Currently Browsing: William Arrowsmith

NECC, EdTech Apologetics and Discussing EdTech Stereotypes

you said it, buddy!

Apologetics, not to be confused with apology, and then a discussion of some ed-tech stereotypes.

I wanted to address a comment from a discussion on another site regarding my post titled A Bit More Education Techno-Twaddle; Why I Avoid NECC, 2008 Edition.

I read your post, it was pretty negative.

The author of the comment may have glanced at the post, but was a bit selective about what to process and what to ignore. My post outlined a few problems with NECC – such as intellectual diversity, for one, as we’re not all Constructivists – and then I engaged over 25 commenters in meaningful discussion [that's still ongoing].

I received even more e-mails than comments, with about half saying specifically that they wanted the discussion to be private/anonymous/etc. I published my post on Wednesday evening and immediately e-mails/comments poured in. I spent the next 8 hours – until about 3am that night – responding to them both.

That, the sustained discussion and the conference proposal should demonstrate a bit of sincerity here. No idle complaining, just a commitment to improving an important sector in education.

Many of us get a lot out of the conference, however, after reading that you’re not very interested in k12,

I haven’t a clue where this comes from. In the last year I’ve written nearly 200,000 words about K-12 education, and I put more time into K-12 education than anything I actually get paid to do.

I don’t know that necc is the best use of your time.

I have received quite a few of these gentle suggestions over the last few days.

You just seemed very very defensive and negative about necc.

I’d loved to have written volumes of effusive praise for NECC, but honest analysis of the situation didn’t call for it – and plenty of others wrote about their positive experiences and the value they derived from the conference. And though some winced at my post, turning a blind eye would have been infinitely more damaging.

Also, know that you are a persuasive writer and that you DO have an influence on others.

Thank you – that’s precisely why I engaged the ed-tech community in this discussion.

You have the right to your opinion, but the many of us who have to scrimp and save to go to NECC (it is not in the budget of my school) don’t appreciate you lumping us all in together and stereotyping us all. You really talked down to the “lot” of us in your post basically making us feel like idiots.

The author of this comment, and the education technology community as a whole, can decide both how to feel and how/if they would like to respond to my call for dialogue. There has been tremendous variation inĀ  reactions.

So, have your opinion, and that is fine, however, respect those of us that disagree.

I do, and I have engaged those with whom I disagree as much as possible. That engagement is a sign of respect for opinions and those who hold them. That respect hasn’t always gone both ways, but such is life.

It is your right to do as you wish but stereotyping is ALWAYS hurtful. And you basically said you didn’t want to go b/c of the people that would be there — that is me and some other people I think are great.

The commenter couldn’t be more wrong about stereotypes. They aren’t always hurtful.

First, I hasten to point out that it’s a bit difficult to write about an event attended by 17,000 people [does that include vendors?] without making a few generalizations. Strike that – it’s impossible. Any group that large will have its share of the helpful, the harmful, and everything in between, and I’m not about to break down into dozens of subgroups to inject the utmost fairness into the debate. Reality and common sense occasionally dictate constraints.

More importantly, the education technology sector, in my opinion, can be stereotyped effectively. Here are a few sweeping generalizations that I’m comfortable making:

EdTech folks are decent people. My interactions with education technology practitioners have been more pleasant than with any other sector in education – hands down. Though I usually disagree with the hows and the whys of their initiatives, those who practice them are well-meaning and thoughtful people. If I wanted to have a beer with any ‘stereotype’ in education, it would be an ed-tech’er.

EdTechs are deeply committed. The professional development undertaken by education technology practitioners is frequent – it occurs on the job and in their personal lives. William Arrowsmith, an education theorist who is underappreciated and underutilized, said that one would expect a classicist to live classically. Those in education technology uphold this tradition of what can be characterized colloquially as practicing what they preach. If the general population of education professionals collectively made 1/10th of this commitment, we’d all be better off.

EdTechs have fun. This is really an offshoot of my first stereotype, but it’s distinctly different. Great attitudes and loads of smiles – that sums up the majority of ed-tech’ers. Whether it’s reading blogs or listening to the joviality in podcasts like EdTechTalk, there’s no question that they’re a fun bunch.

I’ll stop at three – you get the idea. Any sector that can claim these three stereotypes is lucky.

Stereotypes, despite what Reading Rainbow professed, aren’t always bad.

Now, can we get to work? There’s still an open invitation to review and comment on my proposal for the K12 Online Conference. Terry Freedman’s comments were quite helpful, and I’d like to hear from you, too.

Boston University’s “Teaching Doctoral Students to Teach” Event

terrier: grrr.

Yesterday I posted a 42 minute podcast of William Arrowsmith’s “The Future of Teaching: The Molding of Men.” It addresses, in part, the growing trend to spend more time on the technical details of scholarship than on teaching students how to teach.

Well, Arrowsmith was pointing to that trend in 1967, but he could’ve made an even stronger case in 2008.

My alma mater, Boston University, put out a notice today about an on-campus event called “Teaching Doctoral Students How to Teach.”

