In offering the concept of workflow thinking, we diverge from the business & systems-focused concept of the workflow (one that is often used by our participants) in suggesting that workflow thinking should not privilege efficiency above all else. Just as there are compelling outcomes to automating a mundane computing task via a program or script, there are also compelling outcomes to purposefully introducing constraints to a modular workflow component—for example, writing a draft in crayon (Wysocki, 2004)—and purposefully introducing friction into process.

Source: Writing Workflows | Introduction

I updated “Persuasion and Operant Conditioning: The Influence of B. F. Skinner in Big Tech and Ed-tech” with selections from “A Call for Critical Instructional Design”.

Operant conditioning and the manipulation of response to stimuli are at the heart of theories that support instructional design. But more, they form the foundation of almost all educational technology-from the VLE or LMS to algorithms for adaptive learning. Building upon behaviorism, Silicon Valley-often in collaboration with venture capitalists with a stake in the education market-have begun to realize Skinner’s teaching machines in today’s schools and universities.

And there’s the rub. When we went online to teach, we went online almost entirely without any other theories to support us besides instructional design. We went online first assuming that learning could be a calculated, brokered, duplicatable experience. For some reason, we took one look at the early internet and forgot about all the nuance of teaching, all the strange chaos of learning, and surrendered to a philosophy of see, do, hit submit.

The problem we face is not just coded into the VLE, either. It’s not just coded into Facebook and Twitter and the way we send an e-mail or the machines we use to send text messages. It’s coded into us. We believe that online learning happens this way. We believe that discussions should be posted once and replied to twice. We believe that efficiency is a virtue, that automated proctors and plagiarism detection services are necessary-and more than necessary, helpful.

But these are not things that are true, they are things that are sold.

Source: A Call for Critical Instructional Design

They blamed students who lacked “grit,” teachers who sought tenure, and parents who knew too much. They declared school funding isn’t the problem, an elected school board is an obstacle, and philanthropists know best.

They published self-fulfilling prophecies connecting zip-coded school ratings, teacher performance scores, and real estate values. They viewed Brown v. Board as skin-deep and sentimental, instead of an essential mandate for democracy.

They implied “critical thinking” was possible without the Humanities, that STEM alone makes us vocationally relevant, and that “coding” should replace recess time. They cut teacher pay, lowered employment qualifications, and peddled the myth anyone can teach.

They instructed critics to look past poverty, inequality, residential segregation, mass incarceration, homelessness, and college debt to focus on a few heartwarming (and yes, legitimate) stories of student resilience and pluck.

They designed education conferences on “data-driven instruction,” “rigorous assessment,” and “differentiated learning” but showed little patience for studies that correlate student performance with poverty, trauma, a school-to-prison pipeline, and the decimation of community schools.

Source: Why A New Generation of Teachers is Angry at Self-Styled Education ‘Reformers’ | GFBrandenburg’s Blog

Get structural and equity literate.

Operant conditioning and the manipulation of response to stimuli are at the heart of theories that support instructional design. But more, they form the foundation of almost all educational technology-from the VLE or LMS to algorithms for adaptive learning. Building upon behaviorism, Silicon Valley-often in collaboration with venture capitalists with a stake in the education market-have begun to realize Skinner’s teaching machines in today’s schools and universities.

And there’s the rub. When we went online to teach, we went online almost entirely without any other theories to support us besides instructional design. We went online first assuming that learning could be a calculated, brokered, duplicatable experience. For some reason, we took one look at the early internet and forgot about all the nuance of teaching, all the strange chaos of learning, and surrendered to a philosophy of see, do, hit submit.

The problem we face is not just coded into the VLE, either. It’s not just coded into Facebook and Twitter and the way we send an e-mail or the machines we use to send text messages. It’s coded into us. We believe that online learning happens this way. We believe that discussions should be posted once and replied to twice. We believe that efficiency is a virtue, that automated proctors and plagiarism detection services are necessary-and more than necessary, helpful.

But these are not things that are true, they are things that are sold.

Source: A Call for Critical Instructional Design

Ed Yong wrote about that viral video of the baby bear and mama bear making their way across a snow-covered cliff. You know the one – the one that some educators have said shows the bear had “grit.” Yong points out that the bears were being filmed by a drone, and the mother would never have made her baby take such a precarious path had it not been for the technological intrusion. Come to think of it, the whole thing – the ignorance and dismissal of trauma, the lack of attention to structural violence, the use of technology to shape behavior – is a perfect analogy for how “grit” gets wielded in schools.

