Sunday, December 14, 2008

Now blogging on a Windows lappie


I looked at the MSI Wind and Asus 1000 with every intention of installing OSX. But in the end, I decided to go for a full-size craptop and install Ubuntu Linux. But now... after running Vista for a few weeks... I am no longer interested in my Ubuntu partition! How did this happen???

It all started about a month ago. When my MacBook display had a high-speed collision with the living room floor. Now blackie is hooked up to life support (a 19" monitor for use at work).

Then the Walmart sold me a Compaq for $299. And Best Buy offered an identical HP G50(though upgraded with Intel core 2 duo) for $279. The last deal even included a free printer. Thanks Black Friday.

I customized the HP and used PING to restore everything onto the Compaq. Now I have a matched set for me and the missus. And a funny thing happened... I decided that I like Vista better than Ubuntu.

Occasionally, I get serious Unix withdrawals but the Vista UI is more polished and friendly than Ubuntu. Of course I still use Mozilla & Open Office software and that made the Vista transition easier. And I can't imagine what I'd do without Launchy and Rocketdock.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Movie clips too violent for school?

I have shown parts of R-rated films in class but have never ventured to show a full-length "R" movie.  Is that common sense or just a prudish overreaction to sex, foul-language, and violence?

/really hoping I'm not a prude

Elmbrook schools consider restrictions on R-rated films in classrooms - JSOnline
A Brookfield East High School history teacher's notice to parents that he might show clips or full lengths of those R-rated films - as well as "Glory" and "Mississippi Burning" - has drawn protests from two families who say R-rated movies have no place in school.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Teens getting dumber?

It's official - Teens are getting dumber - ParentDish
The study reviewed test scores of 800 thirteen- and fourteen-year-olds and compared them with similar tests of teens from 1976, a generation ago. The results? In one test, only one in ten of the current teens tested with top scores, down from one in four twenty years ago. In another, only one in twenty reached the top score compared to one in five from the 1976 batch. Professor Michael Shayer, who lead the study, believes the educational focus on testing (rather than learning) is at least partially to blame. Focusing on testing leaves little time for teaching development skills such as those required in the tests that were part of the study.

Primarily, however, Shayer believes that television and video games are responsible for the decline. Participating in these "non" activities leads to a lack of being involved in other things such as playing with gadgets and tools which develop higher level thinking. The UK education system has responded that measures were being taken to "ease the burden" of testing. According to the article in the Mail Online, the UK government had also scrapped the SATs for fourteen-year-olds.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Still need a majority to win...

Forget Red vs. Blue -- It's the Educated vs. People Easily Fooled by Propaganda | Media and Technology | AlterNet
Millions of Americans live in a non-reality-based belief system informed by childish clich├ęs - they can barely differentiate between lies and truth.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Rhee on unions

New York Times: A School Chief Takes On Tenure, Stirring a Fight
Tenure is the holy grail of teacher unions,” she said, “but has no educational value for kids; it only benefits adults. If we can put veteran teachers who have tenure in a position where they don’t have it, that would help us to radically increase our teacher quality. And maybe other districts would try it, too.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Time for the U.S. to wage a unilateral war on world hunger

ecosalon :: the green gathering :: Could Just 4 of the Wall Street Bailout End World Hunger
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) stated that it would only take $30 billion a year to launch the necessary agricultural programs to completely solve global food insecurity. (Severe hunger afflicts 862 million people annually.)

$30 billion sounds like a lot of money, but considering we've just bailed out Wall Street to the tune of nearly a trillion, it's trifling. After I did a little digging, all I could think was...really? $30 billion is all we need to end world hunger? That's it? I thought such a major goal would require some unreachable, vast sum. Here are six things I learned we're doing with that money instead.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Pregant? Put down the coffee and soda pop.

Even a little caffeine may harm fetus, study finds | Reuters
Women who drank one to two cups of coffee daily, or between 100-199 milligrams, had a 20 percent increased risk of having a baby of low birth weight, the study found. This was compared to women who consumed less than 100 milligrams daily.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Record high temperatures in my backyard

Arctic temperatures at record highs, report says - USATODAY.com
"Changes in the Arctic show a domino effect from multiple causes more clearly than in other regions," said James Overland, an oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle. "It's a sensitive system and often reflects changes in relatively fast and dramatic ways."

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Fish in a barrel

Friedman: Palin's kind of patriotism - International Herald Tribune
Criticizing Sarah Palin is truly shooting fish in a barrel. But given the huge attention she is getting, you can't just ignore what she has to say. And there was one thing she said in the debate with Joe Biden that really sticks in my craw. It was when she turned to Biden and declared: "You recently said paying taxes is patriotic. In middle-class America, where I have been all my life, that is not considered patriotic."

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sleeping in

Should kids sleep in parents' bed? - ParentDish
Having kids in the bed disrupts our sleep and God knows that parents with five kids need their sleep. On the other hand, we know that this stage is limited (our nine year-old no longer comes to our bed at night ) and that we will one day pine for the days when our kids loved to crawl in our bed and cuddle.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Free internet - nationwide!

FCC Clears Free National Internet Plan | Epicenter from Wired.com
The FCC plans to auction off a chunk of airwaves to a carrier who will set aside some of the space for free national Internet access. The costs will be offset by advertising and a subscription-based plan for consumers willing to pay for faster access.
...
The decision is a blow to the telecoms, as the FCC could begin
auctioning off the airwaves as soon as the first quarter of 2009. The
proposed network would have to reach 50 percent of the U.S. population
in four years and 95 percent within a decade.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Mammalian diversity declining

1 in 4 mammals faces extinction, scientists say - USATODAY.com
The report due Friday in the journal Science says that of the world's 5,487 mammal species, at least one in four land species and one in three marine species face extinction in the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

To do: buy myself a pay raise

In Most School Districts, the Doctor Is in Charge, but Some Question Degree
Nationally, the percentage of superintendents who hold an education-related PhD or the education doctorate known as an EdD rose from 36 percent in 1992 to about 51 percent in 2006, according to the American Association of School Administrators. An exception to this trend in the Washington area is D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, who holds a master's degree in public policy.

Superintendents and many academics say the doctoral programs teach vital management and statistical skills while providing an intellectual challenge. But critics say the programs mostly provide financial rewards -- for the universities that collect tuition and for educators who pick up a credential that helps them earn a higher salary and a "doctor" title.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Oh noes! I can't haz a spelling test!?

Learning spelling lists too 'distressing' for kids: UK school - World
"We have taken the decision to stop spelling as homework as it is felt that although children may learn them perfectly at home they are often unable to use them in their daily written work.

"Also many children find this activity unnecessarily distressing."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Internet use is OK during Australian exams

Top News - Digital debate: Prepare kids for exams or life?
Students at Presbyterian Ladies College (PLC), a private girls' school in Sydney, Australia, are participating in a pilot project in which they can use cell phones, the internet, and can even call a friend or relative to help them with an exam question.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Learning environments make a difference in math

Girls love math, too!  Please be sure to praise them for it.

A recent report
... found that while girls can be just as talented as boys at mathematics, some are driven from the field because they are teased, ostracized or simply neglected.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Buzz, Buzz.

Bees Can Count - Yahoo! News
Honeybees are clever little creatures. They can form abstract concepts, such as symmetry versus asymmetry, and they use symbolic language - the celebrated waggle dance - to direct their hivemates to flower patches. New reports suggest that they can also communicate across species, and can count - up to a point.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Blu-Ray? How about Bug-Ray?

