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Stories by Usable Knowledge

By Usable Knowledge 09/25/2017 8:38 AM EDT
(updated from a talk delivered at SxSWedu on March 8, 2017) Say it so we all can understand. Why is that so hard for so many experts? What gets in the way? Well, a lot: The "expert blind spot" that can prevent people who know a lot from knowing how to explain it to the rest of us. Ego — or, its opposite: insecurity or lack of confidence. The comfort that obscurity brings. Laziness or tradition. Professional norms — being perceived as incorrect or amateurish if you're not using the jargon of your industry.  All of this is wrong. In order to bring innovations and new knowledge to scale, so...
By Usable Knowledge 06/16/2017 6:00 PM EDT
Developing a Digital Voice
Recent weeks have brought worst-case reminders of the possible real-world implications of young people’s digital interactions. A litany of incriminating text messages led to a guilty verdict in the case of Michelle Carter, charged with involuntary manslaughter for encouraging her boyfriend, Conrad Roy, to take his own life. Harvard University announced that it had rescinded offers of admission to a group of students found to have exchanged offensive memes in a private Facebook chat. The Snapchats, Internet searches, and text messages of a group of Penn State fraternity brothers will be...
By Usable Knowledge 06/13/2017 12:57 PM EDT
colorful graphic depicting a teacher interacting with a researcher
In a new series aimed at closing the gap between research and practice, Usable Knowledge is partnering with Digital Promise on a project that collects real questions from educators across the country and poses them to faculty members at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The series, called Ask a Researcher, offers evidence-based guidance to classroom dilemmas in the areas of literacy, mathematics, and English language learning, giving teachers credible strategies to enhance student learning. (Questions are gathered from educators in Ditigal Promise's League of Innovative Schools; plans...
By Usable Knowledge 05/09/2017 5:03 PM EDT
Graphic illustration of colorful speech bubbles
One in a series of strategies and resources adapted by  Usable Knowledge from the Teaching and Learning Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Discussion protocols can be an important tool for prompting and structuring class conversation. These protocols create an outline of procedures for students to follow, often including assigned roles, specific directions, and details on timing. Instructors use protocols for a variety of purposes, including: To enhance the structure and clarity of an open-ended task, such as brainstorming or generating ideas; To distribute participation by...
By Usable Knowledge 04/19/2017 3:09 PM EDT
Photo illustration of hands coming together
With incidents of anti-Semitism spiking this year (including, troublingly, in K-12 schools, according to the Anti-Defamation League), and with other forms of intolerance in the news, what happens if or when there's an incident of bias or hateful speech in your school or district? Do you have a plan? The Making Caring Common initiative at the Harvard Graduate School of Education has a sampling of vetted resources [PDF] that provide a starting point for educators, either proactively or in the moment. The resources (excerpted below) are not meant to be comprehensive, but they offer a foothold...
By Usable Knowledge 03/31/2017 3:34 PM EDT
Teaching in Complex Times
One student was bullied because her parents were supporters of candidate Trump. Another student expressed strong and divisive anti-immigration views in a class with several immigrant students. A group of teachers differed over whether a proposed Muslim registry was ripe for debate at school — or was just wrong, too far outside the bounds. These are the kinds of problems — murky, time-sensitive, and without clear roadmaps — that educators, school leaders, and parents know well, says Professor Meira Levinson, a former teacher who now studies ethical dilemmas in the classroom. In a frank...
By Usable Knowledge 03/29/2017 12:23 PM EDT
Caring for the Whole Child
Joni Sullivan, drama teacher at The Springfield Renaissance School in Springfield, Massachusetts, has made her classroom a "safe haven" to which her students can come when they are feeling down or need someone to listen without judgment. "Sometimes they don't even want me to say anything," Sullivan says, "they just want someone to listen that they know cares about them." *** We Want to Hear from You
Our country is polarized: How is that showing up in your school? What are you doing to protect students, confront discrimination, prevent bullying, and foster inclusion? Usable Knowledge would...
By Usable Knowledge 03/23/2017 9:01 AM EDT
One and all
Stephen Mahoney, the associate director of the Harvard Teacher Fellows program and a former school principal, offers insight into why students need to learn to thoughtfully interact with one another, and he provides advice on how teachers can build those skills. "You can't wait for crises to teach kids how to talk to each other and how to listen to each other," says Mahoney. "It has to be something that is a skill and a strength and a muscle that you are building throughout their educational experience."   *** We Want to Hear from You
Our country is polarized: How is that showing up...
By Usable Knowledge 03/21/2017 10:28 AM EDT
Photo of a high school teacher from Springfield Renaissance School
Molly Dill, a twelfth grade economics and government teacher at The Springfield Renaissance School in Springfield, Massachusetts, has advice for leading classrooms discussions on controversial topics. It's important to stay focused on the content, she says. She tells students, there's nothing wrong with expressing emotion — but "let's make sure that it is not anger or sarcasm that is targeted toward the people you are talking to," she says. "And I make sure that students are using evidence."   *** We Want to Hear from You
Our country is polarized: How is that showing up in your...

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