November 18 - November 25, 2018

A terrific week: several provocations regarding curriculum, many major happenings in STEM and tech, and more.

Particularly notable is the contrast between the post on decolonizing a curriculum (Diversity/Inclusion) and the report by the National Association of Scholars (Feature). Together, they make the TED talk on productive disagreement (Character) particularly relevant.

In this week's featured section, the article about the most assigned books to incoming college freshmen highlights just a sample of the books. The full list, including the most commonly assigned books over the past decade or so, is detailed in the linked report, not the article.  Notably, the report, which is authored by the National Association of Scholars, is mostly critical of how colleges select and assign the books, and it stakes out a particular position in regards to what the canon should be and how higher education institutions should guide their students. Again, the contrast with other posts this week is notable. Nonetheless, the data about the selections is quantitative and useful.

Unrelated (or maybe not), Plato's Cave reminds us that sometimes we can't see beyond the world we know.  Sometimes, in other words, change is hard because we simply aren't aware of other ways of doing things.  HundrED is a nonprofit that each year highlights 100 global innovations in education from around the world.  If you're looking for an eye opener into other ways of doing things, the penultimate link in this week's newsletter is worth checking out.

Lastly, what isn't to be treasured about puns?  Finally, they receive the scholarly treatment they deserve.  See the first feature article.

Happy reading!




Dear Colleagues,

I'm happy to share that after two trial cycles in 2017 and 2018, Athena will be opening its professional development community more formally this coming summer.  Would you or your school like to participate? 

If you're an administrator in search of staff professional development that is inspiring, productive, and directly connected to practice, or a teacher, eager to browse other people's work, share your own, and collaborate to improve, this might be right for you.

To learn more, join me a webinar/interview hosted by the Independent Curriculum Group on Wednesday, December 5, 2018, from 3:30 - 4:30pm ET.  Register at this link. Webinars are free and open to all, and they are publicly archived.

Thank you!




A Glorious, Scholarly Case For Puns, Replete With Historical Examples  Paris Review
"Puns point to the essence of all true wit -- the ability to hold in the mind two different ideas about the same thing at the same time. And the pun's primacy is demonstrated by its strategic use in the oldest sacred stories, texts, and myths."

Here Are The Books Colleges Are Assigning To Incoming Freshmen NPR 
"Every year since 2010, the National Association of Scholars surveys the schools that pick books. This year, throughout 481 colleges and universities, they found schools were more likely to pick new books over classics. 67 percent of common reading books assigned were published after 2011, according to NAS."



Alternative Credentials: Quality Control Concerns Grow  Hechinger Report
"We do have a little bit of a Wild West situation right now with alternative credentials,' ...Thousands of credentials classes aimed at improving specific skills have cropped up outside of traditional colleges. Some classes are boot camps, including those popular with computer coders. Others are even more narrowly focused, such as courses on factory automation and breastfeeding. Colleges and universities have responded by adding non-degree programs of their own."


There Are No Shortcuts: Facebook, Technology, Conversation And Character  New York Times
"Tweeting and trolling are easy. Mastering the arts of conversation and measured debate is hard. Texting is easy. Writing a proper letter is hard. Looking stuff up on Google is easy. Knowing what to search for in the first place is hard. Having a thousand friends on Facebook is easy. Maintaining six or seven close adult friendships over the space of many years is hard. Swiping right on Tinder is easy. Finding love -- and staying in it -- is hard."

TED Talk: How To Disagree Productively And Find Common Ground  TED

8 Conversation Tips From Terry Gross  New York Times


"For Kids, Learning Is Movement"  Nautilus

Deconstructing Theory Of Mind, And Whether It Is Even Accurate  3am Magazine


Creativity Declines When Observed (Via Surveillance And Politics)  Wired


"Twelve Things Americans Believe About The Arts In 2018"  Americans for the Arts
"It is based on a nationally representative sample of 3,023 American adults, making it one of the largest public opinion studies about the arts ever conducted. As one might expect when hearing from the public, we find a mix of assumptions challenged and observations confirmed."