News in Science - DVD uses bug protein to store data - 07/07/2006
DVDs coated with a layer of protein could one day hold so much information that storing data on your computer hard drive will be obsolete, says a US-based researcher.

Monday, September 29, 2008

An entire generation will have no frame of reference for Dan Aykroyd's character in Trading Places

Starting a New Era at Goldman and Morgan - NYTimes.com
The transformation of Wall Street picked up pace on Monday as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, the last big independent investment banks, moved to restructure into larger, less risk-taking organizations that will be subject to far greater regulation by the Federal Reserve.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

No purses in class.

Indiana school bans purses in the classroom - ParentDish
In an effort to keep kids as safe as possible, many schools have banned backpacks in the classroom, forcing students to keep them in their lockers instead. But an Indiana high school is taking that idea one step further, telling female students that they can't carry their purses either. And that new rule has girls and parents alike upset.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Dropout statistics

Visit LeaderTalk: Dropped Out or Pushed Out? to get the citation sources for each statistic.
Every nine seconds a student becomes a drop-out [1].

Of those who graduate from high school, the completion rate is 72% for females and 64% for males [2].

Among ethnic groups: African-Americans have a 50% graduation rate; Latinos - 53%; Asian/Pacific Islanders - 77%; and Whites - 75% [3].

Students from low-income families drop-out at six times the rate of higher-income families [4].

75% of inmates in state prisons are drop-outs. 59% of inmates in Federal prisons are drop-outs [5].

55% of drop-outs are employed [6].

The U.S. death rate for people with less than 12 years of education is 2.5 times higher than those with 13 or more years of education [7].

The cost to the public for crime and welfare involving drop-outs is $24 BILLION annually [8].

There are 3.5 million drop-outs between the ages of 16 - 25 [9].

Total combined loss of income and taxes in one year due to drop-outs equals $192 BILLION (1.6% of the Gross Domestic Product) [10].

Arguments about our pluralistic attempt to educate all children notwithstanding - graduations rates around the world include the following: Denmark - 96%; Japan - 93%; Poland - 92%; Italy 79%; and the U.S. - 70% [11].

Friday, September 26, 2008

Smithsonian online coming soon - cool!

Smithsonian will digitize its full collection - USATODAY.com
The Smithsonian Institution will work to digitize its collections to make science, history and cultural artifacts accessible online and dramatically expand its outreach to schools, the museum complex's new chief said Monday.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Methane - 20 times more potent than CO2

Melting Arctic Permafrost Is Releasing a Global Warming Timebomb | Environment | AlterNet
The first evidence that millions of tons of a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide is being released into the atmosphere from beneath the Arctic seabed has been discovered by scientists.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Tax Plans: Obama vs. McCain

Take a look at the graphics below and notice the differences at the top and bottom income levels.

At first glance, you see that the Obama plan benefits the most Americans. The number of taxpayers who get a tax break is greatest with the Obama plan.

On the other hand, McCain proposes huge tax breaks for the wealthy. This is just more of the same Republican trickle-down economics which led to skyrocketing national deficits and failed to balance the budget in the Reagan and Bush administrations.

McCain (net worth 21-45 million) gives ultra-rich folks the greatest tax breaks while cutting taxes on the poorest Americans by less than one-fifth of one percent. Obama (net worth less than 1 million) only raises taxes on folks who make over $600,000 per year.

Are you reading my blog and making over 600K? If so, that puts you in the top 1% of American taxpayers!!! You top 1% have been getting huge tax breaks for years and Obama's plan simply asks you to pay your fair share.

Are you reading my blog and making less than $110,000 per year? Probably, because that is well over 60% of American taxpayers. You will get more tax relief with Obama's plan.

Don't be distracted by campaign rhetoric, the numbers are clear. Obama has the only rational tax plan to stimulate our economy and balance the budget.

TaxProf Blog: Comparison of the McCain and Obama Tax Plans
The Obama tax plan would make the tax system significantly more progressive by providing large tax breaks to those at the bottom of the income scale and raising taxes significantly on upper-income earners. The McCain tax plan would make the tax system more regressive, even compared with a system in which the 2001–06 tax cuts are made permanent.



The Washington Post ran a story using this data and published this chart:


And CNN breaks it down this way:
McCain: The average taxpayer in every income group would see a lower tax bill, but high-income taxpayers would benefit more than everyone else.

Obama: High-income taxpayers would pay more in taxes, while everyone else's tax bill would be reduced. Those who benefit the most - in terms of reducing their taxes as a percentage of after-tax income - are in the lowest income groups.

Sarah Palin and Charlie Gibson, a triumph of ignorance!

Op-Ed Columnist - She’s Not Ready - Op-Ed - NYTimes.com
While watching the Sarah Palin interview with Charlie Gibson Thursday night, and the coverage of the Palin phenomenon in general, I’ve gotten the scary feeling, for the first time in my life, that dimwittedness is not just on the march in the U.S., but that it might actually prevail.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Accountability and learning goals

Teachers must communicate the learning objectives every day. This includes the big ideas and essential questions as well as daily objectives.

My focus on prepping students for Alaska's graduation exam in mathematics is identifying and targeting their areas of need.  For the bulk of individualized instruction, I am using Carnegie's Cognitive Tutor (Pre-Algebra) on computers.  Several students use consumable workbooks instead of the computer math program.

This year, I've also incorporated a daily skill lesson focused on computation and solving word-problems.  My skill lessons follow the Video Tutor series: students work the problems and then watch the video to see the step-by-step solution.

This routine is working well so far for most of my students.  But I struggle to identify daily objectives for each student because they are all working on a variety of concepts.

My routine includes stating the Video Tutor objective but falls short of the mark when it comes to the individualized instruction goals.  I try to state the learning objectives as I circulate through the class and provide assistance.

I'll be honest... stating individual learning objectives 50 times per day is wearing me out.  I need to be more consistent and diligent about getting to every student, every day.  Every day.

Kevin Riley has a few thoughts on how to help students "color in the
dots".  His post caught my attention because his school sounds at least as 'alternative' as mine.  And I gotta' give some love to an administrator who knows that quality instruction starts with clearly stated objectives.

LeaderTalk: PUZZLE FIT THE THE PIECES...OF TOGETHER
So Internal accountability, at least for my school, requires this:

• Virtually every student, every teacher, every parent must be able to articulate the essential, non-negotiable standards and competencies that must be mastered in order to perform 'at grade level' in May;
• The formative data from MAPS must be clearly understood by each student so that they know exactly where they are along the continuum of mastery as the year goes on-- and even more importantly-- so that they know what they need from their teacher ( the very definition of engaged, independent, self-reflective students!)
• Every lesson must be tightly designed so that children always know the purpose and learning goals for that lesson;
• Every lesson must feature research-based instructional strategies that simultaneously target and differentiate for every learner... at whatever level they may be along the continuum (see: Gradual Release of Responsibility!!!);
• Teachers must be able to use all evidence available-- MAPS data, student work samples, etc. -- to make strategic and on-going adjustments for each child.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Lies, Myths and Flip-Flops

McCain and Palin's Top 20 Lies, Myths and Flip-Flops | | AlterNet
here is a quick, short and cited list of the top 20 lies, myths and flip-flops that have come from the McCain/ Palin ticket so far

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Conventional discourse

Words They Used - 2008 Political Conventions - Interactive Graphic - NYTimes.com
This is interesting. Challengers usually point out the mistakes of the incumbent party so you would expect to see some talk of Bush/McCain/Iraq by the Democrats. Similarly, you wouldn't expect Republicans to associate themselves with such an unpopular president and his failed foreign policy.


