Archives for category: Technology

 

In case you didn’t know, a murmuration is the sound of lots of birds flapping their little wings.

Mercedes Schneider defines it here:

The name, “murmuration,” refers to “hundreds, sometimes thousands, of starlings fly in swooping, intricately coordinated patterns through the sky.”

Why does it matter?

Because Emma Bloomberg, daughter of multibillionaire Michael Bloomberg, has created a new “ed reform” organization that uses that term as its name.

Schneider has scoured the websites and also the tax forms of this new group.

What they do is not obvious, but they do have millions of dollars, probably from Pappa Bloomberg.

They apparently spend it on data technology, technology integration, and, of course, it is all about the children.

As Schneider writes:

Our focus is on driving change and accelerating progress toward a future where every child in America has the opportunity to benefit from a high-quality public education.

And how do the unnamed, Murmuration change-drivers propose to drive said change?

We provide sophisticated data and analytics, proprietary technology, strategic guidance, and programmatic support to help our partners build political power and marshal support so necessary changes are made to improve our public schools.

Our precise, predictive intelligence and easy-to-use tools are used by practitioners and funders, on their own and working together, to make informed decisions about who they need to reach, what they need to say, and how to achieve and sustain impact.

Of course, in typical ed-reform fashion, its *for the kids*:

We envision a public school system that ensures every child across our nation – regardless of race, income, background, or the zip code where they live – receives an education that prepares them to lead productive, fulfilling, and happy lives.

We believe public servants must recognize that providing a great education to every child is necessary to our prosperity, and be willing to invest in real, systemic and sustainable change which may come at a political cost.

We want our political systems to function and benefit from a rich discussion of the important role of public schools.  We want everyone who is impacted by public education to participate (or be represented) in the discussion and decision-making process.  And, we want the voices of those most reliant on our public education system to be heard.

What all this adds up to is hard to say, other than providing another honey tree for practitioners of disruption to shake.

I am trying to imagine how “those most reliant on our public education system to be heard” when the loudest voices are those with the most money.

Billionaires usually don’t send their own children to public schools and do not have a habit of listening to those who do, but they have plenty of dough to spread around to those who agree with their agenda to privatize the schools, monetize the data, and make technology our master.

The one thing that is clear from Schneider’s post is that Murmuration has plenty of money to spend. What it intends to to is not yet clear. Maybe they plan to visit public schools and listen to parents. Ya’ think?

The Walton Family Foundation and the Charles Koch Foundation are joining forces to fund disruptive innovations. Both foundations are hostile to democratically governed public schools. Both have supported charter schools and vouchers.

Philanthropic groups associated with billionaire businessman and activist Charles Koch have announced two initiatives to deepen their involvement in K-12 education. 

One initiative is Yes Every Kid, a group that intends to find common ground between groups that typically have disagreed vehemently over issues such as labor protections and school funding. It’s a social-welfare organization—a 501(c)4 in the language of the Internal Revenue Service—that will be able to take part in lobbying and political campaign work such as promoting ballot measures and committees. It will operate under the umbrella of Stand Together, a nonprofit group backed by Koch that promotes anti-poverty efforts.

The other initiative is an agreement between the Charles Koch Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation for each group to donate $5 million to what’s essentially a Silicon Valley-style incubator for education called 4.0 Schools. This group will use that $10 million donation, and another $5 million from other donors, to seed “500 new schools, programs and education tools across the country,” according to a statement from the Koch and Walton foundations. Among its activities, the Walton Family Foundation supports charter schools and private school choice programs. (The Walton Family Foundation provides grant support for coverage of parent-engagement issues, including charters and school choice, in Education Week.)

Charles Koch, along with his brother David, have long been associated with conservative political causes through groups such as Americans for Prosperity. And for some time, the Koch brothers have been some of the biggest antagonists for Democrats and liberal groups, including teachers’ unions. In January, the Koch donor network announced plans to get more involved in K-12 education. At that meeting of the Seminar Network, a Koch-backed organization, the group said it was interested in promoting personalized learning, improving schools, and working “alongside” teachers. 

