Education: The Free Market
by Julie Brock
I do not protest to understand the stock market. Even though Bloomberg runs in the background while my partner in this life checks Robinhood, I am happily ill equipped to invest your money. However, I do like metaphors. Lately I have found myself saying two phrases ad nauseum as they pertain to education:
University of YouTube
Is there an actual YouTube University? No. There is a channel named YouTube University, but no, there is not an actual YouTube University. However, think about how many times you have used YouTube to figure out how to change a headlight, remove a stripped screw, or build a retaining wall.
There is valuable information on social media platforms that people are using and gaining knowledge for free and it isn’t just for hobbies. As a college first-year, my son found his way into a physics class that was harder than any class he had previously experienced. He went to office hours, met with the graduate assistants, asked for resources, and at the end of the day, he found an educator on YouTube that explained the material in a way that worked with his learning style. In addition, he learned how to build a chicken coop to code, how to replace his graphics card, and numerous other helpful learnings that he continues to build up in his learning portfolio.
And I ask my higher ed colleagues:
This matters because students are opting out of higher education. According to the Minnesota Student Longitudinal Data Set (SLEDS), roughly 70% of Minnesota high school graduates who enroll in college settings persist in earning a Bachelor’s degree. The number drops for 2017 high school graduates, which makes sense: their 3rd year is the 2019-2020 academic year.
A disruption as large as a global pandemic will have serious consequences on college persistence, however, the trend was holding prior to COVID-19.
There are many variables playing into this scenario that were barriers to higher education well before COVID-19:
Internet learning is disrupting traditional education, and unless higher education institutions find a way to compete, their relevance is waning for rising generations. According to NPR, more students are opting to stay out of higher education because of rising costs of tuition and life. Without a clear return on investment, it is hard for people to see the value of attending college when, perhaps, they can learn the skills on the job or online.
Corner Market, no longer
Offering credit for prior learning is one way higher education can stay relevant in this ever-changing education market, in addition to helping students understand the importance of accredited programs as a solid investment of time and money. And both these are good return on investment arguments. Thinking that higher education has the corner market on knowledge and information is no longer relevant or real.
Crowdsourcing is not just for restaurant recommendations. People have eye witnesses across the globe at their fingertips. There is no need to rely on an educational institution for information or knowledge. Operating as such only perpetuates an antiquated system of learning. What higher education institutions do have to offer, if accredited, is the verification of learning for employers. However, with a 3% unemployment rate and more employers offering livable wages, it is tough to compete with going straight into the workforce.
Instead, how can higher education institutions create experiences that pull in the technological advances that students cannot get elsewhere? How about simulators, AI, and accredited degrees that can transfer and pay-off over time? How do we transform higher education as a conduit of information and knowledge that accentuates and builds on the skills students are learning elsewhere?
What can higher education do?
Overall, if higher education promotes themselves as a collaborative partner in the success and growth of individuals and the community, then higher education can find their place in this open and free education market.
Reapproaching Shakespeare in 3 Acts
by Phil Olson
The school year has been long and full of challenges. Sisyphean, even. Still, the fact that third quarter is almost over is genuinely surprising. How can an interminable year slip away so quickly? Part of the answer, at least for me, is the approach I’ve employed: I am planning as I go.
In the before times, I meticulously organized detailed units; I even published calendars that included daily plans for a month or two at a time. This year, my practice has been to sketch and communicate a broad overview at the beginning of the week, then plan specific experiences on a day-by-day basis. This is definitely more time consuming and fraught, and I don’t want to work in this mode forever, but--darn it!—it is effective. I remain close to the action, at the students’ level, and I can speed up and slowdown in response to their needs.
This practice has led to some important, much needed wins, and it has proven an especially powerful way to tackle the most challenging works I do with students. One example--Romeo and Juliet—(which I have been teaching since only men were allowed on stage), felt both meaningful and fresh.
I took a break from the Bard last year, as the idea of grappling with a challenging, middle-English play in distance-learning mode seemed too heavy. Teaching Shakespeare again this year has been part of the slow return to normalcy. A challenge, but a worthy, achievable one, and on our day-by-day journey, I made lots of adjustments.
Here’s what worked and why:
Act I: Two "Texts"
My freshpeople and I launched our Romeo and Juliet experience using minimally-annotated, paperback copies of the play. I knew I’d need to combine readings with various resources from my files (summaries, contextual pieces, vocabulary lists, and the like), but in doing so I discovered that the supplements became replacements. Not what I had wanted.
After doing some hunting I landed on an amazing alternative: the website myShakespeare. It offers an unabridged, “glossed” text (see below), as well as a host of useful tools linked in the margins, including modernizations of tough passages, explanations of allusions, identifications of literary techniques employed, and deep dives into “weird words.”
