Archive for April, 2008

Duh

April 25th, 2008

As the semester winds down and you get ready to evaluate my performance using the IDEA tool, this just in from the Dept of Duh:

Validation for RateMyProfessors.com?
A new study is about to appear in the journal Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education and it will argue that there are similarities in the rankings in RateMyProfessors.com and IDEA, a student evaluation system used at about 275 colleges nationally and run by a nonprofit group affiliated with Kansas State University.

It’s gratifying to know that somebody recognizes that these kinds of comparisons mean, “omg, this one is just as bad as that one!”

Remember that the next time somebody wants to do a study comparing online and classroom courses.


Hold the marbles:

April 25th, 2008

From the news wire, this story about educational research:

Hold the marbles: Abstract approach best for math | Science | Reuters
CHICAGO (Reuters) – Frustrated math students may have a good excuse — some of the teaching methods meant to make math more relevant may in fact be making it harder to understand, U.S. researchers said on Thursday.

I wish they’d included a link to the original study.


Learning and Professional Development

April 19th, 2008

As the course has unfolded this semester, there has been a recurring theme. I’ve seen the theme echoed throughout the web in practically every environment where educators hang out. The theme revolves around “professional development” and how teachers need more, better, and more relevant professional development. I’ve purposely let this subject hang fire for the last few weeks to see if anybody would make the connection. So far, it hasn’t come out as clearly as I would have liked, altho several people have tap-danced around the edges.

The idea is that teachers seem to believe that professional development is something that’s done to them. “If we could only get the district …” and “When they finally get around to teaching us …” and “They give us the software/hardware/whatever and then don’t train us how to use it …”

In “Welcome to your world,” I explained the model of professional development. What do you want to know right now? What’s keeping you from learning about it?

The tools of Web 2.0 put amazing resources at your fingertips. Wikipedia is a good start for an overview and often has follow on links. Google will give you perhaps more than you want to know, and then, once you’ve done your homework (hint, hint, for all you Classroom 2.0 people), you can start looking for people who are experts in that field. Twitter’s great for general callouts. Facebook is a good place to look for expertise.

With all this information available to you, then, why is it that “professional development” is something that waits for “District” to hold a workshop?


Meme: High School Daze to Praise.

April 18th, 2008

Clay Burrell tagged me on his blog, Beyond School. The thing was apparently started by Paul C. at quoteflections. According to the established protocols for such things, here are the rules

  • Select and briefly review one teen novel, classic or modern, which is a sure antidote to the daze of high school.
  • Title your post Meme: High School Daze to Praise.
  • Include an image with your post.
  • Tag four blogger colleagues.

I’ve reviewed some of the other contributions to the meme to get a better feel for where this is going. My problem with it lies in the phrase “teen novel.” What the heck is a teen novel?? Most of the contributions I’ve seen involve a teen as protagonist, and they’ve all been interesting – kinda. Some of them I’ve read myself. Some of them, I think I’d like to read, and frankly, a couple of them, no. Thanks, but no.

The primary qualification is “a sure antidote to the daze of high school.” I need to be able to assign it to a high school kid. Clay’s suggestion of Lolita has garnered a lot of attention for a lot of good reasons. I’ve seen Ender’s Game in the list, and I’ve seen a lot of titles that — um — not so much.

One of my problems with this is that it’s been 38 years since I graduated from high school and while I remember the books I read on my own, I don’t remember the ones I was assigned. Seems to me there was Ivanhoe, and Moby Dick. Yawn. What I remember was a long string of Dostoevsky, Heinlein, LeGuin, and what seemed like a doorstop by Frank Herbert entitled Dune.

DuneDune is the story of Paul Atriedes who is thrown into the bubbling stew of court politics, war, and culture. The book is filled with vivid imagery, unforgettable (often repulsive) characters, and scenes of often violent action set against a sweeping religious and philosophical backdrop. This is a seminal work in modern science fiction and I think every bit as important as the work of Verne and Wells in the genre.

I probably should add a disclaimer. I’m a science fiction fan, author, and general geek. I can read other kinds of stories – but sci-fi is my home. It’s the genre that few “literary” people respect and this is often doubly true in education. In spite of that, sci-fi (or speculative fiction, to use the current politically correct term) gives us an opportunity to examine issues that are too close to us — too personal — to be seen. By placing the behavior or characteristic in an alien context of outer space or far future, we can gain perspective on ideas which might otherwise be unapproachable. (No, Frank Gorshin’s performance in Star Trek is not a good example.)

Along those lines, please note that this book is one of the few from my personal collection that has survived the many moves, transfers, and prunings of my collection. Price tagThis volume has been with me since I purchased it in a small shop on Congress Street in Portland, Maine, in the summer of 1966 — my own high school years. The cover above is a scan of my own copy and notice the price. This particular suggestion is offered up from personal experience and perhaps without consideration of the universe of possibly better alternatives.

All I can say is, “It worked for me.”

Tag! You’re it!

I know this meme comes out of education, but I’m going to tag some people who have a different take on literature:

Update (4/19): I wanted to be clear that I’m not including these people in order to promote them or their works. I want to open the discussion up and introduce the idea that teachers need to stop talking to teachers all the time. Not that it’s a bad thing, but when you’re looking for authentic educational resources, don’t talk to teachers. Talk to the people who are engaged in that particular field. You want authentic experience with language and literature? Talk to an author. You want to know what a plant biologist does? Talk to a tree surgeon. You want math? Talk to a physicist. Or an astronomer.