What Current Historians Think Kids Should Be Learning In School Right Now  Washington Post
"Walter Isaacson: Schools should be nurturing curiosity... Ken Burns: respect people with different opinions... Sophia Rosenfield: I would try to teach students something about the nature and history of truth."


Race And America: What Does (The End Of) A White Majority Mean?  New York Times

"Race is difficult to count because, unlike income or employment, it is a social category that shifts with changes in culture, immigration, and ideas about genetics. So who counts as white has changed over time. In the 1910s and 1920s, the last time immigrants were such a large share of the American population, there were furious arguments over how to categorize newcomers from Europe."

10 Questions To Decolonize Your Curriculum (Via South Africa)  African Skies


A Case For Project-Based Learning In Kindergarten  Education Dive


On Talking To Your High School Senior Right Now About College Life  New York Times


Reading Fiction Improves Your Social Ability/Empathy (A Little)  Psychology Today


Comma Queen Returns: Let's Get "Who" vs "Whom" Right [Grammar]  New Yorker

"I have been avoiding this subject for months, because of an overwhelming feeling that in the current climate, actual and political, no one cares. But we have come to a sorry state when the news itself discourages us from caring about the way it's conveyed."

On Duolingo And Language Learning  Atlantic


Make Better Decisions By Applying Multiple Models  Harvard Business Review


On Transitioning From Age/Grade Level To Multi-Age Classrooms  District Administration


Ion Powered Flight (Like Star Trek) Is Now Real  MIT
"Now MIT engineers have built and flown the first ever plane with no moving parts. Instead of propellers or turbines, the light aircraft is powered by an 'ionic wind' -- a silent but mighty flow of ions that is produced aboard the plane, and that generates enough thrust to propel the plane over a sustained, steady flight."

A Reflection On Science In Society (Via Science Journalism)  New York Times
"Science is a verb, not a noun. It is not the truth, but it is the best compass we have invented to guide us there... The challenge ahead for science is to avoid extinction. Can we learn from it how to disseminate news that is factual, maybe even good, more rapidly than falsehoods can spread?"

Tattoos, Scientists, Global Agreements: How The Kilogram Was Redefined  New York Times
"Henceforth, all seven units in the International System of Units, otherwise known as the S.I., will no longer be defined by material objects and instead will be defined only by abstract constants of nature."

On The Importance Of "A Basic, Deep-Seated Fluency In Math And Science"  Nautilus

An Illustrated Explanation Of The Mars Landing Happening Tomorrow (!)  The Oatmeal

People Are Now Controlling Robot Arms With Their Brains Only  New Yorker

A Short Video Introducing The P-Value And Its History  PBS

Programming (Beautiful) Bezier Curves  Medium


An EdTech Enthusiast Teacher Moderates Her Tech Engagement  Medium
"Using edtech in balance with low tech tools also helps my students hone their fine motor skills... I don't think 'paperless' is a goal to aspire to."

AI And Natural Language Processing Take A Big Leap Forward  New York Times
"Over the last several months, researchers have shown that computer systems can learn the vagaries of language in general ways and then apply what they have learned to a variety of specific tasks."

"Public Attitudes Towards Computer Algorithms"  Pew Research
"Across age groups, social media users are comfortable with their data being used to recommend events -- but wary of that data being used for political messaging."

"Internet, Social Media Use And Device Ownership In U.S. Have Plateaued"  Pew Research

Privacy, Technology, And Assessing Student Participation  Larry Cuban

"The Simple Joy of 'No Phones Allowed'" (Via Music Concerts)  Raptitude


Browse 100 Innovations At Schools From Around The World  HundrED
"HundrED has selected 100 inspiring innovations that are changing the face of K12 education today."

A Middle School, Now A High School -- Inside A Museum  EdWeek