Additionally, and perhaps most awesomely, the site offers two different types of videos. In the first, actors perform important passages with minimal trappings; this foregrounds the actors’ talents, as they lean all the way into their characters and express Shakespeare’s lines in more than words. The second set of videos feature character interviews, in modern English, that weave in important aspects of scenes, explore the characters’ psychologies, and play up the humor.
For most of the play, students did their reading on screens using myShakespeare, while using the paperbacks to do things that screens make cumbersome, like revisiting passages during in-class discussions, citing lines within papers, and practicing dialogue.
Act II: Multiple Films
I remember studying Romeo and Juliet in my ninth-grade English class, and I can still picture my teacher stealthily making her way toward the TV (relatively tiny, and on a mobile cart, of course) to slide her folder in front of the screen at an especially interesting moment in Zeffirelli’s film version of Act 3, Scene 5 (the morning after the young lovers’ wedding night). Mayhem avoided. Master teacher!
Back then, watching the film was the “reward” for having endured the play, but today, I find it much more impactful to use several film versions and to weave them into the reading process. Films reinforce understanding, amplify interpretive possibilities, and invite critical thinking about all facets of a production. For contrast, I like to use three very different versions: The traditional Zeffirelli from 1968, the modern Luhrman from 1996, and a recording of a live, Broadway production directed by David Leveaux in 2014.
The “original” is corny, but retains its charm; the modernization is bold and over-the-top dramatic; and the Broadway version showcases the powers of live drama. In class, we had many passionate discussions about which production did things best, and most conversations led us back to the text.
Act III: Assessments
In addition to reading, discussing, journaling about, and watching the play, my students also engaged with several formal assessments, and my goal this year was to make them meaningful without being so heavy that they weighed down the experience (i.e. a paper about the history of iambic pentameter--here is a fun one—or a multiple choice test about who said what and when). Instead, my students made the most out of discussions; wrote short essays; did some not-so-serious sonneteering; and performed some passages in “table reading” fashion.
So, we made it through a Shakespearean play, despite the wintry-gray cloud that always hangs over quarter 3. Of course, along the way, we had some less-than-great days, several strategies fell flat, and not all students bought the notion of Shakespeare’s genius. The unit was messy and hard; teaching Shakespeare always is, it’s part of the experience. So, I’m taking the mess as a sign that we did it right, and concluding that, sometimes, improv beats a script.
ideas by Tan Huynh and Katie Miller, compiled by Third Eye Education
In our recent podcast interview with Tan Huynh and local Minnesota expert on Multilingual Learners, Katie Miller, our conversation quickly cut to the core of education.
Throughout the conversation, Huynh and Miller share some strategies and resources that help them access that educational core quickly and effectively. Their ideas tended to fall into two categories: (1) leveraging what motivates and engages students and (2) modeling what it means to be a lifelong learner.
They come to school for each other
Huynh shares a realization he had early on in his instruction: students “do not come to school for you, they come to school for each other. So why don’t we use that as the framework for instruction?”
This takeaway inspired a sharing of ideas: a few favorite strategies and resources from Miller and Huynh that help all students, multilingual learners as well as all classroom learners. They both agree that by upping the amount of talk in our classrooms, and by teaching students structures and protocols for quality conversations, we give them a greater access to success.
Talk - Read - Talk - Write
A strategy coined by Nancy Motley, Huynh shares a favorite tool of his: the Talk-Read-Talk-Write protocal.
Learn about this tool here:
"Question, Signal, Stem, Share, Assess" was another tool shared by Huynh. This stratgy might be used in this way:
Katie Miller, along with the Third Eye Education podcasts hosts, share a love of visuals for enhancing understanding. Pairing words with pictures is a simple way to increase comprehension and language acquisition.
For each of these three strategies, students “can do this in their heritage community language too,” Huynh points out.
Learn beyond what you were taught
In our conversation, Huynh also highlights the importance of being continuous learners: we must set aside outdated practices to “Learn beyond what you were taught.”
A few resources Miller and Huynh shared, which may help you push outside of what you areadly know, are:
The book Cultivating Genious: An Equity Framework for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy by Gholdy Muhammad is a resource Miller loves, and Huynh just interviewed Muhammad on his podcast last month. Find out more here:
Carol Salva's work was brought up by Huynh: specifically her book Boosting Achievement. Dig into Salva's resources here:
For more strategies and resources from Huynh and Miller, considering exploring some more of their works.
“When teachers approach students with a Can-do mindset, everything is possible.” 〰 Tan Huynh
by Jean Prokott
I've been thinking about self-portrait poems lately. Not writing them, because I can never get a turn to work, more about what they can offer to students who don't need to worry about a turn.
