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Monday, January 24, 2005

A Tough Winter

winterWhile this winter started out as a pretty mild one, much of the nation has been subject to snow, ice, and flooding over the last month. On Saturday, we had snow with 35 MPH winds. The main highway to our house (IND 154) is closed between Graysville, Indiana, and Hudsonville, Illinois, as the levee that holds back the Wabash River has broken in several places. Several families have lost their homes due to the flooding, including one elderly lady who watched her doublewide float down the Wabash last week. National Guard helicopters have regularly been employed for rescue missions.

There are going to be a lot of make-up days across the state of Indiana next spring, as weeklong power outages due to ice storms, widespread flooding, and generally nasty weather have caused frequent school closings. One and two-hour delays have been commonplace since the first of the year.

Fifth Grade Has Changed

Debbie Farmer has helped in her daughter's classrooms for years. She tells a humorous tale of a recent visit to her daughter's fifth grade class and remembers how much things have changed since she was in fifth grade in Mom relearns some fifth-grade lessons. Farmer tells in this Christian Science Monitor column:

The first big difference I discovered about going into a fifth-grade classroom is that there are a lot of new rules that I must follow, most of which are made up by my daughter.

Some of the basic tenets are: 1) Do not wave or make eye contact with any other human being in the room; 2) Do not say things like "by golly," "gee-whiz," or "groovy"; 3) Do not tell stories from anyone's sordid past as a baby; and 4) Do not, under any circumstances, wear the flowered leggings with the wide-brimmed straw hat because "it's not the '80s anymore, you know."

Science Education

A Red Nova column, Science Education, discusses the recently released results of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Survey (TIMSS). It states, "Between 1995 and 2003, fourth-graders in the United States did not improve their average science scores on TIMSS." Most of the column and several posted responses lay the blame at the feet of under trained teachers. While probably true, I suspect the authors of these statements have never taught a day in an elementary school classroom trying to meet the NCLB standards in reading and math.

Questions About Quality of Physical Education

With the server changeover and a new computer coming in last week, I missed posting a good column I found last Wednesday about the quality, or lack thereof, of physical education classes in the United States. The CNN/AP column, More schools benching P.E., discusses gym classes that may be poorly run and taught by under qualified or disinterested staff. The column states that "nearly one-fifth of all high school P.E. teachers don't have a major and certification in physical education."


Yesterday's Astronomy Picture of the Day, NGC 2440: Cocoon of a New White Dwarf is a really cool photo. The planetary nebula NGC 2440 contains one of the hottest white dwarf stars known. And as usual, the description on the page provides lots of links that can be starting points for further exploration of the subject, great for use in the classroom.

More on the Mac Mini

Since there appears not to be a lot shaking in education today, let me add a few links that may be helpful to new or prospective Mac Mini owners.

Macworld's Jason Snell pulled apart his Mac Mini in Deconstructing Mini. He writes, "After all, better I risk the life of a single one of Macworld’s Mac minis than all of you risk the lives of your cool new little computers, fresh off the truck." It's a helpful page, but also trashes any hope I may have had of doing another "Teardown" column myself:-). Since Jason has totally stolen my thunder...and possibly saved my Mini, I'll go ahead and post a few more pictures of my Mini.

While my old Blue & White can't do this trick, the Mini and my G5 tower easily mount their drive(s) on each others' desktops by holding down the "t" key at startup when connected by a FireWire cable. At right, the G5's drives appear on the Mini's desktop below its hard drive. This little trick makes large file transfers fairly quick.

Before I tore apart my Mini, I took a look at smash's world's taking-apart the mac mini (how-to disassembly video). It seems that all web sources, smash and Jason Snell included, seem to recommend a very thin putty knife for opening up the Mini. While there are very few direct listings to memory for the Mac Mini as yet, the 1 GB chip I used for my Mini came from Other World Computing and works just fine. OWC hasn't as yet updated their search engine to include the Mini. If you'd prefer a company that gives a specific chip guaranteed to work in the Mini, try Crucial Technology. Interestingly, the 256 MB OEM chip I pulled from my Mac Mini was PC3200 SDRAM (400 MHz), instead of the slightly cheaper PC2700 (333 MHz) called for in the machine specs. Apple does note that the faster RAM chip can be used, but won't run any faster. It steps down to 333 MHz.

Whither EdNews?

