wasting bandwidth since 1999

Tag: rant

Teaching And Learning Are Not The Same Thing

Seth Godin is a popular writer and speaker, well known for his work around marketing and organization. He also occasionally offers ideas around education.1 Probably his best known work in that area is the extended essay Stop Stealing Dreams and the TEDx talk on which it is based.2

In addition to writing a daily blog, Godin also does a weekly podcast called Akimbo, and in a recent episode he offered some thoughts about the educational establishment related to the recent college entrance cheating scandal that featured a few members of the rich and semi-famous.3

At the opening of the podcast, he makes this observation: 

Management and leadership are not the same thing.

Management is done with power and authority, compelling others to do what we need them to do, when we need them to do it. Leadership, on the other hand, always involves voluntary compliance. It always involves people eagerly following the leader.

And the same dichotomy is true about learning and education.

Education is often done to us, it is mandatory, people show up and say “you will learn this and there will be a test”.

That’s different from learning. Learning is a process we choose to go through.

That idea of learning not being the same as education is one that has been stuck in my head for many years. And it’s not much of a stretch to modify Godin’s statement into this corollary: learning is not the same as teaching.

Teaching, at least in it’s popular interpretation, is also something done to students. Ask someone who’s not part of the profession what a “teacher” does and you’ll probably get a lot of verbs related to the transfer of information from an adult to kids. Someone who lectures, gives tests, and in general runs a space called “classroom”.

Learning, on the other hand, may or may not occur as the result of teaching. In a formal school setting, students are usually offered some incentive to retain certain information and skills for a relatively short period of time, although much of that is likely to disappear over the longer term. Maybe even between the spring tests and the beginning of the new school year.

Over a long career in and around public schools, I’ve heard more than a few colleagues say something to the effect of “I taught them, they just didn’t learn it” about their students.

This also ties back to some previous rants about personalized learning. Those systems seem to be more about teaching – the transmission of information to the subject for them to retain at least long enough to pass an assessment – than about learning. The goal of the artificially intelligent algorithms embedded in the software is to adapt the flow of data to the student’s ability to respond to it.

Is that “learning”? Maybe it’s one definition. Certainly it’s a process that produces a statistical score for classifying the learner.

In the end, however, genuine learning really only involves interests and topics that have some personal meaning or consequence for the learner. And that’s equally true for a high school freshman as it is for an adult of any age.

So, why do we persist in “teaching” instead of enabling “learning”?


The image at the top is, of course, a classic cartoon from Gary Larson’s Far Side. I’m very likely violating copyright by using it, which is why I’m embedding it from someone else’s copyright violation. :-)

1. Don’t hold me to this, but I think I read somewhere that one or both of his parents were teachers. Which doesn’t make anyone an education “expert” but can add to their understanding of the profession from that particular time.

2. The talk is worth your time to watch. In the essay, I think he misses the mark as often as he hits it but his ideas about the American educational structure are still interesting.

3. And lost me in the process, as he sometimes does with other Akimbo episodes. Overall, however, I look forward to his weekly audio essays.

The Saving Is An Illusion

First frame of Non-Sequetur comic

Please excuse me while I rant.

Part of my crankiness this morning is due to the abrupt shift forward of the clock, a misguided and arrogant attempt by our lawmakers to “save” time. Time, of course, is a very human invention. Daylight Saving Time is a very stupid, human invention.

It’s time to dump it.

I’ve seen a number of posts on Twitter and elsewhere claiming that this month is the 100th anniversary of the national application of this concept. It’s true that the Standard Time Act, the bill which made Daylight Saving Time the law everywhere in the country, was passed in March 1918.1

It was also repealed the following year because DST was universally hated.

The idea was brought back nationally during World War II, but was applied inconsistently during other periods. Which is why the transportation industry lobbied for a permanent national law.

However, instead of doing the sensible thing, telling everyone to cut out the practice altogether and let nature do it’s thing with regard to sunrise and sunset, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act in 1966.