What surprised me is that Republicans have so thoroughly distanced themselves from using the words 'health care', 'jobs', 'energy' and 'economy'. I mean, wow...

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sarah Palin is not a scientist. Not even close.

I don't want Sarah Palin making policy on scientific research. Or casting the tie-breaking Senate vote on environmental issues.

Heck, I wouldn't even want her teaching my kids first-grade science class.

Reason #1 (via Newsmax)
Newsmax: What is your take on global warming and how is it affecting our country?

Palin: A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location. I'm not one though who would attribute it to being man-made.
Palin thinks global warming is not man-made. WTF?! That is simply ignorant.

No scientist will debate that humans have caused rising carbon-dioxide levels and therefore increased mean annual temperatures worldwide. It is simply a fact.

I can only assume that she is clinging to the Bush doctrine (More Oil = Good Policy) because it is politically expedient in Alaska.

Or else she needs to have serious environmental conversation with someone - anyone - at the University of Alaska Geophysical Institute.

Governor, if you are reading this, go ahead and email any professor at your state university. I guarantee it will be illuminating.

Reason #2 (via adn.com)
Republican Sarah Palin said she thinks creationism should be taught alongside evolution in the state's public classrooms.

Palin was answering a question from the moderator near the conclusion of Wednesday night's televised debate on KAKM Channel 7 when she said, "Teach both. You know, don't be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important, and it's so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both."

So my Governor and Republican VP candidate thinks creationism deserves a place in my classroom. Umm, well... got an ethical problem here, boss. I would never present any mythological version of creation as a scientific fact.

To be fair, Palin does not advocate creationism as a mandated part of our state science curriculum. She "only" wants to allow the debate in the classroom.

So we can fairly say that she is not an off-the-wall-lunatic. She is "only" a scientifically-misinformed individual who is capable of pandering to religious voters.

Somehow, that doesn't make me feel much better.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

When cheerleading is not okay at school.

Some schools are banning cartwheels and others take issue with the short skirts.

I can only imagine what my daughter would say...

I can do a running round-off back-handspring with my eyes closed and, like, now you say cartwheels are too dangerous?!

All I can say is, like, whatever!

And how can do a Hurdler, Herky or Double Hook jump with a long skirt?! And I'm wearing spanks - so there!

Ruth Rosen on Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin and Feminists for Life | Reproductive Justice and Gender | AlterNet
Sarah Palin is the inexperienced woman Sen. John McCain has chosen as his running mate, hoping that she will attract the vital female vote.. It's the worst kind of affirmative action, choosing a person he barely knows, who is completely unprepared to assume any national office. It's like nominating Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court. It's all about ideology and not about competence.

To put it bluntly, Sarah Palin is no Hillary Clinton. Nor does she have the vision and brilliance of Barack Obama. This is an incredible insult to most American women. Just how stupid does he think we are?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Most Insightful Palin-as-VP Analysis I've Seen Today

Nicklas Johnson · morons.org - Palin?!
This pick completely mystifies me. Not only does she make McCain look even older by virtue of him looking old enough to be her father, but she undercuts the core message of McCain's candidacy, that Obama is not experienced enough to be President. If McCain thinks experience is so important, why would he choose for Vice President -- a job just one heartbeat away from the Presidency -- someone who has only been Governor of a small state for less than two years? In addition, the person Palin will have to compete with on the campaign trail in the next few months is Joe Biden. Joe Biden will shred her in the VP debate, and after watching her acceptance speech, I'm confident there is no way she could match Biden, let alone Obama, rhetorically on the stump.

Tracking bracelets for truant youth

School skippers forced to wear tracking bracelets - ParentDish
A new program designed to crack down on truancy will allow the Bexar County courts to fit habitual school-skippers with ankle bracelets outfitted with Global Positioning Systems. The bracelets will be worn at all times and will allow authorities to track the student's whereabouts twenty-four hours a day.


Wow. I've heard about RFID chips in student ID badges, but this takes it to a whole new level. I'm guessing that this will be reserved for habitual truants. And the court system will be making some tough decisions when it comes time to draw the line on which students get the tracking bracelets. What exactly is a "habitual school-skipper"?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Rhee: I'll pay students up to $100 per month

D.C. Tries Cash as a Motivator In School - washingtonpost.com
Beginning in October, 3,000 students at 14 middle schools will be eligible to earn up to 50 points per month and be paid $2 per point for attending class regularly and on time, turning in homework, displaying manners and earning high marks.


This is definitely an out-of-the-box idea. I'll be interested to see what happens.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Inspiration: good deeds

Homeless families have a street-wise 'Mom': Alaska News | adn.com
A street-wise advocate for children living with their parents in cars and motels and campgrounds, Neeson's a renaissance caseworker, a professional puller of strings, a one-woman social program called Beyond Shelters.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Can't find any scientists to challenge

Scientists dig into tundra's effect on warming: Alaska News | adn.com
"But the rate of change is alarming," he said. "Species can't adapt or keep up in an evolutionary sense because everything is happening so fast."

It's futile to engage polar researchers like him on whether the planet is warming naturally or if mankind is to blame. You might as well challenge these biologists on evolution.

This quote is interesting to me because it illustrates an important fact. There is no scientific controversy on global warming. (Or evolution.)

Why? Because all scientists agree... the facts support global warming. (And evolution.)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Multi-ethnic checkboxes needed here

I make it a point to introduce my family as mixed-race. I have always been Irish AND Italian. My wife has always been Inupiaq. So my children are Irish AND Italian AND Inupiaq.

Families are strange things. We identify ourselves by culture and race. But culture is very different from ethnicity/race.

I think of my family as genetic and cultural vegetable soup. Take some carrots, onion, garlic, and potatoes. Next you throw in celery, corn, green beans and tomatoes. Spice it with lemon-pepper, salt and chicken broth.

What do you get? It is a mixture that tastes different than any of the individual ingredients.

But strangers who meet my kids generally approach them as "native" or "half-native". (It can be a point of interest or pity on their part.)

On the surface, my kids are identifiable as multi-ethnic. Especially when they get dark brown in the summer. They look like gingerbread with a ginger father. And so they "see themselves in others' eyes" as multi-ethnic.

Very-very-rarely someone will treat my kids as "white". That usually happens to my daughter when she starts using 50-cent words like exhilaration and vigorous to describe why she likes cheerleading.

The perception of adults is reflected back from adult to child. I can see the influence on my kids expectation of themselves.

What am I'm trying to say? Just that other peoples' perception does make a difference to the way that children view themselves.

Therefore, schools (and parents) must be very careful to acknowledge and value every child - regardless of race. Take this case in point:

Child's school enrollment isn't black or white - ParentDish
In the section where it asked what race/ethnic group the child belonged to, none of the available options fit 10-year-old Kenny. Lovelace was asked to choose from Asian/Pacific Islander, Black not Hispanic, Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska native, or White not Hispanic. Since Kenny is biracial with one white parent and one black, Lovelace checked both Black and White boxes.

