Saturday, June 27, 2015

The hypocrisy of developed-world educational technology proponents - Education - A World Bank blog on the power of investing in people

Education - A World Bank blog on the power of investing in people

Increasingly, there is a curious trend in America in which the country’s wealthiest, best-educated, most tech-savvy parents work hard and pay good money to keep their children away from digital technology. For example, executives at companies like Google and eBay send their children to a Waldorf school where electronic gadgets are banned until the eighth grade. And, Steve Jobs famously told a reporter that he didn’t let his children use iPads: “We limit how much technology our kids use at home”.

What is it that these parents know? And, how should it affect technology policy in education around the world?


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

How a school threw out their reading program and finally got everyone excited about reading. - Cool Cat Teacher Blog

Cool Cat Teacher Blog
ECM 152: Principal Todd Nesloney tells you how to really get kids excited about reading..

No trinkets. No prizes. No book levels. One school led by Principal Todd Nesloney got rid of it all. Every teacher and every student set a simple goal: read twenty books in one semester. Any book. Any kind. If you hate the book — STOP READING IT. As he shares in the show, when Principal […]

The post How a school threw out their reading program and finally got everyone excited about reading. appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog.


Monday, June 22, 2015

10 Important Google Search Strategies for Students - A PDF Handout - Free Technology for Teachers

Free Technology for Teachers
Last summer the folks at Canva were kind enough to create a great infographic for me based on a set of search tips that I sent to them. The infographic makes a great poster to display in your classroom, but it is a little light on the details of how and why to use some of the search strategies. The PDF embedded below provides more detail on the search strategies that I frequently share with teachers and students.

Click here if you cannot see the embedded PDF.
online PD this summer

This post originally appeared on Free Technology for Teachers if you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission.


1984 Arrives Thirty Years Late: Say Goodby to Privacy Forever if This Bill Passes - Diane Ravitch's blog

Diane Ravitch's blog
Legislation called “The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act” has been introduced in both houses of Congress. Nice name, no? Don’t you think you should have “the right to know before you go” to a college or university?   What it really means is that the federal government will:   authorize the creation […]


Overcoming the extractive mindset through generatively feeding the network - P2P Foundation

P2P Foundation

We exceptionally republish Seth Godin‘s editorial, pointing to the need to overcome the extractive mindset: “For generations, places with significant oil production have developed a different culture than other places. This extraction mindset occurs in environments where profits are taken from a captive resource. It doesn’t matter if it’s coal, tickets or tuition, the mindset […]

The post Overcoming the extractive mindset through generatively feeding the network appeared first on P2P Foundation.


Learning About Young Makers - User Generated Education

User Generated Education
I am a huge proponent of using hands-on, interactive learning activities to explore ill-defined problems as a way of teaching for all age groups. Given the spontaneity and uncertainty of these types of active learning environments, I believe educators should observe, reflect on, and analyze how learners interact with the materials, the content, the educator, […]



Stephen's Lighthouse
THE NEW DEMOGRAPHICS OF SOCIAL MEDIA: Facebook is losing its grip on teens as visual social networks gain popularity Read more: TechMore: BI Intelligence Facebook Snapchat Instagram “There are some fissures beginning to show in Facebook’s remarkably strong hold on nearly every demographic. Teens, for instance, still use Facebook a great deal, but they […]


No, Sesame Street Was Not the First MOOC - Hack Education

Hack Education
Clearly it’s a research paper perfectly titled for widespread circulation, combining everyone’s favorite early childhood TV show with one of the most overhyped acronyms in ed-tech: “Early Childhood Education by MOOC: Lessons from Sesame Street.”
So no surprise, the recent paper by University of Maryland’s Melissa Kearney and Wellesley College’s Phillip Levine on the educational benefits of Sesame Street has received plenty of media coverage, with many outlets parroting the comparison: Sesame Street as MOOC. “The Original MOOC: Can Sesame Street Replace Preschool?” asks Edsurge. “Sesame Street was the original MOOC,” says the Brookings Institution.
But Sesame Street was not the first MOOC. And really, it is not a MOOC at all. To argue such – to offer that analogy – is historically flawed, erasing other earlier educational media. Furthermore, the analogy erases important differences between the research and design of Sesame Street and that of MOOCs (particularly those MOOCs that have been popularized by the press)....


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Something has gone very wrong with science - Stephen's Web ~ OLDaily

Stephen's Web ~ OLDaily

William Reville, The Irish Times, Jun 20, 2015

Brian Mulligan asks on Facebook, "is educational research even worse?" From my perspective, it is. Because all this is especially true of the 'research' published in journals of education: Read Richard Horton, editor in chief of the Lancet: "The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness. As one participant put it, ‘ poor methods get results’ . . ." And not, contra Campbell Collaboration,  this isn't going to be fixed by turning education research into pseudo-medical research. We need to re-evaluate what we're trying to accomplish with research publication (hint: something not related to 'tenure' and 'funding').