Providing opportunities for doctoral students to learn and refine successful pedagogical practices has many short and long term benefits for the advisor, student, and institution. Many researchers prefer that their doctoral students do not invest the time to be effective teaching assistants due to the time it takes away from their laboratory endeavors. This self-serving philosophy does the doctoral student a disservice and is a myth. Please join Dr. Hoagland as he shares how his experience with the Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate improved the focus on teaching in the Department of Anatomy & Neurobiology and how this improvement led to strengthening the graduate program. [emphasis mine]

Drawing pedagogy – really, developing mastery in teaching – out of graduate students is tougher in some disciplines than in others. The history student will simply find it an easier logistical fit than the budding neuroscientist.

But I can’t help pointing out that the content of this event, hosted by the Center for Excellence in Teaching in 2008, has been covered several times before – including by the University’s own former Professor Arrowsmith in The Future of Teaching and The Shame of the Graduate Schools.

An afternoon-long event is a start and I’m pleased to see it. But can we, as a University community, look to the past to make stronger commitments in the present and future on an issue that really matters – teaching – and make the event open to more than just faculty?

I sure hope so.

Education for the Aughts Podcast: William Arrowsmith on the Future of Teaching

You can play the Education for the Aughts Podcasts by clicking on the triangular ‘play’ button on the player below [at the bottom of the post if you're reading this in RSS] – it will expand and begin streaming audio. Alternatively, you can download an mp3 file of the podcast to listen in your own media player. You can also download a PDF of “The Future of Teaching: The Molding of Men” for reference.

And, if you like what you hear, you can subscribe to Education for the Aughts Podcast.


I asked a simple question in late January: Do you know William Arrowsmith? Here’s a graphic of the results:

This site’s readership is largely college educated, and those who aren’t ed-school grads [or didn't attend college at all] are still hyper-aware of education theory. They’re teachers, concerned parents and employees in K-12 and university-level institutions.

And almost none have come across William Arrowsmith, an education theorist, classicist and master teacher. To demonstrate how few educators today look to Arrowsmith’s work, Google his name. You’ll see that my poll is the 5th result and has little competition.

I decided to open my podcast series with a reading of Arrowsmith’s 1967 piece, “The Future of Teaching: The Molding of Men.” Though four decades old, it speaks to most of the issues I read about daily on both blogs and old media. He touches on many pertinent subjects including:

  • Relevance – what it really means and why it matters; comparing his words to the present shows us how egregiously educators have betrayed this concept.
  • The purpose of education – how seemingly irrelevant topics make our lives better.
  • Technology – though implicit in his argument, Arrowsmith demonstrates the folly of focusing on empty process at the expense of content.
  • Teaching and teachers – how many of our teachers both in 1967 and today are anything but.


William Arrowsmith: A Recollection, by James W. Tuttleton, The New Criterion, 1994.

William Arrowsmith, William Harris, Middlebury College.

The Myth of the Superhuman Professor, Richard M. Felder, North Carolina State University.

A handful of translations/books available via Amazon.

The Fordham Institute Reinvents a Tiny Wheel

education gadfly show

I listen to the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s Education Gadfly podcast each week. It’s a 15-ish minute talk show about education policy and education news, from the serious to the not-so-serious. I recommend it.

This last week’s podcast [April 03, 2008] brought a discussion of a high school student making news [via the NY Times] about his refusal to go to school dances. Why? Because he’ll be required to take a breathalyzer test. The student feels that it intrudes on his off-campus rights.

Obviously, the student’s stance is illogical and shows a misunderstanding of rights – co-host Dr. Rick Hess points that out clearly. He goes on to say that there’s a broader culture of entitlement that causes kids to engage in such useless protest. Hess asks:

“What kind of country is it where a 16 year old feels good about going to the New York Times and complaining that he’s not able to walk into a school dance drunk?”

Point taken, but it would’ve been more valuable [and interesting] to recall William Arrowsmith’s explanation of this phenomenon. It’s in The Future of Teaching: The Molding of Men, a seminal document published first in The Journal of Higher Education [Vol. 38, No. 3, March 1967, pp. 131-143]. Though Arrowsmith was writing about higher education, it applies well to contemporary cases we’re seeing more frequently – whether it’s the school dance protest, the Bong Hits 4 Jesus case or whatever will be touted tomorrow.

Arrowsmith explained in his conclusion that colleges and professors – and I would expand that now to high schools and their teachers – lack an ecumenical function, a heroism of sorts, that guides students.

He wrote:

“By so doing, it is forcing the student – who may want to be more than merely a professor – into the streets and out of the culture. The student becomes marginal simply out of opposition to the elite which has expelled him. Alternatively, he responds by violent and often unintelligent assertion of those very values, especially freedom, which the university seems to have abandoned. His attempts at heroism thus become merely anarchic; he loses the skills of educated heroism, even while claiming to assert them.”

With apologies to Rick Hess – though I suppose his candid outrage was entertaining – we got a solid answer to the question 41 years ago. I’d have liked to have heard a discussion about Arrowsmith’s explanation, though.

And while your mind’s on education podcasting, take a listen to The DC Education Blog’s podcasting debut. As I wrote in the comments, it’s very well-produced and I look forward to the next one.