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Monday, June 2, 2008


The Space Shuttle Discovery began its journey to the International Space Station late Saturday afternoon. Discovery will deliver the massive Kibo ("hope" in Japanese) laboratory to the station. Kibo will "focus on space medicine, biology, Earth observations, material production, biotechnology and communications research". Discovery is scheduled to dock with the space station Monday afternoon.


As usual, there are lots of resources that teachers may find useful in the classroom. And with just nine scheduled shuttle launches remaining before the program is retired, I couldn't resist running a big picture of the launch!

From regular news sources, there's the usual narrative reporting of the event. Discovery en route to space station on may have the best launch picture I've seen for this mission (AP photo). has a couple of good ones up as well, Shuttle Discovery Launches Space Station's Largest Lab and Japan's 'Hope' Rides Toward Space Station.

Virtual Dissection

Associated Press writer P.J. Dickerscheid has a good discussion about why schools might want to move to virtual dissections in Students skip slime, stink with virtual dissection. Aside from those who feel that dissecting animals "desensitizes kids," Dickerscheid relates that some teachers like the ability to allow students to complete such dissections on their own time via the internet.

Some Good Summer Reading

A recent issue of CEC Today had a couple of good articles I'm passing along:

Of course, as with most such publications, there are those "other articles." I'll pass on the one where the ivory tower researcher concluded, "The underlying problem in most low-performing schools is incoherence – adults working in separate classrooms with little agreement."

Blue Heron

As I was driving back from town yesterday, a blue heron was standing on a hidden piling in the reservoir near our house, so I grabbed a shot of it.

Blue Heron

I hope your summer is off to a great start!

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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Student Loan Problems

An excellent article in The New York Times by Jonathan D. Glater, Student Loans Start to Bypass 2-Year Colleges, tells of Citibank and other lending institutions beginning to cherry pick colleges where they will make federally insured student loans.

Some of the nation’s biggest banks have closed their doors to students at community colleges, for-profit universities and other less competitive institutions, even as they continue to extend federally backed loans to students at the nation’s top universities...The practice suggests that if the credit crisis and the ensuing turmoil in the student loan business persist, some of the nation’s neediest students will be hurt the most. The difficulty borrowing may deter them from attending school or prompt them to take a semester off. When they get student loans, they will wind up with less attractive terms and may run a greater risk of default if they have to switch lenders in the middle of their college years.

Getting Off Task - Out My Window

VulturesSometimes there's just not time to get a good shot when one presents itself. Such was the case Saturday morning when I looked out the window and saw a group of scavengers contesting a find in the field next door. I grabbed the shot at right through a rather dirty window and headed downstairs. By the time I got out the back door, the battle was over and the dominant vulture was feasting on its prize. By Sunday morning, nothing remained. That's probably a good thing, as the field was worked and planted to corn that day!


While I don't recommend shooting all your photos through a dirty window, breaking the rules a bit and shooting through a window when no other alternative is available is better than missing the shot. The shot on the far left obviously precludes stepping outdoors to snap the picture, and in the second, the window and stuff on the window ledge actually make a rather plain shot fairly good.

Since I'm off task anyway, let me add the vultures were snapped with my Nikon CoolPix 4300. I've gotten a lot of good shots with it, but it is one of the older digitals that has a delay when you click the shutter button before taking the shot, making people pictures difficult. It also is ready to go back to the repair shop the second time in the four years I've had it.

The shot out the jet window was taken with a Mamiya-Sekor Auto XTL. "The Mamiya/Sekor Auto XTL, introduced in April 1971, was probably the most advanced SLR camera of its day." I had two of them, one chrome and one black body that I entered the wedding photography business with. They were fantastic cameras, but prone to shutter jams. I later went to a large format Mamiya RB-67 for most wedding shots. There was an awful lot of forgiveness in those 6x7 cm negatives that saved my bacon more than once on the job.

The window photo was taken with my Canon AE-1, which is still functional. When I did a web search, I found the price for such cameras is just a bit less than I paid for mine 30 years ago! And, as a testimony to what I thought of the model, when it came time to get one of our daughters a good 35mm film camera, I got her a used AE-1.

Keeping your pets happy and healthy with Tractor Supply

Getting Way Off Task

There's no way to connect Michael Luo's As Clinton Campaign Winds Down, a Spouse Remains Wound Up to education news, but it's an interesting read. It also led me to some very late night reading last evening in Vanity Fair. Todd S. Purdam, national editor for Vanity Fair, has written a lengthy article on Bill Clinton, The Comeback Id, that has been sensationalized in some news outlets. I found it interesting reading about Bill Clinton's financial affairs and his efforts and problems in the current presidential primary campaign.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Fuel Costs and Schools

Schools are getting hit hard by rising fuel costs, and it's come at a time when many are already facing budget cutbacks from state funding cuts. eSchool News explores the issue in Fuel prices force schools to get creative. Meris Stansbury suggests in the article that high schools might save by using more online education. I'm not sure that's really a viable option, but, who knows?

Weed U?

Yes, with the last of the presidential primaries done and Hillary still seeming to be stomping her foot like a spoiled child saying, "But it was my turn," it's a very slow education news day today. On such days, I troll some of my second string sources, and today found Marijuana university offers "higher" education! Actually, the title is better than the column :-). Possibly more appropriate to this page is an interesting story on USA Today by Greg Toppo, Students find the presidential race is not politics as usual.

Digital Magazines

The last time I bought a new Mac for myself, I think I opted for the free magazine subscription that comes with it in digital format. The magazine, Macworld, arrived monthly via an application called the Zinio Reader. It was a pretty cool way to access information, although being a bit of an old timer, I still prefer the print version.

