Limited by legacy

An interesting reality of social media is that users end up locked into systems with obvious limitations. Users feel they must accept these limitations because that is where other users are. This is such a strange position to be in for those who see technology as a remedy for outdated systems.

I have written on multiple occasions about the limitations of Twitter as a tool for educator chats. I have even attempted to come up with suggestions for how chat groups might improve the benefits of engaging in chats on Twitter.

One important limitation of Twitter discussions I so no way to modify is the very limited comments users can generate. Imagine a face to face discussion in which individuals were forced to state their positions and offer explanations in 140 characters or less. [The first two sentences of this paragraph contain 261 characters] Why not look for a tool more appropriate to a more meaningful discussion?

Here is a recommendation. Most edchats involve a small number of participants. I would suggest for a given session the group try a different “microblog” and see if they think the interaction is more useful. My recommendation would be Mastodon. The open source Mastodon project makes use of a tool that looks very much like Tweetdeck.


The 500 character limit offers far greater flexibility of expression. Educators – be risk takers when the risk offers advantages over what you are doing now.

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Home Internet access should be part of the homework discussion

The recent question of whether students should have homework typically concerns whether students should have to learn/study outside of school hours. If you are a student with no Internet access at home, your homework may be stressful for a very different reason. This NYTimes story considers the inequity in home access to the Internet and how this inequity relates to education expectations.

When does Internet access become an assumed opportunity in the way access to effective high-speed roads were considered an assumption so many decades ago. Sometimes the common good must be a responsibility of the government.

The divide is driving action at the federal level. Members of the Federal Communications Commission are expected to vote next month on repurposing a roughly $2 billion-a-year phone subsidy program, known as Lifeline, to include subsidies for broadband services in low-income homes.

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Engaging folks on Facebook

I have avoided using Facebook to engage others on substantive issues. I have changed my mind in reaction to comments made by me son. He accurately noted that we are unlikely to change people with whom we disagree unless we are willing to engage them. So, I am giving it a try.
What I will not do.
I will not respond to posts that are not focused on content generated by the individual offering the post. Speak for yourself. It is good practice for other areas of your life.
My approach.
My professional work includes a focus on the benefit of argumentation. This word may not mean much to most people but it might be useful to compare the process to formal debate. A formal debate process should not be confused with the shouting contests that tend to characterize televised political debates. Popularized uses of formal terms can be a problem.
Performance during a formalized debate can be evaluated. Trained evaluators have specific things to look for in determining the winner. Argumentation as exemplified in a debate involves – a) taking a clearly communicated position, b) offering clearly communicated reasons for taking this position, and c) offering evidence in support of the positions taken. As a form of interaction, the quality of a debate also includes the capacity to be able to clearly recognize the reasons and evidence in an opponent and to offer reasons and evidence to refute these positions.
These are challenging skills that are slow to develop naturally, but are now highly valued because of the widely varying quality of the content most of us consume. This is one reason for the increasing emphasis on the development of critical thinking as an educational goal. Very few under the age of 20 have been educated to develop such skills despite the content we all consume.
If this sounds elitist or academic or some other characteristic used to put down the approach valued by educators I don’t know what to say. This approach is at the core of science. This approach is logical and careful and is intended as a way to evaluate competing positions in a way that reduces bias. It is difficult to engage with others unable or unwilling to admit the possibility of bias. I can say without bias that failing to admit to the possibility of bias is a serious problem.
So, if you offer a comment on Facebook, I may respond to you. If you object, unfriend me. Hold me to the approach I have described above. I will hold you to the same standards.
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Techno-looney – me?

This guy has some things to say that make sense to me. He then throws in the paragraph about techno-loonies out of the blue. I still can’t figure out the connection. If I was grading this as a student paper, I would likely draw a big X through this paragraph and write WHAT in the margin. Perhaps he confabulates the use of online tests (he seems most about the negatives of using test scores) with other issues.

Techno-loonies who believe the latest app is the solution to everything and publishers’ representatives are in the driver’s seat influencing education policy at Education Departments and in State Legislatures and if they are not stopped soon, Schools of Education, legitimate teacher preparation programs, teacher professionalism, and the education of our nations’ children, will be in jeopardy. I know these things are happening in New York State and I suspect they are happening across the country.

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Student Mock Election Goes Clinton

Channel One’s mock election resulted in a win for Hillary Clinton. Channel One will continue to offer lesson plans, polls, and issue analysis through the Nov 8 “adult” vote. Data from the mock election are available by state and school.

