Saturday, April 25, 2009

Image of the Day

Sonke Johnson, Operation Deep Scope 2005 Expedition: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Image of the Day

Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS. 

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Problem with National Standards.

Duncan wants national curricular standards, to avoid the patchwork of state and local standards schools work on now.  Theoretically, I think this is a good idea.  Practically, it gets a lot tricker.  

Because everyone wants a piece of the pie.  Article in HuffPo proposes "national ecological literacy standards."  I don't particularly oppose this idea, but look: how many different areas of learning can we get into here?  Theoretically, I think kids should learn about reading and writing and American history and world history and world religions and anthropology and sociology and technology and math and ecology and biology and...

You see where I'm going with this.  

This has always been the problem with focusing on content in the curriculum.  Again, I'm not saying the goal of education isn't partly for kids to learn the content.  But a lot of it has to be skills.  Because...simply...we can't cover it all.  Humanly impossible.  

E.D. Hirsch, proponent of cultural literacy, has long been an advocate of the content-specific curriculum.  Skills are learned in the process, but he has laid out, in much of his Core Knowledge curriculum, the content knowledge he thinks is essential for students to learn - the theory behind this being that students and people in general need a certain level of common knowledge to communicate, read, grow.  Like a foundation.  Which, again, theoretically - I agree with.  

But take a look at what he specifies as what should be included.  See anything missing?  I do.  Lots.  So how do you decide?  How do you determine what's important and what's not? (I have thoughts on the answer to that question.  But I'll refrain for now.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Image of the Day

"Star Cluster NGC 2074 in the Large Magellanic Cloud." Image from NASA, ESA, and M. Livio (STScI).

Monday, April 20, 2009

Why CEOs Shouldn't Run Education.

It almost pains me now to read interviews from Arne Duncan.  Seriously, I cringe at generally somewhere around the second sentence.  If not earlier.

So not all that surprising from the latest.  But one part jumped out at me in particular.
In response to the question, "Regular folks don't get the distinction between certified teachers and  qualified teachers - why the teachers' union wouldn't let Einstein teach physics to high school students because he wasn't certified," Duncan responded, "Isn't all that matters that our children learn?  That teachers give students knowledge?[emphasis mine]"

A couple of things that made my blood boil here.  One, the question is a total red herring.  (For many reasons.)  Two, the answer reflects a complete lack of understanding about how children learn and what makes a great [i.e. "qualified"] teacher.  As it happens, I just finished reading a study, Effects of Teachers' Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching on Student Achievement from Hill, Rowan & Ball that shows that the most significant predictor of student achievement isn't teacher's knowledge of mathematical content, but their knowledge of the pedagogy of teaching math - as they put it, "mathematical knowledge for teaching."  In other words, we have to know not just what we're going to teach, but how to do it.  

Which brings me to my next point.  "...teachers give students knowledge..."  Mr. Duncan.  Tabula Rasa is so 17th century.

Perhaps it's not all that surprising that Duncan likens education to Pavlovian experiments.  Students = Dogs?  Sure.  Why not.

I Hate Internet Explorer.

It totally destroys my web design.

UPDATE: Apparently I'm not the only one.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Image of the Day

Finger coral reef in the lagoon at Kure Atoll State Wildlife Refuge in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument.
Photo by Claire Fackler, National Marine Sanctuaries Media Library.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Image of the Day

"Hubble Snaps a Splendid Planetary Nebula." From NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Only on a Mac

Lately, I've been thinking I'd like to teach fifth grade.  This is a big change from my 20-some-year-long ambition of being a kindergarten teacher.  I like the content better - you can do more.  (But I'd be happy anywhere.)

There are a couple things in the Connecticut curriculum for fifth grade that I haven't been all that excited about teaching.  

Exhibit A, "Energy Transfer and Transformations," ...sound is a form of energy that is produced by the vibration of objects and is transmitted by the vibration of air and objects...

I've never been able to think of ways that were really exciting or cool to teach this.  

Image of the Day

Switching it up a little today.  Played around with Photoshop to do this one.  

Photographs, clockwise from top right: Point-source water pollution, Unknown location
National Park Service, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore from
EPA's Great Lakes National Program Office; Dredge Discharge Pipe from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; An oiled swan, one of many wildlife victims of the April 7th oil spill in Swanson Creek. Image by Mary Hollinger, from NOAA's Photo Library; Junk cars in Illinois River, Peoria, Illinois, Image by Romy Myszka of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service from EPA's Great Lakes National Program Office; and Hole in the Ozone Layer Over Antarctica, Image by NASA, from the GRIN database

And the quote?  From T.S. Eliot's Little Gidding...
I left out the last line of the stanza on purpose. 

What I Don't Like about PBWiki

Anyone who has ever edited a Wiki on Wikipedia has had to learn "Wiki-code."  Not html, not WYSIWYG, it's is own...thing.  

So PB Wiki is better for use in classrooms because it does use WYSIWYG. (Among other reasons.)

But is it really all that difficult to allow more than one contributor to edit a page at the same time?  The very nature of collaborative writing and Wiki's sort of demands it, no?  

But no.  Only one person at a time.  Nevermind that I can be in the middle of writing something only to find out that someone has "stolen the lock" from me and that I can no longer save my entry.  

I fail to see the point of that feature.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Image of the Day

Niagara Falls, circa 1853-1860. 
From the Library of Congress, America's First Look into the Camera: Daguerreotype Portraits and Views, 1839-1864 Collection.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


7 days a week?  Lunacy.

Image of the Day

Image from NASA's GRIN (Great Images in NASA) database.

Virtual Schools?

So, I hadn't even heard of this.  There's a charter school in Chicago, the "Chicago Virtual Charter School," that is literally entirely web-based.  

The article is rather glowing, but I have to say, my first reaction is quite mixed.  On the one hand, it's a pretty incredible use of technology.  On the other hand, I have a not-so-glowing gut reaction to it.  

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Free Stuff.

Who doesn't love free documentaries

New Life. is finally up.  I've been waiting for this one.

Terms of use allow for printing single copies for personal, noncommercial use.  Presumably that includes educational purposes, yes?  Can you tell I love copyright law?  

It would have been really incredible if they had licensed everything under a Creative Commons license. ;)

Line in the Sand.

There's just something that pains me about seeing the word "literature" just below a photograph of a hand held computer/screen.

"It tells us that printed books, the most important artifacts of human civilization, are going to join newspapers and magazines on the road to obsolescence."  

Please no.  Call me a Luddite if you must.  But I refuse to give up my dusty shelves overflowing with books.  

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Image of the Day

From Flickr User gautamnguitar, Licensed Under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License.