The Washington Post– and many other outlets– recently reported on the resignation letter of Gerald J. Conti, a social studies teacher at Westhill High School, Syracuse, New York. Mr. Conti has 40 years of teaching experience, but feels that teaching has been marginalized in the increasingly aggressive drive for standardization of curricula, instruction, and assessment.
With regard to my profession, I have truly attempted to live John Dewey’s famous quotation (now likely cliché with me, I’ve used it so very often) that “Education is not preparation for life, education is life itself.” This type of total immersion is what I have always referred to as teaching “heavy,” working hard, spending time, researching, attending to details and never feeling satisfied that I knew enough on any topic. I now find that this approach to my profession is not only devalued, but denigrated and perhaps, in some quarters despised. STEM rules the day and “data driven” education seeks only conformity, standardization, testing and a zombie-like adherence to the shallow and generic Common Core, along with a lockstep of oversimplified so-called Essential Learnings. - Gerald J. Conti
Infographics have a way of bringing issues into focus (… thus “INFOgraphics”, I suppose!). American education reform seems to be stuck in a pattern of finding fault, then believing that more of the same policies that created the faults are the solution.
“Adjuncts are not regular members of the faculty; we are paid an hourly rate for time spent in the classroom. We are not paid to advise students, grade papers, or prepare materials or lectures for class. . . . To ensure that we remain conscious of the adjunctification of CUNY, we ask that you do not call us ‘Professor.’”
Location: College of Saint Rose
Term(s): Fall 2012, Spring 2013
Class size: ~20
In this course, students develop their computational thinking skills through guided inquiry discussions. Topics such as the nature of computation, binary, boolean logic, computer architecture, networking, and programming are introduced. Students are challenged to reverse engineer programming solutions in order to explore functional decomposition and other computational concepts.
Location: University at Albany, School of Education, Department of Educational & Counseling Psychology
Term(s): Spring 2013
Class size: TBD
Co-taught with Paul Zachos
Backward design, formative assessment and action research will be applied to practical problems chosen by participants to develop critical assessment and evaluation concepts and skills for STEM-related education. The course will support participants in creating innovative lessons or productively addressing classroom, school, and state challenges such as high-stakes testing and professional performance reviews.
Participants must be actively teaching during the course. Participants are expected to build and refine a learning module related to their own teaching, to conduct and share the results of assessments of student learning on a monthly basis and to work in consultation with fellow participants and course instructors to produce and evaluate a completed module. This work will be in lieu of extensive readings and a formal paper.
Bad data is a fact of life. Coping with bad data is a valuable, learned skill. Bad Data Handbook offers insights from over 20 authors based on their years of personal experience managing ill-defined, often chaotic and incomplete data. We begin with a exploration of what is meant by *bad data* and what checks we can preform to help us understand data quality as a prerequisite to data analysis.
Kevin Fink offers suggestions on approaching data critically in order to ensure that we understand what we’re working with before we begin to try to manipulate it. Fink offers useful scripts in shell and Perl that can be used to inspect data and perform basic sanity checks. Paul Murrell tackles the problem of scraping data from sources formatted for human consumption into a format more amenable for algorithmic analysis using R. And on and on.
Each chapter addresses a critical concern in the data life-cycle: identifying, annotating, capturing, archiving, versioning, manipulating, analyzing, and deriving actionable information from imperfect or incomplete data. The advice offered is both powerful and immediately useful to data scientists and newcomers to the field alike and for me has spurred several ideas for how to approach teaching statistics.
Given the number of authors who contributed to this volume, it should come as no surprise that the tone, writing styles, and tools used vary greatly among the chapters, sometimes wandering into technical minutia, but only infrequently. The book holds together remarkably well, regardless, and was a pleasure to read.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary ebook copy of this book to review
Listening to Pandora tests me. Their algorithm seems to be that whenever they detect that I’m listening to a song I like, they should visually or aurally interfere, thus creating the most agitating experience possible.
This evening, before I logged in, they began playing a song I like, but a version I hadn’t heard before so, to fully appreciate the music, I paused it to grab my headphones. Of course Pandora made it impossible for me to listen to the song by modally forcing me to login (#fail). Unfortunately, their login routine isn’t sensitive to what you were listening to immediately prior to login, so they just start playing something new and different (#fail).
Don’t get in the way of the user enjoying the experience.
When a close friend sent me a copy of this book, his inscription read, in part
it has always been about the students
In this short video, Dr. Steven Strogatz– a Cornell Mathematician– reminds us that the student-teacher relationship is complex, dynamic, enduring, and often unpredictable; far from the Brave New World-style cold, isolationism espoused by the so-called professionalization of education that the United States has experienced over the past 100 years.
When I’m commenting on electronic documents, I find it useful to be able to quickly generate a PDF of the marked-up version of the document to return to authors for review. I annotate the document using track changes and adding comments (using the INSERT > COMMENT feature… not by adding text to the body of the document!!!), then
Save as PDF…
to keep a copy for myself and to email (or post to a course management system) for the author to review.
Unfortunately, OSX doesn’t have a built-in keyboard shortcut for Save to PDF…, but it’s easy to add one.
[Note: you can't Save to PDF... from an Adobe Acrobat print dialog box... it would bruise their ego]
This 70-minute lecture by Charlie Kaufman— Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptation, Being John Malkovich— on screenwriting applies equally well, I think, to being an educator. Consider the following excerpt, but replace screenplay with learning– for the student perspective– or even teaching!
A screenplay is an exploration. It’s about the thing you don’t know. To step into the abyss. It necessarily starts somewhere, anywhere, there is a starting point, but the rest is undetermined, it is a secret, even from you. There’s no template for a screenplay, or there shouldn’t be. There are at least as many screenplay possibilities as there are people who write them. We’ve been conned into thinking there is a pre-established form.
While I sometimes found it difficult to distinguish quotations from his original thoughts, I found both to be engaging and inspiring.
HTML5 introduces the ability to cache content client-side so that often-used resources can be used without re-downloading them. This also enables a site to be viewed from the client when no network connection is available (i.e., offline viewing of the site).
In order for this to work, there are a few things one must do:
Refer to that file in the opening html tag of every page that will use cached resources.
Configure the web server so that the file is sent to the user agent with a specific MIME type: text/cache-manifest
Regenerate the cache manifest any time you change the files in your site.
Once everything is setup properly, you can visit the site using your favorite web browser. Then, to test whether the caching has worked, you can turn off the network connection to your web browser’s computer and try reloading the page.
Digital voice recorders can be a handy tool for dictation or recording research interviews. Here are some of the things I consider when looking for a recorder.
Make sure the recorder you choose has a USB port or (even better) a built-in plug. Some recorders do not allow you to transfer your recordings to your computer.
The default recording file format should be something that is easily playable on your computer’s already installed software, such as Quicktime, iTunes, or Windows Media Player. WAV and MP3 work well, but many recorders use WMA, a windows format that requires additional software on the Mac to playback.
You generally want dual (or quad) built-in MICs for stereo recording— invaluable in interview sessions. You can play your recordings with headphones and perceive directionality. Not all recorders record in stereo. Also, an external MIC jack, in case you ever want to use an external microphone (a lapel clipped mic or shotgun mic, e.g.)
A tripod mount screw is handy for setting up your recorder for standalone operation.