...dedicated to...hmmm, we're still figuring that one out...
Unless you're teaching summer school, The Distant Sun on the NASA site may not do you much good right now. It's an interesting "lesson in a can" on Earth's orbit, seasons, and a bit on Kepler's laws. It begins, "Earth reaches aphelion during the 4th of July holiday weekend. Curiously, our planet is warmest when we are farthest from the Sun."
In another report from the NEA Representative Assembly, Associated Press's Greg Toppo writes about a subject most of us know all too well in Low Pay Keeps Men from Teaching. Greg notes that men comprise only one-fourth of the total of public educators. He also has a piece on a Presidential report to be issued this week in Report Pushes for Reading Emphasis. The report and quotes from teachers emphasize that reading intervention needs to occur early in a student's school career, especially with special needs kids.
Another AP posting discusses the dangers of school science labs. School Science Labs Are Often Experiments in Danger (free registration required) says that "There is little regulation of school labs, and no government or private agency collects data on accidents that happen there."
Maria Newman tells of eastern states efforts to comply with the No Child Left Behind Act in Federal Law on Failing Schools Has States Scrambling to Comply (free registration required). She notes that the transfer from a "failing school" provision is causing giant headaches for systems where "passing" school to which a child might transfer are already full.
Los Angeles Times staff writer Daryl Kelley tells of new subdivision developers in California totally paying for construction of new schools in Blueprint for Public Education (free registration required). California law requires developers of new communities to fund part of new school construction, but Kelley notes that has sometimes resulted in schools of modular classrooms, as California has a $5 billion backlog of new school funding requests. Kelley describes the developer's plan for the $750 million RiverPark project, "the largest home-and-business development in Ventura County history...to spend $47 million to build and equip three campuses right away, with no guarantee of repayment."
Peter Ciacone on School Vouchers
Peter Ciacone writes a column called The Spectator for our local paper, The Terre Haute Tribune Star. He often covers more than one subject in a column and seems to have a penchant for putting his best writing last in the column. Yesterday's posting, Now you see the general fund, now you don't, is such a case. You have to scroll over half way down, or in my case, turn to page B2, to find what was really on his mind. He writes:
Pete makes some good points on the subject. It's well worth the hunting to find his comments.
Travis East has updated his freeware cross-platform Geometry program to version 2.6.3 (1.6.3 for OS X). "Designed for math teachers to easily calculate the volume and surface area of common geometric figures," Geometry is available in DOS, Windows, and Mac OS X, Classic, and 68K versions.
Tristan Harris has fixed a few bugs and added a several new features in his Mac freeware Bibliographer. Bibliographer makes creating a bibliography in proper MLA format a breeze. It includes support for book, encyclopedia, URL, magazine, personal interview, radio-TV, speech, and video entries. Bibliographer presents a simple entry form for each entry type with examples available and then automatically creates the information into the proper bibliography entry. While Bibliographer X 1.1.1 (1.9 MB) is for Mac OS X only, Bibliographer 1.0 for Classic is also still available, along with several other relatively new freewares for Mac OS X by Tristen, Puzzle X 1.0 (427K) and Desktop Rebuilder 1.0 (283K) from his download page.
New Mac Site
Low End Mac Publisher Dan Knight has added a new site to his Cobweb Publishing cluster. Apple Quicklinks will feature links and short descriptions to news, editorials, rumors, forums, and software.
It was almost a year ago when I wrote in Illustrated Power Mac 7500 Teardown, about "a 256 MB PC-100 SDRAM chip my honey gave me for my birthday." While reruns can sometimes be a drag, this year Annie did a rerun, but with a 512 MB PC-133 chip for the G4 I use at school (and at home over the summer). Since Annie is a WAN specialist for a regional banking concern, she understands the importance of having enough RAM. (Our kids sometimes refer to us as "His and Her Geeks!")
I've been running the chip for about an hour or so and have as yet to see the dreaded SBB (Spinning Beach Ball). With the stock 256 MB of RAM, the SBB was a regular occurrence. Web buddy Joe Taylor also told me of similar behavior on his flat-panel iMac until he upgrade the RAM.
Don't geeks give nice presents?
Devotion For July 7-13, 2002
If you have suggestions, news ideas, etc., please .
EdenMath is a freeware Mac O X scientific calculator. It can be downloaded as EdenMath (338K), which includes the program, Read Me file, source code, and a developer's tutorial, or as EdenMath Lite (92K), which includes only the program and the read me file.
