Three things to read this weekend

Be sure to take a break from enjoying the beautiful weather this weekend to check out our picks for the top three things we read this week:

Digital Natives, Yet Strangers to the Web (The Atlantic): As someone who is old enough to have graduated from college before Facebook was even invented, it’s easy to view today’s students as “digital natives” who seem to have learned everything there is to know about technology before they turn 13. However, as this piece points out, there’s a big difference between being technologically savvy and truly understanding the ways in which technology can shape the human experience (never mind the behind-the-scenes algorithms). This story highlights different efforts to create a digital-age curriculum that helps students explore and understand the current technological era – and the extent to which schools are effective at teaching this.

The Condition of Future Educators 2014 (ACT): So, this is perhaps not the most scintillating read for a nice spring weekend. But! Some of the numbers in this report from ACT were just so staggering that I had to share. First, the number of ACT-tested students interested in a career in education dropped by 16 percent from 2010 to 2014 – even as the overall number of students who took the ACT increased by 18 percent. That decline doesn’t bode well for the pipeline of prospective teachers the country will need as more and more Baby Boomer-types ease into retirement. Second, the students who were interested in a career in education had lower than average achievement levels in three of the four subjects tested by the ACT – and in math and science the performance gap was significant. Since there’s widespread agreement that teacher quality is a critical variable in student achievement, these numbers are really troubling.

Building a Better Teacher (The New York Times): This article by Elizabeth Green is from several years back, so many of you may have already read it. But as I just started reading the book by the same name that Green published just last year, I figured I’d throw this on the list in case anyone missed it. The article (and the book, which is also worth reading) explore the difficulty in identifying what is good teaching and how to teach people how to teach well. The article focuses on Doug Lemov, who helped found Uncommon Schools and also published a book on good teaching called “Teach Like a Champion: The 49 Techniques That Put Students on the Path to College.” I thought revisiting this article was particularly timely given the numbers in the ACT report.