Anyway, I’ve ranted about this several times in the past and you can read those entries for more reasons why this concept needs to die. A few years ago the Washington Post also published 5 Myths About Daylight Saving Time, which includes this little additional bit of nomenclature stupidity to add to the mix.

Guess what time we’re on for eight months of the year? Daylight saving time. In what universe is something that happens for only one-third of the time the “standard”? Even before the 2007 change, DST ran for seven months out of 12.

In fact, some opponents of DST aren’t against daylight saving time per se: They think it should be adopted as the year-round standard time. Because it basically already is.

So, there’s the solution. Next November, just leave the damn clocks where they are and forget the whole illusion of “saving” time. I don’t care whether you choose to call it “permanent daylight saving time”, which sounds stupid, or “standard” time, which it would be.

After one cycle, most people will just call it normal. Just like nature intended.

Thank you for indulging my sleep deprived rant.

Oh, and one more thing: the term is Daylight Saving, not savingS. At least get that part right.


The cartoon is the first panel from the Sunday edition of Wiley Miller’s wonderful Non Sequitur. The rest of his story makes about as much sense as any justification for DST I’ve heard. The Sunday Fox Trot take on DST is also amusing. I think using a part of the comic in this context would be considered Fair Use.

1. Wikipedia, as you might expect, has a very complete telling of Daylight Saving Time’s history in the US and the general controversy surrounding the concept.

Teaching How To Fail Shouldn’t Be An Option

This is just a short rant about something that’s been buzzing around my head for a while. Feel free to ignore it.

Over the past few months, at several conferences, in a webinar or two, in more than a few articles, and in a long Twitter discussion, I’ve heard some variation of the “it’s ok to fail” trope. Usually accompanied by the idea that we as teachers need to teach kids “how to fail”.

That’s garbage and we need to stop saying it. Especially to our students.

Failure is not a good thing. It’s not something that builds character. It should not be a part of our instruction.

Instead, we should be teaching students an iterative process that identifies possible errors and fixes the problems as they are identified. NASA calls that midcourse correction. Some relate it to design thinking.

I rather like the very simple way that Mitch Resnick from the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at MIT explains it in this creative cycle.

Creative cycle

Whatever you want to call it, the whole “permission to fail” business should have no place in our instruction.

An Even Bigger Waste of Bandwidth Than This

As a web designer, I certainly don’t have the experience and/or talent to criticize anyone’s work.

As a web user, however, let me introduce you to one of the worst examples of web design*. Period!

News small

That’s an article called “10 of the best apps for education” from eSchool News. Except that it’s not the article. It’s the first of eleven “pages”, forcing a reader to click ten more times, with ten more page reloads, to see the full piece.

There’s no good reason to segment a post like this, especially one so short. It’s simply a rather obnoxious technique some sites use (Time is one of the more high profile examples) to increase ad impressions. The owners are more interested in serving their advertisers than they are in providing information to their visitors.

And speaking of ads, did you miss any of them? I counted seven large display ads on the page, along with many promotions for other things on the site. All of this non-content effectively minimizes the material you came to read. In fact, on most displays, this site has so much stuff “above the fold” that even the meager bit of content on the page is not fully visible.

As to that content, it’s not even worth the effort of clicking through to get it. Half of the minuscule space allotted on each page is a screen shot of the app. It’s accompanied by a couple of sentences that offer very little about the functionality or instructional application, and nothing about why this particular item is better than competitors in the same category.

Bottom line, the article was written (thrown together?) to attract viewers for the ads on the page, not to provide “technology news for today’s K-20 educator” as their mast (also lost in the clutter) claims.

This is a great example of why I dropped eSchool News from my aggregator many years ago and finally connived them not to send the paper version. Not only is the material presented poorly, the over emphasis on ad impressions makes it’s quality and objectivity suspect as well.

Move along, nothing to see here.


*If you don’t want to add to their statistics by actually visiting the page (or if they’ve recycled the electrons into another article), click the image to see the page clip full size.

© 2021 Assorted Stuff

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