Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Future of Education

Derek had a post about an interactive Map of Future Forces Affecting Education. The map legend shows us that it looks at
Drivers ... These are six categories driving all trends, hotspots and dilemmas.
Impact areas ... These are five key areas of activity where major trends are revealed from different perspectives.
Hotspots ...These are key trends that we think have broad impact on education and often make good starting points for exploring the map.
Dilemmas ... These are issues that can't be solved with either/or thinking but require new strategies that go beyond simple problem solving.
Trends ... Trends make up the core of the map. They are major shifts, new phenomena and concepts, and driving forces that will shape the future context of public education.
The map looks at things that have not really been considered much in education up until now. To give you an idea, among the trends mentioned in the map is "increasing chronic illness". Clicking on the box tells us about rising youth obesity and the fact that 40% of public school students need mental health care. Looking at a real world application of this, they say that it is becoming harder to be healthy and we must look for ways for students' need for medical care not to adversely affect their ability to participate in school. It also says that that the health needs of children can help to create real change in education.

In the resource library they have a couple of presentations about the map. They give a pretty good overview of it. There are links to other resources connected to the various trends, etc. discussed in the map. There is a lot of valuable information here. And a lot to think about.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

How do you define success?

I was looking at Mashable today and saw a post entitled 6 Key Ways to Measure Your Blog's Success. It is, as you might expect, a look at different rating systems like Technorati. And while I understand what they are talking about, it raised an important question in my mind: what does it mean for a blog to be successful?

I have yet to check Technorati to find out how my blog is doing -- largely because I would be surprised to see it there at all. None of my blogs have many readers. And that is OK with me because I don't think blogging is about numbers. To me, if there is one person who has gotten even one idea or one different perspective on just one topic, the blog has been successful. If one person reads something here that helps them see that they aren't the only one who thinks a certain way, it will be enough for me.

And actually, if no one reads this blog but me, I will still keep blogging because blogging is in large part about the writing and the thinking. I want to continue to do both within the confines of my blogs even if no one ever sees them because I will have learned something in the process. That in itself is success.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

I'm R2-D2.

OK. I haven't taken one of these tests in a long time. And since my son and I just bought our Star Wars stamps, this seemed appropriate.

Your results:
You are R2-D2

Jabba the Hutt
Qui-Gon Jinn
Darth Maul
Luke Skywalker
Han Solo
Emperor Palpatine
What you lack in height
and communication skills,
you make up for in industriousness,
technical know-how and being there
when others need you most.

(This list displays the top 10 results out of a possible 21 characters)

Click here to take the Star Wars Personality Test

Thanks to Darcy for the link!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

In answer to your question...

Lesley asked if there was a downside to using OpenOffice. So I will try to answer.

I would have to say that, yes, there are some sacrifices you make. For instance, there is no built-in reading level analyzer in OpenOffice (OO). There is an add-on you can get, but it is sometimes a little buggy. It is possible to track changes and everything, though, so that isn't a problem. You can add written comments to a paper, but as far as I know you cannot add audio comments.

Some things are not impossible in OO but seem a little more awkward to do. Page numbering is one of them. If you want the title page to not have a number or if you have pages with Roman numerals followed by regular numbering, it is a little complicated to do. I think, though, that if I did it more often, I would remember from one attempt to the next and not have to go to the forums looking for help.

That brings up one of the real advantages of OO and other open source tools is that there is a great community of users out there who have either already answered your question for someone else or will be willing to answer it for you if it hasn't come up yet. (I have never yet had a question for which I couldn't find the answer on the OO forum.)

The only other problem I have ever had is that sometimes when I open my OO .doc document in Word, the formatting is a little off. This can be frustrating. But I have had worse problems with using different versions of Word on computers in a computer lab.

For me, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages, but not everyone would necessarily feel that way. But I go back to what I said last time: Download it and try it for two weeks and then decide.

Voice Thread 2

Darren had a link to Voice Thread, and I decided to give it a look. I initially wrote about it on my other blog but it wasn't possible to embed it there. So I came back over here to see what happened.

I think that this tool, which is free, could have potential for classroom use. It would be interesting to try.

Voice Thread

This is a test of Voice Thread and my blog's ability to embed it.

Look at the armadillo that came into my yard!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

In praise of open source

Thanks to a post over at Kairosnews, I learned about an article in Linux Insider about the use of open source software. As a computer user running Ubuntu Linux, using Firefox, OpenOffice, Abiword, Audacity, and many other open source programs, there wasn't a lot that was new to me. But it was an interesting read.