Norton Utilities 7 (MacUpdate descriptor) from Norton Systemworks 2 can be updated to version 7.0.1 via Live Update. The update adds the Speed Disk module that was missing in the original release and bug fixes for Disk Doctor and Unerase. I pulled this update down last evening and used Speed Disk on a couple of partitions (after checking them with Disk Doctor, of course) and found it to work well on my machine.
I'd noticed some peculiar behavior with the GraphicConverter 4.4.1 version released last Friday. When I was putting together the NASA web pages for yesterday's posting, I noticed that after a cut and paste, moving the pasted selected image with the mouse produced inaccurate placement. I just used the arrow buttons to get around it, knowing an update and fix would soon be forthcoming. Thorsten Lemke today released GraphicConverter for Macintosh 4.4.2 which corrects those problems. It's available for download directly from LemkeSoft US or through a variety of mirror sites. I generally gravitate to the Ausmac mirror for fairly quick GraphicConverter updates.
BTW: While the placement problem is improved with this release, it still isn't perfect. I'd expect a 4.4.3 release sometime early next week.
New Item from SchwabLearning.org
New on the Schwablearning.org site this week is: History & Reauthorization of IDEA
As always, links to all of the new and updated SchwabLearning.org articles are available in the Schwab Learning Online Newsletter (link expires 7-14-02). Past newsletters are now archived in the new SchwabLearning.org Email Newsletter Archive.
Jay Mathews has a good column in today's Washington Post, Teacher Training: Too Much or Not Enough? His first paragraph will give you the gist of the column:
A Boston Globe column by Anand Vaishnav and Bill Dedman, Special ed gender gap stirs worry, looks at the disparity between male and female placements in special education.
San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Nanette Asimov looks at Edison and other commercial schools today in For-profit schools get mixed grades. She writes, "Edison Schools Inc. wanted to be the Starbucks or McDonald's of education...Today, the company has high overhead, low revenue and a product that -- not unlike a quarter-pounder -- is savored by some and reviled by others." Ms. Asimov tells of teachers working required 11 to 12-hour days and putting in many unpaid days.
While most of we teachers willingly contribute a lot of extra hours and days, it's done by our choice. In most cases, we're protected somewhat by
Pennsylvania's Cyber Charter Schools Okayed
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported yesterday that the Pennsylvania legislature has "defined in the law" cyber charter schools, and that such schools, like the Einstein Academy, are "clearly protected by the courts." I linked last October to an Inquirer column, Education 2.0: Point, click, learn, that told about Pennsylvania's cyber charter schools. Later, I posted links when Einstein had ISP troubles and difficulty collecting state aid from local districts. It appears this put to rest the status of cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania, barring the now unlikely prospect of a court test. While I would have previously expected such a law to undergo an immediate test cast in the past, the Supreme Court decision on school vouchers sets a direction that I think will deter any such lawsuits. (See week archives 27, 47, and 50 for the EdNews summaries of these stories.) It would appear that cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania will be treated as any other charter school and function much like home schooling with emphasis on learning with technology.
Other Pertinent Columns
T.C. Williams High School (VA) English teacher Patrick Welsh tells it like it is in a USA Today column, Testing, vouchers fail to solve problems of poor. Welsh writes:
Richard Rothstein's latest Lessons column for the New York Times considers how states can cut public school funding without lowering their standards. In Raising School Standards and Cutting Budget: Huh? (free registration required), Rothstein focuses mainly on the state of Michigan, but also generalizes to the whole country, as almost every state is seeing some form of educational cutbacks this year.
The Boston Globe's Anand Vaishnav has a follow-up column, Special ed to be eyed for inequity, that tells his previous column, Special ed gender gap stirs worry, has caught the attention of Massachusetts State Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll.
Christian Science Monitor staff writer Marjorie Coeyman writes about the problems school systems are having in complying with the "No Child Left Behind" law in Just when you thought you knew the rules... The end of the column has a pretty good summary of what's required under the law this year and in the next few years.
I ran a link on Monday to Peter Ciacone's column on school vouchers. This time, Pete's mom, retired Terre Haute Tribune Star columnist, Liz Ciacone, offers her views in Vouchers Hide True Agenda.
The Baltimore Sun's Mike Bowler writes that while "30,000 kids in 83 Baltimore Title I schools are eligible for transfer to "higher performing" schools this fall, with Title I paying for transportation...city school officials have found room for 194 kids in 11 schools." In School choice is not unlike playing lottery, Mike says, "But to be honest, this isn't school choice any more than the Maryland Lottery gives players a choice of winnings." He also notes that several other options will be available to the transfer-elgible students.
