SL 785

Cuomo and Gates say they are going to reinvent education.

Some kids are learning better on the computer than in the classroom. What does the research say?

I have two friends and family struggling with cancer during this pandemic. I guess Caitlin Flanagan is dealing with the same problem.

When New York City shuts down the subways, you know we are living in crazy times.

Linda Hirshman (remember her?) believes Tara Reade, but will vote for Biden anyway.

I will not panic-buy a Peloton. I’m a suburbanite with access to open streets for walking and running, but might download their iPhone app, which is good for any kind of workout.

I adore OCD office supplies, but an $80 desk organizer tray might be peak New York Times Style Section.

31 thoughts on “SL 785

  1. There’s a lot of higher ed research on this vexing issue, and as Hess points out, it’s all over the map. A telling statistic is that something like 40% of K-12 students in Los Angeles Unified School District are, according to reports, have not accessed their online coursework at all–I assume in part because of disparities in internet access, living conditions, and language barriers. . We know from recent studies that the dropout/failure rate for students taking their first online course is high, but that students who successfully complete one online course are more likely to complete others.

    I often think that education is not so much either/or, as these kinds of issues are usually framed, but what works for what students. Any good classroom teacher offers different kinds of experiences for different students, though only up to a point–I can’t run 100+ individual courses every semester–but I can offer group work, one-on-one time, and lectures and online activities–and I can offer much of this in our current all-online format.

    One last point: Bill Gates has promised to reinvent education before. I’m sure this time will work as well as his previous attempts.


  2. Laura said, “Gates has tried to revolutionize education before, but hit major resistance from both the unions and conservatives. Neither have had a big voice during this pandemic, so this might be the right time for Gates.”

    I have nothing but respect for Gates’ contribution to dealing with infectious diseases, but unless he’s got some truly brilliant software he’s been sitting on, I don’t see that he has much insight to provide on education right now.

    The current political situation is somewhat misleading because it’s been largely governors saying “jump!” and people mostly jumping. At some point, the normal political process kicks in and all the people who are quiet right now are going to have a lot to say–especially the millions of middle class parents who now have an unprecedented level of insight into their kids’ educational process. Remember, it’s an election year–that’s important! Aside from the politics, if fall K-12 winds up being online (or partly online), I would expect a lot less docility from parents. For one thing, if there’s no end in sight to annoying school-at-home, some of them are going to peace out and homeschool for real until onsite school opens. It’s not like it would be more trouble, especially for little kids…Normally, it would not be a big deal for a school if one family bails, but parents collectively hold a lot of power in their hands right now with regard to school funding because the cost for them of homeschooling is so low in the school-at-home environment.

    This spring was an emergency, and one tolerates a lot of imperfection in an emergency, but by the fall, there will have been half a year to think about this, and the obvious kinks need to be worked out.


    1. I have nothing but respect for Gates’ contribution to dealing with infectious diseases…

      So what’s your take on all the right-wing anti-Gates memes polluting the internet right now? I mean, I’ve never paid much attention to Bill Gates, so all this venomous spittle-soaked keyboarding basically accusing Gates of spearheading the next frog-march into the new death camps is just bizarre to me. There are a variety of conspiracy theories out there, with ever more jaw-dropping levels of WTF. Why did he become the lightning rod for all this unhinged nonsense?


      1. I suspect, but can’t prove, that you are witnessing foreign interference in social media. Others have the same idea:

        “Among the unproven claims circulating in Russian and Chinese information channels is that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation created the new coronavirus with pharmaceutical companies to make money from treatment.

        The claim has been linked to a report on a Russian state-owned TV network.”

        As to why Bill Gates is a focus, it may be like internet marketing. They can see which posts and comments get attention, so they just go with it.


      2. cranberry said, ““Among the unproven claims circulating in Russian and Chinese information channels is that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation created the new coronavirus with pharmaceutical companies to make money from treatment.”

        You can see why the Chinese would want to change the subject. The Russians, too, because they are in the midst of bungling their own response to COVID-19 (hence all those doctors falling out of windows). I’d want to talk about Bill Gates, too, if I were them.

