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Monday, November 25, 2002

Motivating Young Readers

The Washington Post's Ian Shapira tells of Lee Bell's antics in trying to encourage his kids to read in At the Helm, Serious Yet Silly. Shapira writes:

Once, the teaching veteran with a penchant for jokes locked himself in a pigpen all day on the school's front lawn with a few 40-pound Yorkshire pigs. Another year, he dressed up as Waldo, the children's book character with big glasses and red and white striped shirt and snow hat, and popped up in classrooms.

In this era of required testing and scripted teaching, it's refreshing to read about teachers like Lee Bell who still bring spontaneity, humor, and effective discipline and teaching into our schools.

Leonid Links

HSTWhile watching the Leonids this year turned out to be a total bust here in central Indiana due to the full moon and later a full cloud cover, I did find a great link just yesterday that's worth bookmarking for next year. Gary Kronk's Comets & Meteor Showers: The Leonids is an excellent source of information about the Leonids.

NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day Archive had several great photos of the Leonids last week. Unfortunately, they were all privately copyrighted, so I can't reproduce them here. Yesterday's APOD photo can be used. It's a spectacular view of the Hubble Space Telescope over Earth taken by the STS-82 crew in 1997.

Desktop Photos

I published a column last summer about using space shots for desktop photos or backgrounds, Out of this World Desktop Pictures. While I didn't mention it in the column, what put me onto the subject was that I was hunting for desktop photos to use as I set up our classroom set of laptops. I'm still messing around with the stock software package for our 24 iBooks, but each now carries a unique desktop photo, along with a small photo taped to the cover just below the laptop's number for easy identification.

Some of our students have already settled on a favorite iBook that is "theirs," and the desktop photo provides them and me a quick and easy identifier beyond the unit number. As we begin to vary to the software pack among the units due to insufficient licenses to cover all the units, I expect the desktop photos to become somewhat more valuable is sorting out which unit has what installed on it. While I chose to go with a space theme for the first round of desktop photos, I'm already working on a new set of flower and nature photos to use this spring. I can envision using the photos for identifying which laptops have what software pack on them later on, using several different themes at once.

Anyway, here's the set we're using right now. Each photo has a link that will at least get you close to a download URL.

VLA

Triffid

HST

Sierra Moonrise

Space Station

Space Station

Space Shuttle

Mars

M81 Galaxy

M51 Galaxy Close-up

M51

M31 Galaxy

Earth

Shuttle Launch

Jupiter

Horsehead Nebula

Full Moon

Solar Eclipse

Cernan on Moon

Alan Bean on Moon

Gemini North

Charles Conrad on Moon

Apollo 11-Earthrise from Moon

Cerro Tololo, Chile

Laptop Columns

Here's what seems to be your daily dose of columns concerning the Maine Laptop Initiative:

Thirty Day Wonders

According to the Los Angeles Times, Roy Romer, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, has "put out the welcome mat Thursday for professionals, including accountants, attorneys, bankers and engineers, who are considering a career switch." Shifting Gears to Become a Teacher tells of the effort. Those hired under the Los Angeles Teaching Fellows Program will attend six whole weeks of teacher training before becoming "interns in the district for three years."

The Boston Globe's Anand Vaishnav reports in Fast-track teacher training boosted that Massachusetts is revamping "programs that hire non-educators to teach in public schools, responding to criticism that the fast-track training sessions leave participants ill-prepared for daily classroom life." Vaishnav writes that the previous requirement of a summer of training has been changed to "a year of preparation at a college or university selected by the state Department of Education."

Slow Start for No Child Left Behind

Boston Globe correspondent Shari Rudavsky writes in Study says law aids few students that a study released last week by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now "found that few students have received the supplemental services from outside providers" promised in No Child Left Behind, and that "few school districts have complied with the mandate that they inform parents when their children spend more than four weeks in a row in a classroom with a teacher who is not ''highly qualified.'''

Great Column of Ideas for Apple Education

If you missed the link last Friday for Jeff Adkins recent Mac Lab Report, Advice for Apple Education: Let's Get to It, be sure to give it a read. I generally don't repost links to columns, but this one has some terrific ideas for Apple Education.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Today's short posting is a roundup of all the neat articles I missed yesterday that appeared in Sunday papers around the country.

Two columns that tell about online high schools in California and Indiana are Students feel at home in new "cyber school" and Virtual school must chart a new course: Online Academy faces competition, funding fight.

