Since I am known as a man of impeccable taste and endless fascination, I humbly share a collection of the books I have recently purchased. Happy reading!
Isogawa, Yoshihito
Isogawa, Yoshihito
Martin, Laura C.
Pratt, Caroline
Curtis, D. & Carter, M

Making Sense of Algebra
Goldbenberg, E. Paul

 

Mathematical Mindsets – Unleashing Students’ Potential Through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages, and Innovative Teaching
Bowler, Jo

Schank, Roger C.
Naval Education And Training Program

Random stuff Amazon’s robots think you might enjoy…

[April 2016] At last week’s #asugsv Summit, the annual bacchanal where dilettantes, amateurs, libertarians, billionaires, and Silicon Valley mercenaries gather to plot the destruction of public education in plain view, Dr. Condoleeza Rice of 9/11 and Iraqi war infamy shared her expertise on “reforming” public education. Like many simpletons and profiteers, Dr. Rice seeks salvation in dystopian technology and reportedly demonstrated a level of understanding of educational technology similar to her imaginary “mushroom cloud” in Baghdad.

“Technology is neutral,” Rice observed. “It’s how it is applied that matters.” Technology can be used to support a world in which a child’s zip code or color or gender or age doesn’t shape their future—just their commitment to getting an education, she said. (Edsurge – Heard & Overheard at the ASU+GSV Summit. April 19, 2016.)

No. You are profoundly wrong Dr. Rice!

In fact I detailed how wrong you are three years ago. Perhaps you didn’t read my daily brief entitled, “Technology is Not Neutral!” You may read it below…

Larry Ferlazzo invited me to share a vision of computers in education for inclusion in his Classroom Q&A Feature in Education Week. The text of that article is below.

You may also enjoy two articles I published in 2008:

  1. What’s a Computer For? Part 1 – It all depends on your educational philosophy
  2. What’s a Computer For? Part 2 – Computer science is the new basic skill

Technology is Not Neutral

Educational computing requires a clear and consistent stance
© 2013 Gary S. Stager, Ph.D.

There are three competing visions of educational computing. Each bestows agency on an actor in the educational enterprise. We can use classroom computers to benefit the system, the teacher or the student. Data collection, drill-and-practice test-prep, computerized assessment or monitoring Common Core compliance are examples of the computer benefitting the system. “Interactive” white boards, presenting information or managing whole-class simulations are examples of computing for the teacher. In this scenario, the teacher is the actor, the classroom a theatre, the students the audience and the computer is a prop.

The third vision is a progressive one. The personal computer is used to amplify human potential. It is an intellectual laboratory and vehicle for self-expression that allows each child to not only learn what we’ve always taught, perhaps with greater efficacy, efficiency or comprehension. The computer makes it possible for students to learn and do in ways unimaginable just a few years ago. This vision of computing democratizes educational opportunity and supports what Papert and Turkle call epistemological pluralism. The learner is at the center of the educational experience and learns in their own way.

Too many educators make the mistake of assuming a false equivalence between “technology” and its use. Technology is not neutral. It is always designed to influence behavior. Sure, you might point to an anecdote in which a clever teacher figures out a way to use a white board in a learner-centered fashion or a teacher finds the diagnostic data collected by the management system useful. These are the exception to the rule.

While flexible high-quality hardware is critical, educational computing is about software because software determines what you can do and what you do determines what you can learn. In my opinion the lowest ROI comes from granting agency to the system and the most from empowering each learner. You might think of the a continuum that runs from drill/testing at the bottom; through information access, productivity, simulation and modeling; with the computer as a computational material for knowledge construction representing not only the greatest ROI, but the most potential benefit for the learner.

Piaget reminds us ,“To understand is to invent,” while our mutual colleague Seymour Papert said, “If you can use technology to make things, you can make more interesting things and you can learn a lot more by making them.”

Some people view the computer as a way of increasing efficiency. Heck, there are schools with fancy-sounding names popping-up where you put 200 kids in a room with computer terminals and an armed security guard. The computer quizzes kids endlessly on prior knowledge and generates a tsunami of data for the system. This may be cheap and efficient, but it does little to empower the learner or take advantage of the computer’s potential as the protean device for knowledge construction.