        One of my rules of thumb is that unless I “know” a lot about a poster’s history online, I try not to assume that they are exactly who they say they are. It’s not that I actively disbelieve people, it’s just that I try to use a probationary period for online people who are new to me.

        I can’t find the guy right now, but there was a really hilarious case years ago of a manosphere guy who posed online as a Red Pill woman writer of erotica. He scooped up a lot of money and panting incel fans before letting the cat out of the bag. He said he did it was because he was so peeved at how easy it was for Red Pill women in the manosphere to achieve an admiring following of beta orbiters.

        There was another manosphere case of a Red Pill woman who (probably because two kids is not impressive in those parts) gave herself an imaginary additional 2-3 kids. I expect that it was quite a time and money-saver, compared to having 2-3 extra real kids…She also gave herself a doctor husband for good measure.

        Not that there aren’t Americans who are stupid and over-heated about politics, but social media can be a real house of mirrors in terms of the way it reflects public opinion. On the other hand, I’ve met a lot of good people online, and I’ve had a lot of fun.


      3. I feel like I stumbled onto a anti-krugman twitter account (just on krugman) that seemed like it was a government fake (and, no, I am not at a stage when I would accuse our own government, I’m thinking Russian/Chinese). And, I don’t think that the Russian/Chinese interference needs to be directed; they think they benefit from sowing discontent and disruption and disorder and a general break down in trust and the rule of law.


      4. One of my rules of thumb is that unless I “know” a lot about a poster’s history online, I try not to assume that they are exactly who they say they are.

        Of course—that’s my practice as well. I’m specifically referring to how the memes have spread like wildfire amongst actual, real people who lean to the right. As in, five minutes ago Bill Gates was one of their millionaire heroes, and now he’s Satan Incarnate


      5. lubiddu said, “Of course—that’s my practice as well. I’m specifically referring to how the memes have spread like wildfire amongst actual, real people who lean to the right. As in, five minutes ago Bill Gates was one of their millionaire heroes, and now he’s Satan Incarnate”

        I don’t think the bit about Bill Gates being a right wing hero is exactly true–especially Bill Gates the philanthropist. There’s been a lot of skepticism about the Gates Foundation, and of course not everybody loves his education projects.

        Some of the anti-Gates nexus is probably anti-vaxx, which means that there’s some potential for penetration on both the left and right.

        This was interesting:

        “Motta analyzed two sets of Pew Research Survey data that had overlapping respondents (one on Americans’ concerns over COVID-19 and the other on Americans’ views on childhood vaccines), and found a 40% overlap between those skeptical of vaccine safety and those who believe the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is exaggerating the risks of COVID-19.”


        Going back to the Russians, as I recall, they were pushing anti-vaxx stuff hard a few years ago.


      6. There’s a weird thing going on right now where people who are pro-Trump but COVID-skeptical are really turning themselves in pretzels to deal with the fact that Trump has been making “bad” decisions (i.e. good decisions) about having people like Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx front and center.

        I think that’s where a conspiracy theory comes in really handy.


  3. My two cents is that there’s a lot of room for lower tech solutions for populations that aren’t doing online school.

    For example, if kids aren’t doing online work, they should at least be having a daily or minimally every other day phone call with a teacher or aide to check in and do some work (count by 1s, count by 5s, read aloud, etc.).

    There are services that send monthly boxes of arts and crafts projects and STEM projects. You can also set up kids to get a box of books at regular intervals.

    That company provides 10 gently used appropriately leveled books for $25.

    This is a pain in the neck, but weekly in-person distanced home visits are also a possibility if kids are not doing well.

    Hopefully 2020-2021 will be onsite (or nearly all onsite)–but I don’t think that all of the possible levers and buttons are being used yet.


  4. I am stunned to learn NYC had not been regularly disinfecting the subways earlier. That’s right up there with sending people back to nursing homes.


    1. Obviously the man who made those decisions is very qualified to re-imagine the educational system.


  5. Oh wow, I feel acutely for Veronique Mintz. I had exactly the same complaints in 80s.

    I know this is hard for everyone with school-aged kids, and disastrous for kids with disabilities or from unstable homes, but I have heard about so many kids that are happier and less stressed learning online from home. Six hours of school a day, especially in an ill-managed classroom, is painful and counter-productive for introverts.

