The Educator's Notebook

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

Educator’s Notebook #438 (February 26, 2024)


  • Good morning, readers

    This week’s features first explore how students can practice taking perspectives different than their own. Especially in polarizing times, classroom exercises like these help students build empathy for others. Also, explore how one school brought its students into the curriculum review process, with encouraging results.

    Also this week, see how constructive use of AI is growing in the curriculum: the NCTM makes a position statement, simpler AI permissions frameworks are emerging, and studies are returning initial results on how AI can be most beneficial in providing feedback on writing.  If you are looking for a deep dive on how AI can be helpful in your curriculum more broadly, and specifically for a breakdown of how AI can inform skill development across the curriculum, don’t miss the recent book “Education for the Age of AI” which I posted about a few weeks ago. (Disclosure: I’m on the advisory board for the Center for Curriculum Redesign.)

    I’m looking forward to connecting in person with many of you at three conferences over the next several weeks: NAIS (Feb 28 – Mar 1), SXSWedu (Mar 4-7), and ASU-GSV & AIR Show (April 13-17). Especially if your school is in need of consulting services on strategy, AI, program, or communications, please reach out.

    • 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.
    • SXSWedu (Austin, TX) is the premier location for conversations across all stakeholders in education. Here is my planned schedule at SXSWedu. 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. The AIR Show (April 13 – 15) promises to be the largest gathering specifically focused on AI in schools. It’s free, and excerpts from the musical I’ve been working on will be performed there. I’ll also be on the ground during the GSV Summit (April 14-17) and will be sharing more of what’s percolating here in future weeks.

    Also in this issue: more on the new AP African American Studies course, on climate change in the curriculum, and on developments in AI.  Find an extraordinary AI section at the end — the rate of development continues to be staggering.






    • New York Times
    • 02/18/24

    “For more than two decades, I’ve taught versions of this fiction-writing exercise. I’ve used it in universities, middle schools and private workshops, with 7-year-olds and 70-year-olds. But in recent years openness to this exercise and to the imaginative leap it’s designed to teach has shrunk to a pinprick. As our country’s public conversation has gotten angrier, I’ve noticed that students’ approach to the exercise has become more brittle, regardless of whether students lean right or left.”

    • EdWeek
    • 02/05/24

    “As part of the curriculum redesign—which district leaders credit with more than doubling the number of schools that receive recognition from the state for high achievement—Maxlow in 2021 helped create a student-internship program. High school students can apply for a job to help conduct annual reviews of the district’s curriculum and classroom activities. The approximately 15 students chosen each year for the three-week internship provide feedback, insight, and sometimes lend a hand in crafting classroom materials. Some continue the work even after the school year has begun. In return, they are paid at least $19 per hour and have a unique experience to add to their resume and college applications.”




    • New York Times
    • 02/20/24

    “If you went to an American public school between 1966 and 2012, you probably have memories of sweating through the Presidential Physical Fitness Test — a gym class gauntlet that involved a mile run, sit-ups, pull-ups (or push-ups), a sit-and-reach and a shuttle run.”


    • Journal of Creativity
    • 03/01/24

    “Results also demonstrated the potential and constraints of human-AI collaboration, particularly that ChatGPT-3 is best utilized for fluency and elaboration during divergent thinking, while flexibility and originality are best augmented by human creative and critical analysis. These results suggest that students should not rely on AI for answers but use AI's high fluency and elaboration to iterate a wider range of creative ideas.”

    • Leon Furze
    • 02/19/24
    • WBGO
    • 02/14/24

    “As a white man playing the banjo, an essentially African invention falsely branded as a white-bred instrument as it traveled through the 1900s, everything I do moves within the problematic nature of the harm done along race lines throughout American history. I wouldn’t want to segregate ourselves further by dividing musical inspiration along race lines before it even emerges into musical composition.. For me the key is that the artist attempts to create something new, inspired by whatever source material turns on the faucet. Part of that process is unconscious and almost compulsive, at least for me. I know when I hear something new to me that truly inspires, it throws open the doors in my head. The mind says “wow—if that is possible, then this, this, and this must be possible,” and off to the races I go, writing frantically ‘til the creative battery runs out of juice.”









    • NCTM
    • 02/25/24

    “Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven tools can respond to students’ thinking and interests in ways that previous tools could not… Students will continue to need teachers’ mathematical, pedagogical, and relational expertise, though teachers are also likely to benefit from AI-driven tools. In some cases, AI may serve as a teaching assistant, but students will need teachers to help them create a bridge between prior knowledge, new knowledge, and shared knowledge. Teachers must tell students to be very skeptical about AI results, especially about the unique challenges of using tools that may have been trained on biased datasets. This skepticism can be woven into existing pedagogical and assessment techniques. Knowing this, educators need to be involved in developing and testing AI tools in math education to stay up to date with current AI trends to best prepare students for an AI future.”

