Modern Learners Newsletter #221: The Labor of Learning

Greetings Fellow Internet Edu-Wayfarers,

Great to have you back for some more inspired reading this week, now in blog post form! Better to interact with you with!

I’ve been thinking a lot about change this week as we “downsized” our lives into a much smaller, 160+ year old home in the little country town where I’ve lived most of my life.

I was thinking about how some of the time, we choose to change.

Other times, change chooses us.

I wonder which reality fits most schools.


PS: Our 3rd cohort of Change School is drawing to a close. But Cohort 4 starts in January!…sign up to get notified!

1. The Future of Truth is…Undecided

As the attack on facts continues to grow, the Pew Research Center for Internet and Technology decided to interview a group of forward thinkers and ask them if they think we’ll find ways to solve that problem or if it will only get worse. Turns out, it’s about a 50-50 split:

Their reasoning revealed a wide range of opinions about the nature of these threats and the most likely solutions required to resolve them. But the overarching and competing themes were clear: Those who do not think things will improve felt that humans mostly shape technology advances to their own, not-fully-noble purposes and that bad actors with bad motives will thwart the best efforts of technology innovators to remedy today’s problems. And those who are most hopeful believed that technological fixes can be implemented to bring out the better angels guiding human nature.

The irony, of course, is that the solutions to the downsides of technology will come from…wait for it…technology. Or not. Let us hope that our “better angels” are just taking a short break, maybe to teach us how dark the alternatives are.

2. Increasing the Speed of Edu-Innovation

While we certainly need to define the word “progress” in this latest Brookings Institute report on the future of education, the authors do a pretty decent job, at least, of situating the discussion in a modern context:

Today, people and ideas are owing across borders at a greater speed than ever before in human history. Technology is becoming omnipresent. The gig economy is on the rise. And while today not every child lives in a community where this is true, the pace of change is so rapid that they soon very well may be. Children struggling to learn their academic subjects in weak schools, and also children effectively mastering the curriculum in strong schools, both will need to face a future where they must be well equipped with a wide range of skills— from critically reading texts and collaboratively solving problems to quickly adapting to new forces affecting the economy, society, and the natural environment.

This is a long read (here’s a mini-summary), but if you want to get a deep sense of what innovation in schools is looking like around the world, it’s worth the time. It’s a capacity building report that will no doubt inspire some out of the box thinking about the possibilities for change in your own school.

3. School as Child Labor

So here’s your thought piece for the week. Is it fair to characterize homework and the meeting of increasing educational expectations as “child labor?” Malcolm Harris at Harpers makes a pretty interesting case that given the explicitly articulated outcomes of an education, that’s not an unfair characterization. Read the whole thing, but just a heads up, I’m going to spoil the conclusion. He writes:

When you ask most adults what any kid in particular should do with the next part of her life, the advice will generally include pursuing higher education. As the only sanctioned path, college admissions becomes a well-structured, high-stakes simulation of a worker’s entry into the labor market. Applicants inventory their achievements, being careful not to underestimate them, and present them in the most attractive package possible. Then, using the data carefully and anxiously prepared by millions of kids about the human capital they’ve accumulated over the previous eighteen years, higher education institutions make decisions: collectively evaluating, accepting, and cutting hopeful children in tranches like collateralized debt obligations that are then sorted among the institutions according to their own rankings (for which they compete aggressively, of course). It is not the first time children are weighed, but it is the most comprehensive and often the most directly consequential. College admissions offices are rating agencies. Once the kid-bond is rated, it has four or so years until it’s expected to produce a return.

Wondering how that description grabs you. Now that we’re on the blog, you can let me know.

4. The End of Homework

In this week’s Shifting Conversations column, I revisit the whole homework debate in the context of this hyperbolic opinion piece at the Hechinger Report. I write :

But more importantly in terms of this “argument,” advocating for Internet access for the purpose of extending the school day misses the point of access entirely. We should be advocating for connectivity to extend the learning day. And yes, the two are very different.

Yes, lack of access is a problem, one that we should be working hard to ameliorate. But homework as it’s currently constructed is just as much if not more of a problem in schools right now.

You can read this Shifting Conversation “The End of Homework” in the ChangeLeaders Community, our exclusive global network of emerging and aspiring educational leaders.

It’s where courageous educational leaders get real about learning and schooling.  Try 1 Month Free

5. You Might Also Want to Read:

Higher Education, Digital Divides, and a Balkanized Internet

Data From 3.5 Million Employees Shows How Innovation Really Works

Where is the Humanity in the Computer Science Curriculum?

How to Seek Truth in the Era of Fake News

Do We Really Want Computerized Systems Controlling the Learning Process?

The World’s Most Powerful Publishers Refuse to Admit What They Really Are

You Will Lose Your Job to a Robot—and Sooner Than You Think

The Medium is the Message

If you haven’t already signed up, head across to our (semi) regular podcast seriesModern Learners.

NEW!!! Book List: Lifelong Kindergarten by Mitch Resnick…Beyond Testing by Deborah Meier and Matthew Knoester…Different Schools for a Different World by Scott McLeod and Dean Shareski…The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath…Leaving to Learn by Eliot Washor…Creating Cultures of Thinking by Ron Ritchhart

AS ALWAYS…We’d love to have your feedback and thoughts in our global ChangeLeader community on Facebook today.


Bruce, Missy, and Will

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