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My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

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EdTech Update





Schools for the governors

Scott McLeod's last two posts (one, two) on Dangerously Irrelevant ask an important question: If students are to grow up understanding their constitutional rights, do they need to be able to practice them in school?

In 1992 Johnathan Kozol observed in his book Savage Equalities that the US has two kinds of schools: those for the governors and those for the governed. It's a pithy statement that neatly categorizes the kinds of schools we have in the US. His argument was based on the economic support shown for schools for the poor and those for the well-to-do, but I also think it applies to educational programming. Is your school helping create self-determined individuals or just rule followers?

I've long advocated for research questions that have a "action" element to them. This rubric's final indicator advances that:

A Research Question Rubric: not all research questions are created equal. (from Designing Research Projects Students (and Teachers) Love)

Level One:     My research is about a broad topic. I can complete the assignment by using a general reference source such as an encyclopedia. I have no personal questions about the topic.
Primary example: My research is about an animal.
Secondary example: My research is about the economy of Minnesota.

Level Two:     My research answers a question that helps me narrow the focus of my search. This question may mean that I need to go to various sources to gather enough information to get a reliable answer. The conclusion of the research will ask me to give a supported answer to the question.
Primary example: What methods has my animal developed to help it survive?
Secondary example: What role has manufacturing played in Minnesota’s economic development?

Level Three:     My research answers a question of personal relevance. To answer this question I may need to consult not just secondary sources such as magazines, newspapers, books or the Internet, but use primary sources of information such as original surveys, interviews, or source documents.
Primary example: What animal would be best for my family to adopt as a pet?
Secondary example: How can one best prepare for a career in manufacturing in the Twin Cities area?

Level Four:     My research answers a personal question about the topic, and contains information that may be of use to decision-makers as they make policy or distribute funds. The result of my research is a well support conclusion that contains a call for action on the part of an organization or government body. There will be a plan to distribute this information.
Primary example: How can our school help stop the growth in unwanted and abandoned animals in our community?
Secondary example: How might high schools change their curricula to meet the needs of students wanting a career in manufacturing in Minnesota?

I usually joke that Level Four is for the "over-achievers."

But I may need to rethink that glib comment...

What assignments empower your students, helping make them governors, not the governed?

Direct Feed

When no one was going to pay for the public schools anymore and they were all like filled with guns and drugs and English teachers who were really pimps and stuff, some of the big media congloms got together and gave all this money and bought the schools so that all of them could have computers and pizza for lunch and stuff, which they gave for free, and now we do stuff in classes about how to work technology and how to find bargains and what's the best way to get a job and how to decorate our bedroom.
Titus, the narrator of MT Anderson's dystopian sci-fi YA novel Feed (Candlewick, 2002), is neurologically connected directly to consumerism-driven future version of the Internet. The feed looks up instantaneous answers to nearly every question he might ask, allows him a constant flow a chat with friends, and bombards him with target marketing ads. Titus doesn't read or write very well.

A number of things are disturbing about this book -  and good social satire should be disturbing. Teen expletive-infused language had not gotten any better in the 100 years or so in the future, and it is now also laced with advertising slogans. The kids don't talk about Coke, but always "the great taste of Coke." These are not rebellious teens. No fighting Big Brother for Titus and buddies. And Titus is not noble. As his girlfriend Violet become progressive less functional with her malfunctioning feed, he withdraws rather than comforts her. These kids act very much like today's kids - only more so.
People were really excited when they first came out with feeds. It was all da, da, da, this big educational thing, da, da, da, your child will have the advantage, encyclopedias at their fingertips, etc. That's one the great things about the feed - that you can be supersmart without ever working. Everyone is supersmart now, You can look things up automatic, like science and history, like if you want to know which battles of the Civil War George Washington fought in and shit.
This is not the world's best book, but it ought to be read by educational technology policy-makers. (I think I got the title from Jeff Utecht's blog. His wife made him read it as I remember.) The best science-fiction serves as a early warning system about a possible logical extension of today's trends. (See "Reading the Future.")

So don't say we haven't been warned.
I was staring at a girl's sweater. I couldn't like focus on the teacher. The teacher was a hologram that day. There had been some funding cuts. The school band was gone, and so were the alive teachers.

It's been a crazy week here on Lake Jefferson. Big family to-do early in the week to celebrate my son's graduation from college, along with th grandsons and those older people who always seem to come with them visiting. The implementation of the student information system (Infinite Campus), installation of 62 more "smart" classrooms, and one-on-one training of teachers getting new computers has kept the office busy. Off to Houston tomorrow afternoon to do a day of workshops on Tuesday and then back to work preparing for teachers returning in full force next week.

How can August look so far away in June?

The family August 2008 (minus my brother and his clan)


Do you feel lucky, punk?

Do you suppose the superintendent in Texas that is allowing teachers to pack heat is a Blue Skunk reader?

See Arm the Teachers from last November.