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Learning Machine: The Uncertain Future of Education
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Learning Machine: The Uncertain Future of Education

Author: Raven DeRamus Byers, Nathan Levin & Sam Squillace

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Interview-based show building bridges and demolishing barriers between educators, edtech companies, researchers, and learners. Three teachers discuss the big questions about the future of education, with people who (might) have the answers.
20 Episodes
Our guest this week is Tanishia Williams, a Critical Race Theory Research Associate at The African American Policy Forum, a Ph.D. candidate in Urban Policy, and an educator for twenty-two years.  In this interview, she reflects on transitioning from her previous role as a school educator and administrator into her new role as an educational researcher, and how those different positions have shaped her beliefs about student support and educational equity.  Tanishia comes to the topic from different perspectives in a way that is helpful for the three of us to reflect on our own power to shape education. Support the show (
How do our biases shape the way that we think about numbers? Is data ever an unbiased source of truth? Dr. Wendy Castillo joins us on this episode to talk about these issues and the work she is doing to promote #Data4SocialJustice. We discuss the tenets of Quantitative Critical Race Theory (QuantCrit) and spend some time investigating our own biases about education.Homework: Write your own positionality statement acknowledging the personal biases you carry with you and how those might impact your production and consumption of data. Follow Dr. Wendy Castillo on Twitter @WCastilloPhDSupport the show (
If we won the fight around CRT, what would we be winning? This is the question Freddie deBoer asks in his article, CRT could use a little cost/benefit analysis - and his argument is compelling. As the political and cultural left struggles to clearly define CRT - and even in some cases to admit that it’s having an influence in American schools - deBoer points out that there are concrete programs and initiatives that would have a bigger impact for students in the classroom. He issues a clear and important challenge to those - like the three of us on this podcast - who believe that CRT is a powerful academic tool that can help to inform educational policy: What are we defending? For what benefit? And - at what cost? Support the show (
Dr. Kathryn Paige Harden recently published her first book, The Genetic Lottery: Why DNA Matters for Social Equality where she makes an urgent case for acknowledging individual genetic differences as a necessary precursor to achieving social equality. Dr. Harden compares genetic differences to socioeconomic inequality and argues that her research is an anti-eugenic reclaiming of genetics. In this episode, we discuss the implications of Harden's work for teachers, researchers, and policymakers in the field of education where inequality is still very much an unsolved challenge.You can follow Dr. Harden on Twitter @kph3kYou can purchase her new book from the Princeton University PressSupport the show (
In this episode, we speak with David R. Rosas, an assistant principal at the Castle Bridge School in Washington Heights in New York City. David recently wrote an article for Chalkbeat titled, I’m an elementary school teacher, and I embrace critical race theory. In our conversation, David touches on the realities of CRT as an academic discipline vs. what it means to be a teacher who uses CRT to create an inclusive classroom. David has been an educator for 21 years and has worked as a teacher in grades K-7, an instructional coach, assistant principal, and principal in elementary schools.  Debate topic for week 5: Who should decide what teachers get to talk about in the classroom?Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, or Reddit to join the conversation! Visit us at for more episodes and to support the show!Support the show (
Dr. Jania Hoover is an educator and teacher coach with over 16 years of classroom experience. As an expert on social studies education, Dr. Hoover discussed with us how teachers can navigate controversial topics in the classroom with their students. In her words, "students will ask you the tough questions" so you should probably prepare to answer them. Dr. Hoover wrote an article in July 2021 on the importance of teaching kids about racism regardless of the current debate around critical race theory. In this episode, we discuss representing diverse authors in the classroom, teaching authentic social studies, and how teachers can facilitate the critical reading of controversial texts in the classroom.You can follow Dr. Jania Hoover on Twitter @drjhoovSupport the show (
