What’s on the Web? Summer 2015

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I’ve been surprisingly busy this summer.  Mostly due to the amazingly awesome Finley Jane, but also due to several years of deferred maintenance on our rental, and the confusing/frustrating mess that is Apple Photos (aggg!), so I haven’t managed to write up all the posts I had planned to do this summer…. Sigh.

Therefore I decided to bring back one of my favorite features…What’s on the Web?  This is a round-up of my favorite education web reads this summer.  Starting with this fun video (if only…)

Next up is this great piece on what kills motivation for kids in school. This post interviewed students asking them what it was about school that they found most dispiriting. Students had a litany of the usual suspects (boring lectures, irrelevant content, etc.) but they overwhelmingly identified not accepting late work or test corrections as the most frustrating.  I LOVED this finding–mostly because I found it incredibly reaffirming of my own late work policies.  I have a policy of accepting almost all late work with a minor (10% or so) markdown.  (The exception being presentations/projects that students have to present or where given ample class time to complete, which are due the day of with zero tolerance).  I also accept quiz/some test corrections for up to half the missing points.  I developed these policies from my own days in school where I hated not being able to turn in late work, or learn from my tests.  I want students to do the work! I want them to learn from their mistakes!

Next up, the best podcast I have heard this summer.  This American Life has turned Propublic’s excellent School Segregation piece into a heart wrenching podcast, The Problem We All Life With, that focuses on the accidental integration recently undergone by Ferguson, MO. Education journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones begins with the heartbreaking cries of Michael Brown’s mother shortly after he was shot; she was so proud of her son for graduating High school.  Ms. Hannah-Jones turns to the disastrous Normandy school district, she turns to historical data and finds that of all the school district revitalization strategies that have been tried over the decades the only strategy that consistently works in raising minority test scores is the also the one that we will no longer do, forced integration.

Ms. Hannah-Jones is herself a product of busing and her own story is quite compelling. Minority test scores consistently raised during integration, halving the distance between white student scores until we stopped busing students in.  Listening to the parents of the new recipient school district will quickly remind you just how difficult and complicated race is in the United States. This Politico hit piece on Biden‘s anti-busing legislative history is an interesting historical companion.  While this confessional essay, I, Racist, is simply the best essay I have describing how complicated discussing racial relations are in the U.S. (A perennial problem teaching abroad).  I think that author John Metta really nails the major disconnect with his “individual” vs. “group” perception paradigm. I will use this moving forward (read it!)

Speaking of teaching abroad, there is much change afield in education delivery in the developing world. The Economist has an excellent round-up of the growth of private school chains.

The ever-interesting economist/cultural commentator Tyler Cowen has a good interview in education today about future of education.  He, like many futurists, believes profound technological changes are afoot in our economies which will wreck havoc on our job markets and further drive inequity.  Here is a good

“There are two things people need to learn how to do to be employable at a decent wage: first, learn some skills which complement the computer rather than compete against it. Some of these are technical skills, but a lot of them will be soft skills, like marketing, persuasion and management that computers won’t be able to do any time soon.   But the second skill, and this is a tough one, is to be very good at teaching yourself new things"

There are lot of very interesting insights in the interview and I highly recommend it.

Finally, for my summer education book. I am finally reading education theorist’s Kieran Egan‘s masterpiece The Educated Mind: How Cognitive Tools Shape our Understanding I find Mr. Egan’s cultural-lingusitic theories to be incredibly compelling, and I can not recommend this work more.  Look for a book review next month.

Also I have picked up a copy of the Edge’s latest compendium of smarty pants short essays: This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking.


Cover Photo – Boise: the city of trees. Visiting the in-laws and taking advantage of the amazing foothills trail system.

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