I received the following email from a friend on the web:
Gotcha! Another JewelToy widow has been created.
Gotta Lead with this Story
In an amazing twist of events, Associated Press writer David Kravets reports that "The 8-year-old girl whose father successfully sued to have the Pledge of Allegiance declared unconstitutional has no problem with reciting the pledge at school, her mother said Thursday." In Mom: Girl Has No Problem With Pledge, Kravets quotes Sandra Banning as saying:
Michael Newdow, the third-grader's father and the atheist behind the pledge lawsuit said Thursday, "The main thrust of this case is not my daughter, it's me."
New Philadelphia Schools Chief Makes Good First Impressions
The Philadelphia Inquirer's James M. O'Neill reports that "Philadelphia's new schools chief, Paul G. Vallas, has already won converts." In New schools chief hits the classroom, O'Neill says Philadelphia teachers were impressed that Vallas made classroom visits a priority the day after being hired. In talking to a group of 10th grade summer school students, Vallas said:
Virginia School Rescue Plan
A Washington Post column today by R. H. Melton, $3 Million Plan Aimed At Worst Va. Schools, tells of Virginia Governor Mark R. Warner's new Partnership for Achieving Successful Schools program "to rescue Virginia's worst public schools by deploying special teams of principals, teachers and mentors to 34 mostly urban campuses to boost student achievement over the next year." Melton says Warner emphasized:
When I read this column, I quickly wondered if help is on the way, or if teachers in the affected schools won't have one more administrative type looking over their shoulder without jumping in and helping.
Two of my fondest memories in education are of administrators who loved to teach. When I first came to Backwash Elementary a whole bunch of years ago, Principal Roy Schunk was doing an observation of me in the classroom. I was teaching a 6th grade math group long division. The lesson crashed and burned early on, but was rescued when Roy started going up and down the aisles helping students. Between the two of us, we got the kids on the right track. I just didn't have "enough hands" before he jumped in and started helping.
An earlier experience came at Harcourt Elementary (real name, this time) in Indianapolis. I was in the first month of my first year at Harcourt, after having taught at another MSD Washington Township school for 7 years. I transferred over to Harcourt to teach the 3rd grade developmentally delayed class. I was pleasantly surprised that another teacher had made the same transfer, but as Harcourt's new assistant principal.
New Assistant Principal Phyllis Russell was assigned as my evaluator for the year. We were pleasant acquaintances at our previous school, but not close. Instead of the traditional evaluating and observing, Phyllis asked that I pick a week early on in the school year where she could come into my room for the whole week and help. At that point in our careers, Phyllis had far more years and experience teaching than I. While I was initially a bit intimidated, the experience turned out to be a wonderful learning experience for the kids and I...and for Phyllis. Both Phyllis and I were just getting started with Project Read, and her assistance helped us jump start my 20 non-reading third graders on their way. By the end of the year, we (it truly was a team approach) had 18 of the original 20 kids reading pretty well!
Wouldn't it be great if administrators today could get into classrooms on something more than a half hour here and there basis.
A Wednesday column in the Portland Herald Press, Logging off? GOP duo asks if state can break laptop pact, reported that Maine Representatives Philip Cressey, Jr. and Brian Duprey "have asked [Maine] Attorney General Steven Rowe if the state could break its laptops-for-students contract with Apple Computer." The laptop program is currently set to provide laptops for all Maine 7th and 8th graders for the next four years.
The Herald Press yesterday published the editorial, Laptop contract inquiry poses wrong question. While you've got to read aways into the editorial to find it, the Herald Press comes down four square in favor of the laptop program and computer literacy for Maine students.
MaineToday.com is currently running the following poll on their Laptops page:
As of 8:30 P.M. (CDT) Thursday evening, only 138 votes had been cast with 58.7% favoring canceling the Apple contract.
If you're unfamiliar with the Maine Laptop Initiative, it's the brainchild of Maine Governor Angus King. He's pushed the program through the Maine legislature last summer. The program in its original form would provide Apple iBooks for all Maine 7th and 8th graders for the next four years. With the national economic downturn, various entities have suggested reducing the program or, as in the case this week, totally eliminating it. Nine schools in Maine have already received part or all of their iBooks as pilot schools for the program. All of the remaining schools in Maine were to receive their laptops during the 2002-2003 school year.
