The Top 10 Education Articles at Etale in 2017

With over 150,000 unique visitors from almost every country and territory in the world (at this point, I’ve not identified any visitors from Iran or North Korea) ,many of whom came back to read multiple articles, 2017 turned out to be a interesting year for Etale.

Around this time each year, I take a few moments to review what captured reader’s attention. Are there any trends? What newly published articles were popular and why? What about those articles from years ago that continue to garner attention and reading from around the world? That is what you will find below. I’ll start with a list of the most popular articles that I published in 2017, followed by a second list of all-time favorites that continue to draw visitors.

Top Ten New Articles in 2017

10 Pros and Cons of Betsy Devos

Out of all the news coverage about Devos’s nomination for Secretary of Education in 2017, I’m amazed that my short and simple infographic garnered so much attention, getting more visits in a single day than any article that I’ve published in over a decade. This was my attempt to offer an unbiased summary of what I was hearing from both advocates and critics. Perhaps this says something about the hunger for sources that provide less politically charged insights in our current climate. Or, maybe it just went viral because it was an easy-to-share infographic.

15 Education Trends to Watch in 2017

Each year I offer my latest summary of education trends, technologies, and developments that are likely to stick or grow over the upcoming years. As always, people are interested in something to help them make sense of our ongoing Wild West era of education.

The One Question Proficiency Exam (and Proficiency Versus Growth in Education) 

This article was inspired by a question that Al Franken asked Betsy Devos. Are you for measuring progress by proficiency or growth? This was my effort to take us deeper into that question, its implications, and how it might not be a simple, either-or answer.

What are the 5 Most Important Skills for Young People Today?

In 2017 I started inviting people to post question on Twitter that I would respond to in the form of an article, and this is one of the first ones. It is obviously a topic on people’s minds today.

Artificial Intelligence, the Future of Work, and Implications for Education

Expect to read more about this topic from me and plenty of others over the upcoming years. AI and its implication for society and education will definitely show up in my top 10 trends to watch article for 2018 as well.

The Educator Challenge: Can You Solve These 20 Education Riddles? 

Also in 2017, I started to experiment with different formats of writing and creating content, including a simple riddle/game that was a wonderful failure. Lots of people started the challenge, but nobody completed it. Along the way, I learned some important lessons about game/challenge design that I will apply in future versions.

This is One of the Most Important Educational Stories of Our Generation

Only published in the last month of the year, this is already among the more popular articles of 2017, a review of a must read book about the launch of the first Acton Academy in Austin, Texas. I continues to be one of my favorite examples when I’m directing people to what it means for us to create better, more hopeful, humane, empowering learning communities.

Boredom in School as Preparation for the Workplace 

Inspired by conversations with K-12 educators and professors who justified boring lessons as preparation for the “real world”, I decided to challenge the premise in this short article.

Elementary Schools Can’t Change Because We Need to Prepare Students for High School and College

This is one of the more common excuses or conundrums that I hear from elementary school leaders who want to make more significant changes in their schools.

False Consciousness in Education is Real and the Implications are Uncertain

Drawing from a largely unknown concept of “false consciousness”, I use this article to highlight the larger implications for not involving students in shaping their own educational environment…implications not only for each student but for society and democracy in general.

Top Ten All-Time Articles That Continued to Capture Interest in 2017

Note: I do not include articles published in 2017 in this list. See above for those.

5 Common Reasons for the Importance of Letter Grades (2013)

People continue to struggle with the concept of letter grades. This aging technology’s days are numbers as people come to realize its growing limitations the the emerging alternatives.

What are the 10 Most Critical Issues in Education Today (2015)

This theme continues to garner interest. I received so much interest that this one turned into a book that I published.

5 Templates to Use for Self-Directed Learning Projects (2014)

This is such a simple set of templates but it is wonderful to see that people are trying out more student-centered and self-directed projects. I’m exploring the idea of eventually turning these into more interactive tools or even an app of some sort. What I’m especially delighted with here is that this article gets more than half of its readers and interest from outside of the United States.

90+ Education Documentaries to Challenge and Inspire (2014)

Lists always go over well. I continue to update the list a couple times and year, and plan to do so in 2018 as well.

20 Ideas for Education Professional Development in the Digital Age (2016)

To tell the truth, I’m not sure why this one continues to resonate with people, but it does. It seems like a pretty basic list to me, but it seems to indicate ongoing reconsideration of professional development.

5 Myths About Being an Autodidact (2015)

My site continues to have one of the larger collections of articles on the web focused upon self-directed learning, and this article in particular continues to interest people.

3 Reasons to Use Portfolios in Education (2015)

More digital portfolio options are becoming available now, which is expanding people’s exploration of the larger topic. It is good to see people continuing to explore more contextual and authentic approaches to assessment today.

10 Challenges / Problems in the Digital World (2009)

This is one of my oldest articles that continues to interest people, and it is part of what inspired my newest book, Digitized (which looks at life in the digital world from my distinctly Christian lens).

What is the Role of the Teacher in a Self-Directed Learning Environment? (2013)

If self-directed learning is growing, it brings about a fundamental question about the role of the teacher. Here I explain that it doesn’t necessarily make the teacher obsolete, but it does change that role significantly.

8 Simple Ideas for Helping Students Become More Self-Directed This Year (2013)

Yet another self-directed learning article makes the all-time most read list. Perhaps I should write a book about this topic as well. Oh wait, I did that in 2017, and it is called Adventures in Self-Directed Learning. I’m delighted with the growing interest around this topic, and my book, so thank you to everyone who bought a copy and/or helped share the book or its ideas with others.


There is much that I learn from looking at trends and patters of readers. I’ll stick with a short list of five, but I welcome your observations as well.

  1. Numbers interest people. Notice the number of top articles that have a number in the title? That seems to speak to SEO more than anything else. I suppose that is part of the game when it comes to reaching people with your message in the digital age. It also reminds me that some of the best and most interesting content on the web is not necessarily that which is discovered or read.
  2. Self-directed Learning continues to interest people, but it also shows up as a niche that my blog continues to play. It is a theme that will continue to capture my attention over the upcoming years as well.
  3. There is need and demand for content that simply explains what is happening. Much of my blog is and will continue to be editorial in nature, but I appreciate that people also just want good content that informs them. I will keep that in mind as I think about my writing in 2018.
  4. People want tools and resources. We all know this, especially when it comes to the education crowd, but whether it is a classroom resource or a tool that serves as a mental model, many in education are looking for something that can help them make sense of a problem and/or do something about it.
  5. Readers are coming back for more. As I look at the trends and statistics for Etale, I see that we continue to garner new readers, but what I’m most excited about is how many of those readers keep coming back for more. I’m honored that this site has become as an ongoing source of information and insight, and will do my best to retain that trust and honor the time that you invest in Etale over the upcoming years.

Thank You!

That is it for the top articles in 2017. I continue to be honored that so many of you choose to invest a small part of your lives reading this blog and interacting with me on ideas that matter. I look forward to more in 2018.

Posted in education

About Bernard Bull

Dr. Bernard Bull is an author, professor of education, Vice Provost of Curriculum and Academic Innovation, podcast host, and blogger. Some of his books include Missional Moonshots: Insights and Inspiration for Educational Innovation, What Really Matters: Ten Critical Issues in Contemporary Education, The Pedagogy of Faith (editor), Adventures in Self-Directed Learning, and Digitized: Spiritual Implications of Technology. He is passionate about futures in education; educational innovation; and social entrepreneurship.