Saturday, September 16, 2006

Non-tech issues

Today, I am moving like an 89-year old, arthritic codger - probably good training for my old age, which feels as though it's already arrived.

Over the last two days, I moved my entire classroom of books, computers, materials, files, and equipment to another classroom. For the second time this school year.

Why? We started 2 teachers short in the science department. We were able to pick up one three weeks into the school year. Because the position I held last year, in the 9th grade academy, was switching to mostly Biology, I volunteered to move out, necessitating the first move. Although the classroom was smaller and had less storage, I was teaching 4 Physical Science and two Chemistry for the Technologies, which I preferred.

Last week, the high school lured a middle school science teacher to the high school. He'll be arriving Tuesday. Trouble is, he was only Chemistry, and couldn't teach the Bio classes. This made some switching of classes necessary, to avoid issues of certification. I was one affected. I lost my ChemTech classes, and added two Bios. Also, we had to flip-flop two Physical Science classes. I wasn't exactly happy, but I understood that we had to do it.

So, I had about 1 week to pack up the stuff, move it, and set up for the new classes on Monday. I'm moved in, but surrounded by boxes. My files are a mess, I may not get my old file cabinet in for a few days, and I have to get an extra copy of lesson plans to the new teacher - he shouldn't walk in cold without some help. He's taking the Praxis Monday.

What's the upside?
  • My Bio classes are better students - they're already had Physical Science, and they rank higher in math skills and academic performance. So, even though I'll be having to put a fair amount of time into catching up, it should be OK.
  • I have a Bio teacher next door - she's a VERY sharp lady, and I plan to lean on her a LOT.
  • I finally have a storage room again.
  • The new room is bigger, and has MUCH cabinet storage. Several sinks, instead of just one.
  • Air conditioning works. As well as the heat, when needed.
  • I have lots of chips in my stack, since I made the changes without complaining. The principal owes me, and he's a guy that remembers those things. Could come in handy someday.
  • Many of the kids I had before - helps in getting acclimated with names and stuff. Several of them were QUITE excited to hear they'd have me again. Good for the ego.

The kids and parents weren't all happy, but they weren't that upset. They're a good bunch, and, I think, recognize that the change has some positives. I was open in expressing my optimism and focusing on the good of the move, and I think that helped.

On top of moving yesterday, I had to take tickets at the football game. We all have to do that once a year. But, at least I got it over with, and I can kick back for the rest of the year.

I'll take some pictures Monday, before I put the room back to order. Then, I take some "after" shots. I'll post the contrast in a few weeks.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Technology Issues

I'm still not using my probes, motion detectors, and other bells & whistles as much as I'd like to. Partly, it's the issue of moving stuff to a new room. Partly, it's a matter of spending too much time on classroom management issues.

I'm planning on making a big push this week, and into the weekend. Clearing up any incomplete grading, organizing my filing and storage, and getting caught up on planning. It all sounds perfectly dreadful.

I did move ahead in some ways. I've been working on whittling down the grading backload for the last week, and it's a much smaller pile. I've been setting a goal of bringing order back to my desk (not totally successful) before I leave each day. Slowly, I'm managing to develop some routines.

Constant nagging is helping with getting kids to progress, especially making them take responsibility for turning in work, cleaning up after themselves (I swear, most of them must have personal maids), and completing their work before the end of class.

Too many of them resemble the cartoon below:

And, realistically, it takes a lot of self-discipline to reject the fun for the work. Heck, I have difficulty doing that myself - for example, I'm currently writing this post, rather than getting the grading done.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Back in the Saddle Again

Not that I'm feeling like a cowboy, you understand. But 3 weeks of teaching is enough to get me back into the rhythm again. Monday and Wednesday, meetings. Tuesday and Thursday, tutoring after school. Friday, pack up all papers for grading on the weekend. Saturday, catch up on household chores and grade. Sunday, grade, and make out the week's lesson plans. Monday...

Actually, I kind of enjoy the routine. I'm not someone that needs to have every day exciting and different.

