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Monday, March 12, 2012

Sky & Telescope on Your iPhone (or Android Device)

SkyWeek appWhile just messing around online Saturday morning, I ran across Sky & Telescope magazine's Sky & Telescope app on the iTunes Store Top Free Applications list. While it isn't a complete planetarium package, it does give a nice weekly text listing of the week's events in the night sky. Clicking on the view button by a description takes one to the view described, using ones location from the iPhone's GPS. Panning and zooming through the view are possible, even bringing up a nice view of planets such as Jupiter. One may also manually adjust SkyWeek to dates and times other than those in the weekly listing.

Since "the week" S&T Skyweek was displaying on Saturday went back to last Thursday, I clicked on the Thursday view button for something I've been enjoying in the night sky for several weeks: the bright constellation Orion, Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, and Procyon, another bright star. The displayed image even reminded one that Betelgeuse in Orion is a red giant by showing a slight red tint, along with adding the astronomically correct blue tint to Rigel. The image also carries a time listing, so one can fast forward or rewind to get an idea of an object transit through the night sky.

Text listings for tonight and tomorrow night feature the planets Venus and Jupiter, which currently appear very close together and have been putting on quite a show in the night sky for several weeks.

Skyweek text 120308 Skyweek view 120308 Skyweek text 120312-13 Skyweek view 120312-13 Skyweek - Jupiter

There is, of course, a SkyWeek for Android as well.

A Different Angle on Test Prep

WFIU's Kyle Stokes had a segment this morning on NPR's Morning Edition about a school that teaches testing as a literary genre. In Indiana School Teaches Test Prep As Literary Genre, Stokes relates that The Bloomington Project School approaches test prep by encapsulating test taking strategies into a special, two-week unit. Heather Baron-Caudill, the school's curriculum coach, said, "We're not going to...spend a year learning how to take a test like some places do." While the Project School's AYP scores have a couple of troubled areas, their approach to doing effective test prep while still not overrunning the whole curriculum sounds like a good idea.

Odds 'n' Ends

I'm running a bit behind today on getting EdNews up. I'm also doing a slow burn after reading one of the more one-sided and uninformed pieces I've seen about education "reform" in Indiana, Grading teachers: Indiana's massive education reform will create "a culture shift:" Next school year, educators will be evaluated in a new way. The goal: Get rid of bad teachers.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

On the Blogs

Gee, you're right  Humans don't land on their feetA short posting on NYC Educator led me to the funny graphic at right from How's that for starting this section completely off the subject!

Mrs. Bluebird writes, "The kids began losing their minds towards the end of January, a full two months early, and it hasn't let up since," in her delightful rant about the effects of a warm winter, The Difference the Weather Makes.

eLECTIONSRichard Byrne's Videos - From Campaign to President on his Free Technology for Teachers blog appears to be a good collection of presidential election videos. His posting also reminded me of a dandy educational game I first wrote about almost four years ago, eLECTIONS. It's an online board game modeled after The Game of Life in which participants run their own presidential campaign. Candidates pick their party, issues, and plan which states to visit and how much of their funds to spend. Note that the game requires the free Adobe Shockwave Player plug-in.

Larry Cuban has started an excellent series on technology in schools with Answering the Big Question on New Technology in Schools: Does It Work? (Part 1).

Paul Hamilton wrote this week about an "almost free" text-to-speech app in SocialSpeech: Facebook & Twitter on iPad or iPhone for Anyone Who Struggles with Reading and/or Writing.

Edublogger Sue Waters has a good Interview with Jeff Meade from the Smithsonian’s EdLab.

And What It's Like on the Inside is in the middle of a multi-part series about digital textbooks:

Odds 'n' Ends

Mercy Corps: Be the Change

Friday, March 16, 2012

Annual Pink Slips Sent in California

The San Francisco Chronicle's Jill Tucker reports on this year's California version of a now annual event that occurs all across the nation in More than 20,000 California teachers pink-slipped. She tells of thousands of California teachers receiving preliminary layoff notices, based on school "districts' best guess at the amount of money they will get to educate kids next year after the Legislature concludes its annual budget fight this summer." Laws in many states require such preliminary notices, in the past creating a cycle of spring layoffs followed by limited callbacks in the fall. The problem, of course, isn't with the law that requires giving timely notice to employees of a potential layoff, it's the lack of adequate funding for schools.

In California this year, the situation is complicated by a potential automatic "$4.8 billion trigger cut to education funding" to balance the state's budget. If a tax measure on the November ballot isn't passed, California's teacher layoffs could reach and estimated 55,000 teachers!

Interesting School Construction

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A story by Amanda Lillie that first appeared in the Austin (MN) Daily Herald got picked up by the wire services and is getting a lot of play around the nation. Lillie tells in 21st Century school house about the Grand Meadow Schools' unique monolithic dome construction that provides both utility and efficiency. About ten years ago, the small Minnesota school district was considering a major renovation of their facilities and realized that new dome construction wouldn't cost all that much moe and would produce cost savings for years to come.

The article(s) don't include much information about teaching in a dome, but a short 2007 piece from Crazy Guy on a Bike revealed that Grand Meadow's five large domes house the elementary school, middle school, high school, gym, and cafeteria/auditorium. A YouTube video by a previous Grand Meadow Superintendent, Joe Brown, has Brown telling about the advantages of having a dome school. I liked that he translated the school's energy savings into how many additional teachers he could make available to students based on energy savings.

I searched for a blog by a Grand Meadow teacher, but came up empty. But here are a few related articles I ran across in my searches:

 • Monolithic: Grand Meadow, Minnesota: A Grand Campus of 5 Monolithic Domes! by Freda Parker
 • District Administration: Dome Sweet Dome by Julie Sturgeon
 • ABC Domes: Domes On The Brain: School Applications (great aerial photo)
 • eSchool News: '21st-century schoolhouse’ saves money, improves efficiency

Encyclopaedia Britannica Goes Digital Only

Encyclopaedia Britannica announced this week that the 32-volume, 2010 edition will be its last print edition. From various online articles, it appears that Britannica will move to an online subscription model ($70 per year) with some free content as well. While almost all of the articles I read mentioned Wikipedia somewhere along the line, I found it strange that none of them noted that World Book has its 2012 print edition coming out soon.

Odds 'n' Ends

Like many areas across the nation, we're experiencing what appears to be an early spring here in west, central Indiana. The Weather Channel's 10-day Gardener's Local Forecast for our area shows no predicted frost for the period, with high temperatures ranging from the upper 60s to the upper 70s. Our fall planted garlic which would normally emerge in April has been up since late December. I noticed spears of asparagus poking up through the soil this week, also well ahead of normal. Whether the result of man-made global warming, the more acceptable climate change term favored by conservatives, or just a cyclical climate variation, it's been a strange winter and early spring, marked by horrible storms that devastated many areas across the nation.

While I worry about the potential effects of this weather pattern, especially for another droughty summer, I'm also enjoying the great weather we're currently having. I posted photos this week on Senior Gardening of some wispy fog with the moon still in view from Tuesday morning, an indoor gloxinia in full bloom, and the first spear of asparagus of the season.

Morning fog and moon Purple gloxinia First asparagus

Have a great weekend!

Senior Gardening

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