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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Science Education in the News: "Schools Cut Back Subjects to Push Reading and Math" Reports New York Times

A March 26 New York Times article reports that a survey to be released later this week on narrowing the curriculum finds that since No Child Left Behind was passed in 2001, 71% of the nation’s 15,000 school districts have reduced the hours of instructional time in history, science, music, and other subjects to open up more time for reading and math. “The intense focus on the two basic skills is a sea change in American instructional practice, with many schools that once offered rich curriculums now systematically trimming courses like social studies, science and art,” writes reporter Sam Dillon. The article reports the many ways district administrators are attempting to shore up their math and reading instruction, often barring students from taking anything but these subjects. To read the entire article, visit http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/26/education/26child.html?_r=1&oref=slogin.

A New York Times editorial by Thomas Friedman titled “Worried About India's and China's Booms? So Are They” finds that one of the most frequent debates in most countries focuses on education and the common premise that they are falling behind. From the U.S. and Great Britain to India and China, every country is struggling with its own set of challenges. Friedman points to a “global convergence in education” that will spur growth and innovation. The challenge, he states, is for countries to find the right balance between creativity and rigor. Subscribers of the New York Times Select service can read the entire article at http://select.nytimes.com/2006/03/24/opinion/24friedman.html?th&emc=th. For others, read a synopsis at http://science.nsta.org/nstaexpress/nstaexpress_2006_03_27_synopsis.htm.Science Education in the News: "Schools Cut Back Subjects to Push Reading and Math" Reports New York Times

A March 26 New York Times article reports that a survey to be released later this week on narrowing the curriculum finds that since No Child Left Behind was passed in 2001, 71% of the nation’s 15,000 school districts have reduced the hours of instructional time in history, science, music, and other subjects to open up more time for reading and math. “The intense focus on the two basic skills is a sea change in American instructional practice, with many schools that once offered rich curriculums now systematically trimming courses like social studies, science and art,” writes reporter Sam Dillon. The article reports the many ways district administrators are attempting to shore up their math and reading instruction, often barring students from taking anything but these subjects. To read the entire article, visit http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/26/education/26child.html?_r=1&oref=slogin.

A New York Times editorial by Thomas Friedman titled “Worried About India's and China's Booms? So Are They” finds that one of the most frequent debates in most countries focuses on education and the common premise that they are falling behind. From the U.S. and Great Britain to India and China, every country is struggling with its own set of challenges. Friedman points to a “global convergence in education” that will spur growth and innovation. The challenge, he states, is for countries to find the right balance between creativity and rigor. Subscribers of the New York Times Select service can read the entire article at http://select.nytimes.com/2006/03/24/opinion/24friedman.html?th&emc=th. For others, read a synopsis at http://science.nsta.org/nstaexpress/nstaexpress_2006_03_27_synopsis.htm.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Macbreak: Leo Laporte demonstrates WinXP running on a Mac Mini

Windows XP on an Intel Core Solo Mac Mini. Wow! This could be the answer to my school's dream machine. My students love using the Apple multimedia program like iMovie, iPhoto, and iDVD. There are also many programs that still just run on Windows that we have. My students prefer to use Publisher over Apple's Page, and Access Database is a program that our students must master in order to pass the NC 8th Grade Computer Skills Test. I know that we could use MS Works still for our high school kids to learn how to use databases, but no one in the real world uses it. Some school using Apple have purchased third party database programs to teach their students the skills of query and filtering a database. My students that can not pass the 8th Grade Computer Skills Tests have computer skills. They can find every game site not blocked by our server. They can locate every photo of a PitBull and print it out with enough copies for all the homies. They can surf to very NBA star and their favorite male and female rap star on the Internet. My point is that DPI's computer literacy skills and my "darlings" are on opposite ends of the poles. It is a cultural issue. It is the conflict between Digital natives versus digital immigrants.

"OUR STUDENTS HAVE CHANGED RADICALLY," this is the observation of Marc Prensky in his article "Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants." (Prensky, October 2001.) Today's students and young workers are part of a cohort he calls "Digital Natives." Raised on MTV, video games, e-mail, the Web and instant messaging, Digital Natives have developed cognitive thinking patterns that differ from previous generations. As a result, the challenge facing educational designers is to recognize these cognitive differences and to develop learning offerings that are appropriate to their cognitive learning patterns.

The same is true for 2006 classroom, but it getting worse. Add to this the fact that of my students, a vast majority of them still do not have access to the web at home. The students I teach tend to be more Digital Have-Nots. Oh, some have cell phones and CD players to listen to on the school bus. However, cable connections, dial-up and DSL are fell and far between. Sure I have more students in my 2006 classroom with Internet access, but the fact is, their still remains a glaring digital divide. Computers are still complicated and are seen by many families as a low priority to medicine and health care expenses, gas prices-- going out the roof again!, food costs-- heading up with fuel costs, rent, cable bills, cell phone bills, and on and on.