Lately, I've been thinking about Direct Instruction. In our district, it's expected that we will be using that model of teaching. Not necessarily every day, or in every class, but often. And, as I incorporate more of DI in my lessons, I've noticed a few things:

  • Low-performing students improve markedly. Not surprisingly, since they are usually quite deficient in basic skills.
  • Average students achieve mastery more quickly.
  • High-end students are not bored by the repetition. They seem to be OK with it.

I've been focusing on using DI with the many math skills and concepts that are such torture to teach - fractions, decimals, metric measurement, graphing. I've been including a LOT more review each day, not just the previous day's work, but weaving back several weeks. I plan to continue hammering down on these topics, using motion and force as the science topics. I'll post in a few weeks on our progress.

Does this mean that using Modeling is out?

No. But I think that when students clearly indicate that they can't calculate a simple velocity problem, even after leading them through the process, more DI is a reasonable option. I've been calling parents, suggesting tutoring for those still struggling (or, more often, those who just sit there, waiting for other students or the teacher to give them the answers. Lord, are they a passive bunch!)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Prime Numbers

I've been reading a murder mystery book, "Case of Lies", by Perri O'Shaughnessy. At the core of the reason for the murders is mathematics, more specifically, prime numbers. The math is way beyond my understanding, but the approach to explaining it seems to be novel. It's an interesting book, and the mystery part works well, too.

I'd recommend it.

Friday, August 04, 2006

A Riveting Analysis of the Chemistry of Sports

While aimlessly killing time before work virtuously keeping up on news, I found this fascinating explanation of the chemistry of blood testing in sports. It's in response to the story about Floyd Landis.

I have no personal feelings about the situation, but, if it's true that he added boosters, it will ruin the jokes - "Why did the French think Landis cheated? They've never seen detectable levels of testerone in a man before."

Found via Instapundit's Megan McArdle.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Mid-Summer Update

I've been rather busy the last few months - end of year testing, clearing up for summer break, and now, traveling extensively this summer. I've only spent about 2 weeks at home since school let out.

I've accomplished a few things this summer. I attended a workshop for the Physical Science teachers in SC, gotten 3 credits in science, was given a PASCO GLX (a data collection device, with multiple probes included). I'm currently in Syracuse, NY, working with the PTRA's Summer Institute. I plan to work with a teacher in northern SC to bring in some workshops, hopefully next year.

I'm starting to drag, so I'll have to close and post more later. If I get a chance tomorrow, I'll post pictures to the web in the afternoon.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Summer Activities

I'm at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC this week and next week. I'm taking a course related to the Physical Science classes I'll be teaching in the fall.

It's a beautiful campus. All the buildings are absolutely chilly, which necessitates bringing a heavy sweater to class.

I'll be getting a PASCO GLX to take home with me. I'm looking forward to learning how to use them.

I'll add some pictures later this week.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

More than a little truth to this

I found a really funny, if somewhat snide reflection on the mania to ensure that all students will feel really, really special and smart.

To be candid, I feel that most teachers, myself included, grade students more leniently than a realistic appraisal of their learning would mandate. In part, that is because most districts no longer officially separate students by ability. With all students taking college prep coursework, the teacher either has to be overly generous with grades, or risk failing large segments of the class.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Elementary, my dear Watson!

I found this on Science and Politics
# It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgment.
# I never guess. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.
It was prompted by Google's celebration of the anniversary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's birthday.

Hooray for technology!

I had a relatively pleasant time getting my final grades in today. It was simple to add in the score for the Finals - I did the test in Quizdom, and didn't have to manually score anything. I plan to use United Streaming quizzes next year, as well. I understand they can be done online.

Next year's Physical Science students are already excited about taking the class. They kept on seeing the neat equipment I had set up for the other classes (they were in Applied Biology this year), and wanted to know how to use it. They were particularly interested in the PASCO motion detectors.

Today, I went to a training session on United Streaming. I already used it, so wasn't sure I would benefit. It was worth the time I took, as I learned about new features, and features I wasn't currently using. I also found out about the Discovery Educators Network, which I plan to join. It seems worth the time.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Free at Last - Almost!

I'm down to the last week and 1/2. I have to finish the grading this weekend, and enter the grades in the computer. Next week, other than working with a few kids who need to make up an assignment, I only have my finals. Finals finish on the following Monday.

