The Educator's Notebook

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

Educator’s Notebook #447 (May 19, 2024)


  • An extraordinary week:

    The second feature article this week tackles a growing concern about the state of reading today: how much are kids reading in an age of social media, how much AI might change our reading patterns, what role reading should have in the curriculum, and more. Check out Doug Lemov’s essay on the importance of providing shared experiences with books in today’s world.

    And the first article lives right at today’s emerging AI moment. In a week in which OpenAI and Google both released astonishingly human-like AI tools, find this excellent reflection on how human curiosity is distinct from what one might call digital curiosity. This week’s AI section also explores current developments in depth and how we might best approach them.

    Additionally, find excellent posts this week on “ethno-mathematics”, Brown v Board 70 years later, feedback, and more.

    These and more, enjoy!


    From this week’s feature article on curiosity and AI




    Read this issue and all back issues online at

    • Ness Labs
    • 05/18/24

    “To understand the distinct roles of human and AI curiosity, I found it helpful to examine their unique characteristics through a comparative framework. This framework looks at three key aspects of curiosity—processing, perspective, purpose—and examines how humans and AI differ across these dimensions.”

    • Education Next
    • 04/03/24

    “Stories gain even more power when they are brought to life by reading aloud. In fact, this may be the book’s primary chance of salvation. If the book is going to survive its death struggle with the isolating and disconnecting technology of the smartphone, its best bet, I argue, will be if we can encourage students to read books with each other, laughing and gasping together, and in so doing create meaningful and connected experiences that they hope to re-create by reading more and further. Books are the ideal vehicle to both inform us and link us together. It’s time we brought them back into the classroom and made the shared experience of them the centerpiece of literacy instruction.”












    • Edutopia
    • 04/26/24

    “A recent study compared the learning of students when provided with extended time in direct instruction or active learning: a block of both in which students engaged in each methodology for about nine minutes and in intervals of three-minute changes between both approaches. The three-minute intervals turned out to be the most beneficial for students in learning and applying core content. The intervals allow students to stay focused on explicit modeling while also having time to process the information with others. These two approaches appear to complement each other when placed in a brief window of time.”




    • Hechinger Report
    • 05/13/24

    “Ethnomathematics falls under the same umbrella as culturally responsive math instruction. Experts say that teaching math this way requires teachers to get to know their students and create a learning environment where students can connect to math concepts. It involves developing lessons that reveal the math in everyday activities, like skateboarding, braiding and weaving. It can also include exploring the math involved in cultural practices, like beading.”



A.I. Update


  • This week’s first feature dives right into the implications of OpenAI’s new release — GPT-4o.  Ethan Mollick’s reflections highlight what it means to have an extraordinarily high-powered, omni-modal tool available to millions of people for free. See his post for an overview, and then explore the actual demonstrations from OpenAI further down. And also see the updates from Google in Industry Development — their new model was released the very next day and shares many of the same features.

    Also in the feature, explore Leon Furze’s excellent post on engaging your colleagues and faculty with GenAI. Furze walks through a faculty meeting or department meeting exercise to show the new capabilities of emerging models, including opportunities for making meaning.

    These and much more, enjoy!


    From the student poll referenced in the Education section below.
    • One Useful Thing
    • 05/14/24

    “Likely the biggest impact of GPT-4o is not technical, but a business decision: soon everyone, whether they are paying or not, will get access to GPT-4o… GPT-4 is a powerful tutor and teaching tool. Many educational uses were held back because of equity of access issues – students often had trouble paying for GPT-4. With universal free access, the educational value of AI skyrockets (and that doesn’t count voice and vision, which I will discuss shortly). On the other hand, the Homework Apocalypse will reach its final stages. GPT-4 can do almost all the homework on Earth. And it writes much better than GPT-3.5, with a lot more style and a lot less noticeably “AI” tone. Cheating will become ubiquitous, as will universal high-end tutoring, creating an interesting time for education.”

    • Leon Furze
    • 05/13/24

    “I have two things I need to do right now: Decide which skills are fundamental to my discipline, and which absolutely need to be learned slowly, methodically, and without offloading onto technology. Decide which skills and content I can (or must) offload, knowing that GenAI is now competent across a broad range of multimodal skillsets. This is where it becomes necessary to attack your assessments. Whatever you are teaching, and whether you’re in K-12 or Higher Education, your assessment tasks are more vulnerable than you think to Generative AI… Here are the step-by-step instructions for the faculty meeting activity:”


    • Marc Watkins
    • 05/17/24
    • New York Times
    • 05/17/24

    “Still, she has found several uses for A.I. “I find that A.I. is really helpful for speeding up the annoying prep tasks that take me the longest, like generating a list of new stoichiometry practice problems for students to drill at home to be ready for an assessment,” she wrote. She also finds it useful “to reword scientific articles to help students with disabilities” and to help Advanced Placement students “brainstorm topics and research questions.””

    • Leon Furze
    • 05/17/24

    “Imagine an interstellar voyage. You can build spaceships with the technologies that we have now that might take, say, 500 years to reach the destination. Or you could wait for 50 years and, with technology advancements, build a ship that will get you there in 100, overtaking the original 2024 spaceship while it’s still chugging through the first part of its journey. Sometimes it is genuinely better to wait and see.”

    • LinkedIn
    • 05/16/24
    • Dan Meyer
    • 05/15/24

    “I wish it went without saying that the learners in these videos are not typical of US K-12 students. They do not represent the median student in age, education, socioeconomic status, or the desire to perform, especially here for cameras broadcasting to a worldwide audience. What is typical? In a large 2018 study of thousands of students, Khan Academy reported that only 11% of participating students used its software for the recommended dosage of 30 minutes per week. This was in a study population of teachers who committed to helping their students meet that usage threshold.”

    • Res Obscura
    • 05/14/24
    • EdWeek
    • 05/10/24
    • K12 Dive
    • 05/09/24
    • Art & Science Group
    • 05/01/24

    “69% of college-bound students have used generative AI tools. 35% are using these tools for schoolwork. 8% are using them in the college admissions process. ~54% expect that colleges are engaging in AI usage and education in some way.”


    • MIT Sloan Management Review
    • 05/13/24
    • One Useful Thing
    • 05/12/24

    “If you debate with an AI, they are 87% more likely to persuade you to their assigned viewpoint than if you debate with an average human. GPT-4 helps people reappraise a difficult emotional situation better than 85% of humans, beating human advice-givers on the effectiveness, novelty, and empathy of their reappraisal. GPT-4 generates startup ideas that outside judges find to be better than those of trained business school students. 149 actors playing patients texted live with one of 20 primary care doctors or else Google's new medical LLM. The AI beat the primary care doctors on 28 out of 32 characteristics, and tied on the other four, as rated by human doctors. From the perspective of the "patients," the AI won on 24 of 26 scales of empathy and judgement.”





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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