    • New York Times
    • 02/19/24




    • EdWeek
    • 02/15/24

    “Alameda adapted a model dress code developed by the Oregon National Organization of Women in 2016, which was used in several districts in a handful of other states. It emphasizes respect and instructional continuity in enforcement.”


A.I. Update


  • A pride of lions, a conspiracy of lemurs, an ambush of tigers… can we call it: an acceleration of AI?

    Well, the rate of change in the AI industry continues to grow. If change in an industry happens rapidly at first and then slowly thereafter, Ethan Mollick recently suggested that we are still on the steep part of the curve.  In education, the ice is thawing, even while much remains ahead.

    This week’s features examine some essential questions: What use of AI is developmentally appropriate at different grade levels? How can AI help with feedback on writing? How do we balance our increasing engagement with AI against our own humanity?

    Also find this week an excellent section on the risks of AI. What is the environmental impact of AI? How can AI itself help mitigate climate risks? What concretely does bias from AI look like? Find these in the ethics and risk section.

    Also, find excellent emerging writing on copyright and AI, on the astonishing new developments from the last two weeks, and much more. NOTE: some of this week’s AI articles are mainstream enough that they have been included in the regular newsletter sections above: in assessment,



    A permissions scale by Leon Furze for appropriate use of AI in an assessment. See the post in “Assessments” in the regular newsletter above.

    • EdWeek
    • 02/19/24

    “Education Week consulted four teachers and two child-development experts on when K-12 students should start using AI-powered tech and for what purposes. They all agree on this central fact: There is no avoiding AI… All this makes it essential that students learn about AI in school, experts say. But when, and how, exactly? We’ve got answers.”

    • New York Times
    • 02/14/24

    “If we answer that question from a place of fear about what’s left for people in the age of A.I., we can end up conceding a diminished view of human capability. Instead, it’s critical for us all to start from a place that imagines what’s possible for humans in the age of A.I. When you do that, you find yourself focusing quickly on people skills that allow us to collaborate and innovate in ways technology can amplify but never replace. And you find yourself — whatever the role or career stage you’re in — with agency to better manage this moment of historic change.”

    • IJETHE
    • 10/27/23

    “We found about half the students preferred receiving feedback from a human tutor, and half preferred AI-generated feedback. Those that preferred sitting down and discussing their feedback with a tutor cited the face-to-face interaction as having affective benefits, such as increasing engagement, as well as benefits for developing their speaking abilities. Those that preferred AI-generated feedback primarily cited the clarity and specificity of the feedback as being useful for improving their writing. This echoes the findings of Dai et al. (2023), namely that AI-generated feedback was found to be more readable and detailed than feedback from an instructor… In light of the major findings highlighted above, we believe a mixed approach to providing feedback may be most beneficial for both language educators and students. By utilizing GenAI, language educators may be able to produce more detailed feedback in a shorter amount of time for each individual learner. Providing opportunities for stu- dents to discuss AI-generated feedback with a human tutor and ask follow up questions affords students with the benefits of each modality, namely the clarity and specificity of the AI-generated feedback, and the benefits of interacting with another human, such as engagement and the ability to practice speaking.”


    • Digital Promise
    • 02/21/24
    • Impact Alpha
    • 02/20/24

    “So, how does an education AI startup build something defensible? One common answer is to gather a large and proprietary data set. Another is to build tools and features that AI platform companies won’t, such as specific workflows and user experiences, collaboration features, ethical and pedagogical principles, and security and compliance features.”

    • 74 Million
    • 02/13/24
    • EdSurge
    • 02/09/24

    “Students were excited to interview a character they had just spent over two months dissecting. The chatbot offered an opportunity to ask the burning questions that often chase a reader after consuming a great work of fiction. What happened to Holden?And why was he so obsessed with those darn ducks? And they were eager to do that through a new tool — it gave them a chance to evaluate the hyped-up market for artificial intelligence (AI) for themselves.”

    • Harvard
    • 01/01/24

    “Our goal was to approximate a 1:1 teacher-to- student ratio through software, thereby equipping students with a pedagogically-minded subject-matter expert by their side at all times, designed to guide students toward solutions rather than offer them outright. The tools were received positively by students, who noted that they felt like they had “a personal tutor.” Our findings suggest that integrating AI thoughtfully into educational settings enhances the learning experience by providing continuous, cus- tomized support and enabling human educators to address more complex pedagogical 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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