The billionaires are restless. They are worried. Nothing they have done or funded has succeeded. The Red4Ed movement has put them on the defensive. The backlash against charters has shocked them (the billionaire Waltons claim credit for launching one of every four charters in the nation). The all-charter New Orleans District, where half the schools were rated D or F by the state, is a disappointment. The Koch Network was walloped last year by parent and teacher activists in Arizona, who blocked voucher expansion.

All the billionaires have is money. Endless money. The Waltons increase their wealth by $4 million AN HOUR. so they are putting up about 2 and 1/2 hours of revenue for this new venture. They can’t be serious. They are just producing disruption, sowing chaos, creating jobs for their followers. Keep your eyes on them and Mr. Koch.

This is a fascinating and informative article about the perilous world of edtech by the mistress of edtech debunkers, Audrey Watters.

Watters attended a meeting of edtech entrepreneurs and investors in San Diego, where she quickly picked up on their braggadocio, their lingo, and their misinformation.

We used to speak of hedge fund managers as the “masters of the universe.”

Once you have read Watters, you will see that the edtech entrepreneurs see themselves in that esteemed role, ruling our universe and controlling our future.

Of course, they all share the belief that they must reinvent the schools by privatizing them.

And they worship at the shrine of Zuckerberg and other titans of their industry.

Join her as she takes you to the ASU-GSV annual conference, which, she says, is timed to coincide with AERA, so that the entrepreneurs will never be tainted by contact with any actual education researchers.

 

 

Tom Ultican writes here that the i-Ready program is “Outcomes Based Education” in a new dress.

It is, he writes, a fake innovation.

He writes:

i-Ready sells digital math and English lessons to school districts. It provides diagnostic testing which recommends interventions for struggling students that it then provides. i-Ready’s pedagogy embraces competency based education (CBE) a theory promoted by the US Department of Education and blended learning theory also financially supported by the federal government. CBE is the latest name for an education theory that failed in both the 1970’s and 1990’s. Blended learning theory is an experiment with almost no research supporting it but lots of research pointing to its health risks. Students dislike i-Ready.

June 2018, I wrote “i-Ready Magnificent Marketing Terrible Teaching.” It received decent traffic for the first four days, but strangely the traffic never slowed. This year, it is my most accessed article averaging over 700 hits per month.

Curriculum Associates and Bad Education Philosophy

The Massachusetts based company Curriculum Associates (CA) distributes i-Ready and its related testing services. When founded in 1969, it was providing worksheets in support of Mastery Learning curriculum which is similar to today’s CBE. They are the same failed theories delivered by different mediums. CBE and Mastery Learning theory also go by many other names including outcome based education; performance based education; standards based education; high performance learning; transformational education and break-the-mold schools, among others.

Read on for the full story.

 

Evgeny Morozov writes about the political and social implications of technology.

In this fascinating article, Morozov reveals and condemns the moral and intellectual vacuity of the leaders of the tech sector.

For all the growing skepticism about Silicon Valley, many still believe that the digital revolution has a serious intellectual dimension, hashed out at conferences like Ted, online salons like Edge.org, publications like Wired, and institutions like the MIT Media Lab. The ideas of the digerati might be wrong, they might be overly utopian, but, at least, they are sincere.

The Epstein scandal – including the latest revelation that Epstein might have channeled up to $8m (some of it, apparently, on behalf of Bill Gates) to the MIT Media Lab, while its executives were fully aware of his problematic background – has cast the digerati in a very different light. It has already led to the resignation of the lab’s director, Joi Ito.

This, however, is not only a story of individuals gone rogue. The ugly collective picture of the techno-elites that emerges from the Epstein scandal reveals them as a bunch of morally bankrupt opportunists. To treat their ideas as genuine but wrong is too generous; the only genuine thing about them is their fakeness. Big tech and its apologists do produce the big thoughts – alas, mostly accidental byproducts of them chasing the big bucks.

