The Educator's Notebook

A weekly collection of education-related news from around the web.

Educator’s Notebook #449 (June 2, 2024)


  • An excellent week!

    In today’s features, take a look at Ken Burns’ extraordinary commencement address. As ever, he sees the current moment through a deeply informed lens of history. Also, enjoy Thomas Pueyo’s remarkable exploration into what coming of age looks like across societies, how it has been marked in the past, and how we might constructively mark it today. It is an excellent look at what adolescence has meant and might mean today.

    Elsewhere in today’s issue: find out about how airfoils work, correlations between curiosity and math success, Heart of Darkness in an American context, and more.

    In the graph below, see just how much mental distress has changed perceptions of life satisfaction. What used to be a U-shaped graph of life satisfaction has now effectively become a single direction line. Adolescence in a networked world is different than it once was. See the post below in Adolescence for more.

    These and more, enjoy!


    Source: After Babel



    Read this issue and all back issues online at

    • Uncharted Territories
    • 05/29/24

    “Religion and its rites might be weakening, but we still need the psychology of rites of passage. If we want a healthy life and a healthy society, we must reclaim them. But simply to revive the rites of passage of days past won’t suffice. They are outdated; they have outlived their purpose. We need to create new ones, which requires understanding those of the past. What was their goal? How did they work? What modern problems can we solve with them? How can we use these insights to create rites of passage for the 21st century? How can we recreate them in our increasingly online world, since rites of passage have always been very sensorial and social experiences, with dance, music, participants, audiences, and symbols?”

    • Brandeis University
    • 05/26/24

    “The novelist, Richard Powers recently wrote that, "The best arguments in the world,"—and ladies and gentlemen, that's all we do is argue—The best arguments in the world, he said, "Won't change a single person's point of view. The only thing that can do that is a good story." I've been struggling for most of my life to do that, to try to tell good, complex, sometimes contradictory stories, appreciating nuance and subtlety and undertow, sharing the confusion and consternation of unreconciled opposites. But it's clear as individuals and as a nation, we are dialectically preoccupied. Everything is either right or wrong, red state or blue state, young or old, gay or straight, rich or poor, Palestinian or Israeli, my way or the highway. Everywhere we are trapped by these old, tired, binary reactions, assumptions, and certainties.”



    • After Babel
    • 05/27/24

    “There is a literature of at least 600 published papers suggesting that happiness is U-shaped in age and, conversely, that unhappiness is hump-shaped in age. In other words, when a person is young, they are as happy as they are going to be until old age (on average; individual lives vary)… That was then. And now everything has changed. The hump shapes and U-shapes in age have disappeared into the ether. Now, young adults (on average) are the least happy people. Unhappiness now declines with age, and happiness now rises with age—and this change seems to have started around 2017.”


    • EdWeek
    • 05/30/24

    “On Tuesday, I talked with Tim Knowles, the CEO of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, about replacing the century-old Carnegie unit of seat time with a mastery-based measurement of learning. It was a fascinating conversation that left me with more questions than answers. The thing I was most curious to ask Tim about was how he plans to put this shift into practice.”



    • Stanford
    • 05/29/24

    “In a survey of nearly 75,000 adults, researchers compared the participants’ preferred sleep timing, known as chronotype, with their actual sleep behavior. They determined that regardless of one’s preferred bedtime, everyone benefits from turning in early. Morning larks and night owls alike tended to have higher rates of mental and behavioral disorders if they stayed up late… There may be many explanations for sleep timing’s link to mental well-being, but Zeitzer thinks it likely comes down to the poor decisions that people make in the wee hours of the morning.”


    • New York Times
    • 05/28/24

    ““In issuing official statements of empathy, the university runs the risk of appearing to care more about some places and events than others,” the report said. “And because few, if any, world events can be entirely isolated from conflicting viewpoints, issuing official empathy statements runs the risk of alienating some members of the community by expressing implicit solidarity with others.””




