The Educator's Notebook

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

Educator’s Notebook #434 (January 3, 2024)

INTRODUCTION

  • Happy New Year, Readers!  And welcome to the first iteration of a new format for the Educator’s Notebook: all the same articles and commentary, but with a different layout.

    For me, every year past the year 2000 feels like the distant future — and here we are, in what actually looks like the distant future, sometimes a utopia, sometimes a dystopia: artificial intelligence, space ships, global lockdowns, climate change, global interconnectedness, and new surprises all the time.  Through it all, the imperative for education remains constant.

    My commitment to education has always been grounded in the belief that strong education systems are necessary for a peaceful, healthy future for humanity. I’m grateful that pursuing this work means engaging with passionate, smart and caring education professionals; that it means the joy of working with young people, whether they are in elementary school or in college; that it means tackling wicked problems that require, at their core, an understanding of our human experience: how we thrive, how we overcome challenges, and how we find purpose.

    Since returning to the United States, I’ve been engaging in a series of projects and work environments that have explored what it takes to create successful learning experiences for students, and I look forward to sharing more about them in the weeks ahead.  To get started, I’ve been upgrading the Educator’s Notebook in order that it might expand to provide more useful information and community to readers in the months ahead. More to come.

    To bring more people on board, please consider sharing this newsletter with colleagues and inviting them to subscribe.  They can subscribe by visiting the refreshed website for The Educator’s Notebook.

    In the meantime, welcome back from your holiday breaks!  Enjoy a rich issue this week, with a student reflection on freedom of speech in schools, illuminating approaches to teaching math, the return of calls for cell phone bans, and much more, including a robust AI section near the end.

    All these and more, enjoy!

    Pete

    A shell found on a beach over the holidays. A reminder of the cycles of the year, and how we grow.
    • New York Times
    • 01/03/24

    “Many commenters said, in no uncertain terms, that students need to be held accountable for their academics and behavior… They said policies like the 50 percent rule were unfair… And that leniency didn’t prepare young people for post-high school success… But some saw the benefits of a “grade floor” in certain situations… While others suggested alternative ways to help students who were struggling.”

    • LA Times
    • 01/03/24

    “I see teenagers unintentionally becoming more unforgiving and judgmental rather than open-minded and compassionate. When we can’t or don’t talk freely, we lose the chance to find real common ground, acknowledge complexity or grasp that even our own opinions can be malleable. If we listen only to those who already agree with us, we won’t make wider connections. We won’t grow. Some people told me not to write this piece — that I could get canceled online, cut off by peers and perhaps even rejected by colleges. That’s a risk I’m willing to take.”

    • EdWeek
    • 01/03/24

    “To make sense of the state of the profession, Education Week compiled some of the most significant findings related to teachers that were published this year. Much of this research comes from the EdWeek Research Center’s own surveys, which went out regularly to nationally representative samples of teachers, principals, and district leaders to gauge their opinions on topical issues.”

    • After Babel
    • 01/03/24

    “The main line of our work so far can be summarized like this: We have shown that there is an adolescent mental health crisis and it was caused primarily by the rapid rewiring of childhood in the early 2010s, from play-based to phone-based. It hit many countries at the same time and it is hitting boys as well as girls, although with substantial gender differences.”

ARTS

ASSESSMENT

    • ASCD
    • 01/03/24

    “To successfully implement reassessment options, educators must have in-depth knowledge of the theory and research that justifies the reassessment process, along with clear notions of the elements that must be in place to ensure it works.”

ATHENA

COGNITIVE SCIENCE

CREATIVITY

CURRICULUM

DIVERSITY/INCLUSION

HEALTH

HIGHER ED

HUMANITIES

LANGUAGE

LEADERSHIP

OTHER

    • Edutopia
    • 01/03/24

    “There was plenty of good news in the mix—and fascinating news, too. Neuroscientists continued to push the envelope on mapping the human brain, using cutting-edge technology to get a sneak peek at the “brain synchrony” between students and teachers as they learn about complex topics, and a comprehensive review of social and emotional learning confirmed, once again, that there’s no substitute for caring, welcoming school environments.”

    • New York Times
    • 01/03/24
    • Cult of Pedagogy
    • 01/03/24

    “So if we see all these pressing needs, and we’re not supposed to try to meet them ourselves, what is a healthier approach? Venet encourages teachers to put their energy into helping students find the resources they need, and when those resources are not available, addressing the systemic issues that create those scarcities.”

    • New Yorker
    • 01/03/24

    “When Daniel asks Nathan, an avid skateboarder [who is blind], whether people have tried to tell him not to pursue his hobby, Nathan responds, “Well, usually, if they say you shouldn’t be doing that, I say, ‘Screw you, I don’t care,’ because there’s no way to stop me.” There’s a palpable sense of purpose and optimism in all of Daniel’s interactions. And he believes that this film will change the way people think about blindness.

    • Brookings
    • 01/03/24

    “Encouragingly, the largest gains were notched among the students who were lowest performing prior to joining debate, suggesting the activity does not simply benefit those who are already excelling academically. More broadly, the study also found positive impacts of debate participation on graduation and college enrollment. The study did not find significant effects of debate participation on math scores, school attendance, or disciplinary infractions.”

    • Psyche
    • 01/03/24

    “For their paper in Developmental Psychology, they asked children aged six to 15 how they found out Santa wasn’t real, and the emotions they experienced afterwards. Then they asked 383 adults to remember how they came to disbelieve in Santa.”

