Friday, May 30, 2008

Last day at work

Didn't I have a similar post this time last year? Well, I guess it is that time of year again. Today was officialy my last day at work in Albuquerque.

I don't know what I am doing next, but contrary to how I felt last year, I am not too stressed out about it. Actually, I am not stressed out about it at all. I return to Louisiana on Sunday -- well, I start the trip on Sunday. I am not one for long stretches of driving, so I probably won't get home until Tuesday. I am taking a two-week class that starts on the 9th, and I will begin to think about the future after that. I will, of course, keep you informed.

DIY dictation

Listen and Write is a great site that lets you listen to an audio text (including VOA Special English news reports and fables) in their entirety or in chunks to use as a dictation exercise. It looks pretty cool. You can log in to keep track of your scores, or you can just listen and type without logging in. I would really like to give this a try.

Thanks to Darren for the link.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Visual Chemistry

Jenny's other post was an example that I think Garr Reynolds and Dr. John Medina would approve of. It teaches chemistry in a very visual way. While I am sure some people will object to parts of this, the theory behind it is one that is definitely OK: We learn better with visuals. See what you think:

Chemistry was not really a favorite of mine when I was in school. No science was, really. But how much more might I have learned if I had had something like this to watch? The concept of attraction and separation of elements is made real. It is visual. It is in my brain.

Garr Reynolds on Brain Rules

Jenny Luca had a couple of posts that really caught my attention. One is a Slideshare presentation by Garr Reynolds on Brain Rules by Dr. John Medina.

Not only is it a wonderful example of a presentation (of course!), but it also provides a few simple ideas that we, as educators, need to remember. Things like the fact that we don't pay attention to things that are boring and that we remember pictures better than text. (If you know Garr's take on presentations, that will sound real familiar!) He also talks about the fact that we need to exercise our brains.

As teachers, we need to remember these ideas and, I suspect, the other ideas in Dr. Medina's book. I know I am going to check the book and the website out. Thanks to Jenny for the link!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

More PCLinux machines

Well, we have added three more PCLinux machines in the family.

It was really kind of funny. Almost. Sort of. Now that the disaster has passed. I upgraded my Ubuntu machine to Hardy Heron and was quite happy. I had decided to keep it (Compaq Presario V22630US) an Ubuntu machine because it has a Broadcom 4318 wireless card -- and they aren't the most Linux-friendly cards out there. The wireless worked fine for a week or so and then started disappearing on a regular basis. Since I am teaching an online course, my Internet connection is not something I take lightly -- especially since my Acer seems to have bit the dust and I am waiting until I get back to Louisiana to officially declare it dead and look for a replacement. I tried every fix I could find in the forums. I made up some fixes of my own. Nothing worked. My husband, who at that time ran Debian on one machine and PCLinux on the laptop, suggested I try PCLinux on it. He had tried it on his Acer with the same wireless card, and everything seemed to be OK on the live CD. I was reluctant because I had not been aable to get the Live CD to see ot on mine, but he was persistent and suggested I try TinyMe. So I downloaded it. And it worked. Wireless, printer, everything. I am thrilled!

While I was doing this in New Mexico, my son finally consented to turn his Acer laptop over to my husband for some Linux distro to be put on as he had all kind of problems on it running XP. (Most of them may have been of his own doing, but the fact is that the machine was dead running Windows.) My husband put on PCLinux, and everything worked.

Meanwhile, my husband has had trouble getting things to work on his Debian Acer desktop, the one he had tried the PCLinux liveCD on, so he finally broke down and installed it. For the first time in the more than year and a half that he has had the machineee, he got the wireless working.

Over the last year or so I have become very detached as far as Linux distros are concerned. If they work, I use them. If they don't, I move on to another one. So far, PCLinux seems to work more consistently on our machines than anything else. Thanks to all the people who have put in so much time and effort on it!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Isn't it odd...

I recently had my first run-in with a Microsoft docx document. A friend was complaining tht she couldn't open it with the version of Microsoft Word that she runs. She was told to download a conversion program, but both times she did that, her computer crashed. I tried opening the document with OpenOffice 2.4 and had no problems with it at all. She was amazed. I said, "Of course!"

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What's a computer buyer to do?

Vicki Davis has a heartfelt post about Vista and how it has disrupted her mother's life. I am sure you've read it already, but if you haven't, please do.

I have been thinking a lot about Vista lately because several people in my family are to the point where they need new computers. My son-in-law, currently running PCLinuxOS, needs a new computer badly, but he doesn't want to get Vista until they get it working better. I was hoping he would be "converted" to Linux before this old computer died completely, but that doesn't seem to be happening. And even if he was converted, it's hard to convince someone they should wipe out everything that comes on a new computer and replace it with something else right away.

I'm also in the market for a new computer -- maybe. My Acer seems to have died again -- one month after the 90 day warranty on the new motherboard they installed in January expired. For me the decision is a little easier. I am committed to Linux. There is no question of giving Vista a try. But I still have the question of getting a new one and wiping out Vista, buying a used one and installing Linux, or buying a machine with Linux pre-installed.

Buying a computer isn't as huge a decision as it was 20 years ago, but it is still something that requires thought and planning.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Do our test scores matter?

Scott McLeod has an interesting post entitled Low ability teachers, low ability students? . He cites evidence that leads him to assert that
the percentage of teachers with lower academic ability increases in schools over time. The brightest go elsewhere.
He then goes on to demonstrate that this adversely affects education in this country. Finally, he turns the discussion over to the rest of us, saying
Let’s assume that, generally speaking, these studies are correct: 1) smart people are less likely to stay in teaching (thus resulting in a concentration of teachers with lower academic ability), and 2) the academic ability of teachers impacts student learning outcomes. Now what?
Now, what? How do we keep the brightest teachers? One answer, I think, is to allow teachers to actually teach. Teaching is a very creative activity. When bright people are allowed to be creative, I think they are happier. When they are told that it is the third Thursday in March so they have to be doing X, they are denied the opportunity to be creative. And they are more likely to become unhappy.

But that isn't going to solve the whole problem. What else can be done? If these "facts" are true, we need to do something.