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Monday, February 27, 2012


Danica Patrick
Photo credit: david_shankbone via photopin cc
Danica Patrick
Photo credit: WATERMARKED PHOTOGRAPHY via photopin cc

The Monday edition of Educators' News often gets researched and written during the day on Sunday. Even though RSS feeds and other sources pull together a lot of education postings for me, I usually take the time on Sundays to manually visit and search over forty major online news outlets. Doing so often reveals interesting articles about education that slip through the other news aggregators. But not so yesterday.

On a day where the Daytona 500, the NBA All-Star game, and the Academy Awards ceremony (Oscars) were all to be televised, news of those events seemed to take over newspapers around the nation. Interestingly, central Florida was hosting the first two of the three events. I had to find out in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette that a few folks in Florida are getting worried about the Imagine Schools ripping them off with sleazy lease agreements. None of the news aggregators, including Google and Yahoo, had any word of the story in their basic search returns.

It also took visits to two Chicago newspapers to find out folks like the Reverend Jesse Jackson are finally stepping up and strongly opposing Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's school closing binge.

And had I not searched, I wouldn't have known that some folks are actually tracking how federal stimulus dollars have been spent. It appears that a quarter of the $5 billion allocated for turnaround efforts in the American Recovery Act went to consultants. The Denver Post's editors commented, "As educators, lawmakers and taxpayers look back on this $5 billion rescue effort, we fear they will learn the real benefactors in the rushed attempt at education reform were private contractors who flocked to the scene rather than the students whose futures depended on it."

So give me an "E" for "Effort" for finding a few items, but an "F" for overall content today. It just happens sometimes. Maybe I should just give up and post some photo links for racing babe Danica Patrick.

Odds 'n' Ends

Here's some more stuff I ran across yesterday that might prove interesting:

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Heifer InternationalWednesday, February 29, 2012

On the Blogs

RoverPaul Hamilton tells about using Rover for Online Flash Learning Activities on [the] iPad on his Free Resources from the Net for Every Learner blog. He writes that "after trying several less than satisfactory options over the past couple of years," he found that "Rover makes it possible for online flash activities to run well on the iPad..Everything I’ve tried has run well."

Also in the tech area, Richard Byrne's 11 Web-based Polling and Survey Tools on his Free Technology for Teachers blog may prove helpful. I used to field a lot of questions from Indiana Moodle users about its Questionnaire module, so I know teachers have a need for such things. And just for fun, Richard's Mount Everest, How Tall Is It? - A Mathematics Mystery is an excellent read.

Mandy Bellm adds some humor and good thought on her Zombie Math Teacher blog this week with Epic Battle: Zombie Teacher vs. the Dreaded Pencil. I suspect it's a battle we've all fought, and lost, at times.

Two related postings from different writers present some interesting thoughts on digital and traditional textbooks. Tom Woodward shares 4 Bad Reasons to Switch to Digital Content on his Bionic Teaching blog, while Jay Mathews dumps on the quality of both digital and traditional textbooks in Why textbooks don’t work and hurt schools on his Class Struggle blog on the Washington Post.

One Sunflower writes in Noise Tolerance about working with her preschool ESL students. To her, noise is a good thing, as she wants them English.

Education blogs currently abound with outrage over the recent public release of teacher ratings in New York. Three of the best current blog posts on the subject include Diane Ravitch's How to Demoralize Teachers on the Bridging Differences blog and The Annual Shaming of the Teachers and We're All in This Together on NYC Educator. And Deven Black chides us all a bit on his Education on the Plate blog in Teacher Ratings: We Blew It! He accurately states:

Here we were given everyone’s attention, a focused and huge student body, and we didn’t take advantage of it.

We should have done what we claim to do best: teach.

We should have taught the lesson on what statistical validity means, or the lesson on how a large margin of error renders data useless.

We could have taught the lesson about how one test on one day does not necessarily – okay, doesn’t at all – show what any one student or any large group of students know, don’t know and are or are not capable of doing.

Or the one about how the findings of a test designed for one purpose, even if it does that purpose really well, are not capable of determining the causality of those initial results. That’s an easy one: a thermometer can measure how hot it is (what a student knows) but doesn’t tell you anything about the efficiency of the sun (what the teacher does).

