The Educator's Notebook

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

Educator’s Notebook #443 (April 22, 2024)


  • What an excellent week!

    This week features a summary of the work of Angela Duckworth’s Character Lab. Most well known for her research on grit, Duckworth founded Character Lab a decade ago to support research on fostering character strengths.  This past February, she and the board decided to close Character Lab (here is their memo), but their work will always be accessible online. Featured below is Duckworth’s final post, which helpfully organizes the three areas of character research they pursued and their playbooks for how to deepen character strengths in students.

    Also in this week’s features, explore an excellent podcast by EdTech Insiders in which their guest makes the case that we should spend much more time listening at length to students.

    Elsewhere this week, check out a fascinating report on the impact of grading work in alphabetical order, Renaissance Learning’s “What Kids Are Reading” report, and a delightful reflection on a parent’s experience becoming a substitute teacher during the pandemic. And for Earth Day (happy Earth Day!), find a wide-reaching report on today’s sustainability’s challenges, as well as a 1978 internal memo from Exxon describing the inevitable impact of the Greenhouse Effect.

    Last, as my particular high season for conferences comes to a close, I wrote a very short reflection on LinkedIn about conferences and all the experimentation happening with AI today. This most recent experience was particularly thrilling with the performance of the musical on the main stage at the AIR Show — a picture with the cast is below. And my thanks to Ash Kaluarachchi and the team at EdTech Week for making it all possible.

    Also, see below for particularly robust AI Update this week. The industry continues to leapfrog itself…!

    These and more, enjoy!


    The cast and crew of Schooled at the AIR Show in San Diego
    • EdTechInsiders
    • 04/15/24

    “What people tell us when they do this is that they often have never just sat with a student for 40 minutes and deeply listened to them about their experience and about what they want. That’s the first thing they say. The second thing they say is, “I cannot unhear what I just heard. When that student told me how bored they feel minute after minute, hour after hour. When they feel disengaged. When they feel disempowered, whatever it may be — how can I live now knowing this without doing something about it?" And then the third thing they say is, “The kids have the answers! They know what they want. And they know what it looks like. And they know how to get there." And so all of that comes out of the kinds of questions that we can ask — and then listen to young people to get answers.”

    • Character Lab
    • 04/14/24

    “In my research, I find three families of character strengths. Strengths of heart encourage relating to other people in positive ways. In my research, I find three families of character strengths. Strengths of heart encourage relating to other people in positive ways… Strengths of mind encourage active and open-minded thinking. In this day and age, these intellectual virtues may seem in short supply… Strengths of will encourage the achievement of goals. These are intrapersonal insofar as they enable you to triumph over self-doubt, indecision, inertia, and other obstacles to a desired future. At any age—and most critically during our formative years—our interpersonal, intellectual, and intrapersonal habits can be cultivated. This is why our 15 Playbooks include over 200 specific Tips—actionable advice, based on science—for how to do so.”


    • Professor Galloway
    • 04/19/24

    “None of this is lost on young people, and the shattering of the social contract has left them feeling rage and shame. Half of Americans older than 55 say they are “extremely proud” to be American; that number drops to 18% among 18- to 34-year-olds. This weakens the immunity system of America, allowing minor cuts to U.S. society to bring on deadly opportunistic infections. Just as when someone in your life blows up at you, it is about the issue at hand … and it isn’t. American youth’s warranted concern on social justice issues, despite remarkable progress on all these issues, turns seamlessly into rage.”


    • Inside Higher Ed
    • 04/18/24

    “The study, which analyzed more than 30 million assessment records from the Wolverine State’s flagship from 2014 to 2022, shows that students whose last names start with W, X,Y and Z received grades that were approximately 0.6 points lower than their peers whose names begin with A, B and C. Researchers attribute the discrepancy to unconscious “sequential grading biases” and the default order in which instructors review students’ submissions for an assignment or test… a simple fix would be for Canvas and other online learning management systems to make random order the default setting.”

