The Educator's Notebook

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

Educator’s Notebook #446 (May 12, 2024)


  • An excellent week full of useful teaching & learning pieces as well as today’s complex topics.

    In today’s features, find a meta-analysis of what works in writing instruction. This research article is a technical read, but it looks broadly at hundreds of studies to identify the validity and strength of different approaches, and combing through it can yield some helpful guidance. Also in today’s features, see a report by RAND on how restrictions on discussions of race and gender in the classroom have affected teachers.

    Also this week, find a robust STEM section on teaching math and coding: the importance of teachers in student math progress, how AI copilots are changing the way students learn CS, and more.

    Also, while campus protests and arrests around the war in Gaza extend into the final weeks of school and even some graduation ceremonies, find reports of how the moment is playing out both in colleges and in schools. See also a report on how these protests are being received in pockets of Gaza. For me, having lived in the Middle East for four years, the events in Israel and Gaza have hit close to home.

    Last, if you are interested in the great cicada emergence of 2024, check out the two articles in the general section near the end. This year, two enormous cicada broods are emerging at once. See the posts below for historical maps of these emergences over the past 200 years as well as an excellent visual explainer of what is happening this year.

    These and more, enjoy!


    • RAND Corporation
    • 03/12/24

    “As of spring 2023, 3 percent of teachers said that limitations on race- or gender-related topics positively impact student learning. Teachers were about ten times more likely to say that such limitations negatively impact student learning. Teachers who opposed limitations voiced concerns that these limitations constrain students' learning opportunities, diminish students' sense of belonging and capacity for empathy, and could lead to long-term consequences for students' futures and the future of the education system, country, and democracy. The few teachers who supported limitations believed that race or gender are topics more appropriate for discussing at home than at school. They noted that emphasizing race or gender in the classroom is developmentally inappropriate for young students, creates division and confusion among students, and shifts the focus away from academic learning.

    • Research Gate
    • 10/01/23

    “In this meta-analysis, we examined if teaching writing improved the writing and reading of students in Grades 6 to 12, and what specific writing treatments enhanced students’ writing. Our review included writing treatments tested using an experimental or quasi-experimental design (with pretests) and published and unpublished studies, and computed effect sizes for all writing and reading outcomes assessed.”


    • New York Times
    • 05/06/24

    “Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was first performed exactly 200 years ago Tuesday and has since become probably the work most likely to be embraced for political purposes. It was played at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin; it was performed in that city again on Christmas 1989 after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when Leonard Bernstein replaced the word “Joy” in the choral finale with “Freedom”; the European Union adopted the symphony’s “Ode to Joy” theme as its anthem.”

    • Marginalian
    • 05/17/22







    • New York Times
    • 05/06/24

    “Some researchers warn that we are in danger of overdoing it. Mental health awareness campaigns, they argue, help some young people identify disorders that badly need treatment — but they have a negative effect on others, leading them to over-interpret their symptoms and see themselves as more troubled than they are.”

    • New York Times
    • 05/06/24


    • Inside Higher Ed
    • 05/08/24

    “Such findings indicate that despite “a push toward narrow technical training and STEM initiatives at the expense of humanities programs,” the labor force demands more than just technical skills from graduates.”

    • Hechinger Report
    • 05/03/24

    “The number of men enrolled in college nationwide has dropped by more than 157,000, or almost 6 percent, in just the last five years, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. The proportion of college students who are men is now a record-low 41 percent, the U.S. Department of Education says.”





    • Marc Watkins
    • 05/03/24

    “The implications of having an AI-reading assistant that can summarize anything into your language, at your reading level, can have immense benefits for neurodiverse learners and second-language learners. AI reading assistants could play an important role in equity and access to information. However, the uncritical adoption of AI reading tools poses an incredible risk to student’s close reading skills.”






    • CNN
    • 05/03/24

    “Billions of bugs are emerging from the soil across a large swath of the United States in a natural phenomenon last witnessed in 1803. It involves two broods, or groups, of periodical cicadas, insects with relatively long life cycles that show up after a certain interval. The Northern Illinois brood spends 17 years underground before surfacing and is known as Brood XIII, while the Great Southern Brood, or Brood XIX, lives underground for 13 years… The synchronous dual emergence of these two particular broods, which happens once every 221 years, is underway until June. The next time the two broods appear together, it will be 2245.”

    • YouTube
    • 05/03/24
    • New York Times
    • 05/02/24

    “Brood XIII and Brood XIX will emerge together this year, for the first time in more than two centuries.”

    • Wait But Why
    • 12/11/15

    “Each of those dots is only a single Tuesday or Friday or Sunday, but even a lucky person who lives to 90 will have no problem fitting every day in their life on one sheet of paper.”

A.I. Update


  • Some important pieces published this week.

    The first feature highlights an excellent resource put out by AI for Education to help educators and students navigate the increasing appearance of deepfakes in society. This is a much needed and very helpful guide.

    Also, to understand just how much AI is emerging in the workplace, explore Microsoft’s AI Workplace Trends report. Not only is AI increasingly common in the workplace, but it is also leading to higher levels of job satisfaction. The challenge, however, is that employees are using it without guidance from leadership, so it is often happening in secret. Explore this report for further guidance as you consider how AI might fit within your own workplace.

    Also of particular interest this week is the survey of 2,778 AI researchers about the state of AI development. Pulled out below is a chart that shows when on aggregate these researchers think AI will meet certain developmental milestones. The horizontal bands in the chart represent the researchers’ estimates for meeting these milestones in 2022 (blue) versus their estimates one year later in 2023 (red). almost all estimates are moving to the left, revealing just how fast the industry is developing.

    Last, see the post on OpenAI’s model spec to better understand the specifications OpenAI aims for ChatGPT to follow. This is OpenAI’s first effort to make the behavior of their models more transparent, similar to how Anthropic has committed publicly to their constitutional AI approach.

    These and more, enjoy!


    Estimates of when AI will reach certain milestones
    • AI for Education
    • 05/10/24

    “Since 2019, the presence of Deepfakes – hyperrealistic AI-generated video, photo, and audio forgeries – has surged by 550%, reaching a staggering 95,820 documented deepfake videos in 2023 alone. This blurring of reality requires a new approach to vetting if online content is real or fake. This guide is designed to build student awareness of the presence and impact of deepfakes, while providing key discussion topics on the ethics of AI-generated content.”

    • Microsoft
    • 05/08/24

    “Already, AI is being woven into the workplace at an unexpected scale. 75% of knowledge workers use AI at work today, and 46% of users started using it less than six months ago. It’s paying off: Users say AI helps them save time (90%), focus on their most important work (85%), be more creative (84%), and enjoy their work more (83%).”






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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