    When my kids were in K-12, I heard the term “differentiated learning” over and over again, but at least through grade 8, there were only a handful of teachers that knew how to do it.

    Maybe this crisis will help schools figure out how to design a mix of online instruction, video lectures, in-person tutorials, and choices of activities so that kids can choose how to meet the class objectives in ways that work best for them, instead of sitting there in person listening to a teacher. I don’t think that’s Gates’ plan, though.


  6. Online learning is working adequately for my grade 9 student, although I think he will end up with some gaps in knowledge. For my grade 3 student, it’s a disaster. The difference isn’t in what us parents know, but that the grade 3 work is not…motivating. It’s really boring. Getting my 9 year old to do anything is like pulling teeth, and for now anyway, I’m not willing to spend our lockdown in punishing him for being bored by super boring work.

    We’re doing our own thing, but by online learning indications we’re kind of failing.


  7. Here’s something the public schools need to do around the end of the school year:

    Do a massive parent survey with regard to all materials used and all subjects and ask what went well and what could be better and how much time it all actually took. Also, ask them what additional materials they used and liked and how available teachers actually were.

    Track down the parents whose kids didn’t do work or didn’t do a lot of work or who are otherwise struggling and survey them with regard to what media or methods would be the most accessible for them, what resources they need, and how much time they are able to invest.

    You might, for example, have a sort of “catalog” of school supplies available for home use for families: phones, tablets, art supplies, other school supplies, etc.

    One of the things that our 1st grade teachers eventually did (which I really appreciate) is providing different ways of fulfilling the same requirement. For example, kids can either practice phonemic awareness by responding to parents reading a worksheet (dare minus d is what?) or they can do a tablet app that does roughly the same thing. Also, kids can do a daily math drill sheet to practice their math facts or parents can provide something else.

    Our 1st grade teachers started out with fairly heavy work loads for the kids and then backed off, which I also appreciate. They have backed off from requiring as many uploads of finished work. (I expect they have been getting a lot of blurry phone photos.) I now only need to upload her math workbook pages, her weekly writing assignment, her Friday spelling test and her Friday math quiz. It’s been a huge relief.

    2.5 weeks left! YAY!

    Once we’re officially done with school, I’ll probably switch to the following schedule:

    Morning: 2-4 pages Kumon math, 1-2 pages Kumon handwriting and reading practice.

    After dinner: reading practice

    That will be our daily schedule, but I’ll also need to add in some arts and crafts and whatever occasional science-y activity I can round up a big kid or spouse to manage. (The 1st grader is currently building a card stock “virtual reality” headset with polar bear drawings inside.)

    She is also going to be doing 6 hours a week at a local therapy place this is summer, which is fortunately open and available. That’s going to be a lifesaver in terms of re-acclimating the 1st grader to dealing with people outside of the family.


  8. I found this article by a teacher, in LA, with a special education class (probably with significant needs, since there are 12 students, 1 teacher, and 3 paraprofessionals) and English language learners informative (and heartbreaking):

    “And in our class alone, we’ve had something like 13 deaths, among our students’ and staff members’ families.”

    “Some of my students have told me they haven’t gone outside since schools closed, so they’ve been inside for over a month. I’m trying to find a balance.”

    “Teaching is 80 percent the relationship—a wink when a student is getting it right, a quick stare at a student when they need to come back and refocus, giving them positive cheer and reinforcement, and being like, You got this! For a lot of my students with learning disabilities, what they really need is a good, structured routine. And remotely, I can’t be the special education teacher that I need to be for them—it’s just not possible.”

    I know two teachers who are teaching online, one a first year teacher in a private school, the other an experienced teacher in a public school. The first year is managing but not enjoying her work. She had a beautiful classroom and was developing a relationship with her students and their parents. She’s managing because her personality is less wrapped up in her student’s well being and she has no strongly built plan and her students are affluent and have a lot of resources. The experienced public school teacher, said in exasperation the other day if that if this is what teaching becomes, she would retire. Interacting with children online and managing tech is not what she wants to do. And, she is deeply frustrated by the administration and the inability to meet her students needs.