I'm not really sure if EdNews is back or not. I do seem to have the time these days to crank out several updates a week, but I'm also not in the classroom very much these days. When I am in the classroom, it's as an observer or workshop presenter, rather than in the trenches as a teacher. Whether that will negatively impact the quality of the postings remains to be seen. (Keep me honest, folks!)

I did pull the tombstones from the banner today and dropped the end listing that had previously signaled the closing of the site.

I closed the site two years ago because my workload while teaching special education was overwhelming, and I was becoming consistently too negative about education in general. The site also wasn't producing any revenue, but I'll leave that one alone. I still refuse to become an online beggar.

Devotion for January 23-29, 2005

Zach Wood's devotional for this week is What Does It Take To Get You Going? Zach also maintains an archive of previous weekly devotionals.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Earth Science Picture of the Day

Regular readers of Educators' News know this site often features the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD). While preparing some materials for a presentation later on this week, I ran across the Earth Science Picture of the Day (EPOD)! I feel sort of sheepish, as it's been in operation since September 8, 2000.

The Earth Science Picture of the Day is modeled after APOD and funded "by a grant from the NASA Goddard Directors Discretionary Fund (DDF) in collaboration with the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) Earth System Science Education (ESSE) program." Like APOD, there's a complete archive page that links to monthly archives with thumbnail photos.

From the EPOD About page:

The Earth Science Picture of the Day (EPOD) highlights the diverse processes and phenomena which shape our planet and our lives. EPOD will collect and archive photos, imagery, graphics, and artwork with short explanatory captions and links exemplifying features within the Earth system. The community is invited to contribute digital imagery, short captions and relevant links. Image contribution guidelines, and acceptable use policies can be found on at the EPOD main page.'s one more great source of science photos for use in the classroom.

Missouri Lowers Testing Standards

Mike Sherry of the Kansas City Star relates in Missouri lowers testing goals that Missouri has "significantly lowered test-score targets" necessary for complying with the federal No Child Left Behind law. Sherry writes:

Under the new 2005 targets announced by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 26.6 percent of students will have to be proficient in communication arts, down from 38.8 percent. The math proficiency standard dropped to 17.5 percent from 31.1 percent.


Associated Press writer David Crary tells that "middle schools nationwide will participate in a "No Name-Calling Week" initiative." In U.S. middle schools to promote tolerance, Crary tells of the program "developed by the New York-based Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, which seeks to ensure that schools safely accommodate students of all sexual orientations." The website, No Name-Calling Week, also tells a bit more about the program.

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Saturday, January 29, 2005

I was in Indianapolis this week attending the Indiana Computer Educators Convention just across the street from the state capitol building when the news below broke. An excellent high school principal, whom I'd meet the previous week while doing a PRISM presentation at his school, sadly told me that his school system was going to lose $120,000 in owed state funds. Apparently, our new governor, no great friend of public education, had ordered millions of dollars already promised to public schools withheld. He's taken a number of controversial steps, including abrogating collective bargaining agreements with all state public employees and asking for the resignation of many state board and commission members, since taking office. Unchecked in his previous high-handed actions, he's now trying to balance the state budget imbalance on the back of Indiana's schoolchildren.

New Indiana Governor Chops Education

The Indianapolis Star's Staci Hupp and Jon Murray report on Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels's blindsiding Indiana schools in $27 million cut from schools: Gov. Daniels raises hackles by ordering funds withheld. The column states that Daniels "has ordered his budget director to withhold nearly $27 million that Indiana schools had counted on this spring as part of his promise to balance the state budget."

While The Star reports the cuts at $27 million, other papers around Indiana are saying the cuts will equal a $52 million reduction in funds school officials already had budgeted.

The Elkhart Truth goes to the logical conclusion in Education cuts may make higher standards harder to meet in saying, "With Gov. Mitch Daniels proposing funding cuts to the state's public school systems, now is not the time to mandate more stringent requirements for high school graduation, say local school administrators."

Daniels previously was President George W. Bush's director of the White House Office of Management and Budget and campaigned for governor with the slogan from a Bush quote, "My Man Mitch." The Washington Post's Peter Slevin wrote in In Indiana Race, Bush's Budget Blade Becomes "My Man Mitch":

President Bush admiringly called him "the Blade," for the gleam in his budget-cutting eye. Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) blasted him as "little Caesar." Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) once told him the only way he could fix his relationship with Congress was to "go home to Indiana."

Well, he's back in Indiana. To the Indiana educators and state workers who voted for him, I can only say, how could you have been so dumb? Now, where can we send him?

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