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Reisinger is baffled by the behavior of districts like Los Angeles, which rolled out a one-to-one iPad program and then revoked student privileges when kids figured out how to navigate around district filters. “On the one hand we’re handing kids amazing learning devices, perhaps one of the most amazing inventions of the past 100 years, but yet we’re saying don’t learn about it, we don’t want you to understand how it works,” Reisinger said.

Treating devices that way makes students and teachers dependent on programmers for their needs, rather than letting them learn what’s under the hood. Penn Manor teachers assign work on devices to help kids meet learning standards just like teachers everywhere else, but they also have more options to let the kids explore safely.

“While we have the ‘must do’ layer, there’s also that little bit of subversion here, giving kids that little bit of creativity and maybe a ray of hope,” Reisinger said. “I want them to learn that learning is not all about what someone else preordains for you. It’s OK to tinker and play with things.” Penn Manor is as beholden to performing well on state tests as any other school district and its teachers make sure to cover curriculum, even using a few third party software programs to provide remedial help.

Why Aren’t More Schools Using Free, Open Tools?


First Step to Making a School Friendlier to Women: Admit There’s a Problem

The institution that brought us the business-school case study, Harvard Business School, was itself the subject of a front-page case study in The New York Times earlier this month. The case study is not about a pricing strategy, leveraged buyout, or marketing plan. It describes a multi-year, organization-wide initiative on gender equity.

A pressing problem triggered the school’s self-examination: Year after year, women were entering the MBA program with the same test scores, experiences, achievements, and aptitudes as men but then receiving lower grades. As a result, far fewer women were attaining the Baker Scholar distinction of being in the top five percent of the class—a prestigious award that opens doors to jobs and career opportunities. Did women’s lower grades suggest something in the school’s culture might still be limiting women even 50 years after they were first admitted?

Read more. [Image: Toru Hanai/Reuters]

" Yet making organizational change is complex and nuanced – and probably doomed to fail if launched with an expectation of a quick fix ….we could not improve our culture without engaging our students in the process.  They understand the student culture at a granular level—they live it every day, they own it.  And they have been amazing partners:  They hold our feet to the fire, and they have undertaken a host of initiatives on their own to improve students’ educational and social experiences. ….

But we aren’t finished:  Our culture is a work in progress. 


Right-Wing Ideologues in Texas: Not American Education’s Biggest Problem

America’s culture wars are sustained in no small part by the narrative power of outrage. The Revisionaries, a 2012 documentary released last week on VOD, deftly capitalizes on that fact. Focusing on the revisions to the Texas state K-12 textbook standards pushed through by right-wing members of the 15-member elected Texas State Board of Education, the film is both riveting and infuriating.

Don McLeroy, a dentist who was elected by voters in his local district and then appointed to be chairman of the board by Governor Rick Perry, is the leader of the radical right members. He’s also a young-earth creationist who believes that there was enough room on the ark for all the dinosaurs — at the end of the film he’s walking off the cubits for his Sunday school class to show them how all the creatures would fit. For the science standards, he and his allies include language questioning evolution. In social studies, they try to downplay deist Thomas Jefferson’s role in influencing American government in favor of Christian theologian Thomas Aquinas, cut out references to women and minorities, and glorify the sainted Ronald Reagan.

Texas state standards are hugely important; essentially they determine which textbooks can be used throughout the state. Texas is a massive market, with 4.8 million students. Moreover, that market is strongly centralized. Only approved textbooks can be purchased with state funds. If schools want to use other books, they need to pay for them themselves. One textbook representative interviewed in the film notes that, as a result, if a publisher gets a book on the approved list it can often make back its costs through Texas sales alone.  As a result, publishers are desperate to get in the Texas market, and try their best to massage their texts to meet state standards, no matter how loopy.  These Texas-tailored texts then are sold to school districts throughout the U.S. Thus, McLeroy’s conviction that the earth is 6,000 years old and that Reagan was a genius have had a fairly direct effect on the education of public school students throughout the country.

Read more. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]

"On the contrary, for me, working on textbooks and exams, the major difficulty is not catering to the far right. It’s catering to a nebulous, ill-defined fear of offending anyone. Obviously, when freelance writing or finding test passages for kids of whatever age, I know my work will be rejected if I mention evolution. But I’m also not allowed to mention snakes, or violent storms, or cancer, or racial discrimination, or magic. Authority figures, including teachers and Woodrow Wilson, can never be questioned. Pop culture can’t be mentioned. Living people can’t be mentioned. Death can’t be mentioned. As Diane Ravitch said in her still-relevant 2004 book The Language Police, there is “an elaborate, well-established protocol of beneficent censorship, quietly endorsed and broadly implemented by textbook publishers, testing agencies, professional associations, states, and the federal government.” Or, to put it another way, the people in charge have apparently agreed that the ideal educational content is a bland, colorless paste.”


"Again, the common thread between the Texas and Chicago education systems isn’t creationist culture warriors. Rather, it’s sheer arbitrariness. McLeroy, textbook publishers afraid of snakes, and Rahm Emanuel don’t share many opinions in common. But the one thing they agree on, it seems like, is that education must be subjected to all-encompassing bureaucratic control.  As Jal Mehta has said in his recent book The Allure of Order, reform efforts for over a century have consistently focused on removing power from teachers and putting them in the hands of somebody — anybody — else.”

