Posts Tagged ‘education’

Richard Millwood

Richard Millwood (Photo credit: samscam)


Richard Millwood of the UK has created a graphic that purports to be “A visual overview of every single learning theory.” That would seem to be overwhelming and almost impossible, but I think Millwood has truly captured it all and presented it in a graphically appealing way. Here is the graphic.


For more about Millwood and his work, visit





Yesterday after hearing this report about the middle class on Minnesota Public Radio’s Marketplace, something clicked for me, and I had to get those thoughts out of my head no matter how crude the form. The opportunity presented itself today when I commented on a friend’s Facebook post. Here is my take-away from Krissy Clark’s excellent reporting:

The education gap and the income gap are very closely related at present. I heard a report on NPR yesterday that really brought clarity to this subject. Briefly, we are currently at a crossroads. My friend Erik Hare knows all about economic cycles and writes quite a bit about the economy. I think some conversations I’ve had with him have touched on each aspect I will mention, and maybe he’s already put these pieces together, but it didn’t resonate for me until after I heard the report.

OK, back to the crossroads. We are in the midst presently of just about all of the historical economic cycles from 2500 year, to 500 year, to generational, etc. During our lifetimes the US economy has shifted from a large unionized production labor force to a largely “at-will” low wage service sector work force. Going back to the turn of the last century we were in a similar position: the middle class of farmers had decreased drastically and new “at-will” low-wage factory workers were leaving the ranks of the middle class to become the working poor.

My own great-grandfather was among the “robber-barons” and elite at the turn of the last century, much like our top 2% in this country are increasing their wealth enormously while real unemployment is in the 15-20% range and those of us who are working are losing ground. The Great Depression hit and some other tragedies struck and my forebears lost their fortune, but at the same time new policies emerged that created a new education system (the one largely in existence today) to train people to be “good factory workers.” Other policies and actions raised the standard of living of the poor production workers so they could become the “new” middle class. Times have changed. We no longer need compliant factory workers. We haven’t yet fully adapted our education system to reflect that. In fact, we still haven’t changed our system to reflect that we are no longer an agrarian society, and we pay heavily for that with “the summer slide.”

In order for things to change both within education, and change we must, and within the ever widening economic gap, we need to change how we think about the reality of the economy and how best to educate people to become adept and skillful service sector workers. Higher education is not the answer. 70% of Americans have no college degree. The price tag for higher ed is staggering, and the jobs available to most when they graduate just aren’t paying well enough to justify the expense, so we need to develop a system whereby our students can develop excellent critical thinking and communication skills as well as to be adaptable to the ever-changing requirements of the service sector, and we need for students to develop these skills before they graduate from high school. It isn’t happening right now for the majority of them.

There’s much more to be said about this topic, and I hope to be able to converse more about it with Erik. I don’t have all the answers, but it seems pretty clear that most of the folks currently governing us don’t have *any* of the answers. We need to adjust our education system and our policies to recreate a new “service sector” middle class. If the minimum wage had increased concurrently with increased productivity, we wouldn’t have this problem as our lowest paid workers would be earning in excess of $19 per hour and our top couple percent wouldn’t have increased their own personal wealth at such a rapid pace.

Carol Dweck on the “Accountability Movement”

Carol Dweck, perhaps best known for her “Mindset” research and the book by that title, has written a piece for Education Nation questioning whether the accountability mindset under which US public education is operating is really positive for creating innovators.

An "Web 2.0" portfolio icon.

An "Web 2.0" portfolio icon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thanks to Ed Tech writer Audrey Watters, I’m checking out the “new” app, available for both iPhone and Android, “Three Ring.” Here is what ThreeRing have to say about themselves:

“Three Ring is the best tool for digitizing student work. It will allow you to create a beautiful stream of student work that can be sorted, searched, organized and reorganized enabling you to engage in authentic assessment like never before.”

Sounds enticing, but how does it work? Who’s using it? What do teachers think about it?

Below is a blog post from one of the founders of the Three Ring project, Steve Silvius, who states that he is a Math teacher and uses the platform to “…easily create digital portfolios of student work and use these for assessment and tracking progress in the classroom” (Pedagogy of the Obsessed. Accessed March 22, 2012).

A Pedagogical Narrative for Three Ring.

Who is using it?

@MatthewPMoran1111 comments on the “Hack Education” blog, “… I wasn’t overly impressed with the existing functions, it is good to hear that [Three Ring] are very receptive to feedback from educators” (“Hack Education.” Digitize and Assess Student Work with ThreeRing. March 21, 2012. Accessed March 22, 2012).

Keep in mind that Three Ring is a very new start-up! The real promise behind the tool is that it allows for ease of use in creating and maintaining digital portfolios…”one of the best tools for formative assessment” according to Silvius. (Thanks to Mr. Silvius for correcting my error here!)

For the record, I’ve signed up for the trial (free to educators) and downloaded the app. The interface is simple and intuitive, and I think Silvius and partners are onto something great. I’m looking forward to seeing how this concept evolves.