[Link] [Comment]


We could surprise them and they could see that we are good kids - Dangerously Irrelevant

Dangerously Irrelevant
Katrina Schwartz said Many students at [Los Angeles Unified School District’s Roosevelt High School] felt the news media had mischaracterized their school and its students as criminals for figuring out how to get around the iPad’s security features, often to access educational information. “We were really caught up in how they kept calling Roosevelt ‘hackers,’” said [...]


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Highly trained, respected and free: why Finland's teachers are different - Network Front | The Guardian

Network Front | The Guardian

Extensive training is the basis for giving teachers the autonomy to work the way they want. The result is a highly prized profession and an education system always near the top in international rankings

In a quiet classroom adorned with the joyful creations of small children, Ville Sallinen is learning what makes Finland’s schools the envy of the world.

Sallinen, 22, is teaching a handful of eight-year-olds how to read. He is nearing the end of a short placement in the school during his five-year master’s degree in primary school teaching.

Continue reading...


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Hacking Libraries - Spigot!


Hacking Libraries

An abridged excerpt from John PalfreyĆ¢€™s acclaimed new book "Bibliotech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google"

By John Palfrey |
Jun 12, 2015

In their modern public form, libraries continue to fill an essential role: to inform, engage, and delight people by making knowledge freely accessible. And in the digital world, libraries ought to continue to serve these essential functions. The common argument that we need fewer libraries in the era of Google is faulty to its core—the need for such public-spirited institutions is greater than ever.

Of course in the digital age, in all kinds of libraries, modes of operation and specific functions are necessarily changing. And while the shift underway in libraries today is on the right track in many places, the process of change is often too slow and too poorly coordinated. The rate of change varies enormously from the most forward-looking institutions to the most traditional. If change continues in this desultory fashion, it will be impossible to make the most of the best innovations—and it may prove too late for many libraries, which may wither for lack of support. The way to bring change more quickly, is to hack libraries.

At first blush, the idea of hacking libraries might sound faddish. But it is, in fact, a serious and fundamental proposition meant to draw us back to an approach based on the first principles of library work: finding the best ways to provide access to knowledge in the near-term, and to preserve knowledge in the long-term.

True, people commonly think of hackers as pimply teenagers in their pajamas writing computer programs to mess up other people’s systems, or Russian spies out to steal their identity. Hackers are commonly viewed as people with no regard for intellectual property and believe that information is meant to be free, without restriction. But these destructive hackers are not the hackers we should turn to for inspiration.

The hackers who have something to teach us are those who wrestled with the original, massive computers of the 1950s, those who worked in the MIT artificial intelligence (AI) lab in the late 1960s and 1970s, and those who followed Richard Stallman in creating the Free Software Foundation. Hackers like these, in the classic sense, are the people who brought us the open and configurable computers, networks, and programs that we rely upon today. And in the case of libraries, the task is to figure out how to break down the functions that libraries are needed to serve, and then to rebuild those functions for the digital-plus era.


Hacking libraries begins with engaging a large number of people from a diverse array of communities in a common cause: to remake libraries as institutions, and to train or retrain librarians to thrive in the years to come. Hacking libraries starts with reconceptualizing libraries.

To hack libraries is to start by replacing the library as place with the library as platform, with each library being a node in a series of interconnected platforms. The library will continue to house physical materials and provide a space for people to go to and interact with information; librarians will continue to be helpful guides through the world of information and knowledge, present in both the physical environment and online. But the core function of the library and those who work in them will be dramatically more networked and interconnected across institutions.

Hacking libraries would alter the long-standing traditional library model, which involves obtaining physical copies of materials; bringing those physical materials—books, CDs, microfilm, and so on—to a central location; sorting materials in ways that help people make sense of and find them; and keeping those materials safe for the long term. Each of these functions, in a world of hacked libraries, would be shared among a network of libraries. Individual libraries would then be free to split activities between collaborations with others and direct assistance to their own library users in accessing these shared platforms.

Hacking libraries would also shift their emphasis from materials-centric to consumer-oriented. Instead of focusing on building collections, many librarians have come to see their primary job as serving people at various stages of their lives. A library that is oriented not toward materials but toward people will be more explicitly service-focused, meeting immediate and relevant needs rather than continuing to do only the work they traditionally have done.

A strategy of focusing on people rather than on materials is risky. It would require libraries to stop doing some valuable things that they’ve done in the past, especially those activities related to building and managing redundant collections. In any given metropolitan area or consortium of colleges, such a strategy would entail holding and caring for fewer copies of physical materials, for instance, and relying more on digital, networked configurations and materials.

But there is a greater risk: Failing to make this change in orientation. And being passed by in the digital world.

In Action

Annemarie Naylor is a library hacker. Frustrated by the idea of the English public sector “giving up” on the small rural library and by talk of cutting library budgets, she set out to create a new model for the community library.

In 2013 she helped launch the novel Waiting Room in St. Botolph’s, U.K., with help from the Essex libraries and a group of volunteers. Instead of trying to save the traditional library, Naylor and her colleagues decided to create a space where people could create and exchange knowledge in a public-spirited manner.

Once a bus station, the Waiting Room is now a creative space for Naylor’s community—a colorful, attractive space with high ceilings and a flexible arrangement. Naylor calls it a “hack/maker/library space.” People in the community are urged to propose events and activities centered on ideas, skills development, and creative enterprise. The space hosts workshops alongside the Micro Social History Museum, where local residents can share and preserve their photographs, memories, and stories of life in St. Botolph’s. The space also functions as a cafe, bar, and event venue.

