The Educator's Notebook

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

Educator’s Notebook #436 (February 5, 2024)


  • Good morning, readers! 

    In addition to a full issue and AI Update below, I’m happy share three announcements today.  Here are the contents of today’s issue:

    1. Three announcements
    2. Education articles
    3. AI update
    4. AI and education articles


    Three announcements:

    1) Aptonym

    First, I’m thrilled to share I’ve started consulting with Aptonym. We provide a wide range of support for schools, with an approach that transcends silos and seeks solutions that look more like the future than the past. We work with schools including St Paul’s School, Oregon Episcopal Academy, Choate Rosemary Hall, Pembroke Hill School, and many others. If you need help with any challenge that would benefit from new and different thinking, we’d love to help, so please reach out. Visit Aptonym’s website to learn more, and don’t hesitate to contact me with inquiries.


    2) Conferences

    Second, I’m looking forward to connecting in person at three conferences this spring: NAIS (Feb 28 – Mar 1), SXSWedu (Mar 4-7), and ASU-GSV & AIR Show (April 13-17):

    • The NAIS Annual Conference (St Louis, MO) brings together independent schools from around the country and the world. I’ll be on the ground all three days of the conference and would love to connect if you are there.  Registration is here.
    • SXSWedu (Austin, TX) is the premier location for conversations across all stakeholders in education. Here is my planned schedule at SXSWedu, which unfortunately requires me to split myself into 3-4 or places at once to see so many of the excellent opportunities. You can register here, and I hope to see you there.  This is the one conference I have attended more than any other to get a bead on what’s happening across the whole education landscape.
    • The ASU-GSV Summit (San Diego, CA) is a West Coast EdTech pilgrimage. This year is my first time attending, and ASU-GSV (April 14-17) is also hosting the AIR Show (“AIR” for “Artificial Intelligence Revolution”), which promises to be the largest gathering in the US specifically for AI in education. AIR Show (April 13 – 15) registration is free (!).  You can find more information on the AIR Show here.  I’ll be sharing work there, but of a slightly different sort… see below.


    3) Schooled, the Musical

    Last, I’m thrilled to share that the musical I composed with Sam Watson almost five years ago is continuing to take on newer and larger life, thanks to the extraordinary support of Ash Kaluarachchi from Started and EdTechWeek. This fall, a staged reading of an excerpt from the original performance debuted at EdTechWeek at The New York Times Center, and I’m very happy to share that a second reading will take place at the AIR Show at ASU-GSV on April 15.  If you attend the AIR Show (which is free except for your own travel and lodging expenses), I’d love to see you there.  

    Keep an eye open for more announcements in the months ahead.

    Until then, here is this week’s issue below, including:

    • An excellent preview of the new AP African American Studies course
    • A schedule of education conferences this year
    • A review of analyses of direct vs inquiry discussion
    • Examples of ethical dilemmas in AI

    These and more… enjoy!


    • Hechinger Report
    • 01/22/24

    “The first thing to notice is that the two groups of scholars are arguing about two different things. The inquiry critics pointed out that inquiry wasn’t great at helping students learn content and skills. The inquiry defenders emphasize that inquiry is better at helping students develop conceptual understandings. Different teaching methods may be better for different learning goals. The second takeaway is that even this group of 13 inquiry defenders argue that teachers should use both approaches, inquiry and direct instruction. That’s because students also need to learn content and procedural skills, which are best taught through direct instruction, and in part because it would be boring to learn only one way all the time.”

    • College Board
    • 12/06/23

    “Since 2022, nearly 15,000 students and hundreds of teachers in more than 40 states have helped pilot AP African American Studies. (The course will be available nationally in the 2024-25 school year.) College Board visited some of them, in Baltimore, Houston, and Baton Rouge, to see the course in action—and to hear directly from those early adopters.”


    • New York Times
    • 01/29/24

    “An issue of prime importance to teenagers across surveys is education. Asked an open-ended question by Common Sense about the most important thing that could be done to improve the lives of children, a plurality, one in five, said improving or reforming the education system.”




    • New York Times
    • 01/01/24

    “The symptoms of empathic distress were originally diagnosed in health care, with nurses and doctors who appeared to become insensitive to the pain of their patients. Early researchers labeled it compassion fatigue and described it as the cost of caring. The theory was that seeing so much suffering is a form of vicarious trauma that depletes us until we no longer have enough energy to care. But when two neuroscientists, Olga Klimecki and Tania Singer, reviewed the evidence, they discovered that “compassion fatigue” is a misnomer. Caring itself is not costly. What drains people is not merely witnessing others’ pain but feeling incapable of alleviating it. In times of sustained anguish, empathy is a recipe for more distress, and in some cases even depression. What we need instead is compassion.”














A.I. Update


  • At the beginning of the summer, when ChatGPT’s usage plummeted by millions of users, some thought that we were seeing the peak of overinflated expectations. Other analysts proposed that the decline was because the school year had ended, and when the school year began again in the fall and a similar increase in users arrived, their hypothesis seemed confirmed.  Now, following a survey by FlexOS of the biggest consumers of all Generative AI tools, the data for schools is proven out.

    Education and writing apps make up four of the top ten most highly used GenAI tools. comes in third (!), after only ChatGPT and Bing.  Spots 6 and 7 for the most used of all GenAI Tools belong to a homework AI tool and a tutoring AI tool.  Turnitin comes in at number nine.  All the other apps you may be hearing about — Midjourney, Perplexity, Claude, and others — come after the top ten.

    Dig further into this data in the first feature article this week.  In the second feature article, find out what a December survey of students by the ACT reveals about student use and perceptions of AI look like.

    These and more, enjoy!


    • FlexOS
    • 01/29/24

    “Grammarly AI comes in at number 3, provides 30 million people support and coaching on writing effectively. In our previous report, "Generative AI at Work", Grammarly was named as the second-most-used Generative AI tool by US knowledge workers.”

    • ACT
    • 12/01/23

    “Using data from a nationwide sample of students in Grades 10 through 12, this study examined students’ use of AI tools for school assignments and other purposes, their impressions of how using the tools might affect them cognitively and academically, and their thoughts on using AI tools to write their college admissions essays.”




    • BBC
    • 01/27/24
    • University of Minnesota
    • 11/07/23

    “We found that access to GPT-4 only slightly and inconsistently improved the quality of participants’ legal analysis but induced large and consistent increases in speed. AI assistance improved the quality of output unevenly—where it was useful at all, the lowest-skilled participants saw the largest improvements. On the other hand, AI assistance saved participants roughly the same amount of time regardless of their baseline speed. In follow up surveys, participants reported increased satisfaction from using AI to complete legal tasks and correctly predicted the tasks for which GPT-4 were most helpful. These results have important descriptive and normative implications for the future of lawyering. Descriptively, they suggest that AI assistance can significantly improve productivity and satisfaction, and that they can be selectively employed by lawyers in areas where they are most useful. Because these tools have an equalizing effect on performance, they may also promote equality in a famously unequal profession. Normatively, our findings suggest that law schools, lawyers, judges, and clients should affirmatively embrace AI tools and plan for a future in which they will become widespread.”



    • Escaping Flatland
    • 01/23/24

    “Then, in May 2016, DeepMind demonstrated AlphaGo, an AI that could beat the best human Go players. This is how the humans reacted.. After a few years, the weakest professional players were better than the strongest players before AI. The strongest players pushed beyond what had been thought possible.”


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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