Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Shooting ourselves in the Foot

Once again we have a report about how schools are not meeting the technological needs of our students in schools because of the silly rules and stupid fears.

Here is the report.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Viva French Students

There's something about the French students that reassures me that there is intelligence in our youth. American youth is not an inspiring lot. They are rather dull. I'm a child of the sixties, mind you, so I have high standards. Our students kill each other, we didn't, and neither do the French students. The only life I have witnessed in American youth was the election of Obama. Now it is silent. No anti war protests, no economic protests, no school reform protests. Acceptance is a sad thing I see in our American students.

The French students have a union. They want a voice in the reform. They strike and close schools. These students want the courses being cut, returned. They demand a good education. I wonder what would happen if American students actually used their numbers to have a voice. Sure we hear about an individual or group who protest and are punished severely and badly. In one case, the student went all the way to the Supreme Court.

Guys, students of America, please wake up. You are allowing the very people who have sent you to war to die or get maimed to make educational decisions for you based on business practices that have brought this country to its knees and is creating havoc all over the world. Your future is being determined by too many adults who don't have a clue, haven't a track record of success, and really don't care about you, but more about their own legacy and satiating their bosses and keeping their jobs. They aren't going to take risks or do anything that will be different from the same old same old.

Hearing about the French students striking and making demands is refreshing. I'm not surprised to see us in the problems we are in since the youth who has been educated in the last 20 years under very bad educational policy are the very people in control. Those educated in a heavy test environment are not going to know how to solve real problems since they are so multiple choice oriented and have too little problem solving skills and no collaborative skills. It is quite obvious to me that the youth of today really will be living and doing things far differently than their parents, otherwise they will not survive. So how can we still allow the failing generation to continue to dictate how education should continue, especially since is such a failure. Ironic that we allow adults who fail over and over again to continue on and get paid handsomely and when children fail once they are punished by being held back.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Do your homework, policy makers.

Don't compare my school to a school in another country. It is like comparing apples to oranges.

In American schools students, all students are required to be in school until 17 and half. This is not so in schools around the world. Students in other countries have to pass tests to continue to be educated by the state. In America we offer free education to all of our children, whether they are citizens or not. This is not the case in other countries. So when we see American leaders comparing our schools in the international arena, we are being cheated badly by ignorance.

Now if our leaders were to use just some of our public schools like Stuyvesant, Mount Blair, Stevenson, and others of this caliber, then we would be doing a better form of comparison. Once again our politicians are not being honest, in fact they are lying when they say our schools are not doing as well as schools in other countries. We are doing very well, it is our politicians who are failing us on many more fronts than just education. They aren't doing their homework. Heck we are seeing their lack of doing their work before they give our money to companies like AIG. How can we expect these people who don't use public education to understand how it works. They sadly lack the skills necessary to speak about public education in this country, especially when too many of them have never been in public schools.

In my school we have students from all over the world. Not all of my students were born in this country. Many of my students have not come to my school with any previous education. This does not happen in too many countries to which we are being compared.

Stop comparing my school to other schools from around the world, because they discharge students who do not meet their requirements. We educate all of our students, not just a select elite. Perhaps we should add our extensive private schools when we compare schools. Do your homework about how education works in other countries.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Will Education improve?

I sure hope education improves under Obama's watch. So far I haven't been overly impressed with anything new or innovative from this man of change. Is he using his popularity to push unpopular plans? Merit pay is dicey and so ripe for abuse and scandal that it alone could derail all other plans. How would it work when so many teachers are engaged in a student's performance? Who was the teacher who actually made a difference? In my case I know a teacher in fourth grade made a difference that wasn't realized till 10th grade. Charter Schools are another anomaly. Simply, they take a public school protected by a union and unprotect it. Again a situation ripe for abuse. I have not read or heard anything that remotely resembles change or improvement. Longer school days and longer school years got him laughs, but at whose expense.

I keep saying and will till I see it happen: Technology is a key part of any school reform or as we rethink schools. Obama doesn't touch on the power of technology. Recently eSchool News provided a very enlightening article on how technology has to be a major player in the rethinking of schools and that is what we are talking about here. Rethinking schools in this time of change demands more technology. We have to stop doing things as we have. This was the message I got from Obama during his campaign. Where is the change? Where is technology in his plans? Oh I wish this technology oriented president would consider how technology would help us effectively rethinking our schools.

I know my scholars get it as they have shown in their "Linear text" essays from this assignment.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Podcast vs Lecture

Once again we are reading about the death of the classroom. I'm not sure where this paranoia comes from. When I read the headline, "Podcast trumps lecture in one college study Researcher: Students who listened to a lecture via iTunes U outperformed those who attended in person -- pause button a factor" in eSchool News and found this obvious.