I really like the idea of a MacMini, able to run Windows XP and OS X. That is just too simple and makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

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Monday, March 13, 2006

Photos of the "Alien Cells" Found in Red Rain

The academic paper about the red rain phenomenon has several pictures of the cells. I have cut-n-pasted the photos from the PDF and put them up for easy viewing. Pretty amazing pictures!

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The Most Intense Solar Storm In Fifty Years Is Coming

It's official: Solar minimum has arrived. Sunspots have all but vanished. Solar flares are nonexistent. The sun is utterly quiet.
"The next sunspot cycle will be 30% to 50% stronger than the previous one," she says. If correct, the years ahead could produce a burst of solar activity second only to the historic Solar Max of 1958.

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137 Online Tools for Webmaster

An must keep one-for-all list for online free tools that help webmaster, programming, and web design to program, design, develope, optimize web sites.

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Saturday, March 11, 2006

Cingular, T-Mobile stop Razr cell phone sales

Companies say a glitch in Motorola's wildly popular phone causes dropped calls or shut down; Motorola stock tumbles over 2 percent. Saw this and had to share my observations of this piece of junk. My sister in law lives in Tampa, FL and has one of these "fishing sinkers." She one and while our family visited her I asked her what she thought about the Razr. Well lets just say, she was not a happy customer. She complained about the dropped calls and shut downs. One the way from the airport, in heavy traffic, her husband called her to see if our flight had arrived. I witnessed the phone dropping the call at least three or four times on a straight highway with no overpasses. This was in Tampa and the service coverage there is usually flawless. I thought it was her phone and how she had mistreated it. However, her son, my nephew, who has owned a cell phone from birth, was having the same issues with his Razr.

Bottom line-- Any one can build a piece of junk, but to sell it to folks that trust the brand, well Moto needs to show some customer appreciation and replace these Lemons.

Technology is fine when it works, but can cost a bunch and bug the heck out of you too.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Reflecting on Using Technology In My Classroom

We have just started using the Apple's updated Garageband 6 in our classroom podcast. My students really like it much better than the older version. The like the bundled sound loops. After recording, we just click the images they want straight from the photo album. Currently, we are using the Apple shared photo feature so the students can access all photos in the classroom. They use the images to create enhanced podcasted. However, the size of the podcast file is huge when they include all the images and sound effects they like. I have decided to post a non-enhanced version to our iWeb site to avoid exceeding our small 1GB on .MAC. Hopefully, we will be able to up the server space next school year. I have promised the students that we will burn them CDs of the enhanced podcasts to take home for their families to enjoy. This is a tip I learned from Bob Sprankle at Room 208 We also love the new iWeb. Check out our classroom's iWeb: http://web.mac.com/blakej78 We have posted a few podcasts on this, and hope to have a new one up on using BubbleShare and Bloglines, and our science study of motion. My students created a claymation animation of mitosis. I am working on posting this soon to our site.

Today, my students (ages 16-20 Seniors in High School) create a BubbleShare.com site, and post images from the classroom. Their sites are set as PRIVATE, not PUBLIC. To share the images with every student, we created blogline.com accounts and shared through email, the addresses to the student's BubbleShare account. That means that only folks that they send the link to has access to the photos. Our lesson tomorrow is responsible ethical use of photos on the web. We are going to talk about copyright, and digital rights management. I made it very clear that they are not to use their last names in anyway. I was very surprised that all 10 of them had MySpace accounts. They were very lacks about following this rule until I gave them zeros for the assignment until they removed all identifying info from their photosharing site. So, you might want to share that tip with other teachers. We do not use MySpace.

Two of my students are already signed up to join the Military after graduation from high school. I sold them on the idea of learning how to use this tool so they could be able to send me photos of them when they get to Baghdad! Sad, but true.

Next, I hope to have them learn to pod to a blog. We are not going to use a public blog, I want to use David Warlick's Blogmeister blog site.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Thursday, March 02, 2006

IMHO-- Our District Web Pages Are 'Old School'

District web pages were the topic of a podcast by Jeff Moore over on One Big Head. He is a very forward thinker and one podcast that I never delete, until I have replayed in my iPod a couple of times while working out in the gym after school. I am still trying to get my head around what Jeff talks about in this episode. I may have to listen to the podcast again tomorrow after a good night's sleep. I liked the way Jeff weaved the idea of how schools have an industrial culture. Well that is not how he states it. He is much more politically correct. Schools have a culture. State and Federal mandates along with local goals direct our school web page content. What content is on our pages reflects the industrial nature/departmentalized approach to managing our schools. Should we change our districts website? Not if it is just for looks. Not just to change for the heck of it. We should change to reflect the evolution of the Internet. It is time for our district to begin moving from the static web page to dynamic information content management.

In this episode, I offer thoughts on MySpace that are going to make me unpopular. Listen carefully, though--it's not MySpace that's the problem. It's our institution. Also, some realizations about my school district's website: how can its evolution bring change in the organization at large? We use Mambo, which forced us to do some things differently. Click here to listen.