The Waiting Room has attracted a great deal of attention. Through the work of Naylor and others, the idea of this kind of community library has been taking hold in England and spreading from there. Sixty-five community discussions across the country demonstrated the public interest in new kinds of local libraries for a digital era.

Naylor has also reached across the Atlantic and is partnering with librarians such as Nate Hill in Chattanooga, Tenn., to improve her model and build a network. In concert with Hill and a third librarian, Marc De’ath, Naylor has established a new venture, Common Libraries, to help communities determine their own information needs.

For Naylor and her collaborators, libraries are the answer to poverty, unemployment, and boredom. As a platform for the exchange of knowledge and information, Naylor’s version of a library is deeply aligned with the specific needs and interests of her community, not based on a single view of what a library should be as a site for collections or as a public space.

In some communities, the goal of the community library is to help teach skills to the unemployed and bring the uninitiated into the world of technology. In others, the focus falls on supporting entrepreneurship or aspects of the creative arts sector. There is no one-size-fits-all model for the community library.

What Naylor, Hill, and De’ath are doing across the Atlantic is a great example of how libraries can shift from competing with each other to collaborating. Had they not collaborated with one another, these three librarians would never have been able to launch Common Libraries and have the freedom and resources to rethink completely their local libraries.


To some extent, the hack Naylor, Hill, and De’ath have come up with has already been well under way for decades in libraries, but unevenly. Librarians are, by and large, some of the best collaborators in the world, and the library system has developed over many centuries into a powerful network. The human network of librarians already has many of the hallmarks of what it needs to become for a digital era. But more needs to be done if libraries are to survive an era in which resources are stretched further than ever before.

Librarians have proven over and over that the profession is capable of extraordinary collaboration. More than forty years ago, a group of major libraries in Ohio recognized the importance of shared computing resources and established a partnership called the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), which is now referred to primarily by its acronym. OCLC calls itself “the world’s largest library collaborative.” The library data and services provided by OCLC to 70,000 libraries around the world enables libraries to avoid a great deal of redundant work.

The OCLC partnership has reduced the need for every library to create its own catalog record for every book or item it collects, creating enormous efficiencies. OCLC’s WorldCat system, for instance, allows anyone with web access to search across the catalogs of a large number of libraries to locate books wherever they are in the country.

There are many other great examples of libraries collaborating, rather than competing, in order to serve people better. The interlibrary loan system, for instance, ensures that a library patron in Iowa, can borrow a book that is not physically available locally if it is available at a partner library in California. Librarians have also established collaborative collecting networks in which each library agrees to take on primary responsibility for collecting and storing particular materials. The Boston-area law libraries have agreed to such an approach, for instance.

OCLC and other present-day collaborative endeavors, however, are not sufficient to drive the shift toward open, connected library systems. Deep collaboration among libraries is on the rise, but it is still not the norm. Too few librarians and library schools participate in the kind of collaboration that will fundamentally reshape libraries for the digital era, such as the creation of shared open-source platforms, shared professional development opportunities, shared collection development, and coordinated mass digitization.

We need radical collaboration in libraries, far beyond what happens today—not collaboration at the margins or collaboration as afterthought. Librarians need to measure their success not as individual institutions, or people, but rather as collaborators working together to build a new ecosystem of information and meeting the needs of a rapidly changing group of users. This series of conceptual shifts will not come easily, nor will it be uncontroversial.

The next phase of collaboration among libraries may prove to be harder: The development of digital libraries should be grounded in open platforms, with open APIs (application programming interfaces), open data, and open code at all levels. No one library will own the code, the platform, or the data that can be downloaded, “free to all.”

The spirit that is needed is the hacker spirit embodied by Code4Lib, a group of volunteers associated with libraries, archives, and museums who have dedicated themselves to sharing approaches, techniques, and code related to the remaking of libraries for the digital era. At an international level, the community that comes together in conferences as part of the NEXT Library is up to the same task of hacking libraries through large-scale collaboration.

Libraries will also become more powerful the more connected they are to other types of learning institutions. Schools are an obvious point of connection. Libraries as platforms, with open APIs, could help American public schools, as they introduce Common Core standards across the country. Openly accessible library materials that fit the Common Core could be made easily available to teachers and their students as they create new teaching plans. Open systems could also serve as sandboxes for students who are learning how to code and to work with digital materials.

Hack = Innovation

In a word association game, innovation and libraries do not often come together naturally. That is probably a bit unfair to the many librarians who bring to their work a spirit of experimentation and innovation similar to the spirit that created the Internet and the web. But to promote further innovation in our libraries, we—the public—need to ensure that libraries and library hackers have the money, resources, and time they need to make this transition.

Librarians should work with all kinds of unexpected partners in the process of reinvention. For example, graphic designers and user experience experts can help librarians reimagine how digital shelves might present books and other materials in revealing new ways. Business consultants can experiment with new models for the e-lending of digital texts that will make better financial sense without violating the letter or spirit of copyright law. Most important, librarians should be open to partnerships with those who love libraries and seek to serve the public interest at this crucial moment, when reinvention is most badly needed.