When I was in college in the early 70's, we classmates shared our class notes since no one student could get all the notes given. Later in my advanced studies, I brought a tape recorder to class to record the class or lecture for later use to fill in the missed notes, correct misspellings, and otherwise hear the class or lecture a second or even third time. It only made sense to listen multiple times just as I read and reread plays, poems, short stories, handouts and most everything I had to read for class as a teacher or as a student. I'm not sure I understand the uproar over the use of podcasts. Teachers have video taped their classes in the past for repeated viewing. We have access to books that we can read and reread, so why not use the technology to replicate a lecture or class, so that the students can get everything out of it they can. Isn't that the point of class? Why are we hearing an uproar and even a request not to do this? It really doesn't make any sense. It is also very sad that those arguing against the practice speak to the negative aspects which won't be born out by its use and as this study in Fredonia shows. I love the irony that this study was done at Fredonia.

I wish we could find a good compromise where technology augments our instruction instead of fighting the technology, which is all around us. It seems as if we are spending too much time fighting technology instead of using it wisely and even incorporating a Zen idea about technology.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Rethinking schools & HTML

In the March 2009 issue of eSchool News, I was happy to read two articles. The first was about a panel created by Cisco Systems arrived at the conclusion we need to rethink schools. Some of the key points were seat time, length of class, the design of the learning space. Many of these ideas have been advocated and prospered by tech educators for decades. Certainly the biggest drawback to the current school for 21st century skills is the nature of the teacher dominated classroom. It is fixed and not malleable for various methods of instruction. The panel suggested collapsible walls, movable furniture. Another interesting conclusion was the issue of seat time. When business is allowing and even suggesting people work from home, schools should be more open to this notion. Cyber Schools are one thing, but the regular schools should be incorporating a more robust cyber program in each school. Assessing this kind of school can be done. We need to think out of the box as the panel has, yet policy makers still aren't paying attention. They function from what they know instead of what is possible. The third important point from this report spoke about the 50 minute class. Obviously this is the most changeable part of the suggestions. Yet schools rarely even do this. Changing school culture is impossible even in the face of intelligent logic and common sense.

In another article I was amused to read that more basic web skills are needed instead of web software. This made me think that HTML is the key to these classes. Web design is simple actually if one draws imaginary lines in the shape of a tic tac toe board on the page. The key is the 9 square design just as seen in print journalism. This way the webmaster can use multiple squares horizontally or vertically. In addition, HTML is the basic language and should be the first place these students start, so that when they begin looking at web developing software, they know how to get under the hood. After all, I would expect the web designer to be to web design as the auto mechanic is to NASCAR. Web software is the death knell, IMHO, to any web design class. Just as frozen or can foods is a no no in cooking class.

What was not reassuring to me as I read these two articles was that these articles highlighted two aspects of technology some of us have been speaking and writing about for years. We practitioners of technology in the classroom are all too well aware of what the panel discovered and the power of HTML.

A third article, online, spoke about how students from Georgia, schooled Congress on the effective use of tech in their classes. What would be really cool was if Congress got it and realized if those students had webpages and digitized portfolios, this could have been done remotely. It sure beats the usual parade of superintendents and educational leaders so far from the front lines and so bereft of educational savvy. Why are we in this current educational quagmire? The leaders are without and they have demonstrated this for years. NCLB is the proof. The biggest tech news out of Congress is their use of Twitter. How sad. Will Duncan be any different?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

National Standards - Where's the Pedagogy?

I can't express how disappointed I was to hear that at the recent Governor's meeting, the NGA, they are considering National Standards. What added to the insult was that they were considering going outside to use the international tests to inform them about these national standards. Schools in the USA are different from all schools in other countries. We require all of our children be in school till the age of 16. This is not so in other countries.

When former President George H W Bush convened the governors for a session on education headed by then Governor Clinton and this topic came up, I wrote on their webpage a question asking, "Whose Standards?" The same question is appropriate today. We know that book publishers create two editions of their textbooks, one for 49 states and one edition for Texas. So as we hear the governors about to generate national standards, how will this work, when Texas brings its own agenda and power to the table and how will this work with the needs of other states. This has all the trappings of a boondoggle.

The running of schools is a local matter not a federal one and yet the federal government has spent lots of time in the past 50 years trying to usurp the states. Are we seeing the nationalism of schools under Obama? I sure hope not. I should hope that Arne Duncan would put together a conference on education that is heavily populated by teachers, something no former administration has done when education is discussed on a policy level. Please understand that educational policy is the equal combination of politics and pedagogy. Where's the Pedagogy, Secretary Duncan?

I would hope that Duncan would consider something different from what has been tried and has failed to materialize anything worthy of the USA. We are a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people. I would hope that he would engage the people in this process and I bet we could create a very useful and powerful educational agenda for the USA. We study history so that we don't repeat the mistakes, Secretary Duncan.

Monday, March 2, 2009

No School!!

What a rare treat in NYC, a SNOW DAY!!!

Some Pictures

A Movie