That didn't go over well with the secretary at the Kenosha Unified School District's Educational Support Center. "She handed the form back to me and said I had to pick one, otherwise, someone would pick his race for me," Lovelace said. District policy dictates that if the race of the child is not indicated by the person filling out the form, an "observer identification" must be made. By that logic, Kenny Lovelace looks white, so he is white.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Mother on Fire

Interview with Sandra Tsing Loh, "Mother on Fire" | Salon Life
For any parent who has ever worried that her children will end up uneducated and deprived of art and music because she has chosen a career in the creative fields rather than, say, podiatric surgery, for any parent who has ever dissolved in tears after being ignored by the self-important secretary behind the desk at her corner public school, for any parent who has ever felt the searing pain of unrequited love after touring a fancy private school or suffered an existential crisis while considering a move to the suburbs, "Mother on Fire" will function as much-needed salve -- and inspiration. Because if public school is the urban middle class's tragic fate, it is also one that can end in a catharsis. And after we follow Loh on her journey -- through fluorescent-lit schools, complicated female friendships, the elaborate dances of decades-old marriages -- we emerge euphoric, flush with community spirit and able to laugh at our own insanity.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Children caught in the housing foreclosure crunch

Foreclosures and the schools via creative loafing:
You can add another casualty to the mess created by subprime mortgage lending. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools are projecting the system could see more than 3,000 homeless children when schools open this month -- a 17 percent increase since June.

Laurie Schwartz, development director with A Child's Place, a nonprofit that works closely with CMS, said officials counted 2,493 homeless children enrolled in the school system two months ago. That's a 13 percent increase from June 2007, and a 35 percent increase from the June prior.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Dyslexia prevention

Pre-school Age Exercises Can Prevent Dyslexia, New Research Shows
According to Lyytinen, the predictors of reading and writing difficulties are evident primarily in two contexts: on the one hand as a delayed ability to perceive and mentally process the subtleties of a person’s voice, on the other hand as a sluggishness in naming familiar, visually presented objects.


This is good news and underscores the importance of learning games and activities for pre-school kids. At least until gene therapy produces a cure for dyslexia.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

McCain on Russia-Georgia

Found this story on The Huffington Post.

To sum up, McCain held a press conference on the Russia-Georgia conflict and repeated the Bush-Cheney doctrine of condemning the Russians.

Forget for a minute that McCain is the one stuck in 20th century, cold-war-mentality, empire-of-democracy politics. He actually said, "In the 21st century, nations don't invade other nations."

ah...hahahaha

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

War on Drugs

Should Barack Obama and Cindy McCain be in Jail? | Rights and Liberties | AlterNet
On January 20th 2009, either the president of the United States will be a man who used to snort coke to ease his blues, or the First Lady will be a former drug addict who stole from charity to get her next fix.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

DNA, dopamine, addiction, and learning

What Your Child's DNA Can Tell You About Parenting | Newsweek Culture | Newsweek.com
In about 30 percent, the coils of their DNA carry a glitch, one that leaves their brains with few dopamine receptors, molecules that act as docking ports for one of the neurochemicals that carry our thoughts and emotions. A paucity of dopamine receptors is linked to an inability to avoid self-destructive behavior such as illicit drug use. But the effects spill beyond such extremes. Children with the genetic variant are unable to learn from mistakes. No matter how many tests they blow by partying the night before, the lesson just doesn't sink in.

Monday, August 11, 2008

NYC gets an education in no-bid contracts

ED. DEPT. 'NO BID' MESS - New York Post
The city Department of Education paid nearly $10 million to a nonprofit group to train Big Apple teachers to "demystify" their students - but the group trained less than one-fifth of the teachers planned

That's a big oops. But wait 'til you find out who is in charge of the nonprofit group.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Pipeline bomber sentenced

Alfred Reumayr plotted a pipeline blast (ADN):
A Canadian man was sentenced Thursday to 13 years in prison for plotting to blow up the trans-Alaska oil pipeline and get rich off the resulting disruptions to the oil supply.

In other news... Bush & Cheney plot to kill Saddam Hussein and get rich off the resulting disruptions to the oil supply... 100,000 dead so far (conservative estimate) and no trial.

Guess we have to wait until Bush & Cheney are out of office so they can't issue pardons to each other. But don't hold your breath.

Habbush letter - more evidence for Dick Cheney's trial

The Habbush letter is in the news again, thanks to Ron Suskind's new book The Way of the World.

Simply put, the Habbush letter was a forgery designed to connect Saddam Hussein with al-Qaeda and 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta. William Saffire in The New York Times and The Telegraph in the UK were completely deceived and reported the letter as authentic back in 2003. The contents of the letter were used by Dick Cheney and others to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Juan Cole speculates that the letter was designed to cast doubt on Ambassador Joe Wilson's revelation that Saddam did not buy yellowcake uranium from Niger. (And we all remember what else the White House did to discredit Wilson, don't we ?)

Ron Suskind alleges in his book that the Habbush forgery was directly ordered by the White House and carried out by CIA officials. Furthermore, Suskind wrote that Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti (Habbush) was secretly resettled in Jordan by the CIA.

Former CIA officer Phillip Giraldi reported an "extremely reliable and well placed source in the intelligence community" confirmed much of Suskind's allegations. Giraldi's source confirmed that Dick Cheney was behind the forgery but used the Office of Special Plans, not the CIA, to do the job.

I'll leave you with some relevant bits of Ron Suskind's interview with the CIA's Rob Richer as they discussed the Habbush letter. My only conclusion is that Cheney somehow directed the forgery with Scooter Libby's help.

Since Cheney and Libby got away with discrediting our own Ambassador and illegally revealing the name of a covert CIA operative, I'll assume they did the same with the Habbush letter...

Ron Suskind: The Way of the World Transcripts
Rob: No, no, no. What I remember is George saying, 'we got this from'--basically, from what George said was 'downtown.'

Ron: Which is the White House?

Rob: Yes. But he did not--in my memory--never said president, vice president, or NSC. Okay? But now--he may have hinted--just by the way he said it, it would have--cause almost all that stuff came from one place only: Scooter Libby and the shop around the vice president.

Ron: Yeah, right.

Rob: But he didn't say that specifically. I would naturally--I would probably stand on my, basically, my reputation and say it came from the vice president.

Ron: Right, I'm with you, I'm with you. But there wasn't anything in the writing that you remember saying the vice president.

Rob: Nope.

Ron: It just had the White House stationery.

Rob: Exactly right.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Tasers in school

Would tasers for school security be a good idea in your neighborhood?
The Uniontown Area School Board, as well as concerned citizens and parents, had an opportunity Wednesday to learn about Tasers that will be proposed in the school district and share their opinions on the subject.

FYI: Bush Alaska Fuel Prices

From ADN: Villagers shudder at fuel price increases
A gallon of unleaded gasoline: $10. Heating fuel: $9.10 a gallon. Electricity: $1.17 per kilowatt hour - 11 times the national average.

Some heavily taxed European nation or a time in the future when global fossil fuels have grown dangerously sparse?

Try right now in the most remote villages of America's 49th state.

...


Alaskans in rural areas will spend 40 percent of their annual income on energy this winter compared with 4 percent for the average Alaska household, according to a University of Alaska Anchorage study published in May.

Pot asks kettle to stop boiling - or something like that

Via Reuters U.S. urges Russia to pull forces out of Georgia:
The United States told Russia on Friday to withdraw its forces from U.S. ally Georgia, stop its air attacks and respect Georgia's territorial integrity, following fighting in the breakaway region of South Ossetia.


Now the USA thinks it is a bad idea to foment insurrection and ultimately invade an oil-rich country for no reason?

I'm just sayin'...

