With both parents and children preparing for the start of the new academic year, the exciting but overwhelming tasks are numerous. The time is right for making preparations, gaining perspective and planning for how the year unfolds; yet, how can parents and students alike be sure they are making smart choices in a time characterized by rapid change and unpredictability?
It is almost impossible to stay on top of the many conversations about the function of learning and the present and future disruptions in education that are taking place both within the United States and internationally. There is talk of reforms and the direction that education should take to meet the requirements of the changing times, but also, perhaps more importantly, to shape the coming change by equipping students with meaningful knowledge and skills. A comprehensive and holistic understanding of the wider educational climate would enable parents to not only make better decisions about their children’s academic futures, but to both recognize and affect change in their local schools and communities.
Below is a round-up of the latest articles and on education and learning, from national policy to opinion pieces to leaping trends. The round-up is intended to help parents and students more easily navigate the wide and complex educational landscape and keep up to date with the most recent trends and news in education.
NPR’s article about countering back-to-school anxiety explores strategies for parents and students anticipating the beginning of the academic year that can help them cope with the shift to more structured life in the classroom. The advice includes listening to the child’s concerns, allowing them to come up with solutions, reaching out to teachers, and practicing daily routines before the start of the year to encourage early adjustment. While back-to-school anxiety is a standard phenomenon, as the article itself observes, dealing with anxiety that may be unfounded early on is a good way to ensure that it doesn’t take root and negatively influence your child’s personal and academic life. Furthermore, a more successful, optimistic start of the year may pave the way for future successes. It addition to strengthening the parent-child bond, it would set an example for independently handling similar emotional burdens and develop emotional and social intelligence that could be furthered in the classroom.
Seeking to optimally use the time spent studying and note-taking, parents may be wondering what digital tools their children should incorporate into their study routine; KQED’s article on useful strategies for digital note-taking, and another on making the choice between digital and paper textbooks may be useful for parents wondering what digital solutions are worth considering, and the extent to which technology should become a part of learning.
As technology becomes further ingrained not only into learning but also into the classroom environment, questions arise: what does it replace, supplement or enhance? Is it mere gimmick or a thing of substance, value and real purpose? Traditional learning environments are being radically reimagined and transformed to become almost unrecognizable, and it is natural to have concerns, and perhaps even resist the values that underpin how education is being reworked or the tempo of change, but nevertheless, it is important to. anticipate these changes in the classroom, so that if and when they start to occur, parents can act meaningfully. But what exactly will these changes entail?
An article by Digital Trends imagines the future of AI in the classroom and beyond that perform the more the more routine tasks in the classroom, and even as so called “lifelong learning companions” that follow a child through his or her education and evolve from simpler AI educational toys to a having a more prominent presence in the classroom as teaching assistants, tutors and counselors that provide data-driven guidance. However, instead of replacing teachers, these technologies are intended to supplement education. In developing areas, however, AI may be used to combat the lack of available human teachers, making education more widely accessible.
Data-based pedagogy seems to be thing of the present already, and is perhaps an example of the more alarming sides of technology’s integration into traditional learning environments. The practice in question is behavior management apps, explored in an article by The Baffler. Some of the technologies entering the classroom are made to collect and track the behavioral data of students through scans that can be monitored by teachers and parents alike, with the ultimate goal being to encourage and instill “correct” behaviors in students. The article raises the question of the possible clash between the values of education and that of Silicon Valley corporations that design products that hold the power to determine which behaviors are desirable and which are not, along with the countless ethical problems arising out of surveillance and control of student activity.
Behavior tracking seems to be affecting education across the board. Examples can be found in District Administration’s article that explores the phenomenon of colleges using insights based in data analytics in creating strategies to improve student retention. This trend is not only present at universities; intervention strategies emerging in K12 that are starting to shape emotional learning, anxiety as well as academic instruction are also gaining traction.
Perhaps the most notable change in K-12 education, however, is the recent Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), whose implementation is underway nationwide. The act is set to give more power to states in making decisions and implementing change. To gain a better understanding of the law, read the interview with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos by The Associated Press, as well as Education Drive’s five must-read stories that examine the law from multiple perspectives.