That's basically it. I'll use those last two half days to use unpaid labor cooperative, fine youngsters to clean, organize, and run errands. Assuming they'll show up, when the attendance won't be taken.

Friday, April 28, 2006

HQ - At Last!

It was the last, long day of a VERY long week - the upperclassmen were testing, in SC's version of an exit exam. Which meant, for the 9th grade, extra time in some of their classes, with no ability to let loose some steam roaming the halls.

Yesterday, it came to head - about 20 girls cut loose with a water balloon fight just after lunch. Today, the 9th grade is on punishment - escorted to lunch like toddlers, no privileges.

So, when I checked onto the state certification site, I fully expected to see that I'd still not been approved for a full professional certificate in science.

And I really needed it. The deadline for applying for National Boards is Monday. Without a change from temporary permit to certificate status, I couldn't apply.

Whoopee!! Hot diggity dog!!! It was approved, and I'd been marked an HQ - a Highly Qualified teacher. Which also made my principal and district very happy.

I got online as soon as the kids left, and finished the application. Then, I filled out the paperwork for the state payment of the processing fees.

Right after I left, it was off to the bank to get the papers notarized, and then to the post office to have them postmarked in time.

Sometimes, life is good. Very good.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Web Word Processor

I found an interesting new application. It's one of the first web applications that has the potential to be a Microsoft Killer.

AjaxWrite. I've been playing around with it, and come to a few conclusions:

  • It's still in the early development stages. I tried using it to create a sign for my door, but I had difficulty getting it to print in the enlarged font correctly. The font displayed correctly, but the text ran off the edge of the page. I finally added some hard returns, and it printed fine. So, it's not fully WYSIWYG yet.
  • I can see the utility, particularly when you're not at your home machine, but need to work on something. You save your work either to a website or a jump drive, and can theoretically work on it whenever, whereever.
  • At the moment, it's a stripped-down version of the old Microsoft Works. Some of the "functions" are greyed-out, indicating that they're not available. Not sure why.
  • It only works in Firefox, version 1.5 or higher. Fine for me, I prefer Firefox.
  • No spell-checker at the moment. No way to change page layout. No insertion of images, yet. So, it's still a VERY baby version. Ajaxwrite needs to ramp up, soon, if they don't want to get clobbered by The Evil Empire.

I'll probably continue using it for a few months. I'll be traveling part of the summer, and it would be nice to have compatibility with my Open Office files. In addition to a word processor, there are other applications shown. Don't know how good they might be, I couldn't get the Image editor to load. It may have been a network thing. The Spreadsheet Viewer is just that. It only allows you to see, not edit.

My evaluation? Not ready for prime time. But promising. I'll check back at the end of summer.

Web Word Processor

I found an interesting new application. It's one of the first web applications that has the potential to be a Microsoft Killer.

AjaxWrite. I've been playing around with it, and come to a few conclusions:

  • It's still in the early development stages. I tried using it to create a sign for my door, but I had difficulty getting it to print in the enlarged font correctly. The font displayed correctly, but the text ran off the edge of the page. I finally added some hard returns, and it printed fine. So, it's not fully WYSIWYG yet.
  • I can see the utility, particularly when you're not at your home machine, but need to work on something. You save your work either to a website or a jump drive, and can theoretically work on it whenever, whereever.
  • At the moment, it's a stripped-down version of the old Microsoft Works. Some of the "functions" are greyed-out, indicating that they're not available. Not sure why.
  • It only works in Firefox, version 1.5 or higher. Fine for me, I prefer Firefox.
  • No spell-checker at the moment. No way to change page layout. No insertion of images, yet. So, it's still a VERY baby version. Ajaxwrite needs to ramp up, soon, if they don't want to get clobbered by The Evil Empire.

I'll probably continue using it for a few months. I'll be traveling part of the summer, and it would be nice to have compatibility with my Open Office files. In addition to a word processor, there are other applications shown. Don't know how good they might be, I couldn't get the Image editor to load. It may have been a network thing. The Spreadsheet Viewer is just that. It only allows you to see, not edit.