The aim of hacking libraries is to infuse them with a spirit now occurring in the private, for-profit sector. The start-up scene has been cranking out successful new information-related projects for decades: Consider Google’s search service, Amazon’s Kindle, Apple’s apps platform, and Facebook and Twitter as five possible entrants in the contest for most important information innovation of the past decade. Wikipedia, Mozilla, and Khan Academy might be contenders from the nonprofit side of the ledger.

What, on the other hand, is the biggest innovation to emerge from libraries in the digital age? This call to hack libraries has nothing to do with destroying them, and everything to do with rebuilding them in ways that will be useful, attractive, and sustainable as formats and user practices shift.

Reimagining and remaking these beloved institutions will not be easy. Current library activities that have appeal for many people may have to fall by the wayside. The net effect of hacking libraries, however, will be to save them as institutions, to make them more helpful and better positioned to achieve their goals for the future, and to unleash creativity in ways that we can only speculate about today.

John Palfrey is head of school at Phillips Andover Academy and the founding chairman of the Digital Public Library of America. This article is an abridged version of Chapter 5, "Hacking Libraries" which appears in Palfrey's recent book, Bibliotech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google, reprinted by permission of Basic Books, a member of the Perseus Books Group.

Want to hear more? John Palfrey will participate in the panel discussion “Making the Case for Why Libraries Matter” on Friday, June 26, 2–3 p.m., at the Marriott Marquis San Francisco (Yerba Buena Salon 13–15).

Click here to return to the ALA 2015 Spotlight.

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Vietnam's 'stunning' rise in school standards

Teacher Tom: Your Child Is Not "Falling Behind"

Teacher Tom: Your Child Is Not "Falling Behind": "This unsavory practice of taking advantage of new parent insecurities in the name of profit is one that deserves to be called out where ever it rears its nasty head, and it's borderline criminal when they play the "falling behind" card, which is why I'm writing today.

I've had the opportunity these past few years to travel around the world to talk to teachers and parents. Every place I go I find myself discussing this bizarre notion of "school readiness." Often translated in the US as "kindergarten readiness," it is essentially code for reading. It seems that the powers that be in our respective nations have decided to sell parents on the snake oil that if your child isn't starting to read by five-years-old she is "falling behind." They are doing this despite the fact that every single legitimate study ever done on the subject recommends that formal literacy education (if we ever even need it) not begin until a child is seven or eight years old. They are telling parents and teachers that children are "falling behind" despite the fact that every single legitimate study ever done finds that there are no long term advantages to being an early reader, just as there are no long term advantages to being early talkers or walkers. In fact, many studies have found that when formal literacy instruction begins too early, like at 5, children grow up to be less motivated readers and less capable of comprehending what they've read. That's right, if anything, this "school readiness" fear-mongering may well turn out to be outright malpractice."

'via Blog this'

What are the Best Ways a Teacher can Demonstrate Leadership in the Classroom? - Langwitches Blog

Langwitches Blog
As part of C.M Rubin’s monthly series in the Huffington post: The Global Search for Education: Our Top 12 Global Teacher Blogs, this is my third contribution. This month we...


Academic publishers reap huge profits as libraries go broke - Stephen's Web ~ OLDaily

Stephen's Web ~ OLDaily

CBC News, Jun 16, 2015

So I wrote another of my periodic messages to our own library services today recommending dropping some particular subscriptions and recommending they reconsider whether we spend money on these subscriptions at all. Because, really, why should we? It's good money spent badly. And as we read in this CBC article discussing  the report published last week (covered in OLDaily here), the publishers are making out like bandits while libraries struggle to provide even basic services. "The quality control is free, the raw material is free, and then you charge very, very high amounts – of course you come up with very high profit margins."

[Link] [Comment]


Sunday, June 14, 2015

ALA and ISTE: How Best to Plan, Learn, Network, Party, and Follow Up - School Library Journal

School Library Journal
Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned pro, here are six tips for you to get the most professional development bang for your buck.


Friday, June 12, 2015

Three wrong-headed ideas driving reform of U.S. teaching force - Answer Sheet

Answer Sheet
“When the going gets tough in our wealthy societies, the powers-that-be often choose quick fixes. In search of a silver bullet instead of sustained systemic improvement, politicians turn their eyes on teachers, believing that asking them to do more with less can compensate for inconvenient reductions in school resources.” So writes Pasi Sahlberg, a visiting […]


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Learning Networks, Not Teaching Machines - Hack Education

Hack Education

This keynote was delivered today at EDEN 2015 in Barcelona. (Or at least, it's a version of my talk...) You can find my slides here.

When I was asked to give a title for this talk several months ago, I quickly made something up (as one does), throwing out this phrase “Learning Networks, Not Teaching Machines.” I figured I’d say something about the century-old efforts to automate education and the possibilities instead for a new and different technological architecture that might help us re-orient education towards learners certainly, but also towards greater equity and social justice.