  9. I don’t know any kids who are thriving in this new environment. My kiddo is doing fine. He will learn and he is using the time he has to do other learning (as are a number of other kids i know, who are doing everything from teaching themselves piano to taking computer classes). But, they’d all rather be at their schools and spending time with their peers. My kiddo and many of his peers have home training routines (some designed by a trainer for their sport) that occupy a couple of hours a day, to replace the hours they would have been in their sport.

    And, I know a number of kids who are struggling, one 6th grader who said to her mom, that she really doesn’t like the online zoom classes, because she doesn’t feel like herself on the camera.


    1. One of my 7th graders is doing really well with it. The child in question has significant ADHD which expresses itself as organizational difficulties, distractibility, not listening to directions, rushing through classwork and making lots of minor mistakes. Having un-loseable written directions is a tremendous help. So is having extra time for self-paced work where they can recheck themselves and do lots of short work-break cycles. His math grades have gone from a high C to nearly an A, and it’s not just because they’re doing less work. That child’s twin sister is doing her usual excellent work and enjoying having less school.

      If it weren’t for the social aspects, I think we’d all be enthusiastic about doing online school for those two in the fall whether or not the pandemic dictates it. (Isolation from their friends is really painful for them both, and one is needing a lot of extra mental health support from a professional right now.)

      Now, my 5th grader (also major ADHD) is an absolute trainwreck despite my and his teacher’s best efforts. I have been white-knuckling my way through the last two weeks and I am needing a lot of extra mental health support right now to cope. I am so thankful that this is our last week of learning new material, because I truly don’t think I could manage another week of fighting him.


      1. EAB, what platform is the ADHD’s school using? I am finding myself beyond frustrated with Google Classroom. I don’t know how anyone is supposed to find anything on it.


      2. Wendy said, “EAB, what platform is the ADHD’s school using? I am finding myself beyond frustrated with Google Classroom. I don’t know how anyone is supposed to find anything on it.”

        I had some rough times myself early on with Google Classroom, until I realized that the “Due Today” tab is just a selection of the work for today, not all of the work due today.

        The first thing I do in the morning is to figure out all the work due for the day and write it down. (Assignments are listed by subject, not day. AARGH!) At least as far as I can tell, there’s no way to get a full list of work due today. I complained about this a bit to the 1st grade teachers and (after telling me that everybody else was doing just fine) they eventually started producing a weekly preview that explained what would be due when. It’s also easier to keep track of things now that the workload has been cut.

        I don’t try to have the 1st grader work ahead at all, because I would get confused. I just have her do each day’s work when it’s due. This would be less feasible for a bigger kid with more work or more complex long-term projects.

        The big kids’ teachers are mostly doing fine, although one or two have unpleasant habits of assigning homework due Saturday or Sunday. I would complain about this, but the year is almost over.


      3. The middle school is using Microsoft Teams, and the older ADHD kid is able to keep up. Each day only has a single subject, so they have a single weekly chunk of assignments. That’s been great.

        The younger one is using Google Classroom, and it’s been a nightmare. I’ve just resigned myself to doing a daily 15-minute assignment compilation every day. I manage software engineers in my day job , and we literally have a morning standup to talk through his list and an afternoon debrief to discuss how much computer time he’s earned by doing it all.


    2. That’s cool, and a reminder that each kid is unique. Also, other than my own kid, my reports are from parents. Some parents think their kid is doing well but their kid hates it (and, I’m sure that it works the other way around, too).


  10. I think a lot of parents, especially those with children in lower grades, are fairly OK with writing off the 2019-2020 school year as of March. My anecdotal impression is that it schools don’t figure out how to open much closer to as usual in September those same parents will absolutely lose their $hit. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say there will be a significant minority in favor of zeroing out school budgets.


    1. That’s what I’m hearing from other parents. But teachers and administrators are talking about half days and shit. Going to be major fights down the road.


    2. MichaelB said, “I think a lot of parents, especially those with children in lower grades, are fairly OK with writing off the 2019-2020 school year as of March.”

