HEWN, No. 306

"Replace the pigeons with people, build the right levers into your product, and you too might amass a user base of compulsive lever-pressers" -- Nick Seaver

I am officially a Washingtonian — if by “official,” one means getting a driver’s license and registering to vote. I have to say, today’s trip to the Licensing Office was nothing nothing like the hazing that happens in hours-long wait at the California State DMV. I was in and out pretty quickly. We’re mostly unpacked now, and tomorrow, IKEA delivers some furniture. And then I can get back to the book, which I haven’t touched in over a week.

Well, that’s not quite true. I traveled to Clarksville, Tennessee this week to speak at Austin Peay State University. (Apparently The Monkees’ song is not about Clarksville, Tennessee, and even though I didn’t take the last train, I’ve had the song stuck in my head all week.) Usually, I post the transcripts of my presentations on Hack Education, but what I talked about on Wednesday is probably going to make up part of the introduction to Teaching Machines — that is, the opening hook and “why this matters.” And as such, it was reassuring that people nodded along and were eager to hear more.

Between the book and moving, I haven’t been paying much, if any, attention to ed-tech news. But I did happen to catch that Pearson, once hailed as the largest education company in the world, sold off its US K-12 business for $250 million — Edsurge, in its coverage of the story, appends an asterisk to that figure, as the private equity firm that bought the business only paid $25 million cash upfront. Someday maybe I’ll write at length about Pearson — its history is pretty fascinating (it started as a construction company in the mid-1800s), as is the story of the whole textbook and testing industries. (Teaching Machines addresses part of this — too many people fixate on the machines, I think, and not on the idea of programmed instruction.)

A few reading recommendations: “The Sea Was Not a Mask” — Rob Horning on YouTube, “algorithmic flow,” and flat-earther videos. “When Kids Realize Their Whole Life Is Already Online” — Taylor Lorenz on parents posting photos (etc) of their kids online. “How to Catch a Catfisher” by Max Benwell. “An Honest Living” — Steve Salaita on going from tenured professor to bus driver.

This week’s pigeon is a frill back pigeon:

(Image credits)

I’ll be back in the swing of things, with more words and deeper thoughts, next week. I promise.

Yours in struggle,