We could have done so much to make our community smarter, more capable of determining when something they are being spoon fed is BS, more able to know what is and isn’t true.

But we didn’t.

And winding up the NY teacher ratings travesty, Norm Scott's tongue in cheek Obama Admin To Apply Race to the Top to Airline Pilot Evaluations on Education Notes Online makes the point once again about the unfairness of lots of newspapers around the country now carrying front page links to teacher ratings and salaries.

Sara Wu's 7 Things Speech Pathologists Do at School on her Fed Up with Lunches blog is a good read.

Sue Waters shares her Essential Tips to Help Parents and Students Connect with your Class Website by on The Edublogger.

Run Teacher, Run's posting about an Economics lesson for her fourth graders is pretty cool.

Doug Martin weighs in with another wonderfully acerbic posting on The Common Errant, The Mind Trust’s "Opportunity" for Indianapolis Corporate Schools.

In the spirit of the old fake feud between Dave Letterman and Oprah Winfrey, I'll note here that Larry Ferlazzo still hasn't discovered or linked to Educators' News...ever...on his excellent Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day!

New Column: Old Series

Mac Mini opened upYesterday, I added a new column to my oldest column series, A Mini Takes Over on Busman's Holiday. It's my story of switching over from a seven-year-old Mac to something a little newer, a mid-2010 Mac Mini. I began the piece:

I pretty well knew the handwriting was on the wall when my seven-year-old Macintosh dual 1.8 GHz G5 tower cooked its motherboard. Although I had a backup unit that I quickly switched over to, and eventually bought a whole "new" seven-year-old Macintosh dual 2.0 GHz G5 tower, it was getting to be time to move to something much newer and more reliable.

The cost of the used Mini was actually just a bit less than all the hardware and software upgrades necessary to make the machine usable as my main computer. But I now have a modern computer capable of running the latest and greatest software from Apple and others.

I took advantage of some of my old connections from my days as a Mac columnist to publicize this new piece. My thanks to Heng-Cheong Leong at MyAppleMenu, Dan Knight at Low End Mac, and all the guys at MacSurfer's Headline News for prominent links to the article on their sites. In writing, "If you build it, they will come," just doesn't cut it. You have to do a bit of PR work so your stuff won't get lost in everything else that appears online.

MyAppleMenu Low End Mac MacSurfer's Headline News

A Little Noise About Tucson

No History Is IllegalI feared that after all the press earlier this year about Arizona political bullies forcing the cancellation of the Tucson Mexican-American Studies Program that the whole thing would just die a quiet death. Fortunately, the Network of Teacher Activist Groups has taken up the Tucson students' cause. Their latest posting, No History Is Illegal , continues to encourage Mexican-American Studies and similar programs that aren't popular with some political groups.

Trekking the Planet Update

Dusky Sound
Dusky Sound, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand by Trekking the Planet

Darren and Sandy Van Soye are now well into their around the world trip to promote geography education. Their Trekking the Planet site has all the details of their current whereabouts and how to sign up so one's class can follow their progress and ask questions of the Van Soyes. Their Live Tracker page shows their current whereabouts (Australia) and has some gorgeous photography of their surroundings.

Planting Peas

It may sound crazy, but I got out yesterday afternoon and planted our first row of spring peas! I had the ground prepared last fall, so all I had to do was hoe a trench for the seed, pop it in, and cover it up. I usually try to get the first of our peas in around March 1 or so, but with the warm, warm winter we've had, I decided not to wait any longer. If we should have a hard freeze in the next few weeks, the pea seed should be able to handle it.

I told about the early gardening adventure on Senior Gardening yesterday.

Odds 'n' Ends

Ray of Hope

Friday, March 2, 2012

Saturn, Titan, and School Commercialization

Saturn and TitanEarth added for comparisonThe NASA Image of the Day on Wednesday was a great shot of Saturn and its largest moon, Titan. Beside a Giant was taken on January 5, 2012, by the Cassini spacecraft's wide-angle camera.

Titan, dwarfed in the image by Saturn, has a diameter of 3,200 miles. For comparison, I added an image of the Earth, diameter 7,926 miles, to the lower right hand corner of the image, more or less at scale. (Saturn's diameter is 74,868 miles.)

BTW: The image credit for the itty bitty earth insert is: Reto Stöckli, Nazmi El Saleous, and Marit Jentoft-Nilsen, NASA GSFC.