Friday, August 8, 2008

Arctic Map Plots New Gold Rush



On Science Daily:
Researchers at Durham University have drawn up the first ever 'Arctic Map' to show the disputed territories that states might lay claim to in the future.

Getting robbed by the people we hired

From Thomas Frank on AlterNet:
Mass firing of federal prosecutors; bribing of newspaper columnists; pallets of shrink-wrapped cash "misplaced" in Iraq; inexperienced kids running the Baghdad stock exchange; the discovery that many of Alaska's leading politicians are apparently on the take -- our heads swim. We climb to the rooftop, but we cannot find the heights of irony from which we might laugh off the blend of thug and Pharisee that was Tom DeLay -- or dispel the nauseating suspicion, quickly becoming a certainty, that the government of our nation deliberately fibbed us into a pointless, catastrophic war.


Sidney Blumenthal thinks that Republicans have seen enough:
Without the crackup of the conservative movement and the fragmentation of the Republican primary field, McCain would not have had his opening. His candidacy is as much a manifestation of the shattering of the Republican phalanx as Obama's. Whatever the outcome of their contest, the party as it was is over.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Fiscal Policy


Via Digg. Any questions?

IHS loses $6 mill worth of equipment in Alaska

A recent report declares:
From 1999 through 2005, IHS did not follow required procedures to document the transfer of property from IHS to the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, resulting in an unsuccessful 5-year attempt by IHS to reconcile the inventory

ANTHC says that they can account for $7 million in property. It is not accused of mismanagement.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Core Commitments

Change *We* Can Believe In
Add your name to this Open Letter calling on Barack Obama to stand firm on the principles he so compellingly articulated in the primary campaign.

Congressional subpoena doesn't mean what you think it means, either.

Last month, I wrote about how Karl Rove was issued a congressional subpoena but failed to appear. This month Dr. Kaye Whitley, Director of Sexual Assault and Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) failed to show at a Congressional hearing despite being subpoenaed. Two examples of the Executive Branch refusing to play by the checks and balances rule.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

I don't think it means what you think it means.

Translateservererror

As linuxwrangler explained on Slashdot:
Preparing for English-speaking visitors, a restaurant in China recently ran its name through an online translator, took the result, then purchased and mounted a large sign displaying the English version of their name: Translate Server Error.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Tobacco-free college campuses



MC-Rockville now has a strict no tobacco policy.
"Almost certainly within five years, virtually all college campuses will be smoke-free," said John Banzhaf, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University

I attended Montgomery College for two years and completed almost 60 core-class credits. I transferred them all to UM College Park, which still allows students to light up. Has your alma mater gone smoke-free or tobacco-free?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Police and Third Grade Reading Scores

"You can predict the number of prison inmates based on third grade reading scores." I've heard that statement from educators and reading specialists. It has been been published in The New York Times.

Police in the UK are even funding anger management lessons for children as young as 8. But surely states don't build prisons based on third grade reading scores alone.

I began to wonder what factors accurately reflect current prison populations. I wanted some actual data on prisons and school success. Is there really an historical precedent for low-performing students ending up in jail?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is yes, and...

Why Are So Many Americans in Prison?
by Glenn C. Loury opened my eyes to a wider problem. It goes something like this: socially disadvantaged -> poor school grades -> jail. This correlation goes way beyond a statistical anomaly.
Crime rates peaked in 1992 and have dropped sharply since. Even as crime rates fell, however, imprisonment rates remained high and continued their upward march.


The decreased crime rates are great news. But it represents a fundamental shift in the nature of our justice system towards more incarceration and longer jail time (i.e., punitive measures). The increased 'punitiveness' has come with some terrible, long-term consequences for society.

Take a look at some quotes:
• On average, state inmates have fewer than 11 years of schooling. They are also vastly disproportionately black and brown.

• Between 1980 and 2001, there was no real change in the chances of being arrested in response to a complaint: the rate was just under 50 percent. But the likelihood that an arrest would result in imprisonment more than doubled, from 13 to 28 percent.

• While three out of 200 young whites were incarcerated in 2000, the rate for young blacks was one in nine. A black male resident of the state of California is more likely to go to a state prison than a state college.

• Among black male high-school dropouts aged 20 to 40, a third were locked up on any given day in 2000

• nearly 60 percent of black male dropouts born between 1965 and 1969 were sent to prison on a felony conviction at least once before they reached the age of 35.


Glenn Loury makes an analytical argument that the white majority middle-class decided to create
a system of suffering, rooted in state violence, meted out at our request. We had choices and we decided to be more punitive. Our society—the society we have made—creates criminogenic conditions in our sprawling urban ghettos, and then acts out rituals of punishment against them as some awful form of human sacrifice.


And again,
a central reality of our time is the fact that there has opened a wide racial gap in the acquisition of cognitive skills, the extent of law-abidingness, the stability of family relations, the attachment to the work force, and the like. This disparity in human development is, as a historical matter, rooted in political, economic, social, and cultural factors peculiar to this society and reflective of its unlovely racial history: it is a societal, not communal or personal, achievement.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Young and Homeless

Kids age out of foster care to the streets: Life | adn.com
Nearly 38 percent of foster care alumni in Alaska said they were homeless at some point after leaving their foster homes, according to a 2005 study from the UAA School of Social Work -- much higher than the 12 to 25 percent for foster care alumni in other states.
Leaving foster care is an uncertain time for youth who are struggling through their coming-of-age years without a stable family. Add the pressure of graduating from high school and the need for employment... this can be the perfect storm.

Moving is an acute life stress for even the best-prepared and well-adjusted teens. (For the record, I was well-prepared by a loving family. No foster care.)

I left home at age 18, lived in at least 4 different apartments by age 20, moved back in with mom for a few months, and shared a house with friends for about a year. All the while, I worked full-time and paid my own college tuition.

With a B.S. and $7,000 saved up, I drove to Alaska. Enrolling in grad school cost $5K but I could get a job, right?

Wrong! Unable to find work in Fairbanks, I slept in a tent (or the UAF library) from June until late October. Yeah, the ground froze, snow fell, and I got rousted by police more than once for sleeping in my '69 Beetle. You gotta wear every stitch of clothing and slide into a sleeping bag to make it through an October night in Fairbanks.

This is the part in the story where I say thanks Paul. That little house out on mile 14 Chena Hot Springs Road saved me from a frozen a**. I lost touch after Teller but if you read this, please email. Cold fizzy drinks are on me.

Well, I lost 15 pounds in a couple months but was able to make it. January rolled around and I was still out of a job. Eating was a luxury that dwindled my bank account to just a few hundred bucks.

Fortunately my student teaching assignment came with free housing and the lunch ladies were very nice to me. What luck.

I skipped over most of the really good parts of this story but you get the idea. Bouncing around for the better part of 6 years and sometimes homeless.

But never desperate. Never hopeless. I always had the goal of a college degree and the confidence that I would survive and prosper.

The college goal, the self-confidence, the ability to learn, and the adaptability came from a loving family. If foster care kids get that much, then they will be okay.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Coming Soon: Volcano Energy For Sale

Alaska Opts for Underground Energy - TFOT
Officials are already set to begin auctioning off exploration rights - the first volcano to be tapped for geothermal power is Mount Spurr, a 3.4-km tall snowcapped stratovolcano in the Aleutian Volcanic Arc of Alaska.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Computer use, low math achievement, and digital equity

My school district uses Carnegie Learning software for math remediation and credit recovery. The State of Alaska even purchased a state-wide license for Carnegie's Algebra I curriculum.