But as often happens with me, the more I thought about the topic, and the more I explored the history and the ideology of “networks,” the less confident I became that we’re paying close enough attention to justice, to politics and power when we use that word “network” as either a noun or a verb or an adjective. And I don’t mean this just when we use the word as a metaphor for personal and professional connections either. “The network map is not the political territory,” as VCU professor David Golumbia tweeted, just a couple of days after I submitted the title for this talk.

This is a telegraph and railroad map from New England, circa 1850. This is where this particular usage of the word “network” originates – in roughly the same time period – in transportation (rivers, canals, railroads) and later applied to communications and broadcast transmissions (telegraph, telephone, radio). We’ve come recently to think about networks as organizational systems for human relationships, but I want us to consider the infrastructure here – technologically, etymologically, historically – when we invoke “networks.”

As some of you might know, I’ve been working on a book for a while now called Teaching Machines that explores the history of education technology in the twentieth century. In part, the project grows out of my frustration with the claims made by the latest batch of Silicon Valley ed-tech entrepreneurs and their investors that ed-tech is “new” and that education – I’m quoting from The New York Times here – “is one of the last industries to be touched by Internet technology.” This is a powerful and purposeful re-telling and revising of history, I’d contend, designed to shape the direction of the future. In fact, education was one of the “industries” – I loathe that word, that framing too – that helped create Internet technology in the first place. Education – or more accurately, I suppose scientific and technical research at universities – was one of the first industries to be “networked” by the Internet.

Of course, these sorts of revisionist narratives shouldn’t really surprise us. We always tell stories of our past in order to situate ourselves in the present and guide ourselves into the future. But that means these stories about education and education technology – past, present, future – really matter.

This image represents to me ed-tech’s past, its present, and its future – hilariously sad since it’s over one hundred years old. This print from 1910 is by the French artist Villemard, commissioned as part of a series “En l’an 2000” (“In the Year 2000”) to promote the World’s Fair and to celebrate the new century (and centuries to come). Prints like this one were included in the packaging of cigar and cigarette boxes and later became popular postcards and PowerPoint slides.

Here we see the teacher stuffing textbooks – L’Histoire de France – into a machine, where the knowledge is ground up and delivered electronically, via wires connected to headphones and helmets, into the brains of young male students.

Arguably this image is so frequently cited because it confirms some of our beliefs and suspicions about the future of education: that it’s destined to become mechanized, and that automation is designed around a belief that educational content is something to be delivered. Students’ heads are something to be filled with knowledge.

There is too, I’d contend, a certain “vestigiality” of education technology. With each subsequent technological invention or innovation, that is, as ed-tech purportedly “evolves,” it continues to carry forward older features and structures regardless of their continuing functionality. I think we can see this in the Villemard print; it also explains why it still resonates so deeply with us. We don’t simply recognize the classroom; we recognize the impetus behind a century-old prediction about the future of education technology.

Just three years after this print was released – that is, in 1913 – Thomas Edison famously predicted that “Books will soon be obsolete in schools.” Not because books were to be ground up by a knowledge mill. Rather, Edison believed that one of the technological inventions he was involved with and invested in – the motion picture – would displace both textbooks and teachers alike.

“I believe that the motion picture is destined to revolutionize our educational system and that in a few years it will supplant largely, if not entirely, the use of textbooks,” Edison asserted in 1922, a reminder too that predictions about the coming ed-tech revolution are at least a hundred years old.

Often when we talk about education technology, we focus on “the machine” itself – on the grinder and headsets in this Villemard print, on the film projector in Edison’s case, or the radio receiver, the television set, or more recently on the computer, the tablet, the smartphone. (Perhaps we even do so at the expense of focusing on the “educational content” that the machine is supposed to deliver or instead of talking about the new practices that new technologies purportedly afford. Certainly we do so at the expense of focusing on pedagogy, on people.)

We don’t talk as often about the wires that connect the textbook grinder to the students’ headphones. These students, arguably, are networked (something that Edison’s film projector did not offer, I should point out – although we can see in this “En l’an 2000” print, that there was already an imagined world where moving images and sounds would be sent over the network).

But what can we say about the Villemard vision of “a learning network”? Does it meet our standards today, our belief in the ways in which networks can transform teaching and learning? I’d imagine it does not because this particular learning network is centralized. In that way, it is more akin to Edison’s vision of the future of education – where the knowledge is delivered by (and this power resides in) whatever replaces the teacher and the textbook. For both Edison and Villemard here, the students are receptors, not transmitters of knowledge.

When we talk about the potential for “networked learning” today, I think (I hope) we mean something different. The promise: the Internet – and the Web in particular – enable a readable and a writable platform, where a multitude of voices can express themselves as creators not just consumers and not just through text but through a multitude of media – audio, video, still images, code. These new wires have powerful implications for self-organized learning, some argue – a new participatory culture of learning that need not be managed or monitored by formal educational institutions or by traditional sources of information. The new networks, like the Web itself, ostensibly act as this very postmodern sort of technical infrastructure whereby power is decentralized, distributed.