My evaluation? Not ready for prime time. But promising. I'll check back at the end of summer.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

One thing that Americans excel at

I was reading Watching America, a site where you can get translations of foreign news. I highly recommend it, as it's always neat to see yourself (and your countrymen) from the perspective of non-natives.

Today, I found an interesting article that lauds the way Americans teach their children about money and personal responsibility. It particularly mentions the Girl Scout cookie selling program:
The Girl Scouts Web site [RealVideo] flatly states that many successful American entrepreneurs got their start selling Samoas and Tagalongs [cookies]. Each box of cookies costs four dollars, which is at least 30% higher than the store price. Such a way to teach a child to make money! Isn't it a little too much? But as soon as we tried to sell our first box, I saw that no one was put off by the price.
The American experience is contrasted with the Chinese way of raising children.
American children are truly very practical, and begin to make and calculate money from childhood. They all realize the value of money early on, and don't neglect even a penny.
The article additionally mentions that American children are more conscious of others' needs, and spontaneously give to others in need, without parental prodding.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Emergency in Project-Land!

I just got off the phone with my daughter. Her son had a last-minute crisis with a project due - you could see this coming - tomorrow!

Fortunately, it was a science research project, and I was able to clarify the terms that were causing confusion - habitat, community, niche, and population.

That's why I seldom assign projects. It seems to cause more work for the parents than for the kids. When I do hand out projects, I try to assign them so there are points where I check the progress, and can assist in re-directing effort in more productive channels. One of the few I think worthy are science fair projects. But, only if I have the kids bring in their work-in-progress to make sure they stay on task.

Dress Codes - Good or Bad?

The school I work at has a new push to enforce the dress code. It mandates some overly stringent rules:

  • Shirts must be tucked in
  • Pants must be worn at the natural waist
  • No flip-flops
  • No hats
Which, of course, are an INCREDIBLE violation of human rights! Call Amnesty International!

OK, I'm a little sarcastic today. But, I just sat in a meeting about the dress code, and, from my perspective, it's a very reasonable set of rules. But some of the teachers were up in arms. They said that they would have to spend too much time enforcing it (come on, maybe 10 minutes the first day, less thereafter). They claimed it would take away from time they needed to prepare for the End of Course Tests (mandated by the state). After a few teachers voiced their opinions, I noticed something - most of the teachers who were anti-dress code enforcement weren't the snappiest dressers on the faculty.

I've had to abide by a dress code before. The teachers had to follow one, as well as the kids. It was not a problem. I got used to wearing dress shoes instead of athletic shoes. Other than that, my wardrobe needed little polishing. But, I used to work for businesses, and there, I assure you, I had to dress according to the dictates of my employers.

Many teachers began working just as the custom of dressing up to go to work was ending. Many of them got used to dressing very casually. I've known teachers (yes, certified teachers) to wear:
  • rubber flip-flops
  • T-shirts that were clearly too small - not covering the no-longer flat tummy
  • dirty, torn jeans
  • house slippers - not for a temporary foot injury, but regularly
  • stretch leggings (not a pretty sight on a size 16+)
  • tired flannel shirts
  • mini-skirts and low-cut shirts (think Boston Public clothes on a less-than perfect body)
  • and, of course, the ubiquitous denim shirt and pants
I realize that a hot climate might mean dressing for comfort some days. That's a good time for the polo shirt and cotton pants. Maybe even sandals.

But not flip-flops.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Have you ever wanted the last word?

Go see the other possibilities for the last chance to speak your mind.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

One of the 2 Palmettos


This one is a little stressed, it seems. I have to talk to the locals, to find out what kind of care it needs. Posted by Picasa

The new house - front view


Here's a shot of the front of the new house. The weather this week was spectacular earlier this week. This was taken in the late afternoon. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Classroom crime scene


I can't wait until next year - I'll need some time to get all the materials together, but I'm planning to set up my classroom just like the picture above. Posted by Picasa

Alas, poor Yorick...