Source: HEWN, No. 291

We are confronted by the complicated/complex division everyday in education. Do I want to know if a medical students has remembered the nine steps of a process of inquiry to work with a patient or do I want to know if they built a good raport? How often do we choose the thing that is easier to measure… simply because we can verify that our grading is ‘fair’. How often do we get caught in conversations around how ‘rigourous’ an assessment is when what we really mean is ‘how easy is it to defend to a parent who’s going to complain about a child’s grade’.

Learning, like love, can’t have a lean six sigma chart designed for it. Once we’ve identified something in our education space as complex (as opposed to complicated) a new set of tools has to emerge. We have to have deep conversations about what our goals are. We need to talk about what our values are and how they translate to our lives. And then we need to engage with our system in a broad based, patient way that allows us to make change. As Snowden would put it, Probe, Sense and Respond. Try some things, see how they work, iterate and try again. You’re never going to get to best practice, because the situation is always changing.

We need to understand that our protectionist strategies (limiting screen time, web blocking apps) just further put dangerous and mean activities our children on the internet further underground. We need training, we need dialogue, we need courage… but most of all we all need to get together and decide that our goal is to try and make the internet a better place… rather than trying to hide from it. No LSS approach is going to do that. Only human approaches… only messy results.

Source: Making Change in Education II – Complexity vs. Lean Six Sigma (learning isn’t like money) – Dave’s Educational Blog

we all need to get together and decide that our goal is to try and make the internet a better place… rather than trying to hide from it.

Indeed. Bring safety to the serendipity. I suggest indie ed-tech and Domain of One’s Own.

No LSS approach is going to do that. Only human approaches… only messy results.

Once we’ve identified something in our education space as complex (as opposed to complicated) a new set of tools has to emerge.

Human approaches, tools for complexity:

We are confronted by the complicated/complex division everyday in education.

Start “foregrounding complexity as the baseline”. Behaviorism and mindset marketing are not human approaches because they bikeshed human complexity. They are convenient detours, not direct confrontations.

There is no path toward educational justice that contains convenient detours around direct confrontations with injustice. The desperate search for these detours, often in the form of models or frameworks or concepts that were not developed as paths to justice, is the greatest evidence of the collective desire among those who count on injustice to give them an advantage to retain that advantage. If a direct confrontation of injustice is missing from our strategies or initiatives or movements, that means we are recreating the conditions we’re pretending to want to destroy.

Source: Paul C. Gorski – Grit. Growth mindset. Emotional intelligence….

How often do we choose the thing that is easier to measure… simply because we can verify that our grading is ‘fair’. How often do we get caught in conversations around how ‘rigourous’ an assessment is when what we really mean is ‘how easy is it to defend to a parent who’s going to complain about a child’s grade’.

Picking the easy to measure things and building pedagogy and culture around data and behaviorism disguises the ways they kill us.

The irony of turning schools into therapeutic institutions when they generate so much stress and anxiety seems lost on policy-makers who express concern about children’s mental health

Source: ClassDojo app takes mindfulness to scale in public education | code acts in education

Here’s a rule of thumb for you: An individual’s enthusiasm about the employment of “data” in education is directly proportional to his or her distance from actual students. Policy makers and economists commonly refer to children in the aggregate, apparently viewing them mostly as a source of numbers to be crunched. They do this even more than consultants and superintendents, who do it more than principals, who do it more than teachers. The best teachers, in fact, tend to recoil from earnest talk about the benefits of “data-driven instruction,” the use of “data coaches,” “data walls,” and the like.

Making matters worse, the data in question typically are just standardized test scores – even though, as I’ve explained elsewhere, that’s not the only reason to be disturbed by this datamongering. And it doesn’t help when the process of quantifying kids (and learning) is festooned with adjectives such as “personalized” or “customized.”

But here’s today’s question: If collecting and sorting through data about students makes us uneasy, how should we feel about the growing role of Big Data?

Part of the problem is that we end up ignoring or minimizing the significance of whatever doesn’t lend itself to data analytics. It’s rather like the old joke about the guy searching for his lost keys at night near a street light even though that’s not where he’d dropped them. (“But the light is so much better here!”) No wonder education research – increasingly undertaken by economists – increasingly relies on huge data sets consisting of standardized test results. Those scores may be lousy representations of learning – and, indeed, egregiously misleading. But, by gum, they sure are readily available.