Two New Science@NASA "Canned Lessons" Posted
Science@NASA has two new web pages that beg to be used as "canned lessons" when all else goes wrong in the classroom. Auroras Underfoot tells of Shuttle mission STS-106 flying over and through a geomagnetic storm. The great thing about these web pages is that they include lots of related links that answer many of the usual student responses of, "But what about...?" Also posted yesterday is The Physics of Sandcastles.
While browsing through the many links from Auroras Underfoot, I ended up going through the entire NASA posting (30 web pages) of STS-106 still imagery. I've been really enjoying using a NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day Archive photo of the Trifid Nebula on my OS X desktop. The image is really cool and the transparent dock looks great overlaying it, but it's a space shot and by nature, a little dark for use as a desktop picture. In the process I ran across a great launch photo of the STS-106 mission. So...I quickly downloaded the high resolution (2.4 MB) version of the launch, sized it in GraphicConverter (select "Position" in the "Picture" menu for pixel references), saved it to my Space folder in the OS X Library/Desktop Pictures directory, and selected it as my desktop photo in System Preferences.
An AppleWorks 6 Feature is Hidden Somewhere in this Rant (skip to the feature)
I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with AppleWorks 6. The font smoothing and conversion filters of AppleWorks 6 have made updating my MATH DITTOS 2 shareware series an unnecessary nightmare. I'm very close once again to thumbing my nose at Apple and switching to PageMaker or some other application for construction of the worksheets. It's basically page layout work, anyway, once you get the math task analysis (TA -- a task broken down into individual steps in order) and graphics out of the way (no small task in themselves).
I'm currently working on updates to several of the sharewares simultaneously. MATH DITTOS 2: Fact Controlled MULTIPLICATION for Special Learners has been totally converted and updated in AppleWorks 5. Conversion to AppleWorks 6 is an ongoing nightmare. I suspect I'll just give up and compile the AppleWorks 5 version into PDF documents for final release. I'd hoped to be able to go back to both Adobe Acrobat Reader PDFs and AppleWorks 6 (fully editable by the user) versions in this release.
I've also been trying to put together the final "book" in the MATH DITTOS 2 series, MATH DITTOS 2: Fact Controlled DIVISION for Special Learners. There's a now two-year-old beta available for registered (paid) users of other MATH DITTOS 2 products in both PDF and AppleWorks 5 formats. While the book was seriously delayed by a side trip down an unworkable task analysis black hole, the most serious problem in completing the book (besides my laziness) is fighting the application in which I'm creating it. Having finally arrived at a workable TA, I've spent most of my time trying to successfully convert AppleWorks 5 documents to 6, and to just make AppleWorks 6 do what previous versions seemed to do easily.
Apple chose to cut off a valuable group of beta testers when they absorbed ClarisWorks in 1998 and left many ClarisWorks "gurus" who were members of the Claris Solutions Alliance (now FileMaker Solutions Alliance) high and dry. Beginning with AppleWorks 5, the software suite has shown rough edges that usually got knocked off before release under Claris.
Now stay with me here, as I'll eventually say something nice about AppleWorks. But...it's my page and my rant.
In the Claris closing, Apple also cut off a number of valuable applications from its Claris subsidiary. Claris Em@iler was probably the most prominent of those wiped out. It's still, to the best of my knowledge, the only email client that can handle multiple ISPs and America Online mailboxes. While I'm struggling to use Entourage exclusively under Mac OS X, my AOL account is still cleared by Emailer unless I log in through AOL. At various times, it's been suggested that the functions of Emailer would be incorporated into AppleWorks, but it's never come to pass.
A few weeks ago, I noticed one or two other webmasters bemoan the absence of a good Macintosh midrange web editor. Again, when Apple absorbed most of Claris, Claris Home Page was left in the hands of the reformed FileMaker. There, it has languished without an update for years. Like many of the old Claris products, Home Page was a cross-platform application, allowing those of us who work on both platforms to use a similar interface on both Macs and PCs. Although I've played with a number of different and rather pricey web page and site editors, the MATH DITTOS 2 site is still built with Home Page (and some occasional help from BBEdit), but that can't last much longer.
Coming back to AppleWorks 6, it still is a cross-platform application, but the Windows version is only available to those who can buy through Apple Education. Apple has shown with its iTunes, iPhoto, and iMovie that it can produce great consumer Macintosh applications, but Apple doesn't seem to really care much about AppleWorks. I saw this week on Ryan Meader's Mac OS Rumors that AppleWorks may be split into a home and office version sometime next year. While that might be a good move for Apple, they need to produce AppleWorks as a commercially available cross-platform product. They also need to work out a bunch of bugs that still exist in the application. When it was first released, I wrote in an unpublished column "AppleWorks 6 doesn't!" It does work now, but for those of use who would like to make heavy use of it, it certainly isn't nearly as refined as the old Claris versions were. AppleWorks 6 has now been on the market for 2 1/2 years. Maybe before Apple strikes out into new territory with AppleWorks, they should make sure the "Works" part of the name is true.
