Indiana Education Paired Texts

March 2017 – Indiana to lose $56 million in public school funding under Trump budget

September 2017 – Indiana receives $59 million grant to expand charter schools

September 2017 – Hoosier Virtual Academy, an online charter, to close in June

The DeVos DOE and Indiana education politics continue to lead the way in removing resources from public institutions to funnel them to charter programs.

Hoosier Virtual serves 1,800 students. It has been marked as a failing school on our state evaluation system for six years in a row. If this were a public institution, it would have been put under state oversight and continued to operate on an improvement plan. But, because it’s a charter program, it’s shuttering in June 2018. One of the school board members for Hoosier Virtual is a political appointee of Mike Pence to the Indiana State Board of Education.

I shared this under the #pairedtexts hashtag started by Jenn Binis. It’s great.

Wednesday, 28th, The dunces corner IMG_0400 flickr photo by tomylees shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Ideas for Apps Script in Google Slides

Google Slides got a big update from Google this week, notably the inclusion of AddOns and Apps Script functionality. The UI updates are nice (grid view, skip slide, etc) but the real power and extensibility of Slides through GAS allows for connection beyond the immediate audience.

Some ideas I know I’m going to play with:

– Auto tweet images of slides through a presentation to a hashtag

– Update slides with data/charts from a spreadsheet so data is always up to date

– Auto-generate photo slideshows from a Drive folder of images

– Memes. All the memes.

Slide projector flickr photo by Yair Aronshtam shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Date Countdown in Sheets for Triggers

I have a Google Sheet which displays all upcoming PD in the district. It also tracks registrations for people through a web app. I’ve documented that in other places, so I want to focus on an easy method of calculating days until an event to use as a script trigger.

This started because teachers were looking for an automated email reminder a few days before the workshop so they didn’t forget to come. I’d rather they get a Calendar invitation when they register for the event, but I ran into some authentication snags, so that aspect is back burner for the time being. Currently, the sheet is using today’s date and the date of the workshop to trigger an email four days in advance.

Calculating the “days remaining” is pretty easy. The cell formula is:

=ARRAYFORMULA(IF(ISBLANK(B2:B),””,ROUNDDOWN(B2:B – NOW())))

There are several components of this:

ARRAYFORMULA applies formulas to a range of cells rather than a single cell. Saves me from having to copy the formula down to each new entry.

ISBLANK checks for data in a cell. Because it’s inside ARRAYFORMULA, it looks at the cell in the matching row. If it is blank, TRUE is returned.

ROUNDDOWN rounds a result to a whole integer. This is useful because the subtraction taking place inside the formula returns a large decimal. This makes it easier to test in the script.

NOW gives the date and time when the sheet is updated. Any time you make a change, NOW is calculated.

– The IF conditional keeps the sheet clean and wraps everything up. The syntax is, IF(_logical test_, _value if true_, _value if false_). So, this reads, “If the cell column B for this row is blank, show nothing. If it’s false (is not blank), calculate the difference between the PD date in column B and NOW.

The core of the function is the count down calculation. For instance, today is Friday, September 8. Subtracting it from a date in the future like Monday, September 11, returns a whole integer: 3. I can test for that integer (or any integer) in a simple script.

This is particularly helpful with timed triggers in scripts. I have a utility script wrapped in a conditional:

“`

if(date === 3) {

// do something here

}

“`

If the condition isn’t met in the script, nothing happens and I don’t get a failure email notification. This is also nice because if I want to adjust the timing, the trigger can stay the same (daily, for instance) without changing the codebase.

Outsourcing, EdTech, and 1986

Outsourcing education doesn’t look like robots taking over our classes. It happens when we willingly turn over the tasks of teaching to machines without thinking through implications or repercussions thoroughly.


Computers are really good at a lot of things. Media companies are also really good at a lot of things. When the two really teamed up in the late 90’s/early 2000’s with the Internet becoming more consumer focused, there was a big shift in the way the Western world – in particular Americans – interacted with media. The move from producer to consumer started in the 50’s with television becoming more ubiquitous and speed-of-light imagery took over our visual world. Information was available instantly through the telephone, captured on film and broadcast to us in the comfort of our homes.

These films ultimately made their way into the classroom and mixed media instruction, the precursor to “edutainment,” became an expectation. With the computer revolution of the 1980’s and the shift of entertainment into all areas of life (political and social, in particular) education was soon to follow suit with educational films and games that focused on the entertainment aspect and not so much on the educational component. The teacher was starting to be outsourced because content should be now, decontextualized, and consumable in a comfortable amount of time.

The growth of EdTech in the late 2000’s has pushed this boundary even further. Teachers are no longer consumers – they’re “ambassadors,” focused on serving students with some perks on the side. Content can – and should – be outsourced because information is available in all of our pockets. Why should I, the teacher, be focused so much on the curriculum when I need to focus on the experience my students have?

Neil Postman paints the early days of edtech in Amusing Ourselves to Death. It’s stark, reading this book 21 years after its original publication. Postman devotes an entire chapter to the trend of entertainment-as-king in education and his predictions ring true.

Yes, teachers are undervalued, scapegoated, undersupported and treated poorly all around today. Our classes are large, our schools and policies can be suffocating. We lack resources, time, and frankly, pay, to accomplish impossible tasks set before us. Yet we show up every morning to continue the work. (I won’t raise teaching to the realm of nobility because that comes with it’s own set of problems.)

Outsourcing is subtle and often overlooked. We want lessons to be memorable. We want to provide the best experience possible for our students. There is nothing wrong with that goal. The problems come when the means to achieve the goal sink to places which ultimately continue the cycle of devaluation of the profession.

Highlighted recently, the frequency of product “ambassador” programs which throw perks to teachers in exchange for recommendations (and even students as guinea pigs) has grown exponentially. Companies promising to revolutionize learning are taking advantage of a cultural bias against teachers and feel like they’re providing a service.

We’d be well suited to remember that if software is free, you, and by extension, your students, are the product. The freemium model is dead and to stay open, these companies need customers. Arguing that providing a few, all-star, typically already privileged teachers with resources in exchange for “some feedback on a product” is an attempt to hide what is really happening – willing participants in corporate strategy and market gains. Why focus on perks? If the value a teacher ambassador brings is so great, pay them for their insight and time.

From Amusing Ourselves…

…We delude ourselves if we believe that most everything a teacher normally does can be replicated efficiently by a micro-computer. Perhaps some things can, but there is always the question, What is lost in the translation? The answer may even be: everything that was significant about education.

Outsourcing ourselves in the name of efficiency or engagement sells short the role of teacher. Focusing on the authentic “as-is” nature of learning is always a better option that the more efficient, computerize, compromised classroom. Recognizing that edtech companies and teachers have different goals is also important. Companies exist and function to make money. Period.

Teachers exist and function to make better people in the world.

Postman called this out in 1986. No one listened. 21 years later, are we ready to listen?

This post was written immediately after finished Amusing Ourselves to Death. I highly recommend picking up a copy to read.

Featured image is Improving Kids flickr photo by cogdogblog shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license