If I could change one thing about engineering education — well, actually, all education — it would be to center it around solving real problems and making things. In other words, we ought to be creating innovators and inventors at our engineering schools. They need to be able to do something more than solve theoretical problems when they leave us. In other words, they should learn how to be an applied problem solver, which is not the same thing as being a fantastic book-based equation solver. None of us learned how to do anything well by being talked at — it’s boring. We learn best by doing — getting our hands dirty and making our own mistakes.
Ideas for Improving Science Education in the U.S. - (via infoneer-pulse)


Bertrand Russell on education and the human spirit.

Neither acquiescence in skepticism nor acquiescence in dogma is what education should produce. What it should produce is a belief that knowledge is attainable in a measure, though with difficulty; that much of what passes for knowledge at any given time is likely to be more or less mistaken, but that the mistakes can be rectified by care and industry.

You know, Harvard Business School doesn’t teach accounting anymore, because there’s a guy out of BYU whose online accounting course is so good. He is extraordinary, and our accounting faculty, on average, is average. Some [universities] will survive. Most will evolve hybrid models, in which universities license some courses from an online provider like Coursera but then provide more-specialized courses in person.
Clay Christensen: First the media gets disrupted, then comes the education industry — Tech News and Analysis (via infoneer-pulse)

Murphy justifies keeping students from grappling with this history in the name of “[making] sure every kid in the county is protected.” In this reckoning, 17 and 18 year olds need protection from a few lost nights of sleep, from realizing that people are capable of doing truly awful things, from the knowledge that some people live with horrific, daily, inescapable violence.

Here’s another question: which 17 and 18 year olds need protection from this? Many teenagers know these things already. Some because it’s an unavoidable part of their history. So many others know these things from direct experience. To be able to assume a blanket right to protection that can be exercised simply by keeping scary books out of kids’ hands is the product of an amazing level of privilege and disconnectedness from reality.

As Prof. David Leonard says, the argument from a white parent living in an affluent suburb that “children” as an undifferentiated class need to be protected from merely reading about such things “speaks to sense of entitlement and notion of whose innocence, security, and personal joy deserves attention [and] protection.”

This is a roundabout sort of white supremacy that coopts the language of keeping kids safe to say that the experiences people of color actually lived are too volatile even read about. And let’s be clear, it’s not simply the fact that these are stories about people of color that is at issue. It’s the fact that these are also histories of white people, and histories that are fundamentally incompatible with mythologies of whiteness, particularly the myth of whiteness as innocence.

A history where people of color are the innocent victims of white violence is an offense to white supremacy. So demands are made for preserving the “innocence” of white kids, something that requires denying the innocence of communities of color subjected to white violence and colonialism. White students must be shielded from the trauma of confronting the violent acts and legacy of people who looked like them – perhaps even people they are descended from.

Grace, “Protecting White Kids From History,” Are Women Human 2/8/13 (via racialicious)

He believes that many of the new ideas, including MOOC’s, could bring improvements to higher education. But “innovation is not about gadgets,” says Mr. Stokes. “It’s not about eureka moments. … It’s about continuous evaluation.”

The furor over the cost and effectiveness of a college education has roots in deep socioeconomic challenges that won’t be solved with an online app. Over decades, state support per student at public institutions has dwindled even as enrollments have ballooned, leading to higher prices for parents and students

For Whom Is College Being Reinvented?

'Disruptions' have the buzz but may put higher education out of reach for those students likely to benefit the most


Read against Wired UK’s story, the opportunity Forbes describes seems revolutionary but, in its DNA, is the opposite. The MOOC model depicted here ossifies the already outdated mission of 19th-century education. Far too many of the MOOC’s championed in the article use talking heads and multiple-choice quizzes in fairly standard subject areas in conventional disciplines taught by famous teachers at elite universities. There is little that prepares students for learning in the fuzzy, merged world that Negroponte sees as necessary for thriving in the 21st century.

Making courseware “massive” may dangle the eventual possibility of trillion-dollar profits (even if they have yet to materialize). But it does not “fix” what is broken in our system of education. It massively scales what’s broken.

Forbes may see an investment opportunity for profit-based online educational companies. But there is also an investment opportunity for any educator (with or without degree) to rethink learning top to bottom, inside out. We have a potential for a learning mash-up of the loftiest, most creative, learner-centered kind.

Size Isn’t Everything

For academe’s future, think mash-ups not MOOC’s


In a searing commentary, political analyst Joshua Foust notes that the unpaid internships that were once limited to show business have now spread to nearly every industry. “It’s almost impossible to get a job working on policy in this town without an unpaid internship,” he writes from Washington DC, one of the most expensive cities in the country. Even law, once a safety net for American strivers, is now a profession where jobs pay as little as $10,000 a year - unfeasible for all but the wealthy, and devastating for those who have invested more than $100,000 into their degrees. One after another, the occupations that shape American society are becoming impossible for all but the most elite to enter.
The closing of American academia - Opinion - Al Jazeera English (via mmmightymightypeople)
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