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Monday, May 20, 2002

More on Boston Renaissance Dropping Edison

The New York Times column, Big Charter School in Boston Breaks Its Ties With Edison (free registration required), adds a few more details on the Boston Renaissance Charter School dropping Edison Schools. The Times column reveals the decision to sever ties was made in March but just announced last week. The breakup "had more to do with power struggles and students' standardized-test performance than the clouds that have begun to form over the company's [Edison's] prospects."

Special Education

Amy Hetzner of the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal began a three-part series yesterday on special education. Although the series pertains to the Wisconsin special education situation, Numbers, needs strain special education also speaks to the national special education situation. This one's a good read.

It touches one of every seven children educated by public schools in Wisconsin, and the number grows year by year.
 
It chews up educators at an alarming rate.
 
Depending on your perspective, it is regulated too much, funded too little, shortchanged without regard to the law - or some combination of all three.

Software Update

AnAtlasHarry Hooie Creations has released AnAtlas 2.0b5 for both Classic (3.5 MB) and Mac OS X (3.4 MB). While still a time-limited beta version (expires 10/8/2002), the download page notes, "This version has performed very reliably for us. But it has not been well tested in all environments therefore it is still dubbed 'beta'. We need your help!" Note: I had all sorts of problems downloading a good copy of AnAtlas with Internet Explorer, but got a good one on the first try with Navigator.

AnAtlas is a really cool application that links to all sorts of geography information sources on the internet. I found it so intriguing the first time I used it last summer that I flooded the kitchen while playing with it. I even wrote up the results in the column Beware: MacIdiot at Work.

During the first few weeks of school last fall when the Metropolitan School District of Backwash, Indiana, was still pretending federal and state special education laws didn't apply to them (meaning they hadn't provided enough staff to fulfill the bare minimum IEP requirements and were daily risking a massive "denial of services" lawsuit), I had to come up with some pretty creative activities to occupy the 20+ special learners in my classroom while I worked with small groups in reading. AnAtlas provided one of those activities. I had the kids start in AnAtlas, first finding their hometown. (You mean Backwash, Indiana, doesn't show up in your atlas or zip code guide?) They then used AnAtlas to link to a USGS aerial photograph of their area via the Microsoft Terra Server. From there, most were able to figure out enough landmarks to navigate to their to their house. We printed up the aerial photographic close-up of each child's house.

Even before AnAtlas helped bail me out in the classroom, as opposed to bailing out my kitchen, I'd registered it via Kagi. AnAtlas is still a freeware for now, but $10 was and is a pretty good deal for the application. And...registration now guarantees free use of all future versions of the application, if and when it goes shareware.

Devotion For May 19-25, 2002

Zach Wood's weekly devotional for this week is Wrong Turn Lane. I hope it adds a bit of brightness to your week. Zach also maintains an archive of previous devotionals.

Abes of Maine

If you have suggestions, news ideas, etc., please .

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Graduation test for special ed?

Ruth Holladay has an interesting column in the Indianapolis Star about the Gateway exam in Indiana for special education students. Graduation test for special ed? No easy answer tells of a group of parents of special needs kids trying to get Indiana's superintendent of public instruction to give them a hearing.

EEOC Rules Against NEA and Ohio Education Association

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled in an Ohio case that a requirement a teacher must write an annual opt-out letter "if they object on religious grounds to union positions" violates a teacher's civil rights. The EEOC ruled against the National Education Association, the Ohio Education Association, and an Ohio local that had required teacher Dennis Robey to yearly complete a one-page form outlining his objections so that his dues would not be used towards purposes he objected to. Since the filing of the case, the Ohio Education Association has changed the requirement to a single opt-out letter, rather than an annual one.

See Feds: NEA Shouldn't Require New Form for more information. Then see NEA ordered to end hassles over religion to see why I find it difficult to ever link to the Washington Times!

More Edison Woes in Philadelphia

Jacques Steinberg reports in The New York Times that the Edison Schools announcement that "they needed to raise up to $50 million from investors in the next few weeks, largely to cover start-up costs in Philadelphia" has left Philadelphians Jittery Over Plan to Privatize 20 Schools.

New Items on SchwabLearning.org

New items on the Schwablearning.org site this week include:

As always, links to all of the new and updated SchwabLearning.org articles are available in the Schwab Learning Online Newsletter (link expires 5-27-02). Past newsletters are now archived in the new SchwabLearning.org Email Newsletter Archive.

iBook 2002Apple Updates iBook Models

Apple Computer announced updated iBook laptop computer models on Monday. The iBook will now top out with a 700 MHz G3 chip, up from the current top of 600 MHz. Improved graphics, level 2 cache, and larger hard drives were also introduced. I've updated the Educators' News Special Report for Educators to reflect the new introductions.

Barnes & Noble

Thursday, May 23, 2002

Charters in Indy Must Fulfill Special Ed Responsibilities

Kim L. Hooper tells in Charters will share costs of special ed of four new Indianapolis charter schools forming their own special education cooperative to fulfill their responsibility to educate special needs students. Hooper quotes Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson as saying, "The law clearly provides that special education students must be educated in charter schools, that they be open to all children regardless of abilities." Hooper also notes a frequent criticism of private and charter schools that Indianapolis hopes to avoid:

In other cities, charters are frequently criticized for having too few special education students or for not effectively meeting their needs. Parents seeking to enroll special-needs children often were turned away, told their child wasn't a good fit or that the school lacked the resources and staff to help boost learning.

