This post was originally published on Network Effects on October 5th 2018.

After a few years of pushing Twitter posts from I’ve decided to pull up that tent and start pushing everything from home base here at using Over the past few months I have used Known essentially as a centralized means of pushing bookmarks to and  That worked fine, but started … →


What nonfiction book should our online book club read next?

This post was originally published on Bryan Alexander on October 4th 2018.

What should our online book club read next? After reading two science fiction novels (Walkaway, New York 2140), we now turn to nonfiction about the future of education. (If you’re new to the book club, know that since 2014 we’ve … Continue reading →

The Interstellar Bounce of Flickr Explore

This post was originally published on CogDogBlog on September 27th 2018.

Oh the mysteries of having a photo appearing in the flickr explore… The tell-tale sign is seeing a huge spike in the red dot notifications, but sometimes it’s a stream of a few folks who routinely like a bunch in a batch. But then one of them is a notice that a photo was added […]

Big Picture WordPress Theme Goes to Unexpected Places

This post was originally published on CogDogBlog on September 26th 2018.

Speaking of HTML5 Up Themes I’ve folded into WordPress ones, I have to say my favorite might be WP Big Picture. Check out the demo site. It has the lush design of the original HTML5up theme, but what you get in the WordPress version is adding new sections merely by creating new posts, easily changing […]

Quick Peek at TWU Portfolios Project

This post was originally published on CogDogBlog on September 17th 2018.

Since August I’ve been working on an up to now unblogged WordPress as portfolio project with Colin Madland at Trinity Western University. Let’s dash the “un”. I remember hearing of electronic portfolios from my very get go in instructional technology in the 1990s. I remember getting to know Dr Helen Barrett who even then billed […]

In Production

This post was originally published on Kathleen Fitzpatrick on September 17th 2018.

I sat down this afternoon to force myself to write a blog post, as I haven’t been doing much in the way of writing of late, and am feeling a bit cramped because of it. Or perhaps it’s more fair to say that I haven’t been doing much in the way of writing of the … Continue reading In Production →

‘It’s Like Amazon, But for Preschool’

This post was originally published on Hack Education on September 13th 2018.

A year ago, the richest man in the world asked Twitter for suggestions on how he should most efficiently and charitably spend his wealth. And today, Jeff Bezos unveiled a few details about his plans – other than funding space travel, that is. His new philanthropic effort, The Day 1 Fund, will finance two initiatives: the Families Fund will work with existing organizations to address homelessness and hunger; and the Academies fund “will launch an operate a network of high-quality, full-scholarship, Montessori-inspired preschools in underserved communities.”
“We’ll use the same set of principles that have driven Amazon,” Bezos wrote in a note posted to Twitter. “Most important among these will be genuine intense customer obsession. The child will be the customer.”
The child will be the customer.
Bezos then went on to cite a phrase that is so often misquoted and misattributed in those shiny, happy motivational PowerPoint slides – you know the ones – that people like to post to social media: “Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.” W. B. Yeats never said this, for the record, but words get so easily twisted, history so easily co-opted.
The assurance that “the child will be the customer” underscores the belief – shared by many in and out of education reform and education technology – that education is simply a transaction: an individual’s decision-making in a “marketplace of ideas.” (There is no community, no public responsibility, no larger civic impulse for early childhood education here. It’s all about private schools offering private, individual benefits.)
This idea that “the child will be the customer” is, of course, also a nod to “personalized learning” as well, as is the invocation of a “Montessori-inspired” model. As the customer, the child will be tracked and analyzed, her preferences noted so as to make better recommendations to up-sell her on the most suitable products. And if nothing else, Montessori education in the United States is full of product recommendations.
There’s another piece to all this, not mentioned in Bezos’s note about building a chain of preschools that “use the same set of principles that have driven Amazon”: Amazon’s own labor practices. The online retail giant is a notoriously terrible place to work – the pay, particularly in the warehouses is so low that many employees receive government assistance. The working conditions are dangerous and dehumanizing. “Amazon has patented a system that would put workers in a cage, on top of a robot,” read the headline in last week’s Seattle Times. And it’s not so great for the white collar workers either. “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk,” one employee in books marketing told The New York Times back in 2015.
The majority of the early childhood educators in the US are already very poorly paid; many preschools have incredibly high turnover rates. As research has demonstrated that preschool has a lasting positive effect on children’s educational attainment, there have been many efforts to “raise the standards,” demanding for example that preschools be staffed by more qualified teachers. But the demand, in turn, for more training and certification hasn’t brought with it better pay or benefits. The median pay for preschool teachers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is less than $30,000 a year. Even those with Bachelor’s degrees earn only about $14.70 an hour, about half of the average wages for all those with the same level of education.
This is a field in which a third of employees already qualify for government assistance. And now Jeff Bezos, a man whose own workers also rely on these same low-income programs, wants to step in – not as a taxpayer, oh no, but as a philanthropist.
And he’s not alone. Early childhood education has received quite a bit of attention from ed-tech investors in recent years. Three companies have raised venture capital to help people run preschools and childcare facilities in their homes so far this year: Wonderschool, WeeCare, and Procare Software. Last year, VCs poured millions into Tinkergarten, Sawyer, and Kinedu. Investors in these startups include some of the “big money” names in Silicon Valley: Omidyar Network, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and Andreessen Horowitz, among others. (One of these companies, WeeCare, says it’s also planning to train and license childcare providers, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see the micro-certificate, only education, nanodegree folks also jump on this bandwagon. “Uber for Education” or something.)
Ostensibly, there’s no shortage of potential “customers” for these private school software startups – the demand for childcare is high, and many families live in what the Center for American Progress has called “child care deserts,” that is places where there are no options for affordable, high-quality early childhood education.
But are private preschool chains really the path we want to pursue, particularly if we recognize that early childhood education is so incredibly crucial? Can the gig economy and the algorithm ever provide high quality preschool? For all the flaws in the public school system, it’s important to remember: there is no accountability in billionaires’ educational philanthropy.
And, as W. B. Yeats never once said, charity is no substitute for justice.

Feeds and Gardens

This post was originally published on Kathleen Fitzpatrick on July 23rd 2018.

My last post, Connections, gathered a fair bit of response — enough that you can see a good example of Webmentions in action below it. There’s a little back-and-forth discussion there that mostly took place on Twitter, as well as a lot of likes and mentions that came from there as well. One important question … Continue reading Feeds and Gardens →