The Educator's Notebook

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

Educator’s Notebook #440 (March 17, 2024)


  • An excellent few weeks.

    Feature articles this week focus on a recent book about moving from debate to dialogue (a theme in these newsletters) and on an exploration by Dan Meyer of “low threshold, high ceiling” learning experiences.  The second piece in particular reminds me of an analysis of character traits that leads to student success that we performed more than a decade ago. Through a thrilling data analysis of student comments (I know: “thrilling” and “data analysis” aren’t often side-by-side… but it was!), we identified foundational character traits that lead to academic competence and then exceptional character traits that correlate with excellence. I wrote up a summary of it here.  It ultimately led to discussions of how to develop learning experiences that scaffold foundational character traits while ensuring opportunities existed for students to demonstrate excellent — or what Dan Meyer calls low threshold, high ceiling tasks.

    Also this week, find more writing about the return of the SAT to college admissions, a series of posts about diverse perspectives in schools, a review of a new book about the retelling of Huck Finn from the perspective of Jim, and more evidence about the benefits for kids of cell phone-free hours in their days.

    Last, my time at NAIS and SXSWedu were excellent and inspiring. Keynote addresses by Isabel Wilkerson and Kimberlé Crenshaw offered direct insight into some of today’s most challenging topics. If the topic of Critical Race Theory, for example, has been a topic of significance at your school, watching this keynote “Unraveling Myths About Critical Race Theory in Education” delivered by one of its authors may help bring some clarity.

    These and more, enjoy!


    • Harvard
    • 03/11/24

    “When teaching about specific issues, professors should pivot from yes-or-no debates to “under what circumstances.” For example, instead of assigning an essay on “Do you support mask mandates?” she suggests tweaking the prompt to “Under what circumstances may authorities require people to wear personal protective equipment?” Removing binaries and de-emphasizing existing political labels, she writes, lead to more robust discussions and allow students to consider a wide range of connected questions.”

    • Dan Meyer
    • 03/06/24

    “All good tasks should be, by design or fortunate accident, "low threshold, high ceiling". Low threshold so that nearly all people can make a start and high ceiling so that there's always some higher order avenue to work towards.”

















A.I. Update


  • "Create an icon style picture that has three images: one representing the workplace, one representing civic engagement, and one representing pursuit of happiness."
    “Create an icon style picture that has three images: one representing the workplace, one representing civic engagement, and one representing pursuit of happiness.”


    As ever, the AI landscapes continues evolve at a breakneck pace.

    In this issue’s features, first find a piece that I wrote for the REAL Discussion blog. In it, I make the case that whether or not you are using AI in your pedagogy at school, it is essential that we talk with students about AI. Written through the lens of the three major purposes for education (preparation for work, preparation for civic engagement, pursuit of a fulfilling life), it argues that our mission to prepare students for their future obligates us to talk about it. Find also suggestions of dozens of places that already exist in our curriculum that open opportunities for discussion.

    Also in the features, see the opportunity prompted by the Middle States Association for schools to earn a kind of endorsement/accreditation for your school’s AI efforts. This is an interesting model for ensuring a level of competency within an institution.

    So much more in this issue, including: Ethan Mollick’s assessment of the now three most powerful LLMs (ChatGPT, Gemini, Claude 3), Dan Meyer’s reflection on the difference between human and AI tutors, and a creative application of multimodal AI: taking pictures of ingredients and asking AI to make a recipe with what it sees.

    These and more, enjoy!


    • REAL Discussion
    • 03/08/24

    “Education has three purposes: to prepare students for the workforce, to prepare students for participation in civil and democratic society, and to prepare students for a fulfilling life. AI is already propelling significant changes in each of these areas. So great is the impact on each of these areas that failing to talk with students about the role of AI in their (and our) lives amounts to a level of professional negligence. As educators and citizens, we failed to prepare young people for social media, so kids and technology companies figured it out on their own — with disastrous results for mental health worldwide. We can’t fail like this again.”

    • Middle States Association
    • 03/04/24

    “RAIL is a comprehensive implementation framework for AI in schools and systems. It’s like accreditation for the adoption of AI.”







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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