School concoctions like information literacy, digital citizenship or making PowerPoint presentations represent at best a form of “Computer Appreciation.” The Conservative UK Government just abandoned their national ICT curriculum on the basis of it being “harmful and dull” and is calling for computer science to be taught K-12. I could not agree more.

My work with children, teachers and computers over the past thirty years has been focused on increasing opportunity and replacing “quick and easy” with deep and meaningful experiences. When I began working with schools where every student had a laptop in 1990, project-based learning was supercharged and Dewey’s theories were realized in ways he had only imagined. The computer was a radical instrument for school reform, not a way of enforcing the top-down status quo.

Now, kindergarteners could build, program and choreograph their own robot ballerinas by utilizing mathematical concepts and engineering principles never before accessible to young children. Kids express themselves through filmmaking, animation, music composition and collaborations with peers or experts across the globe. 5th graders write computer programs to represent fractions in a variety of ways while understanding not only fractions, but also a host of other mathematics and computer science concepts used in service of that understanding. An incarcerated 17 year-old dropout saddled with a host of learning disabilities is able to use computer programming and robotics to create “gopher-cam,” an intelligent vehicle for exploring beneath the earth, or launch his own probe into space for aerial reconnaissance. Little boys and girls can now make and program wearable computers with circuitry sewn with conductive thread while 10th grade English students can bring Lady Macbeth to life by composing a symphony. Soon, you be able to email and print a bicycle. Computing as a verb is the game-changer.

Used well, the computer extends the breadth, depth and complexity of potential projects. This in turn affords kids with the opportunity to, in the words of David Perkins, “play the whole game.” Thanks to the computer, children today have the opportunity to be mathematicians, novelists, engineers, composers, geneticists, composers, filmmakers, etc… But, only if our vision of computing is sufficiently imaginative.

Three recommendations:

1) Kids need real computers capable of programming, video editing, music composition and controlling external peripherals, such as probes or robotics. Since the lifespan of school computers is long, they need to do all of the things adults expect today and support ingenuity for years to come.

2) Look for ways to use computers to provide experiences not addressed by the curriculum. Writing, communicating and looking stuff up are obvious uses that require little instruction and few resources.

3) Every student deserves computer science experiences during their K-12 education. Educators would be wise to consider programming environments designed to support learning and progressive education such as MicroWorlds EX and Scratch.

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In addition to being a veteran teacher educator, popular speaker, journalist, author, and publisher, Gary is co-author of the bestselling book called the “bible of the maker movement in schools”, Invent To Learn — Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom. He also leads the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute and is Publisher at CMK Press.

I’m embarrassed and ashamed to live in a country where DonorsChoose.org is a thing.

For the uninitiated, DonorsChoose.org is a web site where teachers can describe projects that “need your help to bring their classroom dreams to life.” Then visitors to the site can donate any amount towards the realization of those “dreams.” This is called crowd-funding. One can hardly criticize the generosity of donors or the needs of teachers.

Recently, DonorsChoose.org led a public campaign called #bestschoolday.

On March 10, 2016, more than 50 athletes, artists, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists joined forces to fund thousands of classroom projects across America on DonorsChoose.org. Their generosity funded over $14 million in projects spanning communities in 47 states and Washington, D.C.”

The Huffington Post created a special section dedicated to the #bestschoolday campaign and sold ads against it.

I despise the idea of reducing teachers to beggars. It’s a distraction from all the other important work teachers have to do It reduces their value and the perceived worth of public education with each round of fundraising.

The conditions addressed by Donorschoose are not the result of a hurricane or epidemic, but of democratically determined public policy and neglect.

”Charity is no substitute for justice withheld.” – St. Augustine

Many well-meaning educators and citizens were excited when film sweetheart Anna Kendrick appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to sing a delightful duet and to announce that she (with the help of a secret donor) were going to fund all 74 of Maine’s current Donorschoose projects.

Why doesn’t Mr. Colbert use his considerable talent and valuable airtime to ask Pennsylvania, Detroit, or Michigan to fund their schools adequately? Why not stand with striking teachers?