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Warring camps

No, this is not another post from me about the presidential election. This is about an older fight – Google vs. Apple.

I love Apple hardware and I have owned at least one of the devices they have created. I do not like the exclusionary nature of some of the Apple products. iBooks Author comes to mind.

It now appears that Google may be taking steps in the same direction. With a Google phone now available and the chrome/android combo taking advantage of hardware/software linkages is evidently too attractive to pass up.

I assume the advantages of working within a browser will not be ignored and Google will not give up this advantage on so many devices. Hard to tell how they read the future.

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High Adventure Science

I have wondered how the Department of Education GoOpen initiative was going to find content. Aside from the corporations willing to provide infrastructure, I did not see just where the educational content would come from. My thought was that some funds would have to be invested in grants to produce these resources.

The NSF-funded High Adventure science grant program may offer an example of what competitive grants can produce. The content linked here is provided through National Geographic.

National Geographic describes the content in this way:

This set of online curriculum modules utilizes computer models and real world data to bring contemporary unanswered questions in Earth science to middle and high school science classrooms.

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Flip with a half twist

I read the title for a recent Campus Technology survey claiming that 55% of faculty are flipping their classrooms. This is so far removed from my own experience so I had to read the article.

Fifty-five percent of the survey respondents said they are somewhere along the spectrum of flipping all or some of their courses, in which they ask their students to view videos or some other digital matter online before coming to school and then use class time for other activities, such as hands-on and team projects or discussions.

The details brought me back to my own reality (in other words, the title was click bait). It turns out that 14% have actually moved to a flipped model and another 41% flip some of their classrooms.

I have difficulty with the definition used to promote the flipped classroom as a new model. I understand that a couple of high school chemistry teachers generated videos to replace their presentations so they could use class time for experiments, discussion, and helping learners who were having difficulties. I apologize for not remembering their names, but their approach was what I have accepted as a flipped classroom.

What is not a flipped classroom by this interpretation.

  1. I have for years recorded a lecture when I would not be available for class. I do not regard this as putting me in the 41% category for the past decade because the video did not free up class time for other activities.
  2. Does class preparation have to involve digital content (video or other online “matter”)?Is there a difference between assigning a textbook, an ebook, or journal article pdfs as  required preclass reading? Every grad class I know of would qualify under the digital matter category?
  3. Does it have to be preclass content prepared by the classroom teacher? Would asking students to review specific video content from the Kahn archive be equivalent to video content created by the teacher?
  4. Does the amount of class preparation have to increase for a course to be flipped? If an instructor replaces an assigned textbook reading with digital content of various types has that instructor’s course now flipped?

Perhaps claiming you have flipped only meets the definition when you have reduced your in-class presentations by moving expectations for reviewing content to some time before class and in a location external to your classroom. I have always thought that this sounds like one type of homework.

Then there is that issue of what we mean by homework and whether it is really necessary. Is homework work that follows a presentation to require practice and identify learning difficulties? Is homework work that precedes class in order to allow class time to be devoted to content-related discussion and individual assistance.

Perhaps the homework debate could be resolved if we could decide on what we mean by flipping and then all would be well when it comes to our use of educational jargon.

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One take on the STEM “crisis”

So many are weighing in on the lack of student interest in STEM careers. Here is a recent article from the Scientific American. I sometimes wonder if we are ignoring something we don’t want to consider. Here is an explanation based on my experience working in higher education.

The university where I worked was a partner in several programs that tried to encourage minority students to pursue advanced degree programs in the “sciences”. I observed these programs as the chairperson of the psychology department. Our department did quite well in hosting students who were able to secure support through these programs. I know this was frustrating to some because not all recognize Psychology as a “science”. What I know about the long-term outcome of the program was that a high proportion of these capable students went on into careers in health care rather than into the grad programs in the sciences considered the purpose of the undergrad support.

Here is what I wonder. Is what tends to happen regarding careers in science especially careers as researchers a function of preparation or values? A focus on certain values would explain the commitment to health care. Those who might pursue a career in business would often be doing so for a different type of value.

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Journalism and government secrecy

The most recent Triagulation offers an interview with Edward Snowden’s lawyer. Leo Laporte does a great job with an interview that considers government secrecy and the role of journalism. Worth a listen given many current political developments.

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