For Valentine's Day, my creative writing students made self-portrait valentines along the lines of "Self-Portrait as Conversation Heart Trapped between Couch Cushions" or "Self-Portrait with ½-off Valentine's Day Candy." They halved cardstock, cut heart-shaped cards, opened the wings, and wrote poems on the stretch marks inside.
The students weren't overly jazzed about the activity—only a few meandered up front for a red marker—but they wrote little poems and shared with each other, or tried to anti-valentine if that was their vibe for the day (e.g., a persona poem about raccoon roadkill that ends with a smooshed striped tail), and we were able to put a little checkmark next to a cold February Monday, which is harder than it seems.
On day one of that class, we'd modeled Dean Rader's "Self-Portrait as Wikipedia Entry" as a more interesting version of "two truths and a lie." Last fall, we wrote "Self-Portrait as [insert Halloween costume here]," based on Sandra Beasley's poem "Halloween." The students love that poem, and I love the irony that they have to dress themselves up in order to understand what's happening underneath.
For context, a self-portrait poem is not much different than a self-portrait in art. In an essay featured on Silver Birch Press, poet Lisa Russ Spaar notes the poems took off in the mid-20th century with John Ashberry's "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror" (1975), inspired by the Parmigianino painting of the same name (1524). Spaar observes that all poems are self-portraits—consider Whitman's "Song of Myself"—but the title "self-portrait" itself suggests retrospection thematically and "That the use of 'self-portrait' is an overt nod to its long, fascinating, and complex tradition in art history."
A self-portrait is or is not an ekphrastic poem. (An ekphrastic poem is a description or narrative inspired by a work of art. One of my favorites is Anne Sexton's interpretation of Van Gogh, "The Starry Night," in which the tree is a woman drowning.) Ekphrastic poems are also wonderful, and they serve as a wonderful transition out of this tangent:
Where I'm going is that a "self-portrait" assignment could serve a number of purposes if you need a last-minute lesson plan on Those Winter Mondays™ when we get up early. Some of our professional development meetings this year have started with ekphrastics of sorts as ice breakers, if you've seen the model—a teacher shows four paintings, the students identify which best represents them or their mood, and they share why or journal about that personal reflection. This is one of few ice breakers I actually enjoy, because humanities lessons should always be snuck into our day—like one might sneak spinach into a strawberry smoothie for hidden nutrients.
Some ideas for self-portrait journals or assignments might look like:
While one could think it a stretch to use a poem in science class, I think the self-portrait works because you don't have to read a poem to get the jist of it. Sure, if you want a summative assessment, but one could simply start class with a review called "self-portrait" and define the term with the students:
Q: What is a self-portrait?
Teachers know that we need to get our students' I, me, my into our content as much as possible to make the schema stick. 
And, truth be told, many of the self-portrait poems I've linked can be abstract, complex, full lesson plans in themselves, perhaps over students' heads in a non-writing or upper-level literature course. If you're interested in a starting point, though, Mary Jo Bang's "Self-Portrait in the Bathroom Mirror" is money:
"Some days, everything is a machine, by which I mean remove any outer covering, and you will most likely find component parts […] there is no turning back to be someone I might have been. Now there will only ever be multiples of me."
Why not throw "self-portraits" in your tool box, or in emergency sub notes this winter/ fake spring/ and then winter part two once again. It freezes, it slushes, the slush freezes. Always a good time for introspection.
 Or, literal self-portraits. I just had a vision of students drawing their faces as a nucleus of a cell, but it looks like the Sun Baby from Teletubbies. Quite haunting. And if you hung the portraits in your classroom, the nightmares alone would be enough for them to remember the material for the test and subsequently the rest of their tortured lives.
by Heather M. F. Lyke
— first published in October 2016 by RPS Secondary Curriculum & Instruction | updated in February 2022 —
As we help students develop skills that will suit them well in the world beyond our classrooms, many of us find ourselves moving to more and more partner work, group tasks, and full class discussions and debates. This is especially true as we return to in-person learning now that we're finishing the second year of the pandemic: more and more we set aside the technology we depended on in recent years--embracing opportunities to have students discuss face to face.
Discussion opportunities help our students develop collaboration skills and illustrate teamwork, develop communication skills and think critically—all skills which today’s students need to thrive in the 21st century workforce that awaits them in their not-to-distant futures.
The struggle, however, is in ensuring that all students still walk away with deep levels of understanding. Far too often in partnerships, in small groups, and in full-class activities only a few students are actively engaged--some students choose passivity. When this happens, does it mean only those few students who participate walk away with the learning? It can, so it becomes our jobs as teachers to ensure all students engage in the learning we offer them.
