for conservative reactionists many who just seem to always be looking for a fight.  Personally I am incredibly motivated by common core and see it as a major step forward.   Regardless I do understand some of the legitimate criticism* but I think their misunderstandings have resulted more from a poor explanation of the standards–and less forgivable–poor implementation in some places (e.g. New York).  Many people, including teachers, have not been given a proper explanation and many teachers–and school districts even–have not been given appropriate training or even materials.  However, I do believe most of these issues will work themselves in time.  We shall see.

Speaking of tragedies, this New Yorker expose, Wrong Answer by Rachael Aviv on the widespread standardized cheating scandal in Atlanta is, well, heart wrenching.  In Damany Lewis, a hard working dedicated math teacher at Park middle school, Ms. Aviv finds a very sympathetic character to tell the story through.  It’s very easy to see what happened, and it appears that administrative cheating on standardized tests is more of a national epidemic than I had realized.  We seem to be going about it all in the wrong way.  This is the first time I learned about William Sanders theory that an effective teacher can close achievement gaps within three years (seems optimistic).   This is also the first time I encountered Campbell’s law.    But enough about my thoughts, go and read it!

In an attempt to balance my recommended education readings this summer,  is this inspiring story that doesn’t quite live up to the headline, but is worth a read none-the-less.  Still the summer achievement gap between the rich and the poor is in my opinion the second most important challenge in achieving equitable education outcomes in the U.S. (behind our reliance on local funding).


This year’s National Geographic focus on food continues this month with a gut wrenching portrayal of hidden American poverty.  “The new face of hunger” is about how mal-nourished our working poor often are.  Sadly often even obese because of what they eat when they can afford it. (Processed carbs are pretty cheap in the US, while anything fresh and healthy is $).  This isn’t entirely education related, although most of the kids are on discounted lunches, it’s impossible to think well when you are hungry.  Why we seem fine with this state of affairs is beyond me.

Finally this social network research by Maximillian Schich and Mauro Martino on Cultural movements across time is simply beautiful.



See this blog post for a brief discussion of common core criticism within the context of learning theory.


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