    • New York Times
    • 01/03/24

PEDAGOGY

SAFETY

SOCIAL MEDIA

    • Pew Research
    • 01/03/24

    “Despite negative headlines and growing concerns about social media’s impact on youth, teens continue to use these platforms at high rates – with some describing their social media use as “almost constant,” according to a new Pew Research Center survey of U.S. teens. The survey – conducted Sept. 26-Oct. 23, 2023, among 1,453 13- to 17-year-olds – covered social media, internet use and device ownership among teens.”

STEM

    • Thinking Is Power
    • 01/03/24

    “too many science classes focus on what science knows instead of how it knows, leaving too many unable to spot claims that seem scientific…but aren’t. Science literacy is more than memorizing facts – it’s understanding how the process of science works.”

    • Stella’s Stunners
    • 01/03/24
    • Salon
    • 01/03/24

    “In fact, the team’s results show that the strength of the magnetic field in Mesopotamia was more than one and a half times stronger than it is in the area today, with a massive spike happening sometimes between 604 B.C. and 562 B.C. By combining the results of archaeomagnetic tests and the transcriptions of ancient languages on the bricks, the team was able to confirm this spike likely occurred during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II. Hand in hand with the sciences, the LIAA trail was illuminated by historical accounts of descriptively similar events, recorded from ancient authors as far west as the Iberian peninsula and well into Asia.”

SUSTAINABILITY

TECH

    • Larry Cuban
    • 01/03/24

    “We’re dealing with something more than kids watching Tik Tok during science class. Those hoping to ban phones see them as an unhealthy interference with nearly every key function schools are meant to serve… Ok, let’s ban students from using their phones during the school day. I’m sold. That’s probably the easy part. How can this policy be implemented so it works?”

VISUAL DESIGN

WORKPLACE

    • Gallup
    • 01/03/24
    • Larry Cuban
    • 01/03/24

    “Movies and television rarely show teachers, well, teaching. All kinds of professions, from police work to law to medicine, are routinely distorted in popular culture. But for the most part, competence rather than charisma is seen as a prerequisite for success in those fields… But in films and shows about teachers, the focus is on the teacher’s “connecting on an individual level with the students,” said James E. Ryan, dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, “and not so much about the craft of teaching.” Teachers more typically serve as emotional mentors than instructional guides: Tina Fey’s character in “Mean Girls” is a math teacher, but her main role is as social conscience of the school.”

A.I. Update

A.I. UPDATE

  • With four months of an AI-infused school year under our belts, the relationship between AI and learning is starting to mature.  Students are hungry to talk more about A.I., teachers are increasingly integrating AI into their own planning and into student learning experiences, and industry is starting to focus further on specific use cases and value propositions for educators.  

    How we use it to drive meaningful learning will be an ongoing focus not just this year, but in years to come, especially as the technology develops further and further. If you missed my reflection last month on how we might begin to redefine academic excellence in an age of AI, it is posted here.

    To get the new year started, explore the articles below, ranging from some excellent summaries of how AI can be useful to educators, to a number of important developments in the broader AI industry.

    These and more, enjoy!

    Pete

    Left: A shell generated by ChatGPT with the prompt: “Create a picture of the top of a shell, inspired by the attached picture.” Right: the attached picture.  It’s notable that the AI created concentric circles instead of spiraling layers.

     

    An actual shell found over the holidays, likely of the kind that fed ChatGPT’s model.
    • Edutopia
    • 01/03/24

    “In the paragraphs that follow, I’ve divided these tasks into the following categories: planning instruction, handouts and materials, differentiation, correspondence, assessment, and writing instruction and feedback.”

    • New York Times
    • 01/03/24

    ““I don’t want A.I. or ChatGPT to become like this Ping-Pong game where we just get caught back and forth weighing the positives and negatives,” said Naomi Roth, a 12th grader who helps lead the Human Rights Club. “I think kids need to be able to critique it and assess it and use it.””

TECH/AI: EDUCATION

TECH/AI: ETHICS AND RISK

TECH/AI: GOVERNMENT AND LAW

TECH/AI: INDUSTRY DEVELOPMENT

TECH/AI: USES AND APPLICATIONS

    • Minnesota Legal Studies
    • 01/03/24

    “AI assistance reduced the amount of time that participants took to complete the tasks roughly uniformly regardless of their baseline speed. In follow up surveys, we found that participants reported increased satisfaction from using AI to complete legal tasks and that they correctly predicted the tasks for which GPT-4 would be most helpful.”

    • Stanford
    • 01/03/24

    “Compared to a group of workers operating without the tool, those who had help from the chatbot were 14% more productive, on average, based on the number of issues they resolved per hour. The AI-supported agents ended conversations faster, handled more chats per hour, and were slightly more successful in resolving problems. Notably, the effect was largest for the least skilled and least experienced workers, who saw productivity gains of up to 35%.”

    • New York Times
    • 01/03/24
    • LinkedIn
    • 01/03/24
    • OpenAI
    • 01/03/24
    • Channel1
    • 01/03/24
    • New York Times
    • 01/03/24

    “A.I. cannot innovate. All it can produce are prompt-driven approximations and reconstitutions of preexisting materials. If you believe that culture is an imaginative human endeavor, then there should be nothing to fear, except that — what do you know? — a lot of humans have not been imagining anything more substantial… To make something count, you are going to have to do more than just rearrange precedent images and words, like any old robot. You are going to have to put your back into it, your back and maybe also your soul.”

    • New York Times
    • 01/03/24

    “Dr. Lakhani and his colleagues devised a larger, controlled experiment to measure how ChatGPT would affect more than 750 white-collar workers. That study, which is under review at a scientific journal, indicated sharply mixed results in the consultants’ work product. ChatGPT greatly improved the speed and quality of work on a brainstorming task, but it led many consultants astray when doing more analytical work.”

    • New York Times
    • 01/03/24

Issues

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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