The first part of the article discusses myths about open source. One of them that I have heard over and over is
Myth: Students need to learn the standard applications.
When you look at the job ads out there, this would seem to be true. I have really been looking at job ads lately, and it is amazing to me the number that want you to be able to use specific Microsoft programs -- even down to Outlook. There is seldom a discussion of what one needs to be able to do with these programs, merely the requirement that you know how to use them.

My son was recently enrolled in a college level IT class where he had to use Microsoft Office products. I tried to convince him that he could do it all in OpenOffice; after all, how could the professor tell what program he had used to prepare a document? He did most of it that way. Some assignments, though, required a discussion of the process of doing something in Word, for instance. He had to borrow a computer for those assignments.

The article addresses this myth, saying:
Schools have a responsibility to give students the skills they need to succeed. By the time high school students get to the job market, today's applications will be antiquated. Students need to know how to use word processors to communicate and spreadsheets to explore numbers and graphs. Their technical skills should transcend the particular idiosyncrasies of the applications
I wonder, though, if it isn't our fear as older adults that keeps students using "standard" applications. For many of us, this is all we know about computers. We are still, some of us, a little afraid of the machines. So we stick with what we know. Until we break out of the mold, we can't really help our students do it.

While we can't expect schools to all immediately switch to open source, do you think it would be possible to introduce it slowly? Could teachers get permission to download OpenOffice, for instance, and use it with their students?

This brings me to another myth:
Myth: Moving to F/OSS will require retraining and relearning.
The author's response was:
People are often reluctant to try new computer programs, though most users find only subtle differences between one program and another. In the course of giving conference presentations about F/OSS, two computer coordinators shared stories of upgrading some users' Microsoft Office suite with, leaving Microsoft Office icons as the means to start In both cases, most users failed to notice that they were no longer using Microsoft Office.
So my challenge to you, if you are not using open source already, is to go out there and give it a try. Download a program and use it exclusively for two weeks. See if you don't like it.
It may take some getting used to, but it won't be any more difficult to adjust to than a Microsoft upgrade.

And if you aren't willing to do that, at least read the article.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The burden is on us

A History Teacher has an interesting post on plagiarism and how he has changed one of his assignments to avoid it. This is exactly the kind of thing that I think should be happening. Like the cheating with iPods I wrote about earlier, it seems to me that this is what we should be doing. Rather than expecting students to complete assignments that resemble the ones we were given as students with enthusiasm and integrity and then getting upset when they use their creativity (or lack of it, in the case of a lot of plagiarism) to get around it, we should be looking for ways to make our teaching and our assignments more relevant and more creative.

Dan mentioned a particular WebQuest assignment he has changed over the years to make it more "cheat-proof". That got me thinking about my own WebQuests. Granted, I will probably never again have an opportunity to use my Will the Real Thomas Merton Please Stand Up? assignment, but you never know. There was little in this assignment that did not lend itself to copying from the sources if my students had been so inclined. The other WebQuests I have done are about the same. But, I ask myself, what else could I have done? These assignments were for writing classes. They ask students to read, summarize, and synthesize information. If they wanted to copy from the sources, it was certainly possible.

This, for me, is the problem. I am the problem. I need to learn to think outside the box more. That is why I love reading blogs where teachers talk about what they are doing with their students. It's why I love Clarence Fisher and Darren Kuropatwa; they share their thinking and their work and allow me to learn from them. And there is so much I need to learn!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A bit of persepctive

That's what I am hoping I have, at least.

I have returned from another unsuccessful job interview trip. At first I was devastated: how could they not want to even have a second interview with me for a job I was well qualified for? But that is what happened. We drove 1100+ miles for me to have a 20 minute interview.

Since returning, though, I have been thinking about what various readers have written about taking my time and trying to find what it is that I want to do. And I have really been thinking about the idea of NOT having a job. At least not having a 9-5/8-4 job I go to each day. The freedom of that is quite appealing. My concern with that before was that I know myself: I throw myself 110% into whatever I am doing. Could I do that with a variety of part-time jobs? A better question might be, do I want to give 110% to a job now? That obviously didn't work so well for me n my last job.

One thing that I know is that I do not want to define myself by my job anymore. I have more talent and ability than I give myself credit for. I am trying to develop a little faith in myself and a little more persepctive. And I am ready to get on with life.