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?


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 |
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 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

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.

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:

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 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 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?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

K-12 Education Content on iTunes U

State Agencies Bring K-12 Education Content to iTunes U : July 2008 : THE Journal:
The initiative, which launched July 1, brings the creation of a K-12 destination to iTunes U, with a broad range of content from a number of state and district agencies--including Arizona, Florida, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Utah--as well as museums and other education-oriented institutions. As of the launch today, there are 11 sub-portals within the iTunes U K-12 destination.
Get it here.


Mr. Lucas Goes to Washington via Edutopia:
Telecommunications provides the new learning platform of this century and is replacing the textbook as the medium through which a modern education is provided,' Lucas said. 'The world's knowledge is now available online, far beyond what books and materials can provide in schools and libraries themselves.
George Lucas would like expand the E-rate program to include free broadband access for all schools. High speed internet access is a "digital civil right", according to the prominent filmmaker.

I won't go so far to say broadband is a civil right. It is a service, provided by private industry. The communications industry is out to make a buck, just like the rest of us (channels Ayn Rand).

But I know that E-rate funding is crucial due to the high cost of communications infrastructure and services. In fact, school districts all over the nation count on E-rate funding to balance the budget. Fully funding our schools has to be the priority.

Educational funding is the real issue - not simply more broadband. Federal and state funding has rarely been able to keep up with the changing face of society. From textbooks in 1970 to broadband in 2010, teachers just want enough money to buy the right tool for the job.

Is that too much to ask?