Last week an unsolicited offer to add Zinio Digital Magazines to my list of affiliate advertisers appeared on my Commission Junction account page. I ignored it until I received a follow-up email yesterday, and decided to give it a try. Of course, when I opened my rather old copy of the Zinio Reader, it reminded me of how long it's been since I got a new Mac. The Macworld issue it opened to was extolling the virtues of Panther, Mac OS X 10.3!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

An Old Battle Comes Around Again

Laura Beil wrote yesterday in The New York Times about Opponents of Evolution Adopting a New Strategy. In Texas, the state education board is now considering whether the phrase “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution should be taught. Beil notes:

The benign-sounding phrase, some argue, is a reasonable effort at balance. But critics say it is a new strategy taking shape across the nation to undermine the teaching of evolution, a way for students to hear religious objections under the heading of scientific discourse.

In the last few years as I worked with science teachers around the state of Indiana, I found that many of them were people of deep faith, but few supported the inclusion of intelligent design or creationism into the curriculum.

Public Backlash to California's Proposed Education Cuts

Columnist Steve Lopez writes of parents Going aggro on the state of schools in the Los Angeles Times. He writes:

The "Grateful Dads" are singing protest songs in South Pasadena, where parents marched in the streets last weekend at a "Flunk the Budget" rally.

The Angry Tired Teachers Band of Hayward will be there [at a rally in Sacramento on June 17], along with the Fresno Migrant Scholars and the Burning Moms, described by Loh as "underpaid, over-stressed public school moms tired of baking endless pans of Snickerdoodles" to fill funding gaps.

I really find it cool that parents, at least in California, are speaking out about funding cuts to education. We could use a bit of that spirit here in Indiana as well!

PigsSome Old Friends

Just so you won't think I'm getting too focused on education stuff during summer vacation, I'll share an old shot of a couple of "old friends." The photo at right is of Acey and Duecy, two of our first gilts on our old farm. Ducey turned out to be a very nervous mama, so we didn't keep her long. Acey, on the other hand, was like a puppy dog. She came to the call of her name, always wanted to be scratched behind the ears, and was a great mama!

If you need a shot of pigs for use in the classroom, go ahead and use this one if it works for you.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Web Browser for Children with Autism

ZAC BrowserSoftware developer John LeSieur has created a web browser for use with children with autism. He created the ZAC Browser specifically in response to a need he saw in his autistic grandson. LeSieur's browser limits distractions, "seals off most web sites from view, to block violent, sexual, or otherwise adult-themed material. Instead, it presents a hand-picked slate of choices from free, public web sites, with an emphasis on educational games, music, videos, and visually entertaining images, such as a virtual aquarium." It also "disables extraneous keyboard buttons such as "Print Screen" and turns off the right button on the mouse. That eliminates commands most children don't need anyway, and it reduces the chance an autistic child will lose confidence after making a counterproductive click."

I took the ZAC Browser for a quick "test drive" on our PC. As described in the eSchool News story, Free web browser meant for autistic children, it took over the screen, presenting just a few choices. Pictured at right is the aquarium view, with choices shown at the bottom for TV, games, music, and stories. As with any therapy or assistive technology, while this one worked well for his grandson (and me), the variety of expressions of autism in children may not indicate it for others. But it's sure an interesting advancement. . (Note: This one is Windows only.)

The Cool Surprise of the Day

Multiple sources report that former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is developing a free interactive Web program for middle schoolers on the U.S. court system. Of the bunch I read, Gavin Robinson's Sandra Day O’Connor to produce civic education video game on gave the best description.

The online game is to be called Our Courts and is supposed to be available this fall. In it, "Players will have the ability to act and make serious decisions as a judge, legislator, or business executive in an online world."

Wow! How very cool!

Teachers' Domain from WGBH

Teacheers' DomainBelle IsleI ran across another free site that for now may be helpful for science teachers, Teachers' Domain. It features lots of free science resources, including video selections from WGBH and PBS. Their professional development courses aren't free, of course. The site home page also states that they'll "be adding many new resources in Language Arts, Social Studies, and Math, as well as Science" this fall! For now, there's a preview available of their Poetry Everywhere Collection with many videos of poetry readings as shown at right.

Along the same line of thinking, I noticed that the Verizon Marco Polo site URL now leads to Thinkfinity, a merger of the Marco Polo site and the Thinkfinity Literacy Network.

A Disturbing Report

In an article on Slate, The $100 Distraction Device, Ray Fisman says some new research has shown that students given computers watched less TV but also did less homework! Hmm...

Early Childhood Intervention Pays Dividends

An Education Week column reports the positive effects of an early childhood program in Chicago. Linda Jacobson notes in Long-Term Economic Payoff Seen From Early-Childhood Education:

Researchers looking at data from the study, which is now more than 20 years old, say that for every dollar spent on children who attended the Chicago Child Parent Centers, almost $10 is returned by age 25 in either benefits to society—such as savings on remediation in school and on the criminal-justice system—or to the participant, in the form of higher earnings.

Another Week Down

Just about the time I was really getting into my current unemployed/retired gig, a bunch of cool job postings went up for positions in my area. I'd really hate it if work and income should interfere with my current gardening, home repairs, Educators' News, and general goofing off, enjoying life routine! But who knows, maybe I'll be back in the classroom next fall. Down deep, I find that I'm really excited about the possibility of teaching again.

Have a great weekend!

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©2008 Steven L. Wood