    • K12Dive
    • 04/17/24




    • EdWeek
    • 04/15/24

    “A pilot to infuse Black history and culture in social studies curriculum is gaining ground in the nation’s largest school district, offering a potential model to overcome widespread political debates over how to teach race in public schools… The curriculum “acknowledges the history and the contributions of Black Americans predating slavery, which is where much of American social studies begins,” Brown said, “and provides a paradigm for professional learning that can support effective implementation, not just in New York City, but around the world.””


    • New York Times
    • 04/20/24

    “The current attacks on theater in American schools have their origins in a struggle that took place in the late 1930s, when America’s political leadership believed that the arts, no less than industry and agriculture, were vital to the health of the Republic and deserving of its financial support. There was still an implicit understanding that theater and democracy — twinborn in ancient Greece, spheres where competing visions of society could be aired and debated — were mutually dependent.”

    • Chronicle of Higher Ed
    • 04/19/24





    • Hechinger Report
    • 04/16/24

    “It is time for schools and districts to abandon the search for the one perfect curriculum — it does not exist. Instead, they should focus on how to better implement the systems they have in an engaging, effective way. They should invest in the training and support of teachers to master the instruction of that curriculum. With these changes, we know students will find success in Algebra I, putting them on the path to higher-level math courses and postsecondary success.”







    • Cult of Pedagogy
    • 04/14/24
    • Medium
    • 06/27/22

    “Six months ago, when I set out to become a sub to help alleviate the acute staffing shortages at my kids’ schools, I had no idea how much I would learn along the way… The friendly banter inside school classrooms, offices, and hallways illustrated how pop culture and mass media narratives are gross distortions of reality. And wearing that official Hamden Public School badge reminded me that voting and marching are not the only forms of activism. Sometimes there is no substitute for just rolling up your sleeves and getting to work.”


A.I. Update


  • The technology continues racing ahead, and policies are slowly catching up.

    Stunning developments have emerged in recent weeks, including Udio’s new music generation tool and Microsoft just-unveiled research on lifelike deepfake technology.  Learn more about both of them below.

    Also this week, Meta released its newest model, Llama3, on all of its platforms, so now every user of Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp has an AI chatbot built into their smartphone apps. What this will do for accessibility to AI is unprecedented.

    It’s worth reflecting on the impact of Meta’s decision for the global AI landscape. More than 3 billion people are reported to use Meta’s app universe daily. Only a fraction of them are in developed nations. Significantly, public opinion about generative AI ranges widely across countries; while developed nations are more suspicious of generative AI, emerging nations are more excited about it. This may be natural given what a leveling force generative AI has already proven to be — emerging nations see this as an opportunity to have access to what developed nations take for granted. Now, Meta’s decision to make a powerful LLM freely accessible to all its users massively expands access to AI. What will the outcome be? We’ll see. In the meantime, happy Q&A with Llama3 in Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp!

    Also of particular interest this week is Stanford Human-Centered AI Lab’s report on the State of AI. Check out the lab’s findings across a host of topics, including ways in which scientific research has accelerated with the use of AI.

    These and more, enjoy!


    One slide from Stanford HAI’s AI Index Report
    • Stanford HAI
    • 04/14/24

    “The AI Index report tracks, collates, distills, and visualizes data related to artificial intelligence (AI). Our mission is to provide unbiased, rigorously vetted, broadly sourced data in order for policymakers, researchers, executives, journalists, and the general public to develop a more thorough and nuanced understanding of the complex field of AI.”

    • MiddleWeb
    • 04/11/24

    “Where does this leave us as teachers? We must accept that our students will want to push The Button, as Mollick describes – the LLM click that creates an essay or solves a problem set. Or, for teachers, writes a letter of recommendation for a student. In fact, Mollick asks the open question of whether, if AI can write in our voice and be more persuasive, we are disadvantaging our students by not using AI for such letters.”

    • Issues
    • 04/01/24

    “It’s not AI’s future, it’s humanity’s future. We don’t talk about electricity’s future, we don’t talk about steam’s future. At the end of the day, it is our future, our species’ future, and our civilization’s future—in the context 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


* indicates required