There’s a lot of talk about Critical Race Theory and Education in the media these days, but what’s really going on with CRT in schools? In this episode we spoke with educational policy experts from New America Jazmyne Owens and Elena Silva. As we discuss the current political and cultural landscape that teachers find themselves in, Jazmyne and Elena talk about the realities of multicultural teaching and discussing race in the classroom.  Along with this episode, check out Jazmyne's article: Critical Race Theory in Schools: What's Really Going On. Jazmyne Owens is a policy advisor on the PreK–12 team at New America. Elena Silva is director of the PreK–12 team for the Education Policy program at New America. For more episodes, or to support the Learning Machine Podcast, visit www.learningmachinepodcast.comSupport the show (
Should teachers be required to study Critical Race Theory as part of their training? At this point, the teaching workforce is still predominantly white and female and does not reflect the diversity of students in classrooms. Preparing teachers to understand the historical and cultural experiences students bring to the classroom is one solution to mismatched identities. Dr. Amy Samuels is an expert in teacher education and culturally responsive pedagogy and in this episode, she offers her perspective, wisdom, and a few tips for preparing the next generation of educators.You can follow Dr. Samuels on Twitter @ajsamuels27Support the show (
Professor Janel George, Director of the Racial Equity in Education Law and Policy Clinic at Georgetown University speaks on the history of Critical Race Theory. In this episode we delve into the recent political outrage over Critical Race Theory in Education and ask the question: If you teach the history of racial inequality are you teaching Critical Race Theory? In the same vein, would Critical Race Theory by any other name be just as offensive? You can follow Janel George on Twitter @JG4Justice and check out some of her writing on CRT here. Support the show (
In Season 2 we are talking about Critical Race Theory, also known as CRT - what it is and why it has become such a politicized hot-button issue.We’re also exploring Culturally Responsive Teaching and equity in education. Just like in Season 1 we reached out to education experts from all walks of life and asked them to share their insights with all of you.Support the show (
Series One of Learning Machine is in the books! It's been such an insightful and edifying experience to work on our eight interview episodes from our first series. We've learned a lot through the process - both about the education system and about how to produce a podcast - and we're excited to bring that new knowledge forward with us as we begin work on Series Two! As part of that work, we're excited to introduce our new co-host, Raven DeRamus-Byers.  Raven works in education policy at New America, and she'll be bringing her depth of experience and outlook to bear on the topics we cover in upcoming episodes. In this episode, our Finale for the first series, we've invited Raven to come and chat with us about some of our favorite quotes from our guests. If you'd like to check out any of the interviews referenced in this episode, check out the full series on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or visit our website at www.learningmachinepodcast.comThanks for listening this Series! We'll be back in October with Series Two. In the meantime, you can connect with us on Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit and we'll be continuing to drop some extra content in the intervening weeks. Drop us a line or send us a tweet to let us know what you think of our work, or who you think we should interview for an upcoming episode. Support the show (
Does our education system make a promise that it doesn't keep? In this episode, we speak with Deirdra Reed and Bailey Cato Czupryk from TNTP about a 2018 report titled, "The Opportunity Myth." This report posits that there is a promise of opportunity that is made to every student, but that the system does not work equally for all students. What kind of students is our system built for? And what happens to students who don’t fit into the system we have? You can check out the Opportunity Myth here and follow TNTP on Twitter at @TNTP Support the show (
Do you consider yourself a Math person? Most people don’t, and unfortunately the statistics back this up. Just 24% of high school 12th graders scored at or above proficient on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Karin Wu and her team at the MIND Research Institute believe that expertly designed educational games can help shift Math from frustrating to fun. STMath, the game developed by her team, is based on cutting-edge neuroscience and education research. In this episode, we discussed the potential impact of games like STMath and the power of preparing students for the unknown future they will face.You can follow Karin Wu on Twitter @KarinCWu and read more about the MIND Research Institute at Learning Machine PodcastSupport the show (
