The Bots are Coming! Better Re-think My Lesson Plans

» 17 August 2014 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, Leadership, Strategies » 3 Comments

S.H_Horikawa_–_Star_Strider_Robot_Close_Up

Here’s a suggestion for your back-to-school faculty meeting - take 15 minutes to watch Humans Need Not Apply by CGP Grey. Then have a discussion on it’s implications for your students and (your curriculum). Talking about robot invasions is way more fun than updates on new state tests.

The video’s thesis is simple - robots are coming for our jobs. Actually, they have already taken many of them. And it’s not just low-skilled labor they're taking over.

… white-collar work is no safe haven either. If your job is sitting in front of a screen and typing and clicking -- like maybe you're supposed to be doing right now -- the bots are coming for you too, buddy.

I’ll bet that accurately filling out a worksheet won’t be a valued bot-competitive skill.

Are the professions safe from bots? Not exactly. The video makes the case for bots replacing significant aspects of legal, medical and even creative work. (And I’d add teachers to that list.)

It begs the question - what skills should we be teaching to students who will have to compete against the bots for employment? I don’t think there are any easy answers to that question. But I’ll bet that accurately filling out a worksheet won’t be a valued bot-competitive skill.

As the video concludes:

We have been through economic revolutions before, but the robot revolution is different.

Horses aren't unemployed now because they got lazy as a species, they’re unemployable. There's little work a horse can do that do that pays for its housing and hay.

And many bright, perfectly capable humans will find themselves the new horse: unemployable through no fault of their own. …

This video isn't about how automation is bad -- rather that automation is inevitable. It's a tool to produce abundance for little effort. We need to start thinking now about what to do when large sections of the population are unemployable -- through no fault of their own. What to do in a future where, for most jobs, humans need not apply.

For full text of the video click here.

Image credit: S.H Horikawa – Star Strider Robot
By D J Shin (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

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First Presidential Debate – Obama, Romney, Lehrer Word Clouds

» 03 October 2012 » In Ed Policy, Visualizations » 2 Comments

debate1 wordle

I enjoyed watching the first 2012 Presidential debates. Here’s three word clouds – from President Obama, Governor Romney and debate moderator, Jim Lehrer. Each word cloud represents the 30 most frequently used words, with the frequency represented by font size. For all three, I removed names and titles from consideration. Interesting that “47″ never turned up.

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Common Core Skills: Deeper Reading and Critical Thinking

» 31 July 2012 » In Ed Policy, History / DBQ's, Literacy, Strategies, Teachers » 2 Comments

First automobile-featured

Across the county teachers are looking for lessons and resources to implement new Common Core standards. While some see Common Core skills as something new, most of these skills are exemplified in the well established, document-based approach to instruction. As a long-time advocate of DBQ’s, I’ve re-posted sample lessons (elementary, middle and high school) that demonstrate how to build student skills in literacy and critical thinking, while supporting mastery of the Common Core.

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14 Provocative Questions for the Faculty

» 25 July 2012 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, Leadership, Reflection, Teachers » 3 Comments

nostopping-featured

It’s back to school time. Get ready for that opening day faculty meeting where you sit and listen, while wishing you could be getting some actual work done in your classroom. Here’s few disruptive questions you could pose to subvert the status quo in your school. Let’s begin with who’s learning, who’s not, and what are we doing about it?

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Schools Making A Difference: Films and Discussions

» 08 February 2012 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, Leadership, Students, Teachers » No Comments

Lessons from the Real World- featured

The Portland City Club is continuing its educational series “Schools Making A Difference: Portraits of Excellence, Engagement and Equity” – films, panel discussions and participant dialogues

Though economic realities pose significant challenges for our education system, when schools and communities work together with a clear vision and heroic effort, they can achieve stunning results. Exemplary schools provide high expectations and opportunities for all students to succeed. They also provide real world learning experiences that prepare students for college, careers and citizenship in the 21st century. They do this through an engaging curriculum that recognizes the diverse talents and needs of their student populations. Join fellow citizens, educators, and students for any of four evenings of films, panels, and participant dialogues that offer portraits of such schools in our region and around the world.

