Think a little bit, please.

October 23, 2008 § Leave a comment

I am so thankful that we have teachers in this country like Doug. Teachers who get it, and who aren’t afraid to teach their students how to actually think.

I particularly love this: “I’m not interested in indoctrinating anyone. My only agenda is activating some gray matter, and acknowledging the value of participating in public discourse, none of which is emphasized in any official reform agenda.”

I started to wonder a few months ago what had happened to the country I grew up in. We used to elect people who were smart. Smarter than us. Ivy-league educated. Because we wanted someone smarter than the average Joe in the White House, making the Big Decisions.

When did we stop electing smart people? When did we start judging our candidates on whether you’d want to have a beer with them?

I think it started at least 8 years prior to the debacle that was the 2000 election. Let’s face it, regardless of which side you take, our last two presidents have not been the most highly educated or respected people in the room.

We NEED teachers like Doug who teach kids to think for themselves and not just believe (and repeat without fact-checking) everything they hear. We need people to teach kids that it’s OK to question authority…to say, “Wait a minute. I don’t think that’s right.” and learn how to have a civil discussion on disagreements without inciting violence. I only wish we had more adults that had learned this lesson…

Things I’ve leared this week

October 17, 2008 § Leave a comment

First of all, I am not smarter than a fifth grader.

One of our high schools put on a game show last night as a fund raiser for their senior class. They asked our department several weeks ago to help with the tech side, so I spent most of this week putting together the game board in SMART notebook, and I ran the tech last night for the “show.”

You probably can’t see all of the technology in this picture, but I’ll describe how we set it up.

First, in the lower center of the picture is my laptop, which I ran from the behind the lower part of the auditorium. It ran through a 50 foot VGA cable to a projector in the lighting booth. The laptop has a bluetooth module which was connected to a SMART airliner slate on the stage. Which is another thing I learned. Even though the specs on bluetooth say that it’s good for 16 meters, we stretched that limit and came out fine.

I had a second CPU set up on the stage with an interactive scoreboard done in Flash. The student running the scoreboard used a wireless mouse, also stretching the limits of the wireless capabilities and came out like a champ.

Using the “freeze” option on the projector, I was able to show the question, freeze the screen, then switch to a slide where the student could write their answer using the airliner slate. If we needed the student to “save” the contestant, or peek at their answer, I could unfreeze the screen. If not, I could switch back to the categories screen, all without showing the audience what I was doing, then unfreeze the screen when we were ready to proceed.

The 5th graders did a pretty good job of using the airliner. It’s hard to write when you can’t actually see what you’re writing and there were a couple of times where they forgot to select a pen on the slate before they started writing, but overall, it was pretty glitch-free.

I learned that the technology behind game shows really isn’t that much different than what we’re using in our own classrooms, and that running a game show like this can be done with a trunk full of equipment and two people.

The setup, though, take a lot of time and energy in order to make for a smooth outcome. I had a lot of fun doing it, but I’m glad it’s over.

So now they’ll be able to afford a studio apartment in midtown?

October 9, 2008 § 1 Comment

Hey, I’ll all about this.  I’m all for teachers getting paid what they’re worth.  If I had been paid better in Chicago, and had been able to afford a house, with a garage where I could park my vehicle instead of having to pay to park in the street, well, yeah, I might have stayed a little longer.

But pay isn’t the whole picture.  Someone commented on that story about being able to change the entire system, and that’s really what teachers need.  Freedom to do what is completely best for kids outside of the realm of government.

I also heard an interesting comment in this video that Jeff posted and it’s the same comment I’ve made more than a few times on a local forum(although not as concisely as the presenter put it).

“Good data costs a lot more than we want to spend.  Good data is the work the kids do every single day, it’s not the answers they get on a test.”

Until governments are willing to spend the time and money looking at the things kids do every day, and measuring progress over the course of a year, instead of looking at a single day, no amount of increased teacher pay will make a lick of difference.  Yes, it might help recruit better teachers and give reason to get rid of ones who don’t live up to high standards, but until teachers have more control over their own classrooms, and have someone higher up who OPENS doors rather than closing them, it won’t help.

I think a better plan is what HUD has been quietly doing for years.  Provide a housing incentive for teachers to live in the places they teach.  Take home ownership off the table for teachers, and allow them less worry about where their money is going.  This would amount to a huge effective pay increase for teachers and their families all over the country, not just in those areas where it’s virtually impossible to own a home on a teacher’s salary.

I also really want to know what our current candidates for President think about education, but we haven’t heard word one from either of them, and education is almost always a hot topic in election years.  This year, though, everyone is distracted, and I think it would be a huge mistake for whoever becomes president to continue NCLB in its current form.

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