      That’s me! Early elementary school end of year is field trips, parties, various ceremonies ceremonies, field days, water play days, teacher appreciation week, desk cleaning, etc.

      On the other hand, colleges need to be prepared for a lot of kids who are going to be getting AP credit without having finished their AP coursework. I have a kid taking two AP exams next week, and while it sounds like they’re cooking up a tough exam, it’s going to be x-treme open book. (The kids are just forbidden to talk to other people or ask questions online.)


      1. I don’t know any college professors who think who use the AP as concrete evidence of knowledge learned (but, admittedly its a skewed sample).

        I think colleges are now planning for terms in classes with significant prerequisites, even taught by them, as classes that will need to expand on the teaching that occurred this spring term. Lab courses have obvious problems, but even classes where you had to learn things, for example, math, that will be relied upon in subseuqent terms, understand that the classes won’t have been fully taught.

        I’m hearing about the issue and subsequent replanning in physics classes, for exmaple.


  11. On another topic, Linda Hirschman has more candor than some, but not necessarily more integrity. Most people understand that when Democrats said, “I believe Bill Clinton,” what they really meant was “I support Bill Clinton despite the facts concerning his relationship with an intern,” and when they said, “Believe all women,” they meant, “I don’t support the Kavanaugh nomination.” It isn’t really dishonest to tell a pious lie when everyone knows that it is an expression of one’s ultimate loyalty, not one’s belief as to particular facts.

    For myself, in fact I don’t believe either Christine Blasey Ford or Tara Reade. These beliefs don’t represent statements about ultimate political loyalty, however; they are actual judgments about credibility.


  12. It would be great if somebody figured out how germy playgrounds actually are in late spring/early summer. My guess is that visiting first thing in the morning and/or as the only family at the playground is probably pretty safe (especially since surfaces get really hot in the later afternoon), but I don’t know for certain.

    I believe that our local playgrounds and zoo are supposed to open in the next few weeks. The 1st grader hasn’t been to a playground in about 7 weeks. Our backyard isn’t that interesting. We didn’t really invest in it because “we can always go to the park!”


    1. A reminder different people are missing different things. A playground isn’t on my list at all :-). Kid did meet a friend earlier on at a playground and encountered a small child who did not physically distance + whose mother was too tired to try to regulate small child’s behavior + kiddo was not willing to be rude to adorable cute child who did not know what is happening.

      My issue is trying to figure out how much I worry about contact hazards v breathing hazard. Playgrounds are bad contact hazards I would guess and my little kids would have been incapable of not touching their faces.


  13. This was surprising/not surprising:

    “Victoria police said on Sunday that 10 people, including two organisers, were arrested after more than 100 people turned out on the steps of Victoria’s parliament on Sunday in contravention of emergency powers restricting gatherings introduced to slow the spread of Covid-19.”

    “Victoria police said on Sunday that 10 people, including two organisers, were arrested after more than 100 people turned out on the steps of Victoria’s parliament on Sunday in contravention of emergency powers restricting gatherings introduced to slow the spread of Covid-19.”

    “While the majority of the arrests were for failing to comply with public health orders, three people will be charged with assaulting a police officer and another for “discharging a missile” after allegedly throwing a bottle at an officer. One officer was taken to hospital after suffering a rib injury, Victoria Police said.”

    “The protest, which was promoted on various Facebook groups linked to fringe conspiracy groups including QAnon and various anti-vaxxers, followed a smaller demonstration in Sydney on Saturday in which a 36-year-old woman was arrested and fined while wearing a sign that read “if you don’t know your rights, you don’t have any. *Magna Carta,” after refusing to provide her details to police.”

    “Demonstrators in Melbourne held signs about 5G, China and the Murray-Darling River while chanting “arrest Bill Gates”. Various speakers claimed Covid-19 was a conspiracy orchestrated by “globalists”, while one of the main organisers of the rally, Fanos Panayides, told the crowd he promised his father he would never be microchipped.”

    Apparently the “arrest Bill Gates” chant is an Alex Jones thing.

    Meanwhile, the UK has had dozens of cell phone towers damaged by believers in a COVID/5G conspiracy.


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