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Worksheets and Kodachrome: Lessons in Kodak’s Bankruptcy

» 20 January 2012 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, History / DBQ's, Students » 2 Comments

Kodak Simplicity featured

This week Eastman Kodak filed for bankruptcy. Is there a lesson for educators about what happens when you lose touch with your customer?

At the core of Kodak’s eventual demise was the failure of the leadership to remain connected to their customers. They convinced themselves that the public would continue to want to buy film, load it into the camera, take a picture, drop the film off at the processor, and return later to pick up their photos. Easy to believe when you’re making money at every stage of that process.

Has our educational leadership lost touch with their customers – the students? Given the growing array of cheap digital tools available to our students, will they passively wait to be told what, how, when and with whom to learn? Is the information flow of the traditional classroom (lecture, note-taking, test) as outmoded as taking your film to the drugstore for processing?

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Testing or Teachable Moments?

» 30 November 2011 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, Teachers » No Comments

Extinguished-featured

Several years ago, after I brought in tulips from my garden, my fifth-grade students wanted to plant their own. I learned that few students in my school’s high-poverty community had ever planted anything, so we planted tulips (not in the curriculum). In the process, one student found part of a rusted horseshoe, so we studied the history of the neighborhood (not in the curriculum), discovering that a farm had existed there 90 years earlier. Then, because of the proliferation of questions about the artifacts we’d unearthed, we studied archaeology (not in the curriculum). With the new push for common core standards nationwide, perhaps no student in any fifth grade in the United States will plant tulips, explore the history of his or her neighborhood or learn about archaeology ever again.

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Black Friday: Will Teachers Be Shopping or Working at the Mall?

» 25 November 2011 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, Events, Teachers » No Comments

american.teacher-feature

Statistics show that nearly half of all teachers leave within the first five years. Low salaries and high stress are among the top reasons teachers “burnout” and quit the profession. Sixty-two percent of our nation’s teachers have second jobs outside of the classroom. What’s your kid’s teacher doing tonight – home working on lesson plans, or selling cell phones at the mall?

American Teacher is a film that follows four teachers who struggle to make ends meet while trying to stay in the profession they love. With narration by Matt Damon, it tells their stories through a mixture of footage and interviews with students, families, and colleagues, as well as the teachers themselves. By following these teachers as they reach different milestones in their careers, it uncovers a deeper story of the teaching profession in America today. This post features a trailer and information about screenings in your area.

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Why I Teach? A Voice from StoryCorps

» 30 October 2011 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, Teachers » No Comments

Ayodeji-Ogunniyi-featured

It’s not an best of time for teachers – budget cuts, layoffs, increased class size, test-score based evaluations, and attacks on collective bargaining / tenure, etc. Meanwhile, the self-appointed corporate reformers would have you believe that they can fix education with a strong dose of market incentives. This morning I heard a moving StoryCorps narrative on why one young man chose to become a teacher. Spoiler alert – it wasn’t merit pay.

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Why Johnny Can’t Search – a Response

» 23 October 2011 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, Leadership, Literacy, Students » 21 Comments

stephen-poff-featured

Clive Thompson wonders “Why Johnny Can’t Search” (Wired Magazine Nov, 2011). I note that schools contribute to the problem in two ways. In an effort to protect students from offensive online content many schools respond by sequestering students behind an information firewall. That sets Johnny up to fail in our “wild west” of information. Every day he walks into a sanitized information landscape with the expectation that anything he finds behind the school firewall is acceptable.

Schools inhibit the development of critical evaluation skills in another way – the relentless (test prep) focus on mastery of facts. Johnny can assess the validity of information because he’s awash in a sea of text without context. Critically evaluating sources requires a deeper understanding of author and purpose. That’s developed with an inquiry-based approach to learning. No time for that – we have to “cover” content for the test. In the relentless march to the exam, Johnny gets well acclimated to quickly stuffing his head with facts. No wonder he’s willing to take up Google on the bet that “I’m Feeling Lucky.”

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