But it’s not decentralized entirely. It’s certainly not distributed evenly. It never has been. Yet there’s that tendency once again to recast the history of technology as equitable if not equalizing – a nostalgia for a “web we lost” – such as when last year Sir Tim Berners-Lee said it was time to “re-decentralize” his invention, the World Wide Web. Berners-Lee noted – rightly so, I’d say – that “for-profit internet monopolies such as search engines and social networks,” along with government surveillance, threaten the Web’s original, open infrastructure.

Ostensibly open.

I’ve been thinking about this faith we’ve put in online networks – this trust that they are open, for example, or that they flatten hierarchies. I’ve been thinking too, as I’ve researched the history of education technology and teaching machines, about other, older networks. Indeed, many of these networks have not gone away. The telephone company or the television cable company is likely now – in the United States at least – your Internet provider as well. We are building our learning networks on these older technologies. We are building them on and with pre-existing and emerging monopolies.

Take Comcast, for example, the largest cable company and home Internet service provider in the US. It is the country’s third largest home telephone service provider. Comcast also owns one of the original “big three” networks NBC, along with the Spanish-language network Telemundo. It owns the film production studio Universal Pictures, as well as the studio’s associated parks and resorts. It has tried unsuccessfully to buy its competitor, cable provider Time Warner Cable. It has tried unsuccessfully to buy Disney (which in turns owns ABC).

Comcast also partnered with the online learning site Khan Academy a few years ago, incidentally, making a substantial donation to the education non-profit and paying for TV advertisements for Khan Academy which would in turn promote Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, a federally-mandated initiative in the US whereby Comcast offers low-income families broadband for $9.95 per month. This cheaper broadband has been criticized for a number of reasons, in part because it offers download speeds of only “up to” 5 Mbps, sufficient for streaming online video content but barely. Comcast Internet Essentials does not include a WiFi-enabled modem.

When we think about Comcast’s lobbying and legal efforts, its opposition to “net neutrality,” for example – the principle that Internet Service Providers treat all data on the network equally – we can start to see how important it is that we pay attention to “the wires” and to the network. The physical infrastructure; not the metaphor.

It’s not just Comcast, of course. We can see similar efforts to control the network infrastructure in Facebook’s recent partnership with various cellphone manufacturers to create something called “,” to provide Internet access to those in the developing world. The effort has been criticized lately for also violating “net neutrality” by deciding which websites would be available for free – that is, accessible without paying for a data plan. No big surprise, Facebook access via is free. Other apps are free for a time being, then the data surcharges begin. Here’s one way this is directly relevant to ed-tech: as part of its efforts, Facebook also partnered with edX and Nokia to offer MOOCs to students in Rwanda – to offer “access to free, high-quality, localized educational content via low-cost smartphones” via a special “Facebook integrated edX app.”

Despite the promise of the Internet and the Web to “democratize education” – we hear the MOOC proponents talk about this a lot – or to offer this new and radically meritocratic form of “networked learning,” we must remember that our technical infrastructure is controlled by a small number of powerful corporations, alongside – in terms of support, censure, and surveillance, the world’s governments. To repeat David Golumbia, “The network map is not the political territory.”

As I’ve conducted some of my recent research about the history of education technology, I’ve become fascinated by a different sort of pre-Internet network – the television network. Television technology was developed around the same time as film which did not – sorry Edison – replace textbooks, but did shape our ideas about scale and broadcast – for our purposes here, specifically the broadcast and delivery of educational content.

(This is the part of the talk where, in typical American fashion, I come to Europe and talk about the history of education technology in the US. My apologies in advance. My point is not that all ed-tech history is US ed-tech history, but rather there’s something about what Siva Vaidhyanathan calls “infrastructural imperialism” going on here that will affect all of us globally. Also I love to subtly reference the latest MOOC craze while talking about educational TV in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.)

The FCC (the Federal Communications Commission) was/is in charge of determining the engineering standards for television and approving licenses, with the first commercial licenses issued to NBC and CBS-owned stations in New York City in 1941. (NBC and CBS were already powerful radio networks – remember, we build new networks on top of older ones.) As the demand for licenses (and more broadly the demand for television) grew, many educators felt as though they were going to need special channels devoted specifically to education if they were going to be able to compete with the commercial broadcasters. In 1952, the FCC announced that it would reserve 242 television channels for educational use.

Educational TV stations immediately faced several challenges: PR and programming to name just two. Often the stations did not have much regular programming to offer, and as such they tended to be off the air on the weekends. What programming they were able to provide was frequently low-budget and dependent on local producers. There was no educational network; that is to say, there were just individual stations, often with a very limited transmission reach.

Indeed, one technical issue all early television stations faced was actually getting the signal from the transmitter to receivers, whether in homes or in classrooms. In the 1940s, Westinghouse engineer Charles Noble had developed a solution to this problem – something he called “Stratovision.” Stratovision involved broadcasting the transmission from the air, rather than the ground, via aircraft flying at 25,000 feet. But commercial television didn’t pursue Stratovision, instead developing networks that shared and broadcast programming via affiliate stations simultaneously across the country. Commercial TV chose networks.

And that – namely, networks and affiliates – was something that educational television did not have. Westinghouse contacted the Ford Foundation, which was funding many early educational TV initiatives, and suggested that Stratovision be used to this end; and the Ford Foundation in turn helped support one of the more unique experiments in US ed-tech history, the Midwest Program on Airborne Television Instruction (MPATI).

