Kids Need Time to be Kids

20 years ago, I was interviewed by a local news station. They wanted a Kindergarten teacher’s perspective on what kids should best do over the summer. Camp? Summer School? Activities? While I described an ideal childhood summer — reading, activities, outdoor time — I also cautioned against too much structure. Young children need time to simply BE … run, play, do nothing, be bored, figure out how not to be bored.

According to a recent NY Times article, it appears as if everything old is new again:

As American classrooms have focused on raising test scores in math and reading, an outgrowth of the federal No Child Left Behind law and interpretations of the new Common Core standards, even the youngest students have been affected, with more formal lessons and less time in sandboxes. But these days, states like Vermont, Minnesota and Washington are again embracing play as a bedrock of kindergarten …

Using play to develop academic knowledge — as well as social skills — in young children is the backbone of alternative educational philosophies like those of Maria Montessori or Reggio Emilia. And many veteran kindergarten teachers, as well as most academic researchers, say they have long known that children learn best when they are allowed ample time to go shopping at a pretend grocery store or figure out how to build bridges with wooden blocks. Even the Common Core standards state that play is a “valuable activity.”

But it’s still controversial. Read the entire article here.

Technology Alone Can’t Fix Schools

In The Atlantic, Kentaro Toyama writes:

…technology’s “Law of Amplification”: Technology’s primary effect is to amplify human forces, so in education, technologies amplify whatever pedagogical capacity is already there. Amplification seems like an obvious idea—all it says is that technology is a tool that augments human power. But, if it’s obvious, it nevertheless has profound consequences that are routinely overlooked …

If a private company is failing to make a profit, no one expects that state-of-the-art data centers, better productivity software, and new laptops for all of the employees will turn things around. Yet, that is exactly the logic of so many attempts to fix education with technology … At a talk Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gave at the South by Southwest conference, he pressed the case for more technology in education (mentioning “technology” forty-three times, and “teachers” only twenty-five). He claimed, “Technology can level the playing field instead of tilting it against low-income, minority and rural students—who may not have laptops and iPhones at home.” But this is wishful thinking; it’s misleading and misguided. Technology amplifies preexisting differences in wealth and achievement …

…what the U.S. education system needs above all isn’t more technology, but a deliberate allocation of high-quality adult supervision focused on those who need it most. The specifics are daunting and complex, but inequity in educational opportunity isn’t a problem that technology can fix. Without addressing the underlying socio-economic chasm, technology by itself doesn’t bridge the gap, it only jacks it further apart.

Read the entire article here.

Recently found … 06/02/2015 (p.m.)

  • It’s well intentioned to raise standards, but the mistake it makes is that it fails to recognize that education is not a mechanical impersonal process that can improved by tweaking standards and regularly testing. … It’s a human process. It’s real people going through the system and whether the system takes into account who they are, what engages them, isn’t incidental. It is the core of what education is.

    tags: education reform

  • tags: learning educational technology

    • In a small experiment, researchers at Dartmouth College have shown that data automatically collected by an Android app can guess how students are spending their time — predicting their end-of-term grades with scary accuracy.
    • Slightly more surprising, students tended to perform better when they buckled down towards the end of the semester. After the midterm, “A” students partied less, stayed at home more, and spent less time in conversation. But what’s interesting is that this relationship held true whether they started out as relative extroverts or introverts. It wasn’t the absolute time spent partying, in other words, it was the ability to prioritize that really counted.

      Also of note: students with better grades studied in louder locations. Were they benefiting from study groups? Maybe.

    • If the results hold, a natural next question is, Who might find these patterns useful, and for what?
    • Campbell, a computer scientist, has a longstanding interest in what he calls “persuasive technology.” He dreams of making this app available in the app store to help students improve their behaviors and in turn, classroom performance — a Fitbit for your brain.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

What I learned from Grant Wiggins …

By now everyone in the education world has learned of Grant Wiggins’ untimely death. I echo the sentiments of all who knew him or his work: this is a great loss to our field.

I joined the consultant group at Authentic Education last year. My “interview” with Grant and his wife Denise, took place in their sunny Lambertville kitchen. We chatted about education philosophies and Grant questioned me on my background, understanding of UbD, my current work and goals. After a pleasant conversation, he said, “Good, great, we’ll get you to work as soon as we can.” I expressed some surprise, “That’s it? There isn’t more you need to know?” With that characteristic twinkle in his eye, he responded, “What– should I keep asking you questions even when I’m satisfied that I understand your capabilities?”

So I laughed … there it was, Grant’s philosophy as a case-in-point. There’s no need to continue testing once you have sufficient information about mastery. Grant taught me, so clearly, that assessment is a necessary and valuable part of the learning process — but we want tests to be meaningful, authentic, and we don’t test just for the sake of testing!

I had hoped to learn more from you, Grant. Thankfully you’ve left a body of work for us to to draw on as we continue your efforts. Vale.

Recently found … 05/22/2015 (a.m.)

  • tags: education reform learning

    • Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening.


      Since the Industrial Revolution, the world has developed complex supply chains, from designers to manufacturers, from distributors to importers, wholesalers and retailers, it’s what allowed billions of products to be made, shipped, bought and enjoyed in all corners of the world. In recent times  the power of the Internet, especially the mobile phone, has unleashed a movement that’s rapidly destroying these layers and moving power to new places.


      The Internet is the most powerful mechanism we can imagine to match perfectly individuals that need something, and people with something to offer.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

What do you do when you come to a hurdle? You jump.

How much do I love Neal de Grasse Tyson’s response to a young girl’s question: Do you know scientists who are dyslexic? So much …

Tyson doesn’t just say “yes,” he explains that he knows many scientists with issues — but that those are not barriers to their success as scientists. His response reflects a critical aspect of learning: mindset. Dyslexia (or dyscalculia, autism, ADD, etc.) will not prevent your success if you believe in yourself and give yourself time to learn.

Recently found … 04/29/2015 (a.m.)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Recently found … 04/28/2015 (p.m.)

  • The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is a nonprofit organization devoted to the improvement of history education. The Institute has developed an array of programs for schools, teachers, and students that now operate in all fifty states, including a website that features more than 60,000 unique historical documents in the Gilder Lehrman Collection.

    tags: american history social studies primarysources

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.