Three recent reads on educational technology

Matthew Renwick (Principal or Asst Principle – Elementary) shared some thoughts on how to Maximize Learning, Not Technology

Over at Mind/Shift Shawn McCusker persuasively made the case for Why Schools Should Think Beyond Platforms, why schools should be device agnostic or pluralistic, and employ a “seasonal view of devices” because “A focus on pedagogy and key technology skills will transfer from one device to another“.

Finally Mark Anderson, aka ICTEvangelist, used Adobe Slate to publish a story about the different ways in which we can think about tech use so that you can start to use it too – with confidence, time and space to grow and opportunities to develop yourself at a pace that’s right for you.


The Spatial Turn in History and my own intellectual trajectory

Over at the Spatial Humanities web-site I recently read an essay/post by Dr. Jo Guldi titled The Spatial Turn in History. In it Guldi, explains that because of the influence of Ernst Cassirer , “twentieth-century historians increasingly described the sensuous practices involved in the making of imaginal landscape.

I read the piece initially because of an ongoing interest in my old degree (dual) field in history and an ongoing desire to understand the varied disciplinary impacts of the “spatial turn“.

After reading it I was inspired, to reflect on my own spatial turn, as it were. I suppose one could argue that my own studies in both undergraduate and graduate school, which focused on concepts such as community and identity, were a product of this spatial turn in some way. Especially, given where they were headed, when I ended my studies.

Guldi argues “Telling a history of nation rather than family required the writers to develop tools for privileging landscape over the portrait.” I would contend that “history of a nation” could refer just as well to history of a peoples, community or some other form of social identity. The idea being that the transition from a biographical, great man sort of history to that of a larger imagined community requires a different conceptual framework.

Under the guidance of Professor Florin Curta my own focus on ethnicity and then identity inevitably led to a focus on archaeology and space through the lens of material culture and settlements. This can be seen by a quick review of the titles of just a few of the books I was reading at the time. Archaeology of Communities: A New World Perspective, The Vikings in England: Settlement, Society and Culture or Gender and Archaeology: Contesting the Past, Ethnicity: Anthropological Constructions, all were concerned less with traditional history than the how-to (and importantly why) of constructing socio-spatial-cultures. Which I think also helps to explain my own eventual (in recent years) interest and engagement in the realms of spatial and political construction.

For a taste of my research at the time see my MA thesis titled Village community and peasant society in medieval England. My undergraduate honors thesis had a similar topic;  Identity in the Danelaw but I can’t seem to find it online.

Obama Administration to propose reforms of NCLB Act

The main parts of the proposed reforms….

the number of students who are proficient at each grade level. The administration instead wants to measure each student’s academic growth, regardless of the performance level at which they start.

Under the proposals, schools would also be judgedon whether they are closing achievement gaps between poor and affluent students. No sanctions exist now for schools that fail in this area. Under the new proposals, states would be required to intervene even in seemingly high-performing schools in affluent districts where test scores and other indicators identify groups of students who are languishing, administration officials said.

The proposals would require states to use annual tests and other indicators to divide the nation’s nearly 100,000 public schools into several groups: some 10,000 to 15,000 high-performing schools that could receive rewards or recognition; some 10,000 failing or struggling schools requiring varying degrees of vigorous state intervention; about 5,000 schools that would be required to narrow unacceptably wide achievement gaps; and perhaps 70,000 or so schools in the middle that would be encouraged to figure out on their own how to improve.

And am I being to optimistic when I read this section and think we might actually get a bipartisan bill?

Mr. Duncan has been working behind the scenes on rewriting the No Child law with a bipartisan group of senior lawmakers in both chambers, and administration officials say they hope to complete work on a new bill by August, when the elections will dominate the Congressional agenda. Many skeptics question that timetable.”

More from the NYT (here)

On “how to teach”: the growing using of value added metrics for analyizing teacher performance

In “Building a Better Teacher” Elizabeth Green explores how education reform isn’t just about firing bad teachers and hiring a better caliber of person.

Via NYT (here) and for more info read Doug Lemov’s Teach a Champion: The 49 Techniques That Put Students on the Path to College.

Troops to Teachers

As the number of returning veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq increases federal lawmakers are hoping to expand a small but thriving program which transitions veterans into teaching careers. They not surprisingly are very adept and running the classroom from a discipline perspective. More interestingly is the fact that,

These teachers are also a more diverse group than the general teaching population. Men have accounted for about 80 percent of the program’s participants, while 35 percent or so have been members of minorities. The program, which is run by the Defense Department but financed by the Education Department, also encourages participants to teach math, science and special education, areas in which school districts can have the toughest time filling teaching slots.

More from NYT (here)

Update on CCRAA

Just a quick recap on program:


The College Cost Reduction and Access Act, which includes provisions to allow students better access to college and an improved ability to pay off post-education debt, is now fully in place. Although George W. Bush signed the act into law in 2007, many pieces of the act became active only in July 2009.

Much of this information is still being developed, and students are largely unaware of the significant financial benefits now available to them. Campus Compact has created a guide to help members navigate the details of this law, including summaries of key provisions, tips to help students get the most out of the plans, and helpful links for further information.

Briefly, the act includes two debt forgiveness plans, one based purely on the financial ability to pay and one based on career choice. The Income Based Repayment plan, which became active on July 1, 2009, is arguably the best loan-repayment plan available today for students with a high debt-to-income ratio. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness plan allows for total loan forgiveness after 10 years of payments for students working for nonprofit or governmental organizations.

For more information see (here)