Macworld Expo New York 2002
Next week many from the Macintosh computing world will be gathering at the Jacob Javits Center in New York for the Macworld Expo. Expo keynote speeches by Apple Computer's CEO Steve Jobs have frequently been the venue for rolling out new and/or updated Apple products. Speculation about possible new releases each year adds to the anticipation of the unveiling of Apple's newest and finest products.
This year expectations for the event have been obscured by the controversy of IDG, and probably Apple, denying press credentials to a number of Macintosh related sites. Criterion for that denial ranges from the accusation of rumormongering to the sites not being true commercial news sites. The whole situation on the Mac web has now degenerated from finger pointing at Apple and Expo sponsor IDG, to various Mac "columnists" taking broadsides at each other.
It's unfortunate, to say the least, that this issue should obscure what might be another pleasant romp led by Steve Jobs through his reality distortion field. Jobs is a master at whipping up the crowd into a frenzy over Apple's new offerings. It's fun to watch, but like going to Vegas, it's better to leave the checkbook and plastic inaccessible until reason sets in again.
The way things have worked out on the Mac web, attention has been diverted from Apple's probably minimal new offerings at Macworld to the squabble over press credentials. Maybe that's what Uncle Steve had in mind!
The Jobsian paranoia about leaks and rumors also relates to the posting above about AppleWorks. By bringing all beta testing of AppleWorks inside Apple, Jobs has effectively silenced any testers with loose lips. He's also terribly diluted the quality of the product by inadequate pre-release testing. The problems with AppleWorks again bring into question Jobs oft-stated, but apparently lukewarm commitment to the education market.
I'm writing this little epistle on a relatively new (at least a current offering from Apple -- for another few weeks) 800 MHz G4 Quicksilver Macintosh. It's a very nice computer. Apple has continued to refine their industry leadership in component accessibility. I thought my old G3 Minitower was about as easy to service machine that could be produced until I opened up this tower.
But...I had to upgrade the RAM from its shipped 256 MB to make OS X useable on it as my primary operating system. Macintosh sites used to rail at Microsoft for their bloatware and heavy hardware requirements. Apple's OS X is a heartless, RAM hungry bitch! Don't feed it and it will bite you.
While I was just occasionally playing with OS X, I really hadn't experienced a kernel panic or a freeze from the SBBOD (spinning beach ball of death). Since switching over to OS X almost exclusively, I experienced many, many freezes from the supposedly incredibly stable new OS. Most of those problems went away when I went to 768 MB of RAM. I still see the SBB, but it doesn't go into a loop there anymore and produce what can only be described as a system freeze.
My real concern with OS X and RAM consumption is for the other four Quicksilver tower users at my school who probably won't upgrade their RAM at their own expense. And, I have a great cart of 24 new iBooks awaiting me at school for next fall that I want to boot into OS X as their primary operating system. During the specification process, I dug in and insisted each be equipped with 256 MB of RAM. When on the road in early June this year, I used one of those iBooks for daily Educators' News updates. I experienced the same frustrations with that machine and OS X as I did on the Quicksilver before upgrading the RAM.
Most web sources indicate that Steve Jobs will spend a lot of his Macworld Expo keynote previewing Mac OS X 10.2 (codename Jaguar). The joke going around is that he doesn't have much else to show. It would be great if Apple has done some serious optimizing of the OS X code for Jaguar and gotten its RAM requirements within reach of the stock amount of RAM Apple ships its new computers with. I'm not optimistic about it, however.
Nick dePlume at Think Secret is reporting that new G4 towers will be introduced August 13, the day after the inventory clearing Crystal Clear Savings promotion ends, instead of any announcement at Macworld. Nick also reports that Apple will "quietly and quickly" discontinue "the low-end, all-in-one iMac systems priced at $799 and $999." Nick wonders out loud if Apple will introduce other eMac models once the iMac is gone. For educators, one can only hope Apple comes up with at least a better entry-level price for the eMac. While some have rated it as a great machine, at the $999 entry-level educational institution price, it can't effectively compete with far lower priced PC boxes.
Have a great weekend!
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©2002 Steven L. Wood