The Educator's Notebook

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

Educator’s Notebook #437 (February 11, 2024)


  • An excellent week this week.

    In today’s features, explore Dan Meyer’s analysis of whether great teachers are made or born. He looks at the performance of students in classes of emergency certified teachers to see if the results were significantly different than those of students in classes by certified teachers.  Or look at the article about Dartmouth reinstating the SAT and learn more about what the SAT does and does not do.  The Dean of Admissions at Dartmouth discusses this further in an interview in the admissions section.

    Also this week, excellent data across several categories on the adolescent experience today. See the social media section for information on teens and social media use: which platforms they use, at what ages, across what demographics, and more. And in the health section, see different assessments of the impact of social media on adolescent mental health. All these plus the adolescence section itself, which shows that e-cigarette use is way down from its 2019 peak, even if we’re not out of the woods yet.

    Last, as a school leader, the data that never left my mind is the divergence between household income and the cost of education. Nothing is more existential than this, which shows that the schools are pricing ourselves out of existence by becoming affordable to only a narrower and narrower slice of the population. (I’ve wondered if this is true of all educational settings: public, private, charter, etc.) Finally, I’ve found a graph that clearly shows the data. See below. Ignoring this long term reality is intergenerational negligence and socioeconomic injustice, but solving the problem requires heroic changes. See Scott Galloway’s (typically provocative and/or inflammatory) writing on the topic below in leadership.

    These, plus excellent pieces on pedagogy, terrific posts on cognitive science, and a great new video series by xkcd’s Randall Munroe.



    (The most important graph for every college president and head of school. From Scott Galloway in the leadership section below.)



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    • Hechinger Report
    • 02/05/24

    “But the complaint also pinpoints what Pennridge schools teach — and what they prevent students from learning — as a violation of civil rights. The curriculum changes, removal of DEI resources, and other steps to restrict student education on discrimination and its history “created an environment where race- and sex-based harassment can flourish,” the filing says.”

    • New York Times
    • 02/05/24

    “Three Dartmouth economists and a sociologist then dug into the numbers. One of their main findings did not surprise them: Test scores were a better predictor than high school grades — or student essays and teacher recommendations — of how well students would fare at Dartmouth… A second finding was more surprising. During the pandemic, Dartmouth switched to a test-optional policy, in which applicants could choose whether to submit their SAT and ACT scores. And this policy was harming lower-income applicants in a specific way… Many lower-income students, it turned out, had made a strategic mistake… They withheld test scores that would have helped them get into Dartmouth. They wrongly believed that their scores were too low, when in truth the admissions office would have judged the scores to be a sign that students had overcome a difficult environment and could thrive at Dartmouth.”

    • Dan Meyer
    • 01/31/24

    “In the first year of the COVID pandemic, two states waived many of their typical requirements for teachers, allowing anyone with a bachelor’s degree to teach. After reviewing end-of-course exam results, supervisor evaluations, and other data, researchers concluded that the students of this group of emergency-hired teachers did not differ significantly from students taught by traditionally licensed teachers.”








    • EdSurge
    • 02/06/24

    “The study, published as a working paper this month, found that taking a high-quality computer science course in high school increased the chance that the student goes on to major in computer science in college by 10 percentage points, and increased the chance that the student would finish a CS degree program by 5 percentage points.”





    • EdWeek
    • 01/31/24
    • Chronicle of Higher Education
    • 01/17/24

    “I did not look forward to my visit to Utah Valley University in the fall of 2023… I had been invited to lecture to students in the philosophy course that is required of all undergraduates at this huge (more than 43,000 students), open-enrollment public university… How wrong, in retrospect, my reluctance was. In Orem, Utah, I encountered one of the most heartening scenes in higher education that I have ever witnessed in my long career: an overflow crowd of around 150 in the main room and as many in an adjacent room, a crowd of students who were not just marking time — believe me, I know all too well what that looks like. These were students who were really paying attention the entire hour, and who then peppered me with very hard questions for another hour.”











