114/365 All the News that’s Fit to Align with What We’ve Already Read

dead newspaper

I’m just getting to today’s ASCD SmartBrief in my inbox. I don’t often have time to run through it, but it’s summer, and such extravegances are permitted.

The subject line today, “Principal: Testing is about measuring knowledge, not meeting deadlines.” The link leads to this Education Week commentary from Ryan McLane, a junior high school principal in Utica. I’ll leave the content of McLane’s piece to him.

This isn’t about that.

The second story is about 21st-century skills and a Gallup survey sponsored by Microsoft Partners in Learning and the Pearson Foundation.

Third? A story on Texas schools uncovering knowledge that taking kids on field trips helps them think about what they might want to do after school.

These are the top stories under “Learning and Teaching” for the day. While they speak to the trends of the American education landscape, but they do little to push at the boundaries, challenge popular beliefs or uncover new ground.

The other categories in the brief follow a similar pattern.

My ire was probably its highest under the “Whole Child” section which featured a single story on the pantopticonian increase in demand for survelliance cameras as the answer to school safety concerns followed by “Wyo. considers training teachers to recognize students who are at risk of suicide” under a sub-sub-heading.

To say this reflects a saddening national conversation would be an understatement.

Perhaps I’m asking too much of a SmartBrief as well as showing a naive hope that what remains of the Fourth Estate might take on the mantle of helping their audiences critically evaluate the objects of their reporting. At the very least, it would be nice to see any continuing coverage of school closings taking place across the country and how they might disproportionately effect students from different ethnicities differently.

Special thanks to my English teachers who, even though we were firmly in the 20th century, helped me to develop the distinctly 21st-century skill of critical thinking and reading closely.

Things I Know 308 of 365: I’ve got your must-read list right here

The smarter the journalists are, the better off society is. [For] to a degree, people read the press to inform themselves-and the better the teacher, the better the student body.

– Warren Buffett

I’ve mentioned longform.org, a site my friend Max and his friend Aaron started April 2010. From an education standpoint, though they didn’t start the site for education, longform is perfect for schools wondering how they can find and incorporate extended, high-interest quality non-fiction reading into their curricula.

But this post isn’t about the classroom.

Longform has curated it’s Top 10 (or 20) best pieces of long-form journalism of 2011. With the list’s publication, my reading list for the next few weeks has been set. I also subscribe to the site’s spin-off, sendmeastory.com, which does what the name implies each weekend. Two weeks ago, I got this story from Esquire about Michael May a man who had been blind his entire life and his struggle over whether to undergo surgery that could give him sight.

I cried.

That’s not an infrequent occurrence as I read stories from longform. The site does the work of collecting the most interesting and impactful stories being told and putting them in one place. What’s more, they’ve fully integrated Readability, Instapaper, Read It Later and Kindle queueing so I’m not tied to the computer screen when I want to read.

While I still think longform is the unintentional answer to the wants of many a curriculum designer, I know it’s the intentional answer to the wants of anyone in search of a well-crafted piece of journalism.

Things I Know 200 of 365: I trust Liz Dwyer

Just once in a while let us exalt the importance of ideas and information.

– Edward R. Murrow

Liz Dwyer has given me some of the best and worst news I’ve ever received about education.
She’s pushed my thinking on as many issues around teaching and learning as any one other person in my life.
When I can’t sleep at night, she’s there to help keep my mind busy. When I need to make a point to friends, she’s got my back.
She even helped me raise money for college.
And we’ve never met.
Dwyer is the Education Editor at GOOD.IS.
Though I knew I was head-over-heels for Good’s print mag when I picked up their first issue, it took me a while to realize how much Dwyer’s online work meant to me.
I’ve got it now.
While every other online education writer is stuffed comfortably into the “EDU” folder of my feed reader, Dwyer sits in her own thread.
I needed to shut down my browser the other day. Rather than waiting for each of the dozens of tabs I had open across two monitors to find their ways back to their respective pages, I shut each one and decided what to bookmark and what to send into the ether of the Interwebs.
As I shut down, I started to take account of how many tabs marked content Dwyer had created or shared.
Final tally – 16.
No other online writer owned as much of my browser space.
With all of the world and its information at my disposal, this one writer had caught my attention at least 16 times in the last week to the extent that I felt the need to keep open and share what she had written.
I am reminded of visits to my grandparents when I would sit down to lunch and my grandmother would hand me a stack of newspaper clippings from stories she thought I would be interested in.
I’d inadvertently done the same with Dwyer’s work on the chance someone would ask me a relevant question, and I’d be able to share.
My generation will never have an Edward R. Murrow. Anderson Cooper might be as close as we get.
Tom Brokaw and the later Peter Jennings belong to my parents and grandparents.
Finding a voice or two in the din of neo-journalism’s protean nature that serve a reliable and constant purveyors of understanding and information is grueling.
I’m glad I’ve found Liz Dwyer.

Classy: Long-form journalism, writing in digital margins and class discussion

A few months ago, my friend Max and another friend of his launched a site called longform.org.

A week ago, Ben tweeted out a link to reframeit.com.

I noted each site in the cache of my mind as something that could be useful in class.

I like the cache because it’s a place where ideas can marinate. (Pardon the mixed metaphor.)

My G11 students are completing a benchmark project right now. It’s one of those pieces where they have a bunch to work on, and we hand over class time to that collaboration. Doing only that can be monotonous.

To break the monotony this week, we’re playing with longform.org and reframeit.com.

Last week, I ask each team of kids (they sit in tables of four) to head to longform an find a piece of journalism they thought would hold the class’ attention and produce thoughtful conversation.

The directions were simple:

  1. Work with your team to come to unanimous approval of the article you’d like to lead discussion on.
  2. Tell me.
  3. Using reframeit.com, read the article and draft discussion points and questions.
  4. Prepare to lead discussion for 35 minutes of one class period.

That’s it.

The discussions and debates about which articles to select were as interesting as the comments that started showing up in the digital margins. One team of all girls made it halfway through an article they agreed was highly interesting, but too mature for some of their classmates. I’d made the same judgment when they told me what they’d selected, but they needed to come to that conclusion on their own. Choice means realizing when you’ve made a bad one. They shifted and all is well.

Over the next two weeks, we’ll have a shared reading experience of some amazingly diverse and high-quality long-form journalism. The students will collaborate on how they interpret and question what they’re reading. The class will build their abilities to converse about a given text and build comprehension, analysis and intertextual reading.

My role will be that of a reader and thinker.

When I showed the class reframeit.com the first time, all I did was give them time to play and told them we’d be sharing our first impressions at the end of play time. Several times, their evaluation danced around the idea that they could see it as possibly useful if they had a clear purpose for using it. Its existence wasn’t inherently useful.

That’s what cache marinading is for.