Why has ed tech made so little difference?

Why has education technology made so little difference? asks Marc Tucker on his Ed Week blog.

He recalls three ’80s software programs that he’d thought would be transformative.

In one, players searched for dolphins while learning the basics of navigation and observing “weather, water temperature, currents and so on.” Students “were inevitably very excited, totally engaged.”

The second piece of software, created by Marge Cappo, was stunning.  She captured everyday phenomena like a child pedaling a bike down the road, and then, with the software, made it possible for the student to highlight the motions of the bicycle wheels in such a way that the abstract motion of the wheel as it moved traced classic curves on the screen that corresponded to the algebraic formulas that described these motions.  It enabled the student to actually ‘see’ the abstractions of mathematics and connect those abstractions to the formulas that described them.

Tucker thought it would revolutionize the teaching of geometry and algebra.

The third program simulated “the dynamics of the systems that function in every city — from the subway system to the bus system to the water distribution system to the sewer system and so on.”  Students could “change the variables and see what would happen.”

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What happened? Not much.

Dolphins, navigation and ocean currents aren’t in the curriculum, teachers told him. They’re not on the tests.

Beyond that, most primary and middle-school teachers “know very little about the curves described by a point on the bicycle wheel or the uses to which knowledge about such things can be put.,” writes Tucker. “How many elementary school teachers know anything about coastwise navigation or systems for distributing electricity or the crucial role that feedback plays in the control of such systems or the role that designed systems play in virtually every aspect of modern life?”

Instructional technology will not improve learning without large investments in teaching teachers “about the doors that the technology can open,” he writes.

Virtual reality comes to school

Virtual reality is the latest ed-tech tool, writes Charles Sahm, director of education policy at the Manhattan Institute. Will it help kids learn?

One of XQ‘s $10 million “Super Schools” grants will go to a new District of Columbia charter school, Washington Leadership Academy, which plans to use virtual reality to engage students.

 Co-founder Seth Andrew, who also started the civics-focused Democracy Prep network, “talks about the evolution of a student reading about France in a textbook, to watching a YouTube video about the France, to, via virtual reality, being able to walk the streets of Paris,” writes Sahm.

The school will use part of the XQ money to hire developers to build a virtual-reality chemistry lab. Andrews believes the lab, which will let students “walk through molecules to see their structure” and “conduct virtual experiments” will be more valuable than a traditional lab — and ultimately less expensive.

A number of  virtual-reality apps are in the works, write Sahm. For example, Google Expeditions offers “360-degree virtual field trips to zoos, museums or even places it would be impossible to visit like Ancient Greece or Mars.”

Remember the We Were There series of history books?

Teachers, parents say kids are disrespectful

Fifty-eight percent of teachers and 67 percent of parents say most children are disrespectful, according to a Sesame Workshop survey.

In addition, 70 percent of parents worry that the world is “an unkind place for my child,” reports USA Today.

Sesame Workshop’s Jennifer Kotler Clarke is unhappy that 58 percent of parents think “manners” are more important than “empathy.”

“We really need to talk about the deepness that comes with behaviors around kindness,” she said. “It’s not just the surface, smiling around people and opening a door, saying ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you,’ all of which are important. But it doesn’t end there. It needs to be even deeper than that. In fact, sociopaths and bullies can have very good manners and be polite.”

As a parent, I taught manners first. Behave properly, whatever you think of others. Kids may develop empathy over time. In some cases, it’s very difficult.  They can learn manners at a very young age.

“Sesame plans to offer online tools to parents and educators to teach kindness, including a new website on the topic and a YouTube playlist of clips,” reports USA Today. “It’ll also build the upcoming season of Sesame Street around themes of kindness and empathy.”

U-Florida offers Halloween costume counseling

Counselors will be standing by around the clock to help University of Florida students deal with offensive Halloween costumes, reports The American Mirror.

University officials advised students to avoid costumes that “reinforce stereotypes of particular races, genders, cultures, or religions.”


Students who are “troubled” are urged to e-mail the U Matter, We Care program, phone “a 24/7 counselor in the Counseling and Wellness Center” or contact the Bias Education and Response Team.

At the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, students were invited to attend a seminar called “Is Your Costume Racist?”

The UWL Hate Response Team has also launched investigations into sidewalk chalk on campus that read “Trump,” “Build the wall,” and “All Lives Matter” because the phrases are considered “hostile,” the Mirror reports.

At the K-12 level, Colorado has banned clown costumes in school because of the “creepy clown” panic.

How are NOLA’s KIPPsters doing in college?

How are KIPP’s New Orleans graduates doing in college? Danielle Dreilinger has a fascinating series in the Times-Picayune.