I'm a good company man and I'll use whatever software my district provides. In the past 10 years, I've used Accelerated Math, Larson Math, Plato, and Apex.

As a classroom teacher, I get a close-up view of computer-based math learning programs. But I don't often get the state-wide and nationwide perspective. That's where Educational Insanity comes in.

Jon Becker ran series of articles that explored NAEP Data on computer use, race, and math test scores. Here's what he found.

From Computer use and (lower?) math achievement:
This is 4th graders, 2007, and, yes…the score for the group of students who report daily or almost daily use of computers at school for math is (statistically significantly) lower than all of the other groups.

From Computer use and math achievement (part deux) regarding 8th grade results:
The group of students who never or hardly ever use computers score significantly higher than the other groups, across all applications.

From Drill & Kill and Digital Equity:
Overall, African-American students are much more likely to use computers to practice or drill on math facts than White students. Given the significant achievement gap that exists, these differences partly explain why, overall, the there is a negative correlation between using computers to practice or drill on math facts and math achievement. I can’t be entirely sure about the degree to which race confounds that overall relationship without access to the raw (restricted-use) NAEP data.

854 million lack daily nourishment

Food Shortage Aid Should Start with Lessons in Agriculture: Scientific American
Global food prices have roughly doubled in three years. At the World Food Summit in Rome in early June, United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon recalled that on a trip to Liberia he encountered people who had once bought rice by the bag and whose cash now suffices for a meager cupful. The current crisis means that another 100 million hungry may join the 854 million who already lack sufficient daily nourishment.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Question Authority



I've seen something like this pyramid presented at numerous workshops and inservice training. Well-meaning teachers and trainers put it on 20-foot-tall screens to accompany their presentation. Quoted it as research and I believed.

Today this post from Stephen Downes brought me to

People remember 10%, 20%...Oh Really?

and

Modern myths of learning: You only remember 10% of what you read - 30 Jun 2008.

I feel foolish because I never questioned the authority of the "research". And now wondering which other modern education myths need myth-busting.

Neverending War

Another video from Jed Lewison, this time showing McCain's position on Iraq.

Uncle Ted Finally Indicted

Ted Stevens indicted on corruption charges: Sen. Ted Stevens | adn.com
The seven-count indictment charges Stevens with making false statements by failing to disclose things of value he received from Veco Corp., an Alaska-based oil services company, and from its chairman, Bill Allen, over an eight-year period.

Edit: ADN posted a roundup of news from the web.

Monday, July 28, 2008

VOISE Academy

From Edutopia No More Pencils, No More Books: A School of the Future Readies for Launch
Forget textbooks and handouts. Forget No. 2 pencils. And if you're looking for curricula for science or English class, you'll need to go online. At the VOISE Academy, a new high school opening this fall in Chicago, classwork is guided and shaped by the tech tools of the twenty-first century, providing an intriguing glimpse at what schools may look like in the future.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Why Karl Rove Should Go to Jail

Why Karl Rove Should Go to Jail by Rep. Linda T. Sanchez via AlterNet.
After my ruling that Mr. Rove's claims of immunity are not legally valid, Congressman Conyers and I gave him one last chance to comply with the law. He ignored us

Congress seems incapable of standing up tp the Bush administration. In other news, Congress approval rating slips to single digits. Connection?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Polar Bears International

Polar Bears International is a fun resource for science students and teachers. Or anybody who likes ice bears.

  • A National Teen Contest, where participating zoos become part of a nationwide contest to attract teens to act on conservation issues
  • An Online Teaching Curriculum that introduces teachers and students to the issue of eco-tourism in the Arctic
  • Zoo Visitor Enhancements, which provide participating zoos with a polar bear interpretive cart and presentation materials
  • An Online Game consisting of a massive, multi-layer environment that immerses players into the majestic, harsh, and fragile world of the Arctic
  • An expanded Leadership Camp for young people, involving twice as many students and sponsoring institutions
  • A tour to Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, where representatives of participating zoos will experience life on the famous Tundra Buggy Lodge® during the peak of the polar bear season.

Political stranglehold is loosening in Alaska

Ethan Berkowitz and Diane Benson are challenging Don Young, the 3rd most senior Republican in the House. But Young might not even get out of the primary. The real debates must include Governor Sarah Palin's man, Sean Parnell.

Whether it's Parnell or a Democrat, Alaskans will likely have a new U.S. Representative this year.

In other good news for Alaskans, Ted Stevens might be joining Frank Murkowski in retirement this year. Mark Begich held a nine point lead over Stevens (the longest-serving Republican Senator) in a recent Rasmussen poll.

Many Alaskans looked the other way as Young, Frank-Lisa Murkowski and Stevens used their federal clout to bring home the bacon and now we are cleaning up political corruption scandals daily.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely, they say.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Middle Class Economic Woes

America's Middle Class Can't Take Much More Punishment:
We've all seen the stats -- median income has declined by almost $2,500 over the past seven years, we have a zero personal savings rate in America for the first time since the Great Depression, and 5 million people have slipped below the poverty level since the beginning of the decade. And stats aside, most everyone out there knows what the deal is. If you're reading this and you had to drive to work today or pay a credit card bill in the last few weeks you know better than I do for sure how fucked up things have gotten. I hear talk from people out on the campaign trail about mortgages and bankruptcies and bill collectors that are enough to make your ass clench with 100 percent pure panic.

Voting Fraud In America

UncountedTheMovie.com has a YouTube channel with 12 videos documenting voting fraud. I found this one on recent Beyond School post.


Also recently... AlterNet reported that Kansas, Michigan and Louisiana were accused of illegally purging voter lists:
"The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) limits the circumstances in which a state may cancel a voter's registration," the Fair Elections Legal Network, a Washington-based voting rights consortium, said in a June 24 letter to Kansas Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh. "The NVRA does not permit cancellation based on a match alone."

"We are looking at several statewide purge issues," said Bradley Heard, a senior attorney with Advancement Project, a voting rights law firm. He said that in Michigan, both data matching and mailings by local officials to verify a voter's registration information were of concern. "We are also looking at a state law that calls for purging a bunch of voter registration records that are otherwise eligible."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

School failure is harder on girls than boys

A recent Reuters science report says:
Overall, 45 percent of the girls and 68 percent of the boys in the study experienced a major school failure, but 22 percent of the girls later became depressed compared with 17 percent for the boys.

Taliban is back on the offensive

Via AlterNet The Taliban Strikes Back:
After six years of ignoring Afghanistan, things have gotten bad enough to force American officials to pay attention.
In other news, an illegal war in Iraq diverts American military from operations to find the man responsible for 9/11 attacks. Still. Republicans. Fight. On.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

McCain is Stupid, Forgetful, or a Liar

Presidential Candidate John McCain mistakenly credited Bush's troop surge for the Anbar Awakening. Nicholas Johnson has an opinion:
Honestly, there's a part of me that wants McCain to stop saying stupid stuff. It's honestly getting kind of boring to cover his constant screwups. He's just had so many that I'm starting to run out of things to say about them.

But wait, it gets curiouser! CBS edited McCain's mistake out of his interview with Katie Couric! WTF!?

4 Day School Week?

This is my response to 4 DAY SCHOOL WEEK; DISCUSS. over on ThePrincipalsPage.com.

The problem is as transportation costs continue to rise, should school districts consider going to a four day school week?
Districts need to demand more money from local/state/federal government.

Is one possible solution having students attend school Monday through Thursday for 9 hours a day?