Richmond Times-Dispatch writer Nicole Johnson writes of the success of the Faison School for Autism using applied behavioral analysis intervention in Hope for Parents: Unlocking autism's door Richmond school provides vital therapy.

Joseph Szadkowski reviews Riverdeep's Mind Power: High School Math in Number of ways to use math game for the Washington Times.

Scott Miley tells of Tracey Streit's innovative science lesson in 8th-graders solve 'crime' in forensics science lesson. Streit set up a "crime scene" behind the school and had her students play forensic expert in trying to "solve the crime." This one's a cool lesson idea!

Devotion for November 24-30, 2002

Zach Wood's weekly devotional for this week is 24/7/365 Thanksgiving. Zach also maintains an archive of previous devotionals.

Wednesday Evening, November 27, 2002

No Child Left Behind Columns

The "war of words" rages on between the Bush Administration and America's public schools. Michael A. Fletcher of the Washington Post tells of school officials concerns about the final rules posted for the No Child Left Behind law in New Education Rules Criticized. Chicago Tribune staff reporter Stephanie Banchero relates in U.S. official: Law to reform bad schools is being ignored charges by Bush Administration Undersecretary of Education Eugene Hickok that "it's time to stop making excuses and start implementing the new federal law that lets children escape bad schools while giving them better teachers."

Diana Jean Schemo of the New York Times cuts through all the rhetoric in New Federal Rule Tightens Demands on Failing Schools by pointing out that "the administration was quietly paving the way for vouchers to private schools as the answer when districts could come up with nothing else." This, of course, has been the consistent read on No Child Left Behind here at Educators' News.

Mouse Squad

Amy Cortese of the New York Times tells of student computer troubleshooters in When Computers Won't Work, Schools Call for Mouse. Ms. Cortese tells of the Mouse (Making Opportunities for Upgrading Schools and Education) program where students are trained in computer repair to help out in schools. (Also see MOUSE Squad Overview.)

Your Daily Astronomy Fix (or stuff Steve runs when there's not a whole lot of news to print)

What would happen if two black holes were to collide? It's only a matter of time until it occurs in a faraway galaxy, according to the Science@NASA article, A Super Galactic Discovery. The Chandra X-ray Observatory has identified two black holes in the galaxy NGC 6240 that will eventually collide. This one's a fun read! (Also see NGC 6240: When Galaxies Collide and The Supermassive Black Holes of NGC 6240.)

Mars roverName This Martian Robot Contest

The November 26 Astronomy Picture of the Day announced a contest to be run by The LEGO Company and The Planetary Society to name the Mars rovers to be launched next June. School children in grades K-12 may submit name suggestions, accompanied by a short essay, by January 31, 2003.

Happy Thanksgiving!

If this EdNews update sounds especially mellow, it's partially because that's how I finished this short school week. Shortly before the end of school today, I handed our superintendent of schools three purchase orders that complete my responsibilities in software evaluation and specification for the IDEA grant we received last winter. Teaching in a small rural school system that has less than 1000 students, trying to buy site license software can be a major headache. I simply resorted to telling software developers the enrollment of our whole corporation and insisting that posted site license prices be only a beginning point in negotiations.

To my surprise and relief, each of the companies whose software I hoped to specify chose to competitively bid to receive the business of our small system, in one case cutting the site license price by over 50%. For others in similar endeavors, I'd suggest treating posted prices only as initial offers in educational software (for multiple licenses). While I'm sure this tactic might not work too well with Adobe or Microsoft, I found the smaller specialized software developers to be quite sensitive and responsive to our needs and a sense of fairness in dealing with a small school system.

To Bob, Steve, and Andy: The purchase orders are to go out next Monday!

In the next few weeks or months, I'll be posting some kind of column, article, or review about these products and our experiences with our writing improvement program. To give you an idea about what is coming, I'm finding that my students who couldn't write an effective sentence are now doing so and stringing two or three of them together in short paragraphs. Our kids who could write a sentence are now writing short, but effective compositions several days each week. The rate of improvement has been tremendous! It's the kind of stuff that makes you glad you chose education as a career.

Thursday, November 28, 2002

Like many of you, we have family home for Thanksgiving Day and will be celebrating the many blessings the Lord has bestowed upon us.

Rejoice evermore.
Pray without ceasing.
In every thing Give Thanks:
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Happy Thanksgiving!

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