The program, which ran out of Purdue University from 1961 to 1968, involved two DC–6 airplanes with over six tons of transmitting equipment and shelves containing a library of backup videotapes circled the skies, broadcasting educational TV to membership schools below – in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. It’s hard to call it a success – it struggled with a number of financial and technical and scheduling problems. And as historian Larry Cuban notes, teachers simply didn’t use television in the classroom all that much.

But that didn’t stop the push for more instructional television or the belief that this new technology would, to quote Edison again, “supplant the use of textbooks.” But again – let’s take a closer look not at the television itself but at the control of programming, channels, spectrum, networks.

I recently wrote a story about the history of “The Learning Channel,” which is back in the news once again because of the behavior of some of its reality TV stars. (And once again I apologize for this being such a US-centric talk, but even more deeply, I apologize for US reality television.) The Learning Channel, now known as TLC, actually started as an education initiative to bring satellite television – televised continuing education for teachers, specifically – to remote areas in Appalachia, a historically poor, rural area in the mid- to southeastern US.

The Appalachian Education Satellite Project was launched in 1974, taking advantage of NASA’s ATS–6 satellite which agreed to transmit educational broadcasting for free. Two years later, NASA announced that the satellite was experiencing technical difficulties, and so the project bought transponder time on a commercial satellite. This started a chain of events that, I think, should be quite familiar to those of us in education. The satellite transmissions were no longer free, so the Appalachian Education Satellite Project, a non-profit organization, had to come up with more revenue. It decided to formally create a television network so that it could expand coverage and programming. The Appalachian Community Service Network launched in 1980, branding itself “The Learning Channel.” At its peak, some 70 universities granted academic credit for its courses.

Yet the network still struggled financially, selling 51% of the stake in it to a company that went bankrupt just 5 years later. Discovery Communications then bought The Learning Channel for a reported $32 million in 1991. (Incidentally, Hearst and ABC had offered more money for the channel, but withdrew the offer when TCI, the cable provider that accounted for almost a fourth of The Learning Channel’s subscribers, said it couldn’t guarantee that it would continue to carry the channel. TCI was at the time one of the cable companies that owned a majority stake in – you guessed it – Discovery Communications. See? Who owns the network matters!) After acquiring The Learning Channel, Discovery ended its formal courseware offerings, and its programming has become more and more salacious and less and less “educational.”

See, I’m particularly struck by these stories when I stop and consider “learning networks.” Many television networks grew out of earlier radio networks, and as I mentioned earlier, these are now massive multinational media corporations. We must ask: Who owns the “pipes” and “the wire”? Who owns the means by which content is transmitted? Who owns the satellites? Who owns the spectrum? Who owns the cables? Who owns the network? What networks – what infrastructure – have we inherited?

I realize, of course, that when we invoke “learning networks” today, we aren’t (necessarily?) attempting to emulate the Discovery Channel or NBC or the BBC. And yet I think it would be naive to think that the work we do online – our ability to be “connected” through the Internet – is not something built upon or at least adjacent to these powerful networks. We might not talk about them. But that doesn’t mean they do not shape what we can do online, who has access, what that access look like. They shape too, as early educational television channels learned, what the content looks like and what the commercial competition looks like when it comes to garnering attention.

The Internet and the Web do not exist at the end of history. Technology will change. But the geopolitics, the economic forces will change the Internet and the Web as well. Networks change – canals are replaced by railroads; radio stations are replaced by television and now the Internet. The Internet will be likely replaced by something else. And no doubt, we can see already its consolidation and centralization. We can see the battles for who owns the signal. (The FCC plans soon to license off more wireless spectrum for the “Internet of Things” via auction – that is, to the highest bidder.) We can see the battles for who owns, who controls the network.

Education has not historically fared well when it comes to competing with commercial providers – not on the radio, not on the television, nor I’d argue on new computer-based technologies. These networks have triumphed commercially, politically. In turn, they frame what we mean by network – what we expect them to do, who gets to participate in them and how.

There is no inevitability here. And resistance and alternatives are certainly possible. But we must act to shape the future – to shape the technology and the politics that we want to have. We must act to shape the learning networks we want to have – starting, as I originally intended this talk to address – that we do not want the centralized control, the automation, the teaching machines that Villemard envisioned for us a century ago. If, as some argue, learning networks are powerful new ways for us to organize and share as learners, then we must consider how we can build and wield them (or at least, how they are built and wielded). Networks – not just as analogies, but as what is becoming the very real architecture of how we learn and live.

“The network map is not the political territory.” What territory do we maintain for the future of education? Whose network map are we using to find our way?


Reading Is Good For You - CURMUDGUCATION



Pasi Sahlberg: The Myth that Schools Can Do More with Less - Diane Ravitch's blog

Diane Ravitch's blog
Pasi Sahlberg, the distinguished Finnish educator who has been in residence at the Harvard Graduate School of Education for the past two years, has written a terrific essay about the myths and fallacies that govern education policy today. One is that schools should be able to do more with less. This myth enables policymakers to […]


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

41 Years Later…

Has our obsession with beating others worked? Is it working now? Have years and years of “education reform” produced the kinds of schools and students that we are proud of?