Should college be free? Public education in the United States has guaranteed free school from Kindergarten through Twelfth grade, what we call the ‘K-12 school system’. But in a move that would create a once-in-a-generation expansion of this system, the Biden Administration would like to add two years of free pre-k and two years of free community college, growing the current thirteen years of free public education to seventeen years of school that every American is entitled to. We spoke to Kevin Carey, vice president for education policy at New America, about how the college side of this expansion would work, and about how the government could effectively fund such a program. You can check out Kevin’s excellent writing on the subject here and here, and you can follow Kevin on twitter at @kevincarey1Support the show (
Imagine you have an expert medical doctor - you would trust this doctor to give you medical advice, right? But would you trust this doctor to make the medicine they were giving you? Would you trust them to build the x-ray machine or to design their own DIY stethoscope? Likely not! And this is exactly the point that Tim Truitt makes: Tim is Director of Mathematics at, a non-profit organization that reviews curricular materials and then makes those reports openly available to teachers and schools. Tim is an expert in the tools that teachers use - curricula. And while we all trust teachers to teach, the question is: should we be expecting them to build their own teaching tools as well?  You can find out more about the EdReports here and follow them on Twitter @edreportsSupport the show (
How do you imagine education will look in 30 years? If you're old enough, does education today look the way you imagined it would 30 years ago? In our conversation with Dr. Rene Kizilcec we discuss the past, present, and future of educational technology. We review his recent research on the democratizing impact of covid restrictions in online learning. Rene presents his optimistic view of educational technology, and explains why he thinks technology can give teachers superpowers.You can find out more about the Future of Learning Lab here and follow Rene on twitter @whynotyet. For more information you can check out our website at the show (
I’m not convinced that you’ll like what Freddie deBoer has to say, but I am convinced that you need to hear it. Freddie’s careful and honest look at what the data really says about our education system challenges our ideas about what education is for and why it just isn’t working. His article Education Doesn’t Work makes a strong (if depressing) case that education cannot fix society because that’s not what it’s supposed to do - it’s not a social panacea. And this may be an uncomfortable truth to recognize, but if we could, he suggests, maybe we could start to make schools better at what they're actually supposed to do: educating and preparing young people for the world. You can read more of Freddie’s ‘cool but rude’ writing here. For more information, check out our website at Support the show (
Do you ever find yourself being more of a listener - a lurker, if you will - in a conversation than a participator? Maybe you thought you weren’t contributing much, and if so, you might be surprised by the fascinating research of Dr. Nia Dowell. By using a special computer analysis technique called Natural Language Processing (NLP), Nia and her colleagues have been able to define and analyze the contributions of all kinds of different team participants, and her results have all kinds of important implications for the classroom and group-work at every level of education and even in society more broadly. You can follow Nia on twitter @niadowell. For more information you can check out our website at the show (
Bree Dusseault and her colleagues at CRPE are keeping close tabs on the education system as we transition out of the pandemic year and back to full in-person school across the country in the fall. And while there are real concerns and legitimate fears about lost learning, the pandemic has spurred a massive investment of resources into America’s public school system. This moment represents a-once-in-a generation opportunity to re-imagine our public schools in ways that could make them more effective. But as Bree’s recent writing, in particular, Hindsight is 2024, points out, it’s not clear that the system is going to take advantage of this unique and important window of opportunity.  You can read more of Bree’s excellent writing here or follow her on twitter at @breedusseault. For more information you can check out our website at the show (
Series One Trailer

Series One Trailer


Learning Machine launches with four episodes from Series One on July 15th! Learning Machine is a podcast about the uncertain future of education! Series One will feature a total of eight episodes, each featuring a researcher, policy expert, or practitioner in the field of education.  In this trailer, you'll hear four of our guests from this series answering the question, "What is the purpose of the education system?" Guests in order of appearance in this trailer are Karin Wu (The Mind Research Institute), Bree Dusseault (Center for Reinventing Public Education), Tim Truitt (, and Deidra Reed (The New Teacher Project). To find out more about our podcast, visit us at www.learningmachinepodcast.comSupport the show (
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