Dr. Bruce Latimer has a Shakespearean moment at a Forensic Science workshop. Posted by Picasa

Fake blood splatters


I had great fun investigating how crime scene investigators determined the sequence of events in gory deaths. Posted by Picasa
Update on Gabriela Ocampo.
She knew she would face another day of confusion, another day of pretending to follow along. She could hardly do long division, let alone solve for x.
So, the REAL problem is that she is innumerate, not Algebra-phobic.

Why are students having difficulties with math? According to one teacher:
Shane Sauby, who worked as an attorney and stockbroker before becoming a teacher, volunteered to teach the students confronting first-year algebra for a second, third or fourth time. He thought he could reach them.

But, Sauby said, many of his students ignored homework, rarely studied for tests and often skipped class.
Nah, I'm sure THAT wasn't the problem. It must have been the mysterious Algebra block.

Another teacher found similar problems among the multiply-enrolled failing students:
George Seidel, devoted a class this fall to reviewing equations with a single variable, such as x -- 1 = 36. It's the type of lesson students were supposed to have mastered in fourth grade.

Only seven of 39 students brought their textbooks. Several had no paper or pencils. One sat for the entire period with his backpack on his shoulders, tapping his desk with a finger.

Another doodled an eagle in red ink in his notebook. Others gossiped as Seidel, a second-year teacher, jotted problems on the front board.
Look, guys, it isn't rocket science. If you don't put the effort in, you won't take the reward out.

Siedel was Gabriela's teacher - so why did she fail?
Seidel did not appear to make a difference with Gabriela Ocampo. She failed his class in the fall of 2004 — her sixth and final semester of Fs in algebra.

But Gabriela didn't give Seidel much of a chance; she skipped 62 of 93 days that semester.
Ya' think that might have made a difference?

What need of math?

There's a raging argument going on over at Joanne Jacobs, a blog dedicated to education topics. The reason for the outcry? Richard Cohen's article about the California requirement for graduation - Algebra I:
I confess to be one of those people who hate math. I can do my basic arithmetic all right (although not percentages) but I flunked algebra (once), barely passed it the second time -- the only proof I've ever seen of divine intervention -- somehow passed geometry and resolved, with a grateful exhale of breath, that I would never go near math again. I let others go on to intermediate algebra and trigonometry while I busied myself learning how to type. In due course, this came to be the way I made my living. Typing: Best class I ever took.

Here's the thing, Gabriela: You will never need to know algebra. I have never once used it and never once even rued that I could not use it. You will never need to know -- never mind want to know -- how many boys it will take to mow a lawn if one of them quits halfway and two more show up later -- or something like that. Most of math can now be done by a computer or a calculator. On the other hand, no computer can write a column or even a thank-you note -- or reason even a little bit. If, say, the school asked you for another year of English or, God forbid, history, so that you actually had to know something about your world, I would be on its side. But algebra? Please.

Gabriela, sooner or later someone's going to tell you that algebra teaches reasoning. This is a lie propagated by, among others, algebra teachers. Writing is the highest form of reasoning. This is a fact. Algebra is not.
Wrong-o, Cohen.

Algebra is extremely useful. It opens up the world of symbolic logic, and is the gateway to reaching the level of what is called in the educational world, HOTS - Higher Order Thinking Skills.

Who started this uproar?
Gabriela Ocampo.

Last year, she dropped out of the 12th grade at Birmingham High School in Los Angeles after failing algebra six times in six semesters, trying it a seventh time and finally just despairing over ever getting it. So, according to the Los Angeles Times, she "gathered her textbooks, dropped them at the campus book room and, without telling a soul, vanished from Birmingham High School."
Well, I have a few questions.

  • Why was Gabriela still struggling with Algebra I - a freshman subject - as a senior? Does that mean that she never took any other high school math? For, that's what the pre-Algebra courses are - NOT high school math.
  • How were her OTHER grades? Was she a student that just did the minimum? A "just gimme a D" student? Could she, in fact, write a coherent sentence?
  • What was her high school doing about her problem? Was she given access to tutoring? How could the guidance department let her get that far without insisting she pass such a basic subject?
  • Was she working as well as attending school? I know many teens do it, but if the kid is struggling with the classes, dump the job.
  • Is Richard Cohen seriously suggesting that some people just can't "do math". Horse**t! It may take a special genius to invent the math, but ANY student who seriously applies themselves will be able to learn basic Algebra, Trig, and Geometry. They just have to suck it up and spend the time.
Number 2 Pencil's Kimberly Swygert also weighs in:
Let me just add my $.02. It should be a criminal offense for a journalist to address this issue (on any school subject) and fail to ask: "Were her teachers any good? Did they offer any tutoring? When she failed once, did they try something different the second time? And how many other students are this frustrated as well? How many of them all have the same teacher?" To add to this lack of any sort of journalistic investigation the insistence that the problem is the math, because it's just a bad old hard subject that adults almost never use in real life, is idiotic as well.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Helping in a new way