Norm-referenced Versus Criteria-referenced Tests

Richard Rothstein's Lessons column this week, Testing Reaches a Fork in the Road (free registration required), discusses norm-referenced versus criteria-referenced tests. He tells that "a group of liberal Democratic senators are insisting that the new federal education law be interpreted as requiring the use of criteria-referenced tests."

7% Attention Deficit Disorder

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution posting, Attention deficit disorder rate nears 7%, cites a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey that pegs the ADD rate at nearly 7%! Previous estimates by the American Academy of Pediatrics were in the three to five percent range. "The CDC study also found that 7.7 percent of children --- 1.8 million --- have learning disabilities." The entire report is available for download (2.7 MB PDF document) from the CDC.

piPop News

While I noted the release of beta 2.0b6 of piPop, the renamed piDock, in Saturday's posting, I didn't really note the changes the $25 shareware utility has undergone. While visiting the Evil NT Techie's office yesterday, I downloaded the piPop beta on the techie's dual G4 Mac and installed it. I was surprised to find that piPop now places hot spots at the top corners of the screen. "piPop is a small utility for navigating files and folders in an easy and natural way under Mac OS, from piDog Software. piPop is Carbon compatible, and runs on OS 8.6 through 10.x with a recent version of Carbonlib, available from Apple." This release is still a bit jumpy on my Mac, but it shows real promise.

It was also cool getting to play around a bit on the techie's dualie. He had Apple Remote Desktop running with a view of my Mac onscreen. I had a grade spreadsheet running in AppleWorks 6 and a spreadsheet inside a word processing document with my tech inventory underneath. He then popped over to the art teacher's Mac. I could tell he was tempted to hit the control button, but it looked as if she was doing some serious work.

While such scenes bring about the specter of Big Brother, the technology to reach out from an OS X server and remotely clean things up is really cool. It was also comforting to see "my" 24 iBooks listed on his screen, ready to have updates pushed out to them when necessary.

"New" Columns

 I posted two columns today, but only one is really new. The other one should have been posted last August. Third Year Classroom Tour: My Classroom "Cast of Characters" tells of the computers we used in the classroom this school year. iBooks for Backwash Elementary gives a hint of what computers we'll be using next year and tells a bit about how we'll use them. 

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Friday, May 24, 2002

I usually update this page the night before the posted date, but yesterday was the last day of school for students. I was sound asleep by 9 P.M. last night, so this is really a Friday evening update. That's a good thing, too, as some great emails came in that I want to include.

Cynthia's Classroom

Cynthia Szczerba wrote in reference to the View from the Classroom column, iBooks for Backwash Elementary.

Hi Steve,
 
That's great to see your administration gave you the support to purchase a mobile lab of iBooks. I wish our building principal and district superintendent would 'think different!'
 
I have 18 Macintosh computers in my class room...ranging from old Centris models up through a PowerMac 9500. My husband spent his own money to purchase RAM for all models so even the older Macs show decent performance. We also networked all computers over Ethernet with a router connecting us to the District LAN. Works great! But...it sure would be nice to have a few
newer models.
 
This past Christmas, my husband surprised me with an iBook. What a nice computer. We have Airport at home so it works smoothly for me to do lesson plans while researching 'net articles. I carry the iBook to school every day and use Location Manager to swiftly connect to the school network.
 
We do have a mobile lab, but they're Toshiba PCs. WHAT JUNK! No track pad! Instead, the kids have to push around this tiny little red button in the middle of the keyboard to move the cursor. They hate it.
 
Even with the mobile lab available to us to use from time to time, it warms my heart to see my students prefer the older Macs to the newer PCs.
 
Sometime you get a chance, take a look at my web page. It's located here:
 
http://www.my-classroom.org
 
I use a Macintosh running DreamWeaver to maintain it.
 
I have two older Macs (a 1995 Power Macintosh 5200 and a 1996 Power Macintosh 5400) posting live shots from my class room to the web page every 10 seconds (triggered only when there is movement). Most people who see the set up can't believe these 'older' computers are able to do what they do ;^) Hope you can 'stop by and take a look.'
 
We're still in session until early June. You're one of the lucky ones to be out so early.
 
Maybe next school year we can set up a couple video conferencing sessions.
 
Enjoy your summer.
 
Cynthia

I did indeed visit Cynthia's classroom web page and was impressed. Just from the still photos, the classroom has an organized, but warm a friendly look. It's the kind of classroom appearance that makes one feel like saying, "That's the kind of classroom I'd like my child to attend." (I had to quickly log off, as a thunderstorm came through just as I started looking through Cynthia's pages. I plan to go back during the day next week to see the live camera shots.)