“One other problem with Donorschoose is that it creates lone wolf teachers getting goodies for one classroom in a school.” – Gary Stager

Corporations who assuage their guilt by matching individual donations or fully-funding a teacher’s ‘dream” are also likely to seek tax breaks, employ lobbyists, and find loopholes to avoid paying their fair share for living in a democratic and just society. CBS made money when Anna Kendrick appeared to demonstrate her grand gesture of public philanthropy

It is one thing to fundraise for a once-in-a-lifetime field trip or fantastic piece of equipment your school could never afford. It’s quite another to create the conditions under which teachers are forced to rattle a virtual tin cup online.

The following is an image from a quick Donorschoose search for crayon. Such vulgarity should not be viewed as a celebration of celebrity largesse, but as a symptom of society in decay. Under no circumstances should professional public school educators be begging publicly for crayons.

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 2.36.34 PM

Click here to fund this or other teacher requests.

That’s right. American public school teachers are now required to run fundraising campaigns so their students may have access to crayons!

USA! USA! USA!

One other problem with Donorschoose is that it creates lone wolf teachers getting goodies for one classroom in a school. Not only does that have the potential to create further disparity in an already inequitable system, but may also create unanticipated problems. For example, I have seen instances where a half-dozen teachers in the same school each request different kinds of technology – one asks for iPads, one PC laptops, one MacBooks, and another Chromebooks. This could create potential nightmares for school infrastructure and support.

Ways to Take Action!

  • Drop off an Amazon gift card in any denomination you can afford at your local school.
  • Ask your children’s teachers what they need. If you cannot afford to buy what they need, ask the school principal to fund it. You might be surprised by the outcome.
  • Work with your school parent/teacher organization to organize fundraising events that are fun, educational in nature, showcase the talents of children and bring the community together.
  • Request the full budget (not summary) from your public school district. It’s your right under law. Study the document and learn where the money is being spent or misspent.
  • Attend public school board meetings and urge constructive spending or the reorganizing of priorities.
  • Collaborate with local arts institutions to arrange tours or performances for local public school students.
  • Volunteer in a classroom or lead after-school activities.
  • Run for election to your local public school board.
  • Go ahead. Be a mensch and make a generous donation via Donorschoose.

Resources:

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In addition to being a veteran teacher educator, popular speaker, journalist, author, and publisher, Gary is co-author of the bestselling book called the “bible of the maker movement in schools”, Invent To Learn — Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom. He also leads the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute and is Publisher at CMK Press.

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Since I know nothing about NCAA basketball, I’ll congratulate Villanova and tell a personal anecdote about my connection to the team.

Five or so years ago, I got hired to do a keynote at an education conference held at Villanova. I arrived several hours early, just in time to realize that I would be speaking in their basketball arena and following a speech by their (apparently beloved and talented) basketball coach.

I thought to myself, “How the hell am I supposed to follow a god-like basketball coach on his home court?”  I crafted an opening joke that I still think is a killer. I may have even tested the joke on friends before my time to speak.

I opened my keynote address by saying, “I’d like to dedicate this presentation to all of the kids who had special gym.”*

Man, did that joke bomb!


* I had special gym for a couple of years during elementary school

I just received the following email from my nephew, a conscientious and excellent student currently enrolled at an East Coast university costing $68,000/year – before textbooks, etc…

The subject line in the email was PISSED

Since I know how much you love Pearson…

I’m taking a math course and an accounting course this term, each requires the completion of weekly online homework assignments. In order to gain access to these assignments, each student must make an account using a course ID so that our scores will automatically be sent to the professors, and purchase access to the e-books online. The accounting textbook is McGraw-Hill, and the math book is Pearson.

Each e-book will cost me $100, only because we are required to use these websites for our homework. I’m literally buying homework.

I thought Pearson’s death-grip on my throat was over, but alas…

Click to enlarge image

It is worth noting that all of my nephew’s other coursework thus far has been project-based and authentic.

OF COURSE, a required math course and math-adjacent “Accounting,” rely on the same-old shitty “answer the odd numbered questions” alternative to an actual productive education experience. This is not a small point.

As Seymour Papert told me, [paraphrase] “If you are not concerned that not a single progressive development in education has had an impact on ‘math,” it means ultimately that no matter what else your school does to make education relevant, there is some part of the day or week where you introduce coercion, irrelevance, and misery into the system.” This coercion is corrosive and ultimately undermines any other learner-centered efforts. As I like to say, “the weeds will always kill the flowers.”