I'm providing a link to an interesting article in the New Yorker, that asks social scientists to look at major issues, such as homelessness, in a new way.
In the nineteen-eighties, when homelessness first surfaced as a national issue, the assumption was that the problem fit a normal distribution: that the vast majority of the homeless were in the same state of semi-permanent distress. It was an assumption that bred despair: if there were so many homeless, with so many problems, what could be done to help them? Then, fifteen years ago, a young Boston College graduate student named Dennis Culhane lived in a shelter in Philadelphia for seven weeks as part of the research for his dissertation. A few months later he went back, and was surprised to discover that he couldn’t find any of the people he had recently spent so much time with. “It made me realize that most of these people were getting on with their own lives,” he said.

Culhane then put together a database—the first of its kind—to track who was coming in and out of the shelter system. What he discovered profoundly changed the way homelessness is understood. Homelessness doesn’t have a normal distribution, it turned out. It has a power-law distribution. “We found that eighty per cent of the homeless were in and out really quickly,” he said. “In Philadelphia, the most common length of time that someone is homeless is one day. And the second most common length is two days. And they never come back. Anyone who ever has to stay in a shelter involuntarily knows that all you think about is how to make sure you never come back.”

The next ten per cent were what Culhane calls episodic users. They would come for three weeks at a time, and return periodically, particularly in the winter. They were quite young, and they were often heavy drug users. It was the last ten per cent—the group at the farthest edge of the curve—that interested Culhane the most. They were the chronically homeless, who lived in the shelters, sometimes for years at a time. They were older. Many were mentally ill or physically disabled, and when we think about homelessness as a social problem—the people sleeping on the sidewalk, aggressively panhandling, lying drunk in doorways, huddled on subway grates and under bridges—it’s this group that we have in mind. In the early nineteen-nineties, Culhane’s database suggested that New York City had a quarter of a million people who were homeless at some point in the previous half decade —which was a surprisingly high number. But only about twenty-five hundred were chronically homeless.

It turns out, furthermore, that this group costs the health-care and social-services systems far more than anyone had ever anticipated. Culhane estimates that in New York at least sixty-two million dollars was being spent annually to shelter just those twenty-five hundred hard-core homeless.
It turned out that, by targeting the hard-core few, social services could be delivered cheaper, and, more importantly, better.

What does this have to do with education? The ones that cause the majority of referrals, disciplinary actions, and poor scores on high-stakes tests, may be just those hard-core few. And they are being poorly served by current educational fixes. Many of them have poor reading and writing skills; some are virtually innumerate. Yet, in a typical high school, such students generally do not get the assistance they need. They aren't "special ed", they just haven't picked up the skills they need to manage to learn. They find classes a tedious and incomprehensible nuisance - as a result, they often disrupt, just to engineer an escape from the torture.

Such students might better be served in a "high school preparatory" program, that addresses their educational shortcomings. It should probably be housed in a separate facility, far from temptation to cut class and wander the hallways. No student should be in the program except the academically underpowered. It shouldn't be a dumping ground for the unruly. The goal would be to turn the students around in the shortest time possible, and might include a longer day, or even Saturday school or an extended school year.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

What's the purpose of education?

Over at Marginal Revolution, I found this pithy piece:
I view education as a self-commitment to being a more productive kind of person. Education is about self-acculturation.

Men are born beasts. But education gives you a peer group, a self-image, and some skills as well. Getting an education is like becoming a Marine. Men need to be made into Marines. By choosing many years of education, you are telling yourself that you stand on one side of the social divide. The education itself drums that truth into you.