As we return to more collaborative and in-person learning environments, here are some strategies to help ensure all learners are still learning at high levels
For Groups of 2-3
1. Partners A & B
What to do:
Why this Works:
This ensures that there are equal voices, encouraging shy students to speak up while preventing naturally talkative students from taking over. It also teaches students balance, which is not a skill that many students develop naturally.
What to Do:
Why this Works:
Just like with Partners A & B, Triads ensures balanced voices and balanced participation within a small group; the addition of a third student, however, allows for more versatility and creativity within the structure of the activity. Additionally, the ‘additive’ element in almost all variations of Triads forces students to see and to work with how other students think. Often, there are multiple routes to the same answer, or various correct answers, and should ‘student 1’ opt to take a route different than what ‘2’/‘3’ were expecting, then the thinking of ‘student 1’ must broaden and thereby deeper learning will occur.
For Groups of 4-6
3. Numbered Heads
What to Do:
Why this Works:
When students are assigned to work in groups, particularity groups larger than four or more, it’s common to assign roles. Where roles certainly have their merit, they can also backfire. When one student is assigned to be “recorder” others in that group might hear, I guess I don’t have to write any of this down, and thereby may disengage. Likewise, when one student is assigned to be a “reporter” others may hear, I guess I don’t need to really know this if I won’t have to share out later—again, potentially encouraging some disengagement. However, when students know you use Numbered Heads to determine whose work is turned in and/or who shares out, then all must stay engaged for the entire activity.
For Whole Class Discussions
4. Random Selection
What to Do:
Why this Works:
When facilitating a whole group discussion, students who blurt answers aloud or constantly raise their hands tend to take over, giving other students perceived permission to tune out and disengage. However, establishing that all students will be called on at some point encourages students to stay engaged throughout. This strategy ensures that both shy students and students who prefer to be passive learners stay more active in their learning.
5. Chip Toss
What to Do:
Why it Works:
Again, as was noted with Random Selection, large group discussions tend to foster environments where some students naturally dominate, either pushing quieter students aside or giving students who wish to disengage permission to do so. However, a strategy like this helps combat that by making students aware of the discussion's balance—helping those likely to over-contribute keep themselves in check while simultaneously motivating those likely to under-contribute to add their voices into the conversation.
If you are looking for more ideas on increasing student voice and engagement, or would like to dig deeper into the value of such strategies, consider starting with these four resources:
Finding the Collaboration Balance
by Nick Truxal
The move to teaching online, even if it may be over for you, dear reader, does seem to have pushed some new practices into place that prove dangerous for teachers and students in the long-term. In particular, I’d like to focus on the new modes of communication and collaboration that have been implemented in the wake of Zooming to class.
Being more accessible to our colleagues, students, and parents certainly has its advantages. We can instantly help a student with a question, quickly let a parent know the status of the classroom, or have a great professional learning community with colleagues across the district, city, state, or nation. Of course, that student may want an answer at 11:00 pm, that parent may be trying to send an instant message during class and wonder why they don’t hear back, and “just one quick ten-minute meeting with administration over Zoom” may happen twice an hour.
Rob Cross, Adam Grant, and Reb Rebele wrote a fascinating piece on “Collaboration Overload” in 2016 (which Rob Cross continued into the book Beyond Collaboration Overload). In the article, they cite some interesting (pre-pandemic) trends. Trends such as:
Of course, in a school, the most in-demand employees are teachers, administrators, counselors, psychologists…all of whom are finding that the world of instant communication has opened up certain flood-gates.
Interestingly, Adam Grant offered a solution to this issue three years before he helped to identify it. He spoke of a certain Fortune 500 company that implemented “Quiet time.” Three mornings a week, employees would not be exposed to superfluous e-mails (or any e-mails), “Just one quick thing” situations, “stand-up meetings,” nor anything else. The interesting part of this: when the company successfully implemented these quiet times, productivity increased an enormous 65%. However, even having employees self-impose (to the extent they were able) a similar policy, resulted in a 47% increase in productivity.
To me, this led to an interesting tension.
In my own practice, and in my own data, I can tell you that communication is important (I am sure you’re shocked). I have long been in the habit of sending FERPA safe emails to every parent with updates every Friday via a mail-merge setup. When communication was personalized and consistent, I found a 20% positive change in the grades and skill attainment that my students had in my classes. Just from communicating with their parents. I did a similar experiment in sending e-mails to my students, and found similar results.
So, communication is vital—and detrimental—to the surprise of no-one.
The Break Down of Implications...
Hold some time as sacred.
Giving students uninterrupted time to work: increase productivity.
I am sure there are many implications to these studies that I haven’t had time to parse, yet. If you have further insights, please feel free to share them with us.
Third Eye Education posts weekly articles focusing on education and innovation.