Joshua Johnson dropped out and can't get his transcript until he pays $2,000 college debt. He hopes to become a police officer. Photo: Ted Jackson/Times-Picayune

Joshua Johnson dropped out of college and can’t get his transcript until he pays a $2,000 debt. He hopes to become a police officer. Photo: Ted Jackson/Times-Picayune

KIPP Through College provides counseling to help graduates navigate financial and academic problems.

It helped Keishunn Johnson cope at Howard when he considered coming home to help care for his injured brother.

Private college was too expensive for Larionne Clark, who transferred to a public university.

Currently, 61 percent of KIPP New Orleans graduates are in college — most in four-year institutions — or the military. Here’s where they are.

Nationally, about 45 percent of low-income 18- to 24-year-olds are in college, according to the Pell Institute. Only 9 percent will earn a bachelor’s degree by the age of 24.

Dreilinger talks about the story here.

Has get-tough discipline gone too far? 

Schools are swinging from “zero tolerance” to softer let’s-try-to-reason-with-’em approaches,” reports the New York Times.

School safety did not improve” when zero tolerance led to more arrests, suspensions and expulsions, Steven C. Teske, a juvenile court judge in Georgia, told a Senate subcommittee in 2012. If anything, juvenile crime increased, the judge testified. “These kids lost one of the greatest protective buffers against delinquency — school connectedness.”

The “school to prison pipeline” is a problem, tweets Robert Pondiscio. “But who speaks for those who want safe & serious schools?”

It’s not clear how softer, talk-it-out discipline alternatives will affect “school safety and student outcomes,” write Matthew P. Steinberg and Johanna Lacoe. “A safe school climate is essential for student success.”

Recent evidence also shows that exposure to disruptive peers during elementary school worsens student achievement and later life outcomes, including high school performance, college enrollment, and earnings.

It’s important, they warn, to monitor “the effects of discipline reform on all students, not just those being punished.”

Goodbye, Columbus Day

More schools are replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day, reports Jackie Zubrzycki on Ed Week.

Seattle made the switch in 2014 and other districts are following suit.

Image result for tecumsehThis year, Denver, Phoenix, Vermont, and Alaska have started marking Indigenous Peoples Day.

However, there’s been pushback from Italian Americans, reports the Omaha World Herald.

More states are trying to improve teaching about Native American history and culture, writes Zubrzycki. “The High Country News recently reported on a new effort to bring culturally relevant education to Native American students in New Mexico. Washington State and Montana are also home to statewide efforts to teach the history of Native Americans in public schools.”

‘Smart drugs’ may not be very smart

“Smart drugs” — stimulants prescribed for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder — are popular college study aids, reports NBC News.

A Boston University student named Wyatt, said everyone he knows uses drugs like Adderall, Ritalin, Focalin, Vyvanse. “You can go up to the second floor of the library and see, you know, a full wing of people just cracked out.”

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In my day, we used caffeine: No Doz, now marketed as an “alertness aid,” was popular.

Nearly one-third of college students have misused stimulant prescription drugs at least once, according to the Center on Young Adult Health and Development. They tend to have lower grades and be more likely to skip classes.

Stimulants don’t  help children with ADHD complete homework or get better grades, according to a Florida study, reports Reuters’ Lisa Rapaport.

Children who received medication did no better than those who got a placebo.

Providing daily report cards for kids and coaching parents to help with homework did make a difference: Students improved enough to raise their average grade from an F to a C.

As kids grow, low-income parents lose hope

When children start elementary school, their parents have high hopes. But low-income parents lower their expectations for their kids as they go through elementary school, writes Peter DeWitt on Ed Week‘s Finding Common Ground blog.

Educators need to “drop the educational lingo and acronyms,”  he suggests or teach parents “the language of learning.”

Not everyone can master Buzzword Bingo.

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Help ‘first teachers’ do better

Parents are children’s first teachers, says everyone. But engaging low-income, poorly educated parents in their children’s learning has proven to be difficult, writes Bellwether’s Sara Mead. We don’t know what works. Until now.

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ParentCorps, which trains preschool parents and teachers, is producing long-term results, concludes a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

“By 2nd grade, children who participated in ParentCorps had fewer mental health problems and better academic achievement” than non-participants, writes Mead.

Most children came from low-income, black families in New York City.

ParentCorps build children’s academic abilities and supports their “social, emotional, and behavioral regulation skills.” It’s not either/or.

Los Angeles Unified is expanding on-campus parent centers that provide a place for parents to learn English, discuss school issues and do projects for teachers. Engaging parents improves student attendance, school officials believe.