    • Chronicle of Higher Ed
    • 05/17/24
    • Chronicle of Higher Ed
    • 05/16/24

    “Each year, universities choose their peer institutions when reporting their data to the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, or Ipeds. In return, they receive a customized report that compares their performance to that of their selected peers on various measures, like enrollment, graduation rates, and average staff salaries. The Chronicle compiled the peer institutions for nearly 1,500 institutions from the 2022-23 year. Explore to see whom your college considers to be its peers — and who thinks your college is its peer.”








    • Professor Galloway
    • 05/31/24
    • The Nightingale’s Sonata
    • 05/29/24

    “Certainly, a clever riposte like this one written by composer Max Reger from his bathroom after a very negative review, has a satisfying feel to it: “I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. I have your review before me. In a moment it shall be behind me.””

    • New York Times
    • 05/29/24
    • Learner Studio
    • 08/01/23

    “We hope to provide philanthropists an introductory roadmap – highlighting inspiring new ideas, sharing hope-filled observations, and building upon the reinvention work already underway in the US. We share insights about a paradigm for public education that defines success as thriving in life, careers and democracy, not merely proficiency in school. This new paradigm will require a community of funders who support the creation of a coherent vision and make concerted investments to re-engineer the architecture of public education from “schooling” towards a deeper focus on “learning.””

A.I. Update


  • Two helpful features this week: First, as you close this year and begin planning for next, find a simple framework for how to think about your school’s AI plan for the 24-25 school year. Also, in the second feature, check out Perplexity’s new tool that enables users to create instant, customizable wikipedia-style pages on a topic of your choice.  This can be helpful for creating study guides and or review documents.

    More broadly, as the industry matures, positive and negative uses and applications of AI are emerging at faster and faster rates. Deepfakes are now almost already pervasive in politics.  See the report on India’s elections for more here. And on the positive side, research is accelerating with generative AI support, though not without its own risks.

    These and more, including (a deepfake of) Ryan Gosling teaching the technical structure of LLMs, enjoy!


    Source: Reuters



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    • Michigan Virtual
    • 05/31/24

    “As schools end the academic year and look ahead to the 24-25 school year, many are likely still trying to determine the best strategies for realizing the potential benefits and overcoming the challenges related to artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. To do so, schools should consider taking a structured approach to AI integration based on the current state and needs of their own staff and stakeholders. Michigan Virtual's AI Integration Framework for School Districts provides a lens through which school districts can assess their current capacity and determine goals for their integration efforts. This blog post provides more specific details for planning and implementation according to our AI Integration Process.”

    • Perplexity
    • 05/30/24

    “Pages is designed to empower creators in any field to share knowledge. Educators: Develop comprehensive study guides for your students, breaking down complex topics into easily digestible content.”






    • Chronicle of Philanthropy
    • 05/29/24
    • Twitter/Allie Miller
    • 05/29/24

    “1) Fed ChatGPT 20-30 famous love letters and asked for a formula, common patterns, and differences between them. 2) Fed ChatGPT neighborhoods I like and dislike in places I’ve lived (SF, NY, Philly, Boston). Asked for patterns and neighborhoods I might like in Austin. 3) Told ChatGPT to act as my language translator and every English phrase I sent would be translated into Italian with a pronunciation guide. 4) Built a GPT to convert negative thoughts into positive reframes and action. 5) Asked ChatGPT to explain the history of St Petersburg and why the airport code is LED. 6) Submitted screenshots of TikTok comments filled with slang and asked for a line by line translation into non-slang, plus a gen z glossary based on the comments. 7) Submitted a super long contract and asked for red flags, recommendations, and clause edits.”

    • One Useful Thing
    • 05/26/24
    • New York Times
    • 05/26/24
    • Reuters
    • 05/01/24



Every week I send out articles I encounter from around the web. Subject matter ranges from hard knowledge about teaching to research about creativity and cognitive science to stories from other industries that, by analogy, inform what we do as educators. This breadth helps us see our work in new ways.

Readers include teachers, school leaders, university overseers, conference organizers, think tank workers, startup founders, nonprofit leaders, and people who are simply interested in what’s happening in education. They say it helps them keep tabs on what matters most in the conversation surrounding schools, teaching, learning, and more.

Peter Nilsson


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