A.I. Update


  • Several major stories this past week:

    First, Google has now introduced Gemini to the public, replacing its previous (and unsuccessful) model Bard. Read in several posts below about how Gemini appears to be comparable to GPT-4 in many functions, and how Gemini will be integrated across Google applications, posing the first real threat to OpenAI’s dominance.

    Also, a spate of deepfake concerns have arisen both in public and private contexts. While you might have seen the Taylor Swift deepfake story in the popular press, you may not have heard about the story reported from Hong Kong that a live deepfaked video of a CFO on a video call convinced an employee at a large company to wire $25M to scammers.

    In schools, see Lance Eaton’s excellent collection on Teaching AI ethics. I’ll be sharing more on this essential topic next week.

    Last, for a wonderful story about the interdisciplinary use of AI, read about how scholars have used AI to read scrolls from Herculaneum that have been unreadable for 2000 years. AI’s ability to read these texts promises to unveil something a second Renaissance in which hundreds of hitherto unreadable Roman scrolls will be accessible, opening us to a new trove of classical writing.

    We live in extraordinary times.



    (AI generated image of an ancient scroll found at Herculaneum. Far from accurate, but nice. See the piece in Uses and Applications near the end of this issue for the real thing.)



    Find the full archive of over 12,000 curated articles over the past decade at:

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    • One Useful Thing
    • 02/08/24

    “Let me start with the headline: Gemini Advanced is clearly a GPT-4 class model. The statistics show this, but so does a month of our informal testing. And this is a big deal because OpenAI’s GPT-4 (the paid version of ChatGPT/Microsoft Copilot) has been the dominant AI for well over a year, and no other model has come particularly close. Prior to Gemini, we only had one advanced AI model to look at, and it is hard drawing conclusions with a dataset of one. Now there are two, and we can learn a few things.”

    • Maha Bali
    • 01/11/24

    “Teachers need to focus on enhancing their own critical AI literacy, particularly around what is possible with AI and exposure to the variety of uses available to students. Whether or not a teacher believes AI can or could or should be integrated into their teaching (this choice is highly contextual and differs by teaching philosophy, subject matter, and type of student in their class), they need to be aware of what is available to students for authorized or unauthorized use.”

    • Leon Furze
    • 06/19/23

    “The Teaching AI Ethics series started as a single post covering the nine areas I’d identified as particularly important to education, from bias and discrimination to reinforcing societal power structures. The original post was so popular that I broke it down into nine further posts. Each post includes a detailed discussion of the ethical concern along with links to other articles and resources. There are case studies, discussion questions for a variety of disciplines, and lesson ideas which can be used across the curriculum. Though I designed these posts with a K-12 audience in mind, they’ve since been picked up at a tertiary level for discussions with pre-service teachers and other undergraduate students. I’ve created this page as a single reference point for all 10 posts.”




    • Google
    • 02/08/24
    • Futurity
    • 02/08/24

    “A team of researchers ran this exact experiment. They trained a multimodal AI system through the eyes and ears of a single child, using headcam video recordings from when the child was six months and through their second birthday. They examined if the AI model could learn words and concepts present in a child’s everyday experience. Their findings, reported in the journal Science, showed that the model, or neural network, could, in fact, learn a substantial number of words and concepts using limited slices of what the child experienced. That is, the video only captured about 1% of the child’s waking hours, but that was sufficient for genuine language learning.”

    • Stephen Downes
    • 02/06/24
    • MIT Technology Review
    • 01/27/24

    “In 1930, the prominent British economist John Maynard Keynes had warned that we were “being afflicted with a new disease” called technological unemployment. Labor-saving advances, he wrote, were “outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labour.” There seemed to be examples everywhere. New machinery was transforming factories and farms. Mechanical switching being adopted by the nation’s telephone network was wiping out the need for local phone operators, one of the most common jobs for young American women in the early 20th century.”

    • One Useful Thing
    • 02/08/23



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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