One of the things most parents don't know about their children's teachers is the amount of off-hours effort and out-of-pocket expenses the teachers contribute. When I heard that George W. Bush was pushing a $400 deduction for teachers' purchases of supplies for their classrooms, I laughed out loud. A recent survey pegged the average teacher contribution at over $500 per year. You can guess that Cynthia ranks well above average in that area.

MaxMenus

Dan Frakes, who first put me onto piPop, the renamed piDock, also wrote yesterday with raves about MaxMenus.

I think I was the original one who brought piPop (then PiDock) to your attention some time back. I saw your note today about the updates it has received.
 
Well... now I'm going to suggest you try something else ;) I've since found MaxMenus and much prefer it to piPop:
 
<http://www.proteron.com/maxmenus/>
 
It allows you to configure menus in any corner of your screen (and, with two monitors, any corner of the second screen), by clicking in any empty area of the menu bar, and/or to any key combination.
 
In each menu, you can put any number of documents, folders, volumes, and "special" items. These items include mounted volumes, System Preferences, running applications, recent apps, recent docs, your Home folder, your Favorites, and your personal music, movies, picture, and public folders. You can also include separators and text labels. All menus are hierarchical.
 
For example, I have a menu in the upper left of my screen that contains my Documents folder, one in the lower left that shows all items on the Desktop (for quick access behind running applications and Finder windows!), one in the menu bar that lists all mounted volumes and my Home directory, and a pop-up/hotkey menu that lists all running applications.
 
In addition to menus, it also has two other cool features. The first is hotkey functionality: you can assign any file, folder, or application a hotkey. The second is a new Finder menu in the Dock. MaxMenus alters the existing Finder menu to include 5 new items:
 
1) An "Open" command (useful if you want to open a file/folder by typing in the path, or by using the X browser)
2) A "Find" command which launches Sherlock (not a big benefit, IMO)
3) A "Favorites" submenu.
4) A command to stop/start Classic (this is great--I no longer have to use another piece of shareware or freeware and have another icon in the dock for this purpose)
5) A System Preferences submenu that allows you to select any pane directly
 
This utility has become one of those I can't use X without ;) It's actually replaced a number of other utilities I used to use to gain a similar set of functionality.
 
Hope you find this interesting; after talking with you about X before, it seemed like you'd appreciate this one.
 
Take care,
Dan

Dan's certainly right about MaxMenus. I'd tried it out with my previous install of OS X and liked it. After I did my hard drive update and fry the motherboard routine, I haven't really made use on the new install of the many navigation and launching shareware utilities out there.

Apple Ed

I also got a nice email from our Apple Education representative, Jeff Hartman. I'd forgotten to email Jeff about the mention of his excellent services in the column. Jeff wrote, "Its not every day I follow a link on MacSurfer and find myself mentioned in the article -- thanks!" He went on, "It sounds like you're having success with the iBooks.  That's great. When I look at that photo of the students at their desk, each with an iBook, it really affirms for me why I do this." Wow! That's just what I love to hear an Apple rep saying.

BTW: Have you noticed that Fred, in Apple's text-to-speech, knows to pronounce "rep" as "representative?

Freeware Friday

Bob Levitis has found a great little application for your OS X toolbar in Cee Pee You from Unsanity.com. See Dr. Mac Gone Unsanity Over Cee Pee You - Only In Mac OS X for the lowdown on putting a free CPU use monitor on your Mac.

Looping

Sacramento Bee staff writer Sandy Louey writes about the resurgence of "looping" in Education Extra: Looping aims for stability. Louey defines looping as when " teachers stay with the same group of students for two or more years." Louey discusses the pros and cons of the practice and notes some middle and high schools are now trying it.

Per Pupil State Funding

USA Today has a list of funding per pupil by state in N.Y., N.J. top nation in per-student spending. While it's always interesting to look at such lists, comparisons beyond neighboring or similar states aren't of much use.

More Philadelphia Schools for Edison?

The Philadelphia's School Reform Commission is considering having Edison Schools, Inc. provide "design and systems" according to School panel talks of greater role for Edison. Several options are under consideration by some commissioners. It appears that twenty schools might be given to Edison as "reconstituted schools." The Inquirer reports considerable opposition amongst some commissioners and others to expanding Edison's role in any way. The column also notes that Edison is having serious difficulty raising the funds necessary to take over the twenty schools it has been awarded for next fall.

Related column: Edison plans to expand schools

Low End Mac News

Adam Robert Guha has a good column about the internet and plagiarism from a student's viewpoint in The Internet, Research, and Plagiarism. Adam notes how easy it can be for a student to just cut and paste without giving the author the appropriate credit. I know there are times when I look at what I post critically and wonder if the words are mine, or if I've inadvertently taken the hard work of someone else.

Dan Knight also ran a column that was rather disturbing for those of us who highly value Low End Mac, in The Future of Low End Mac. They're having financial trouble again.

I received a nice email from a reader of one of Thursday's columns that Dan linked to from Low End that said it was nice to see my byline on Low End again. While Dan links regularly to this page and my column, there hasn't been any tie of employment there for over two years. I do respect Dan and feel for him as his site, now his livelihood, is going through rough financial times. The Mac web would suffer a major loss if Dan had to cash it in.

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