“What’s left out?”, then, is one critical question to ask. Another is: “Who benefits from it?” Noam Scheiber, a reporter who covers workplace issues, recently observed that big data is “massively increasing the power asymmetry between exploiters and exploitees.” (For more on this, check out Cathy O’Neil’s book Weapons of Math Destruction).

Anyone who has observed the enthusiasm for training students to show more “grit” or develop a “growth mindset” should know what it means to focus on fixing the kid so he or she can better adapt to the system rather than asking inconvenient questions about the system itself. Big data basically gives us more information, based on grades, about which kids need fixing (and how and when), making it even less likely that anyone would think to challenge the destructive effects of – and explore alternatives to – the practice of grading students.

Predictive analytics allows administrators to believe they’re keeping a watchful eye on their charges when in fact they’re learning nothing about each student’s experience of college, his or her needs, fears, hopes, beliefs, and state of mind. Creating a “personalized” data set underscores just how _im_personal the interaction with students is, and it may even compound that problem. At the same time that this approach reduces human beings to a pile of academic performance data, it also discourages critical thought about how the system, including teaching and evaluation, affects those human beings.

Source: When “Big Data” Goes to School – Alfie Kohn

Our public school policymakers want us to do the later. In fact, they have a whole pedagogical justification for ignoring the needs of children.

It’s called “academic tenacity,” a “growth mindset” or “grit.”

And it goes something like this:

That child isn’t learning? If she just worked harder, she would. 

It’s the political equivalent of “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” applied to the classroom.

And it’s super helpful for politicians reluctant to allocate tax dollars to actually help kids succeed.

But what no one wants to admit is that grit is… well… shit.

It’s just an excuse for a society that refuses to help those most in need.

Yet when anyone suggests offering help to even the playing field – to make things more fair – a plethora of policy wonks wag their fingers and say, “No way! They did it to themselves.”

It’s typical “blame the victim” pathology to say that some kids get all the love, time and resources they need while others can do without – they just need more “grit” and a “growth mindset.”

Source: Grit is Sh!t – It’s Just an Excuse to do Nothing for Struggling Students – gadflyonthewallblog

As with the corporate flavor, ed-tech mindfulness, like other mindset marketing, disguises the ways they kill us.

Source: Mindfulness in Education – rnbn

And so we can firmly put the insistence on data-driven instruction in the trash bin of bad ideas.

It is unscientific, unproven, harmful, reductive, dehumanizing and contradictory.

The next time you hear an administrator or principal pull out this chestnut, take out one of these counterarguments and roast it on an open fire.

No more data-driven instruction.

Focus instead on student-driven learning.

Source: The Six Biggest Problems with Data-Driven Instruction | gadflyonthewallblog

The moment schools decide they – and not the students – must choose the personal technology the young will use in the classroom they forgo any hope of assisting grow the nation’s young being digital, having the digital invisibly underpin all school learning, of moving the school from an analogue to digital operational mode, and having it join and assist grow a networked society.

The decision relegates the school to the digital backwater.

In announcing its unilateral control of the technology, the school is proclaiming that it intends to maintain its traditional ‘control over’ ways, and that any use of the digital must fit within those ways. It is saying to the students and their families that not only do we know best, but we distrust you, are not willing to empower you, and we don’t value or recognise the lead role you have played – and are playing – in learning with the digital.

It is saying being digital is unimportant, and that a digitally empowered young – working with their teachers – are incapable of using the digital astutely and creatively in enhancing their learning in all areas of the curriculum, at all stages of learning.

Schools and governments worldwide seemingly don’t appreciate the very powerful messages they send when they make seemingly innocuous management decisions about the control of the digital technology.

Digitally empowered young are never going to going to embrace a highly structured ‘control over’ approach to learning with the digital where they are disempowered, devalued and subservient.

Source: The Importance of Students Using Their Own Digital Kit. | The Digital Evolution of Schooling

See also,

No child within the Albemarle County Public Schools should need a label or prescription in order to access the tools of learning or environments they need. Within the constraints of other laws (in particular, copyright) we will offer alternative representations of information, multiple tools, and a variety of instructional strategies to provide access for all learners to acquire lifelong learning competencies and the knowledge and skills specified in curricular standards. We will create classroom cultures that fully embrace differentiation of instruction, student work, and assessment based upon individual learners’ needs and capabilities. We will apply contemporary learning science to create accessible entry points for all students in our learning environments; and which support students in learning how to make technology choices to overcome disabilities and inabilities, and to leverage preferences and capabilities.

Source: Seven Pathways