The larger question is can I handle students for 9 hours a day?
That is a possible solution. And, yes, 9 hours on the job is a looong time but it's been done in other schools.

I must admit the sound of a 3 day weekend does sound good, but would there be actual benefits to our students?
Saturday cartoons on Friday. Seriously though - I would have some 'real' homework (research, presentation, volunteering, etc) and projects to accomplish on the weekends.

What are the chances that a shorter week would help improve student attendance? Or better yet, improve teacher attendance? Certainly the transportation costs would go down if a district ran the busses one day less each week.
Maybe so. But school climate and community support for change would be essential here. You need stakeholder support to make this work.

Are there other benefits to this type of schedule? Such as more time for teachers to work with students in the classroom?
Block scheduling probably. Face-to-face meetings 4 days/week seems to lend itself to larger projects and outcomes-based education.

When will kids realize they wouldn’t have to work all of the time if they didn’t own a brand new car?
About the same time as their parents. hahaha.

Or is a 4 day school week a bad thing?
Condensing the traditional 5 day week into 4 days has many ramifications outside of the school walls.

Would a shortened school week upset parents? Could they afford the extra daycare for younger children?

Is it possible that teachers would feel rushed by the shorter week? And how would they react to the shorter evenings to grade papers, make lesson plans, and prepare for the next day?

You will get opposition to any change - but the extent depends on your community. If people are happy with the status quo... or see no reason to change... or depend on the school for meals and daycare during work hours... Well, that could be tricky. And you didn't even mention the teacher's union.

Students who miss a couple of days because of illness could be greatly affected as falling behind in their studies would happen rapidly.

Can you imagine the makeup work?
Yup - that would be an issue. But they have the whole day off on Friday to catch up.

Please put me on the right path in regards to the concept of the 4 day school week, because as of right now, I can only focus on the idea that “every weekend is a 3 day weekend”. That idea is way cool.
The real challenge is to do a cost-benefit analysis at your district level. There are many factors to consider from the standpoint of academic, economic and social impact. And those depend on your local community.

My advice is to have some discussions locally and prepare your elevator speech to convince legislators to spend more money on public education.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Not safe to buy TP

Organized Chaos bought some toilet paper in full view of her student. Oh, the horror!

Next time, buy in bulk. At least 144 rolls.

On second thought, make it 2 gross and you'll be safe for another 18 months.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Privacy questions

Is it illegal for a police detective to infiltrate and investigate activist groups?

Do you want your government to read your emails?

Should the US government have access to all phone calls - all the time - like the British?

I believe this debate will not be heard in mainstream America. The answers will probably be negotiated by House & Senate committees a' la the FISA bill and Patriot Act.

So how do we maintain privacy and freedom while protecting our citizens? We could start by electing a President who can use the internet. And dumping old politicians who take money for votes.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

'Foreclosure Phil' Gramm

According to Journalist David Corn in How John McCain's Closest Economic Advisor Helped Engineer the Morgage Crisis:
Senator Phil Gramm slipped into this must-pass spending bill a 268-page bill, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which had been kicking around for about a year. The House had passed one version of it, but there were a lot of different versions. And the point of it was really to do a lot of different types of deregulation. It included something called the Enron loophole, which allowed Enron to sell energy futures on a deregulated basis, which helped lead to the California energy crisis the following year and the subsequent collapse of Enron.

But another portion of the bill deregulated these financial instruments called “swaps.”

...

When UBS, which is the biggest Swiss banking company, lost—I don’t know, I forget the number now—$38 billion or so on the subprime crisis, it put out an internal report for public consumption explaining how this had happened, and they noted that it had happened, in part, because the securities that they lost money on, connected to these subprime loans, had been backed by their trading in swaps.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Vodcasting all classroom lectures - Wave of the future?

Vodcasting has many advantages over traditional lectures. Think of the time savings alone! A teacher doesn't have to recreate the same lesson every year. Or wait for the 'slow' student to copy the notes during class. And content delivery is standardized for all students. And available for students who miss class or learn at a distance.

My school uses an online curriculum for independent study and credit recovery. Lectures & flash presentations are built into the curriculum. The teacher is a guide and interpreter for the student. But there is little face-to-face lecturing.

Some problems that I see with such a curriculum are:
1. Students 'watch' the lesson but don't have the opportunity to raise their hand and ask questions of the T.V.
2. Static presentations cannot be adapted 'on the fly' for students of different cultures, language ability, etc.
3. Teachers must assess independently of the presentation. (No 'check for understanding' feedback during the lecture.)

Even so, I think there is great potential for vodcasting. It is an effective way to communicate a specific block of knowledge outside of the normal class day. Prediction: In the next 10 years, you'll be able to find an online vodcast for just about any high school course of study. Maybe just as simple as ustreaming all 180 lectures?

A couple Woodland Park science teachers are vodcasting all clasroom lectures. Check 'em out below.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Nuclear Power and the Climate Change Debate

Linda Gunter at AlterNet wants to Kick Nuclear Power Out:
If cumbersome construction timelines and obscene costs are not enough to deter nuclear proponents, then the security risks should be. These are not to be taken lightly in a post-9/11 world. History has taught us that civilian nuclear programs can -- and do -- lead to the production of nuclear weapons as happened in India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.
The obvious problem with this argument is that diplomatic issues will be moot when there is no oil or gas to run the war machine. Time to get moving with alternative energy solutions before it is too late...

Marijuana for lunch

This week, a two year-old brought marijuana to daycare in a lunch box. And a seven year-old left his schoolwork in a grow room.

Found both of these articles via Obscure Store and Reading Room. Two articles in one day! Un-believable!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

What's Your Learning Style?

Teaching Tips has 101 Tips to Find and Fit Your Learning Style. This list of tips will give you learning methods to match your learning style.

So what's your learning style? How do you find out?

Here is a list of online quizzes (about 10 minutes each). Take some or all of them and compare your results.
ldpride.net
engr.ncsu.edu
learning-styles-online.com
educationplanner.com
usd.edu

12 Brain Rules For Work, Home, and School

Each of the 12 principles is accompanied by an AV slide show. I had fun skimming through the chapters. Each principle is backed up with scientific data. Cool!

EXERCISE | Rule #1: Exercise boosts brain power.
SURVIVAL | Rule #2: The human brain evolved, too.
WIRING | Rule #3: Every brain is wired differently.
ATTENTION | Rule #4: We don't pay attention to boring things.
SHORT-TERM MEMORY | Rule #5: Repeat to remember.
LONG-TERM MEMORY | Rule #6: Remember to repeat.
SLEEP | Rule #7: Sleep well, think well.
STRESS | Rule #8: Stressed brains don't learn the same way.
SENSORY INTEGRATION | Rule #9: Stimulate more of the senses.
VISION | Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses.
GENDER | Rule #11: Male and female brains are different.
EXPLORATION | Rule #12: We are powerful and natural explorers.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

School tells Native American boy to cut his long hair

The Houston Chronicle reports that Needville ISD won't allow waist-length hair for boys.
Michelle Betenbaugh says her 5-year-old son, Adriel Arocha, wears his hair long because of religious beliefs tied to his Native American heritage.

But the leaders of the Needville school district have strict rules about long hair on boys and don't see any reason to make an exception in his case.
This appears to restrict the boy's freedom of religion. Violating constitutional amendment # 1 is a big no no in public schools.