Similarly, if you become a Mormon or a Protestant in Central America, your life prospects go up. It is not that Mormons have learned so much more, but rather they have a different sense of self. They have a positive self-image about their destiny in life and choose a different set of peers. They also choose not to drink.
It's an interesting idea - that education might be more important than we realize. It's not "just the facts" that matter, but the opportunity to mold CHARACTER.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Making a REALLY BIG number understandable

It been suggested the the full cost of our war against terror (at least the Iraq part) may eventually cost $ 2 trillion dollars. It's hard to visualize that large a number, so Hit & Run asked for suggestions on putting that into clear focus. Some of the comments (warning - I don't vouch for the accuracy of the calculations - it's much too early, and I don't feel like it):

  • It's a stack of $100s 1357.32 miles high, weighing approximately 20,000 tons.
  • population of USA (via google): 295,734,134

    2 tril/295,734,134 = $6762.83 per person in US

    population of Iraq (via google): 26,074,906

    2 tril/26,074,906 = $76,702.09 per person in Iraq

    We should try to break down the national debt this way - it might make people less likely to pressure their legislators to "get their share".
  • If you made the average US wage in 2004 it would take you a little more than 56,103,263 years to make 2T.
    Had you been collecting that amount since the split of the common ancestor between apes and humans, you would be about a tenth of the way there.

    At the other end, if you could buy a water molecule for each dollar, you might just be able to see it with one or two Trillion dollars(Googling I found an estimate of 10T molecules in water drop the size of a period).

Any further suggestions?

A really good way to weed out the unqualified

How do you recruit truly qualified technical people?

Found on Curmudgeonly & Skeptical.

Caution: the site is often not safe for work - view at your own risk. But, it is one of the funniest sites I regularly visit.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Helping students to understand science texts

While checking out the Carnival of Education, I found a gem from Ms. Frizzle's blog. Ms. Frizzle is a scienc teacher from the Bronx, whose adventures provide much enlightenment and entertainment (most of it coming from her descriptions of the bureaucratic hassles she encounters).

Ms. Frizzle invented a method to help students learn how to read science texts.
I realized that I needed to model notetaking for them, possibly by showing them several examples of notes on the same passage, and having them discuss which ones would be most useful for studying at a later point.

As I began thinking about today's lesson - another reading-oriented lesson, this time about machines & mechanical advantage - I realized that there are several aspects to successful content-area literacy. The goal is that the students will be able to learn new material from a text with little support from the teacher. The first thing they need to be able to do is figure out what's important in the text. Then they need to be able to reflect on it and play with it in their heads until they are sure they understand it. Finally, they need to write down the most important points and whatever supporting details they need in order to remember and review it later on.
She goes on to detail just how she manages the process of helping her students to "de-code" the text.

I know I'm going to try this out today. I'll post later this week how it worked.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Instructional Day

My co-presenter, Catherine Greene. She's a hard-working and dedicated teacher, and a great colleague. 
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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

My new technology

I received an MP3 player for Christmas - not the famous Apple IPod, which always seemed to me like a walking advertisment that the owner knew squat about tech. It wasn't completely intuitive to get started using (of course, I didn't bother with the directions), but within a short time, I was enjoying listening to music and books on tape without carrying around a bulky CD player. I'm hoping that I can make use of it while exercising; I certainly need the workout.

At school, yesterday we had an Instructional Fair. My department head and I showed teachers our new Quizdom setup. Afterwards, the feedback was terrific. I've heard from a good 1/2 dozen people that we did a fine job. Nice to hear it, though.

I've been exploring our school's eChalk site. It's at Wade Hampton High School. You can search for my page, then click on the individual class pages to see what I'm talking about. One peeve I have is that updates are slow to load. However, I can see that it's a useful tool for the newbie to manage. And, I can see that it would be easy to set up a group for the Science Department, the 9th grade Academy, etc. I might just do that.

A news feed I've been enjoying lately is Tech Central Station, which primarily focuses on the impact of technology on life and society, but goes into interesting topics such as the effect of life extension on populations, or drug development and the currently litigious climate.