Great sentence combining materials. The author allows use or you can use these materials to get your own creative juices flowing. I will definitely be following the “Free Language Stuff” blog! I hope you find it useful, too. Thanks especially to Reading Rockets for sharing this excellent resource.

Free Language Stuff

Click on the picture for a small preview, or “Doc” or “PDF” to download document in your preferred format.




1) Sentence Combining Oval   DocPDF;     2) Sentence Combining Oval   DocPDF;     3) Sentence Search DocPDF;     4) Sentence Combining Activity DocPDF;     5) Sentence Embedding Activity DocPDF

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The Thinking Man sculpture at Musée Rodin in Paris

Image via Wikipedia

So, it’s been some time again since my last post. I forgive myself because I’ve been very busy, but my busyness (not business) has provided me with much food for thought. Coming soon: some reviews and thoughts regarding educational apps for the Android tablet; thoughts about Orton-Gillingham training; and thoughts about the future of education in general. In the meantime, if you’re looking for something to get you thinking about education and you haven’t read it already, go here: “Stop Stealing Dreams” by Seth Godin. You won’t be disappointed.

A black and white icon of a teacher in front o...

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Last October, educators and the public, especially ed reformers couldn’t get enough of “Waiting for ‘Superman’.” This year, there’s another movie out that some have described as “…a rebuttal to “Superman” (SmartBrief. Accessed, 10-17-11, 8:53pm). Needless to say, you probably haven’t heard of it yet though because this film’s message isn’t what the reformers want you to hear.

The film is “Mitchell 20,” and the filmmakers would like viewers to “Get Informed.” You can see the trailer here. It’s the story of 20 teachers from an inner city school in Arizona who change the one thing in their environment within their power to change: the quality of their teaching. Don’t believe the reformers who would sell Charter Schools, online learning, or other “easy” fixes as a panacea. The truth is that good teachers…dedicated teachers…are the solution. To believe otherwise is foolish. I recommend the following brief reviews for greater depth:

“Teacher Quality: The Movie…It’s Here! (It’s called MITCHELL 20.)”

“Teaching Reality Check: The Mitchell 20”

If you teach, I hope you’ll look into this movie and become inspired to change what you can.

World illiteracy

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An April 2011 Policy Brief from The Alliance for Excellent Education, addresses the decline in literacy expectations during the past 50 years; the concurrent rise in text complexity at the post-secondary level; and steps to reverse the decline in expectations. In this age of accountability, it would behoove educators to familiarize themselves with the Common Core State Standards, and the policy brief: “Engineering Solutions to the National Crisis in Literacy: How to Make Good on the Promise of the Common Core State Standards,” published by the fore-mentioned Alliance for Excellent Education.


According to the Alliance (see above for details) “…the expectations for what students read in school and what they do with what they have read have continued to decline.” The Alliance states that the decline began around 1962 and the reason for this trend could be described as “teaching to the middle.” For those unfamiliar with that concept, “teaching to the middle” refers to the common practice of targeting the average student due to the wide range and diversity of student abilities and background knowledge. The report further states that students are prepared to do very little reading of informational texts. Irrespective of one’s view regarding post-secondary education, the reality is this: high school graduates today are less well-prepared for the demands of the workforce than were their counterparts of 50 years ago. It does not require an advanced degree to understand that poses a problem for employers and the economy in general. In this writer’s opinion, the “solution” to the above problem has been the enormous boom during the same period in college attendance. While this writer disagrees with the conclusion that more students need to attend college, he is in agreement with the authors of the brief that expectations must be raised and that the adoption of the Common Core State Standards by the majority of these United States provides an excellent opportunity to raise the bar.


The April policy brief cites the following as some of the obstacles to overcome: uneven expectations; necessity of literacy instruction following grade three; achievement gaps based on race, ethnicity, and income; inadequate teacher development and support.

Let’s briefly address each concern. First, the move towards the Common Core Standards is a response to the wide variety of expectations from state to state. The adoption of the Common Core should serve to even out these expectations. An April 24, 2011 New York Times article states, “The standards, to go into effect in 2014, will replace a hodgepodge of state guidelines that have become the Achilles’ heel of the No Child Left Behind law” (Santos, Fernanda. A Trial Run for School Standards That Encourage Deeper Thought, N.Y., Region). Next, while it is recognized that the window of opportunity for addressing reading fluency (one part of the measure of literacy) is early and narrow–specifically grades pre-K-3–and many successful programs like the Minnesota Reading Corps have been developed to improve students’ success, literacy instruction must not end after third grade. The achievement gap has been widely discussed and can not adequately be addressed in this brief space. For more information, see: “Understanding Gaps” from the NAEP. Finally, with regard to teacher development and support, the policy brief states that most upper level teachers lack the skills to interact meaningfully with students through reading secondary texts. Moreover, more than two-thirds of teachers surveyed in the “Schools and Staffing Survey” commissioned by NAEP indicated not one day of training in supporting special education or ELL students; thus, much of what teachers do to “enhance literacy skills” is haphazard and ineffective.