It wasn’t meant to be that way. Back in 1991, John Brockman – the world’s most successful digital impresario, and, until recently, my literary agent – was touting the emergence of the “third culture” that would finally replace the technophobic literary intellectuals with those coming from the world of science and technology. “The emergence of the third culture introduces new modes of intellectual discourse and reaffirms the pre-eminence of America in the realm of important ideas,” wrote Brockman in a much-discussed essay.

Please read the rest of this article.

 

John Merrow had breakfast with Ambassador Gordon Sondland!

Open this link to find out what happened!

And, please know, before you open the link, that I will forever love John M. for what he says inside it.

 

A newly released study in Australia raises questions about whether digital literacy is actually undermining children’s ability and interest in reading.

A Four Corners investigation has found there are growing fears among education experts that screen time is contributing to a generation of skim readers with poor literacy, who may struggle to gain employment later in life as low-skilled jobs disappear.

By the age of 12 or 13, up to 30 per cent of Australian children’s waking hours are spent in front of a screen, according to the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children.

Robyn Ewing, a Professor of Teacher Education at the University of Sydney, said this was having a tangible impact on vocabulary and literacy.

“Children who have been sat in front of a screen from a very early age start school with thousands and thousands of words less, vocabulary-wise, than those who have been meaningfully communicated with,” Professor Ewing said.

Four Corners gained exclusive access to the initial results of a national survey of 1,000 teachers and principals conducted by the Gonski Institute.

The survey found excessive screen time had a profound impact on Australian school students over the past five years, making them more distracted and tired, and less ready to learn.

The Growing Up Digital Australia study has been described by its authors as a “call to action” on the excessive screen use “pervasively penetrating the classroom”.

The study lead, Professor Pasi Sahlberg, said while teachers reported there were benefits to technology in the classroom, most also believed that technology was a huge distracting force in young people.

Audrey Watters is one of the leading voices among those who are concerned about student privacy.

In this post, she notes the growing attention to surveillance of children but observes that some parents are purchasing devices that facilitate surveillance.

Do you want your child to be surveilled by unknown persons and corporations?

The Coalition for Student Privacy writes here about a new book by Dianne Tavenner, who leads the Chan-Zuckerberg-funded Summit Charter Schools. The Summit approach is based heavily on screen time, and it has encountered student and parent protests in numerous cities.

Tavenner’s new book is called Prepared: What Kids Need for a Fulfilled Life.

The book will be launched at an event funded by the far-right Walton Family Foundation in New York City, where Tavenner will have a dialogue with Angela Duckworth, she of “Grit” fame. If you are in the area, why not drop in for free food and drinks on the Walton dime?

The Summit charters have had some little problems with their teachers, some of whom want to form a union. That’s a sure way to lose Walton funding!

Morgan Ames is a techie. She majored in computer science at Berkeley and now works at the Center for Science, Technology, Medicine, and Society. She wants to convince you that techies know computer science, but we should not look to them for advice about child-rearing, education, or other social issues. Their range of expertise is narrow. It may make them very rich. But it does not make them wise in every field of endeavor.

in particular, she is critical of the media narrative that techies shield their children from early use of technology.

She writes:

“These articles assume that techies have access to secret wisdom about the harmful effects of technology on children. Based on two decades of living among, working with, and researching Silicon Valley technology employees, I can confidently assert that this secret knowledge does not exist.

”To be sure, techies may know more than most people do about the technical details of the systems they build, but that’s a far cry from having expertise in child development or the broader social implications of technologies. Indeed, most are beholden to the same myths and media narratives about the supposed evils of screen time as the rest of us, just as they can be susceptible to the same myths about, say, vaccines or fad diets. Nothing in their training, in other words, makes them uniquely able to understand arenas of knowledge or practice far from their own.”

Whoa. I disagree with Ames. Monitoring children’s screen time and allowing them time to read and play is one of the most important jobs of parents today.

I think Ames would have been on safer grounds had she criticized techies’ entrance into politics or other realms about which they are clueless, where they think their financial success makes them superior to everyone else and encourages them to scoff at democracy. Or where they think that their financial success gives them the right to “reinvent” education and scoff at democracy. Think Zuckerberg, Gates, and Mrs. Jobs.