I'm not taking Pascal's Wager but this boy and his parents have every right to do so.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

High gas prices leave children without food

I sympathize with parents who cannot make ends meet or put enough food on the table. It must be an awful feeling to watch your children go hungry.

My family has plenty to eat but the high price of gas is making me a value shopper. And we aren't eating out - maybe two meals in the last three months.

It is good to know that the Food Bank is there to provide support for children who are less fortunate than mine. It's a good investment in the social welfare of our community and I appreciate their efforts.

From ADN More children join ranks of city's hungry:
HARD CHOICES

The cost of feeding a family in Anchorage jumped 14 percent from March 2007 to March 2008, according to a survey by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service.

Much of that increase came in the first three months of the year. Meantime, fuel prices have skyrocketed -- which has a ripple effect on the price of goods flown and shipped into the state. Last year's $3 gallon of gas seems like a bargain compared to the teeth-clenching $4 drivers pay now.

People are making hard choices, said DeBruhl, the Food Bank development manager.

'Do they pay for a tank of gas to get to work, or do they pay for food?' she said.

Teachers' Domain Bonanza!

Teachers' Domain is a multimedia science-teaching bonanza!.
This coming fall, Teachers' Domain is expanding! We'll be adding many new resources in Language Arts, Social Studies, and Math, as well as Science.
There are many of the same functions as netTrekker (personal folders & collections, search, categories, etc..) but it's free! If teachersdomain.org can beef up their resources list, this may become my new one-stop-shop for multimedia teaching resources.

I would work for Michelle Rhee

A conversation with Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools - Charlie Rose

My hometown school district seems to be in good hands with Michelle Rhee. She has a clear vision for education reform and is determined to provide equal opportunities for all students to succeed.

She is facing some vocal opposition but that doesn't dampen her enthusiasm and optimism. Michelle Rhee is not willing to settle for the status quo. You gotta admire that spirit!

I truly hope she can overcome the inertia of mediocrity in DC public schools and create a climate of success. The students of our Nation's Capital deserve nothing less.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Strip searching 13 year olds at school can get you in trouble with the law

Vice Principal authorized the search without contacting the parents and is now financially liable. Ya' think?

From the ACLU Blog: Strip Search of 13-Year-Old for Ibuprofen Ruled Unconstitutional
If you have a problem with school officials strip searching 13-year-olds for Advil – or if you care about the government’s standards for informant use and invasive searches – you can take relief in yesterday’s ruling by a full panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which ruled 6-5 that students cannot be strip-searched based on the uncorroborated word of another student who is facing disciplinary punishment.
I think the comment from CanIGetAWitness pretty much sums up my feelings:
I would ABSOLUTELY BEAT THE CRAP out of someone strip searching my 13yr old daughter in a school. You can keep her in a supervised room until I arrive and deal with it.

Homegrown Energy Solutions

ADN recently linked to several stories on Alaska's response to the energy crisis.
Wherever you turn in Alaska today, people are talking about the high price of energy, whether it's gas for the car or heating oil for the stove or kilowatt-hours for the lights. Today's Newsreader pulls from all corners of Alaska to illuminate how widespread the concern, how real the peril and how leaders are looking to innovation for solutions.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Obama-Care Versus McCain-Care

From Alternet:
John-Care is a plan to get rid of the employer-based insurance that most of us rely on presently. Senator McCain would eliminate the tax deductibility of employer-provided insurance, in effect requiring employers who offer insurance to take money out of workers' paychecks for their tax liability on their health insurance.
...
By contrast, Barack-Care would build on the current system. It would create a publicly run Medicare-type plan that any employer or individual can buy into. This would provide an additional option for people unhappy with their current insurance. However, those who are pleased with their current insurance would be able to stay with their plan under Barack-Care.

Island junkyards

From ADN Debris fouls fur seal haulouts:
a closer look unveils an ugly truth. The fur seal rookeries of St. Paul are an unintentional dumping ground for tons of debris, from plastic bottles and tires to netting and rope in which some seals become fatally entangled.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Homage to Buckminster

NerdTests.com says I'm a Nerd King. But I'm no match for Buckminster the Dymaxion Man.

Visionary, world citizen, and nerd extraordinaire. Nobody did it quite like Bucky.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Scrubbing CO2 from the atmosphere

This looks like a darn good idea:
Environmental scientist Wallace Broecker proposes that the only way to fix global warming is by literally scrubbing CO2 from the atmosphere and burying it.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Is free speech still in the Constitution?

From ProgressNow:
On orders from Senator John McCain's security detail, Denver police escorted a 61-year-old woman away who was waiting in line to attend a so-called  town hall meeting with McCain that was billed as open to the public.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Alaskan fishermen are pissed

Originally, Exxon was ordered to pay 5 billion dollars for the 1989 oil spill. The judgement was reduced to $2.5 billion and then (last month) cut to 500 million. Impacted fishermen will finally get a few thousand bucks in exchange for negligent destruction of the environment and fishing economy. But there are no checks yet:
While O'Neill is expecting to get checks out to plaintiffs this fall, he's not counting on it.

'In the past (Exxon has) shown incredible ingenuity in figuring out ways to screw us around. They've got to decide whether they are going to be straight up,' he said.

Prediction: rising oil prices will bring village residents to Anchorage

Alaskans get bigger PFD checks and better government services when BP and Conoco strike it rich. Plus, there are more jobs to go around when oil exploration is economically feasible. Our economy holds steady while the lower 49 suffer from high oil prices. So it's no surprise that the oil industry trumpets its economic impact in Alaska:
Obviously, we remain a driving force in the economy, contributing the vast majority of state revenue,' said Kara Moriarty, AOGA's deputy director. In 2007, oil and gas revenue accounted for 88 percent of Alaska's general fund.


But rural Alaskans find the situation more bleak:
According to university researchers, the poorest families in Alaska's most remote towns and villages are expected to spend more than 40 cents out of every dollar they make on power and heat in the coming year.

In comparison, Anchorage's lowest-income households will spend about 9 cents from every dollar on energy bills.
State (and Anchorage) politicians had better get prepared for an influx of rural residents seeking jobs and a lower cost of living. They will be looking for low-income housing and social services as they get settled and look for employment. Heads up.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

World Without Oil


Word Without Oil was a 32-day alternate reality game that simulated a global oil crisis. It is fun to look back at the archives and see how the projections parallel our current gas price hike.

Enter the WWO archive and you can jump from week to week using the dropdown menu in the upper right corner. You can find simulated videos, images, and blog posts which chronicle the effects of rising oil prices all over the USA. Fun!

Companion lesson plans are available for this game/simulation, thanks to Dan McDowell.

Wisconsin KEEP has good list of learning resources for energy education, too.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Thomas Paine

Via AlterNet:
An Independence Day look back at the radical influence of Thomas Paine, the often-overlooked founding father whose words sparked the American Revolution.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Antimony, Hafnium, Indium, Platinum, and Silver: All Gone in 20 Years


I read Reflections: The Death of Gallium on Asimov's via Slashdot and then looked up the original sources in Tom Hudson's Journal to check if this is legit.

I found the above table in a June '07 article on IdTechEx. And several more graphics and thorough writeup in New Scientist magazine from May 2007.

So it's a reputable scientific model but why do we care?

These metals are used in LCD screens, mobile phones, computer chips, pharmaceuticals, fuel cells, etc... We are reaching the absolute limit of what we can manufacture using these metals.

Maybe recycling technologies are a good investment? Or will we discover new technologies like quantum computers as our elements go extinct?