As above noted, one of the most important solutions to the concerns is to arrive at a common set of standards, and the Common Core Standards Initiative is a positive step in that direction. There is a fear that Common Core will lead further down the perilous road of “teaching to the test”; however, the promise of Common Core is that each of the states will be aiming for mastery of the same more rigorous standards. Another piece of the puzzle is to ensure that all students have access to teachers, opportunities, and research-based interventions and supports. That will require funding… a dubious word in these times, but perhaps the most critical element to solving this crisis: funding. Without funding for professional development; research; evaluation; and continuous improvement, it’s all just pie-in-the-sky.

QR code to download a app from Android MArket

Image via Wikipedia

Since purchasing an Android OS phone, I have become interested in QR Codes, and I have begun to take more notice of them, too. If you are unfamiliar with QR Codes, provides a brief and interesting history. If you are familiar with the codes or once you become familiar, this post is for you.

Naysayers abound, but those who are forward-looking see the value in these codes for a variety of purposes, including education. To that end, I recently posed the following on and received the below great link to educational applications for QR Codes. In addition, I will post some other links I have run across.


How have you used QR Codes in your classroom? Have you created a lesson in which you utilized QR Codes? What type of lesson? What were the results? Would you use again? How would you improve? What other applications for use can you see in education?

“See Great examples.” I agree. Here is a link to the original question on Quora. I invite you to comment there if you have tried using QR codes in your teaching. Below are some related articles about QR Codes in general and the application of QR’s to the classroom.

Related articles

Jeb Bush

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Digital Learning Now! is a policy group stemming from the “Digital Learning Council,” originally formed by and co-chaired by former governors Jeb Bush, of Florida, and Bob Wise, of West Virginia.

As a strong proponent of digital learning options, I registered for and attended an Education Week sponsored seminar on 03.03.2011 that was framed around DLN’s “10 Elements of High-Quality Digital Learning” released in a statement by the group issued on 12.01.2010. I will include a link to that document for any who choose to read it–it is not terribly long as it was somewhat hastily put together in December.


  1. Student Eligibility
  2. Student Access
  3. Personalized Learning
  4. Advancement
  5. Content
  6. Instruction
  7. Providers
  8. Assessment and Accountability
  9. Funding
  10. Delivery

The above ten elements are largely the same as those elements used to judge high-quality traditional instruction, so I have neither problem with the face of the elements nor the (albeit simplistic) statements defining the elements. And, while I have stated above my strong support for more digital learning options, including addressing the prospects with the local superintendent of schools and several school board members, I do have some problems with this initiative.


The first concern is the apparent lack of significant “in the trenches” experience with daily education or management of students. On the executive team, only one of eleven members is clearly identified with a school district, Joel Klein, of New York City Public Schools, yet his position within the schools is unidentified. (Joel Klein is the former Chancellor of the New York City Public Schools and is recently retired.) The remainder of the executive board includes two former politicians, four representatives of charitable foundations, two representatives of national political associations (one ostensibly representing high-level state educational technology directors),  one high-level state bureaucrat, and the president and CEO of iNACOL, a non-profit group representing the interests of online curriculum providers.

Most of the 100 contributing members to DLN are politicians, business representatives (including several whose represented interests–curriculum providers, technology manufacturers, online curriculum providers like K-12, Inc. and Connections Academyhave much to gain under the policy proposal) charter school associations, and others with specific agendas and vested interests such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the LMS (learning management system) provider Blackboard, Inc. While it is positive to have members of the business, political, and philanthropic entities involved, what is glaringly obvious is who is not involved: representatives of the current public school systems in America. That alone is enough to cause one to question what is truly driving this policy proposal.

One need not read far in the document to determine that the purpose of the group is clear: a dismantling of the current educational institutions. No one need question that our public school systems need to embrace change. Most educational leaders understand the need for change and are implementing changes, particularly where technology is concerned. One key take-away from the webinar (hosted by Ed Week but led by the above-mentioned Connections Academy) is that all educators need to embrace technology and would be wise to complete career development coursework in educational technology. Change is a part of life and is necessary to the survival of competitive institutions, but we need not dismantle what we have to create systemic change; we need to work with not against the establishment in order to evoke on a broad scale the kind of systemic change most Americans would like to see. In order to work with the establishment, DLN needs to include educators and educational leaders from within the existing system–especially educators like Jim Sonju and Justin Baeder who are already creating change within the existing structure.


DLN has a bold mission and should be applauded for championing systemic change within American education. Above is the link to Digital Learning Now’s homepage. At the bottom of their page is a link to the December 1, 2010 document. You can also follow Digital Learning Now! on Twitter: @diglearningnow. The group is definitely here to stay with funding and support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw Hill Education, Apex Learning, Cisco Systems, the Pearson Foundation, Smart (think Smart Boards), ETS, Connections Academy, and Scholastic. They have strong backing from The Charter School Foundation, and New York’s School of One. The group will issue a progress report, the “Report Card on Digital Learning,” detailing state-by-state progress toward the digital initiative in October 2011. Widespread adoption of technology for delivery of learning and for enhancement and individualization is imperative, but DLN’s perspective without including those in the trenches is both simplistic and overly optimistic.