There’s an old chestnut that goes something like, “The teacher opens the door, but the student must go through alone.” The Web 2.0 corollary for education is, “The web opens the door, but the teacher must go through it to learn.”

Thanks to Mur, Tee, Pip and the author-to-be-named Christianna for playing along.


An Open Letter to Presidential Candidates

April 18th, 2008

Dear (Your name here):

You’ve done a lot of “motherhood and apple pie” posturing for the press on Education and Education reform lately. Some of you have asked for ideas, but before you accept the data forms on your websites, you make us give you other people’s addresses.

Sorry. Too close to McCarthyism for my taste. I know it’s just marketing. I’m not interested in your marketing. I’m interested in your policies.

Here are some suggestions:

Problem: Recruiting mid/late career change teachers. Two years as a “fast track” is too slow and often costs too much, requires the candidate move just to get the training, and move again to take a job.

Suggestion: Start a national licensure program. Offer it online so that people anywhere in the country can get the courses they need. Offer incentives to local school districts to support those people with “student teaching” opportunities so that they can get the certification BEFORE they move to the high need schools. Make sure the program actually turns out qualified teachers.

Problem: Professional Development of current teachers lags behind technology. Many tools exist which teachers know nothing about, and which cannot be taught in a 4 hour or 6 hour “professional development day” format. These skills and tools are critical to bringing the nations 7million existing teachers knowledge and skill base up to par.

Suggestion: In conjunction with the certification program above, incorporate a real technology integration program – offered at a distance and using the very tools the teachers need – as continuing education and development credits. These should be REAL courses, not the trumped up “we certify that you had seat time in professional development” but actual courses.

Problem: Highly qualified teachers need specialized knowledge in particular knowledge domains. This is especially true in math and science. Many teachers graduate from university, get the job, and never look back. Their knowledge base becomes stale. Further, it becomes impossible for teachers to transition from one field to another (math to science, for example) because the cost of going back to school to acquire the requisite transcript credits is cost prohibitive.

Suggestion: In conjunction with the above two ideas, incorporate sufficient knowledge domain content to permit experienced teachers to change their fields without having to give up their jobs in order to return to school to get — what amounts to — an additional degree.

Problem: How to implement these ideas?

Suggestion: Hold a grant competition to fund 10 university programs around the country for up to five years to develop (first year) and implement (years two thru five) real programs to provide teacher certification, continuing technology training, and specialized knowledge domain (math, science, language) education to facilitate building teachers’ skill and knowledge base. Stipulate that every program MUST offer the courses completely online, and that any grant funded program MUST charge their local in-state tuition rates for those courses no matter where the student lived.

Your turn.


The greatness of universities

April 15th, 2008

Speaking of the Great White Northern Thinkers, here’s a two-fer day in my ‘gator. Rick Schwier has this tremendous post about the greatness of universities.

A small reflection on the greatness of universities
Universities are one of only a few institutions that have endured over centuries. Universities exist for the dual purpose of creating and sharing knowledge. In the service of these goals, we don’t always get it right, and universities sometimes lose their way. And yes, there are some pretty cheap knock-offs calling themselves universities today that don’t deserve the label. But in the larger scheme of things, universities flourish because they are places where learning and truth are the only things that are held sacred. We can–and should–ask anything, risk anything in the service of learning and discovering truth.

As we think about Education, I think it’s important that we keep in mind that there’s not some monolithic ideal of education but rather a continuum. Rick reminds me of this.


Sharecropping

April 15th, 2008

There’s some new memes floating about that are related to our thinking about culture and technology. This is one of them.

on social network sharecropping
I think it’s important to own your own land. It’s important to publish content in a way that you, and only you, can control. I think it’s important to be able to decide what you publish, how you publish, and what can be done with that. Even if you’re not publishing content in the traditional sense, the data generated by your activities has meaning. Google mines your subscriptions in Google Reader, as well as your searches. Flickr tracks whose photos you fave, and where you comment.

D’arcy Norman is another of those great Canadian thinkers who is really helping to drive thinking about technology, education, and culture. There’s a whole raft of them north of the border and I keep thinking it must be something in the water up there.

Go check this one out and see what you think.


Mulling Tuition Policy

April 8th, 2008

Here’s an interesting examination of Education and Culture couched in terms of how much education costs and what the benefits are of subsidised higher ed.

Mulling Tuition Policy at Community Colleges
The concept of “high tuition/high aid” as a policy for public higher education is frequently discussed as an option for four-year colleges, and especially for flagships. The theory goes that students are better off at universities that charge more so that they have more educational resources — and that the potential for lost access for low-income students can be prevented through generous student aid programs.

You might consider adding this feed to your aggregators. K-12 teachers need to know what they’re preparing students for


Highlight Reel

April 5th, 2008

Here’s an interesting link to a Konrad Glogowski post about creating a learning space. I’m tempted to apply myself, but I really don’t need another project.

And by way of a tweet this morning I found Software for Starving Students. We REALLY need to be looking at these tools to augment strapped school budgets.


I'm Afraid Not

April 3rd, 2008

We’ve been talking about the purposes of Education.

Check out this YouTube video