Tag Archives: New York Times

Lens Blog and Visual Thinking Strategies

When developing the photo essay assignment for my course, I came across an excellent resource for teachers and students. The New York Times has started a blog entitled Lens: Photography, Video, and Visual Journalism. The topics covered in  the blog posts touch on several critical issues such as immigration, race, and class. The photos  captured in each of the photo essays serve as a great entry point into rich discussion. When using the Lens Blog in my classroom I find myself drawing on skills I developed during workshops many years ago.

When I was a public school teacher, I participated in a fascinating series of professional development workshops called Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS). By analyzing carefully selected images, students were able to develop critical literacy skills as well as visual literacy skills. Teachers were facilitators in this process and asked three open-ended questions:

1. What’s going on in this picture?

2. What do you see that makes you say that?

3. What more can we find?

I found myself using the VTS approach when presenting students the photo essays from the Lens blog. Students in my class really engaged with the photos and rich discussion took place as a result. I will definitely be using this blog for years to come in the classroom.

Below are some powerful images from photo essays on  the Lens Blog.

Photo Essay: Garifuna Immigrants in New York
Photo Essay: Garifuna Immigrants in New York
Photo Essay: Connecting with Syrian Refugees
Photo Essay: Connecting with Syrian Refugees
Photo Essay: One Year Later, Remembering Eric Garner
Photo Essay: One Year Later, Remembering Eric Garner

Link to VTS site: http://www.vtshome.org/

Link to NYT Lens: http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/

“Too Fast For the Truth”

This made me (Pooja) laugh.  A New York Times Article from 1858 wonders if transatlantic telegraphs were necessary, or “too fast for the truth?”

“Superficial, sudden, unsifted,” is how news via telegraph were described in this article. Sound familiar!? I guess the more things change,  the more they stay the same.



Read Adrienne Lafrance’s article on the evolution of communication mediums here:


A call to adopt Balanced Literacy

An article in the New York Times caught my eye, it highlights New York schools chancellor Carmen Fariña’s proposal to adopt a balanced literacy approach in more New York City classrooms (link to article provided below). The article reports that, “during her almost six months as chancellor, Ms. Fariña, a veteran of the school system, has reduced the role of standardized tests, increased collaboration among schools and shepherded through a new contract for teachers that includes more training and more communication with parents. But her push for a revival of balanced literacy may have some of the most far-reaching implications in the classroom.” Proponents of the Common Core academic standards have however, voiced resistance to implementation of a balanced literacy approach, arguing that it is at odds with the learning goals emphasized in the core standards, which have been adopted by more than 40 states. What do you think are the pros and cons of a balanced literacy approach?



Literacy from Day 1

The New York Times reinforces the importance of reading to babies from the day they are born:


I value the point in the article – read to your babies –  but dismay set in as I read the end.  The suggestions it makes about low income families and radicalized families was unsettling, perhaps an even small analysis as to WHY the statistic are what they are would be helpful.

Low-income children are often exposed little to reading before entering formal child care settings. “We have had families who do not read to their children and where there are no books in the home,”

The undertone of the above statement does not sit well with me. While implicit, the message I read is that parents with low-income do not care to read to their children or do not know the value of doing so…  is it just me that reads the tone in this way?  It would be helpful to read about why that is: parents with low-income struggle to find the time to read to their children because they are working shift work, or 2-3 jobs to make ends meet, or have such intense stresses in their lives, or have difficulty affording books and are unable to get to libraries with ease… Is it a choice to read or not read to children? Or is the suggestion an imposition of wealthy class values? The realities of low-income versus wealthy families go beyond simple statements of what they do or not do.


Can you understand what I am saying?

In the New York Times on the weekend, Nicholas Kristof wrote a stinging criticism of academics. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/16/opinion/sunday/kristof-professors-we-need-you.html?ref=nicholasdkristof
He notes that when someone utters the phrase “That’s academic” it is a very loaded comment. That retort implies scholars are irrelevant. He quotes Anne-Marie Slaughter who observed that “disciplines have become more and more specialized and more and more quantitative, making them less and less accessible to the general public.” He feels that the PhD programs “have fostered a culture that glorifies arcane unintelligibility while disdaining impact and audience.” Although I (Clare) found his comments a bit harsh there is something sobering about his analysis. Often I find myself reading a journal article on teacher education (my specialty) that I simply cannot understand. The jargon overwhelms the central points and the writing so turgid it is inaccessible. As academics our many masters (tenure review committees, funding agencies, journal reviewers) expect our work to sound “academic” so we are almost forced to employ an unnatural writing style. There is no easy solution. We may not be able to do anything in the short term but in the long-term I hope that our research can be used to inform general discourse about teacher education and public policy. Writing for different audiences is difficult but hey, we academics are quite smart. Let’s take up the challenge to make our work more accessible to many readers.

New Business Model for Education: Respecting Teachers

There is a great article in the New York Times magazine today, A Ready-To-Assemble Business Plan Adam Davidson


It reports on studies done on “how to make low-paid work more rewarding for employees and employers alike.” Zeynep Ton argues that “Even the most coldhearted, money-hungry capitalists ought to realize that increasing their work force, and paying them and treating them better, will often yield happier customers, more engaged works, and – surprisingly – larger corporate profits.” Although the article is about workers in big box stores, we think that there is relevance for the way we treat teachers. If we treated teachers with more respect (as they do in countries like Finland), have more fully-staffed schools,  and pay teachers a decent (competitive) salary rather than trying to “teacher proof” the curriculum and impose draconian measures on them (pay raises linked to student achievement on standardized test) we may actually improve education! Perhaps, it is time to flip the approach from controlling teachers to respecting  and supporting them. Let’s try this experiment in 2014! Clive and Clare