Well, we are still ‘losing’ to Finland, South Korea, Singapore and a host of other nations; we are falling behind in college graduation rates, and so on. High school graduation rates have climbed, but record numbers of those graduates end up in remedial classes when they get to college. Not a great scorecard, but our leaders seem to determined to keep criticizing our schools and teachers until they shape up, which undoubtedly brings to mind that cartoon about how “the whipping will continue until morale improves.”

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Aspirational parents condemn their children to a desperate, joyless life

From infancy to employment, this is a life-denying, love-denying mindset, informed not by joy or contentment, but by an ambition that is both desperate and pointless, for it cannot compensate for what it displaces: childhood, family life, the joys of summer, meaningful and productive work, a sense of arrival, living in the moment.

What Overparenting Looks Like From a Stanford Dean’s Perspective - MindShift

As a parent and dean, Julie Lythcott-Haims struggled with giving in to overparenting, while advising students who always had mom and dad on the sidelines.


Monday, June 8, 2015

The McNamara Fallacy and the Problem with Numbers in Education | chronotope

The McNamara Fallacy and the Problem with Numbers in Education | chronotope: "While there is some merit to this approach in certain situations,  there is a deeply hubristic arrogance in the reduction of complex human processes to statistics, an aberration which led the sociologist Daniel Yankelovitch coining the term the “McNamara fallacy”:

1. Measure whatever can be easily measured.

2. Disregard that which cannot be measured easily.

3. Presume that which cannot be measured easily is not important.

4. Presume that which cannot be measured easily does not exist.

Sadly, some of these tenets will be recognisable to many of us in education – certainly the first two are consistent with many aspects of standardised testing, inspections and graded lesson observations. "

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John Taylor Gatto » How do I rekindle curiosity in my teenagers? – Ask John #5

So very well-worth reading...

John Taylor Gatto » How do I rekindle curiosity in my teenagers? – Ask John #5: "It was for centuries extremely common for families to exchange the care of their own children with the children of another family, forcing each child to adapt to strange people and strange standards, strange settings, strange expectations––all great stresses with no end in sight. Forget that you won’t or can’t do this, think only of the principle involved: the end of familiar routines."

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The three REAL reasons for Finland’s high PISA scores. | Filling My Map

The three REAL reasons for Finland’s high PISA scores. | Filling My Map: "This is the KEY my friends. The PISA exam does not measure a students ability to solve a mathematical equation or calculate the answer to a directly given math problem.   It doesn’t require factoring skills or differentials.   The mathematics used in this international assessment of “What students should know” is actually fairly simple and straightforward every day math.

The math itself is not complicated or difficult. The students must read the problem, assess the situation, and figure out the answer. And the Finnish students who have been treated more like adults than children have more real life experiences in which to pull from to problem solve. They have been given independence at a young age and have therefore figured out how to deal with real-life issues and problems on their own.

They have also had an education system that has not spoon-fed them all of the answers. They have learned how to read through a problem, think it through logically and actually attempt to find an answer before they give up."

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Friday, June 5, 2015

Principal: I’m retiring because Common Core puts test scores before children - The Hechinger Report

The Hechinger Report

Dear Jayne, I appreciate your belief that all states should have the same or very similar standards. I also believed in national standards before the implementation of the Common Core. Now I believe that variation among states is a strength, not a weakness. If there are different models used by different states, we can evaluate […]

The post Principal: I’m retiring because Common Core puts test scores before children appeared first on The Hechinger Report.


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Common Core Not Aligned With Basic Facts of Human Development | Truth in American Education

Common Core Not Aligned With Basic Facts of Human Development | Truth in American Education: "For example, a child entering kindergarten is now expected to know the difference between informative/explanatory writing and opinion writing. The concern is that preschoolers without that knowledge will not succeed at meeting the new higher-level Common-Core standards. However, I think a more pressing concern is: Why do we have educational standards that are not aligned with even the most basic facts of human development? Clearly these test results show that the problem is with the standards, not the children."

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How Early Academic Training Retards Intellectual Development | Psychology Today

How Early Academic Training Retards Intellectual Development | Psychology Today:

Now, here’s the point to which I’m leading.  It is generally a waste of time, and often harmful, to teach academic skills to children who have not yet developed the requisite motivational and intellectual foundations.  Children who haven’t acquired a reason to read or a sense of its value will have little motivation to learn the academic skills associated with reading and little understanding of those skills.  Similarly, children who haven’t acquired an understanding of numbers and how they are useful may learn the procedure for, say, addition, but that procedure will have little or no meaning to them.


What a finding!  Benezet showed that five years of tedious (and for some, painful) drill could simply be dropped, and by dropping it the children did better, in sixth grade, than did those who had endured the drill for five previous years.  This is the kind of finding that educators regularly choose to ignore.  If they paid attention to such findings they would do themselves out of their jobs, because the truth is, what Benezet found for math can occur for every subject.  Young people learn amazingly rapidly, and require little help, when they learn what they want to learn, in their own ways, on their own time.

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