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)

Sunday Roundup-NYT Edition

Antitrust Chief hits resistance in crackdown: by Stephen Labaton, (here)

Examines Christine Varney’s efforts to employ a more muscular approach to antitrust enforcement.

Specifically for instance:

The antitrust division under Ms. Varney scrapped the Bush administration’s monopoly guidelines, which had sharply limited the government’s ability to prosecute large corporations that used their market dominance to elbow out competitors.

Now the division has opened inquiries in the financial services and wireless phone industries. The division’s wireless inquiry is looking at, among other things, whether it is legal for phone makers to offer a particular model, like the iPhone or the Palm Pre, exclusively to one phone carrier. It is examining the sharp increase in text-messaging rates at several phone companies. And it is scrutinizing obstacles imposed by the phone companies on low-price rivals like Skype.

So You want to be a Teacher for America?: by Cecelia Simon, (here)

Teach for America isn’t only for post-undergraduate young adults in their 20s. NYT profiles the story of Paula Crespin who retired from a high-salaried banking career to teach in a gang riddled highschool in Denver. What is interesting is that in her case the inspiration came from visiting her daughter’s classroom. Initially opposed to her daughter’s own application to the Teach for America program, she herself became a convert. Teach for America is now specifically focusing it’s own recruiting efforts towards the older caareer change professionals in the hope that it may help to improve their retention rate. Currently about 40 percent of all Teach for America alums leave education as a career.

The choice of a career change into education, mid-life, is not one to be taken lightly however, as the article makes clear;

When interviewed midyear, Ms. Crespin was upbeat about her classroom. By the end of the year, she sounded wearier. She struggles with absenteeism, uninvolved parents and poverty. She takes breakfast bars to feed students who are “ravenous.” These realities make it difficult to reach academic benchmarks. But she says her students’ problems make her “more protective” of them, and more committed. For her, teaching is an “emotional investment.”

Given her age and where she is in her life, with her son about to leave for college and a husband who shares her values, it is one she can manage. She cautions those with competing life demands or romantic notions about urban teaching as a second career.

“This is beyond what you get paid for,” she says. “You have to really want to make change, or you’ll regret it ​quickly.”

Marseille Sways to a Maghreb Rhythm: by Seth Sherwood (here)

Is Marseille’s North African creolized culture the key to it’s lack of #banlieu‘s and race-riots?

Radovan Karadzic’s New-Age Adventure.: by Jack Hitt, (here)

Examines how the Serbian war criminal hide from the world as a bioenergy-channeling, alternative-medicine-peddling, bearded and, well, nutty guru?

The New Joblessness: by Roger Lowenstein, (here)

Although, rising unemployment was/is a given in the economy of the lats year the real concern amongst policy makers and economists is that the contraction in employment seems way too high. Companies are not hoarding labor nor are they increasing hiring.

One key factor;

Traditionally, it was a mark of Americans’ resiliency that, when times were tough, they relocated from state to state and region to region. Now, according to the Census Bureau, mobility is at an all-time recorded low.
An Amazon Culture Withers as Food Dries Up.: by Elisabeth Rosenthal (here)

Explores how climatic changes, deforestation and globalization/development impacting the culture, social structures and even historical tools of indigenous peoples in the Amazon region as well as across the globe? Makes me think of Bruce Sterling’s tracking of the Dead Media Beat.

Charlie Rose-An hour on Education with 5 National Teacher of the Year Winners

Another great episode by Charlie on Education. The interesting thing about this one was that he was interviewing real, “successful” teachers. The idea being i suppose that where better to get info and opinions on the subject then from “the horse’s mouth”. So to speak. It was interesting to me, that many of their views lined up to a large extent. There was some disagreement over the extent to which accounatbility (ie: NCLB and other such measures)work or need to be tweaked and over issues like merit pay, the role of teachers’ unions etc. However, for the most part the disagreement(s) were with the details. In fact they all seemed to support an earlier set of idea(s) that Wendy Kopp kept repeating in her appearance; there is no silver bullet, parent and students are not the reason for our sub-par educational system (at least in some cities or areas). That the real issue, is a lack of federal standards and funding, a lack of qualified teachers and a lack of respect/for and and professional, not on the part of teachers but in our treatment of them…

Related Post

My review of Wendy Kopp on Charlie Rose (here)

Wendy Kopp, Teach for America (founder) on Charlie Rose

Great show on Education and the wonderful work being done by Teach for America.

I actually have a a friend or two that have done the two year Teach for America program. From everything i had heard i was already under the impression that they do amazing work. I have also considered joining the program myself.  Now after watching the video I must say I am totally inspired to apply for a position with Teach for America for next year after I dig out from under my current debt…. In the video Wendy talks about the rate if applicants versus those who actually get accepted. The ratio is something like 25,000 to 4, 000. Hopefully, since i already have a years teaching experience from when i taught at the charter school before grad school i will have a decent chance of getting acceptance???