And why would I lead today's issue of Educators' News with a space photo when March 2 is obviously Read Across America Day?

After reading Emma Brown's The Lorax helps market Mazda SUVs to elementary school children nationwide, I found myself annoyed enough at the increasing commercialization of the NEA's Read Across America promotion that I was willing to lead with anything but Read Across America. Kids today are hammered with advertising on television, online, and increasingly in our schools. When I started teaching in 1970, we weren't even allowed to hang a calendar in the classroom that bore any business name or advertising. Now, I wonder if we may begin selling naming rights to reading and math lessons for primary students.

Anne and JuliaBrown wrote in part:

The sales pitch is part of the National Education Association’s "Read Across America tour — Driven by Mazda," which arrived at Alexandri'’s James K. Polk Elementary School on Tuesday.

It was a hybrid event: a celebration of reading, a fundraiser for public-school libraries, and an opportunity to market Mazdas to the pint-size set. While they don’t buy many cars themselves, they have direct access to parents who do.

"I track school advertising for a living," said Josh Golin, associate director of the Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. "This is among the most outrageous examples of any school advertisement program I've ever heard of."

I'm not a virgin in participating in commercialized school events, as an old Halloween photo of my wife, Annie, modeling our Dr. Seuss Licensed Cat in the Hat hat shows. (And the wild-eyed young lady wielding the knife is Julia, our youngest. She now hands scalpels to surgeons in her job as a surgical technician!) We've bought the hats, books, etc., over the years, but having a sales agent talk to kids about getting their parents to test drive a new Mazda? That's going too far.

I hope I haven't ruined your Read Across America celebration. And isn't that a dandy shot of Saturn and Titan!

The Top Ten
  1. Growing Geraniums from Seed (a continuing Senior Gardening feature)
  2. Gloxinias (a continuing Senior Gardening feature)
  3. A Mini Takes Over (February 28, 2012)
  4. Building a Raised Garden Bed (March 30, 2009)
  5. Illustrated Power Mac 7500 Teardown (July 23, 2001)
  6. Portuguese Kale Soup (August, 2008)
  7. Teacher Tools: A Roll-Your-Own Spelling Program (December 13, 1999)
  8. Teacher Tools: AppleWorks (November 15, 1999)
  9. Co:Writer 4000 (January 2, 2003)
  10. Grandma's Yeast Rolls (a recipe)

The Top Ten for February

Mac Mini columnYou know it's a slow news day when I start trotting out web rankings as news. But in the dearth of earthshaking education news, it certainly doesn't hurt our web stats to share with readers the most visited pages on and Senior Gardening, our two web sites. Who knows? You might find something interesting in the list.

After publishing the column A Mini Takes Over on Tuesday, I was surprised to see (and hear from) other folks who'd held off upgrading to a newer Macintosh computer. Most did so because they liked their previous Mac, and, of course, the cost of purchasing a new machine and updated software to run on it.

Our total cost for the switchover, including all the hardware, new software, necessary software upgrades to make the stuff run under a new operating system, and bits and pieces, came in costing just a tad more than a brand new, well equipped Mac Mini (without a display) would have cost.

If money had been less of an issue, I'd have gone for a 27" iMac with at least 16 GB of RAM and a 2 TB hard drive. But I'm pretty happy with the new setup, so I'll shut up about it (here on EdNews) and get back to education stories (when I can find them).

Odds 'n' Ends

And now, we finally get down to some links to real education news and commentary.

A Valerie Strauss link this morning led me to the first of a couple of great postings on Larry Cuban's blog. In Overconfident Experts as Poor Predictors, he wrote:

In ignoring one set of test and measurement experts who know intimately the flaws of value-added measures and the untoward consequences of adopting schemes that judge teachers on each year of student test scores in math and reading (and a horde of new tests that have to be developed), the Obama administration has adopted a political recipe for disaster far worse “than dart-throwing monkeys.”

Sadly, in the political world of educational policymakers and experts, there is no vaccine for overconfidence.

To tickle our funnybones, Larry's Cartoons: The Age Graded School is a good one.

A Larry Ferlazzo link led me to another funny one by Heidi Hayes Jacobs, Socrates Fails Teacher Evaluation.

Have a great weekend!

Burpee Seed

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©2012 Steven L. Wood