Thursday, September 22, 2011

There Are Four Lights

Mom sits across from the teacher during parent-teacher conferences.  Her face is bruised.  She is staying in a shelter with her daughters.  Dad has a restraining order.

The teacher asks what help he can offer.  Mom bursts into tears.  "Just be kind to my daughter... please, be kind to her."

The daughter is 4 grade levels behind.  During the school year, she misses almost 40 days of school.

The next year, the district and the state look at the daughter's academic scores.  They call in the teacher to have him explain how he will rise to a higher standard of teaching, so that scores like that will not be repeated in the future.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

History Repeats Itself

I could not help thinking that I have heard all of the arguments made in this "pro-marriage" video before - every documentary I have seen of the American Civil Rights movement; every time in history that I read of a majority group trying to make second class citizens of others; in every case these same words were used.

Fear....  THEY will wreck what you hold dear.  THEY are being uppity.  THEY should know their place.  THEY are less than us.  THEY will twist your children.




Sigh... we keep going around the same trees historically.  We keep reliving the same arguments, playing out the same scenarios, wrestling with the same tired issues.

There will always be a new THEY.

It reminds me of Matthew Broderick's character at the end of  Wargames, setting Joshua to cycle through endless scenarios that keep arriving at the same destructive conclusion.

If there is a God in Heaven, he must be watching this endless cycle flash past his eyes while muttering, "Come on. Learn, goddammit!"

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Park The Calculator

Tonight after class, I avoided asking a friend to drive me to the train station; though it was tempting.  It is a four block walk that I need.

In the morning, rather than doing a train switch to my bus stop, I walk the extra two blocks from where the Red Line leaves off. It is uphill, and with my backpack it provides a good workout.

In both cases, I could travel the extra distance by car or train, but I am choosing to hoof it instead. I am about to turn 43, and I am not getting any thinner. It is quicker and easier to travel by motorized wheel, but I need to burn the calories. My hobbies are all rather sedentary, so I take the movement where I can get it.

I was considering this as I was in my Math Assessment class tonight. So often in our schools, we encourage kids to pull out the calculator. It is faster, less tedious, and more accurate. Add a couple of parents recounting their difficulties in math at a school board meeting, and suddenly the little keypads are getting worked in everywhere.

Here is the problem though:


You know, the prophetic movie where in the future all humans are obese and cannot hold a coherent thought past the next 5 seconds?

Everything we do seems to be about making things easier. We will loop the parking lot 5 times to get four spaces closer. God forbid we walk that extra 50 feet.

Our bodies are getting soft, and so are our minds... because we keep looking for short cuts and leisure.  Contrast that with JFK's attitude that it is the difficulty that makes something worth doing.

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too. ~ President Kennedy

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Touchpad VS Ipad and How the Tablet Killed My Laptop

A few weeks ago, I was able to snag an HP Touchpad during their firesale.  It just arrived a few days ago.  I am loving it.

For those of you not geeky enough to be aware, HP scrapped its Touchpad only a few months after hitting the market.  It began to sell its remaining stock of $499 and $599 Touchpads for $99 and $149.

Since I got my first Tablet (Ipad for free) last year, my laptop gets very little usage. At one time, I was beginning to believe that I would never get another desktop... why get a desktop when a laptop has all of its power and portability too?

However, I now believe that the Tablet has saved the desktop computer, and is sending laptops down the food chain. For my everyday web tasks, movies and music, reading, etc., I find myself pulling out a Tablet. When I need to do publishing or data work, I turn to my desktop. The laptop regularly gathers a fine layer of dust.

Perhaps it is because my HP Touchpad has the novelty of new that I presently use it more; but, as nice as the Ipad is, I think the Touchpad outpaces it on several levels. Which is a shame, since a year from now Ipad will still be head of the pack, and the Touchpad production lines will have long since been dismantled.

So where does the Touchpad outperform the Ipad?

Interface: The WebOS reminds me of how I used to feel about my Palm Pilot. There is a logic and fluidity to it's interface. I love the card system that it uses; it allows you to keep items open in a more natural sense than does the Ipad. I also like the status table in the upper right which allows you to make quick adjustments to screen lock, wifi, brightness, etc. Such things are more cumbersome to adjust in the Ipad. It also allows information updates to scroll across the upper screen, rather than interrupting what I am doing with a blue box in the middle of my screen.

Integration: WebOS weaves primary programs together elegantly. Facebook, Skype, Calendar, Contacts, etc.... all know each other is there and allows them to interface at appropriate levels.

File Transfer: No Itunes? Lovely! I wish the Touchpad had an SD slot, but at least when you plug it into the computer it acts as an external drive. Moving files back and forth on the Ipad is simply painful. With the Touchpad, I can quickly move 200 comics to the appropriate folder. To perform that same task on the Ipad would require me to load them one at a time through Dropbox or watch Itunes get overloaded by the quantity. So even though the Ipad has a good comic reader, I never used it because moving the files over was just too laborious. I use my Touchpad to read comics all the time, because moving an entire series over happens in seconds.

Volume: If I want to watch something with my Ipad while cooking breakfast, I have to attach external speakers. The Ipad simply isn't loud enough. The Touchpad has twice the volume capability of the Ipad.

Hulu: I get Hulu on the Touchpad, but Netflix on the Ipad. Netflix would make the Touchpad perfect.

Browsing: The Ipad has this extremely annoying trait of refreshing your screen, whether you want it to or not. So when perusing Facebook, I have a choice to make.... Do I want to look at the article my friend posted, or do I want to keep the place I have scanned through to on the Newsfeed? When I go to my friend's article, even if I opened a new screen to view it, the Ipad is going to take me back to the begining of my Newsfeed. Very frustrating if you have already gone several pages down. The Touchpad brings me right back to where I left off.

Keyboard: The Touchpad uses a full virtual keyboard, rather than making you go to a second keyboard to use numbers or various punctuation.

It seems to me that the only place the Ipad outperforms the Touchpad is with its app and accessory selection... however, this does not pertain to the machine itself.

There is no doubt that the Ipad is a great machine... I just find the Touchpad to be better.

Monday, September 05, 2011

An Education Story Problem

Today class we will have a story problem in logic:

Mr. Zondebok has been assigned to teach his class skill "D". In order for a student to be successful at acquiring skill "D", research shows he or she must first be proficient with skills "A", "B", and "C". Seventy-five percent of Mr. Zondebok's class come to him lacking a proficiency in "A", "B", and "C".

One year he tries to teach "D" to those who are proficient, while simultaneously teaching "A", "B", and "C" to those who lack the proficiency. At the end of the year, though many students have shown gains in A, B, and C; only twenty percent of his students are proficient in "D". 

The next year, Mr. Zondebok tries teaching "D" equally to everyone, hoping his 75% lacking in A, B, and C proficiency will catch on. At the end of the year, those students who lacked proficiency in A, B, and C showed little growth, and only twenty-five percent of his class are proficient with skill "D".

Mr. Zondebok is labeled a failure.  New laws in the state mandate that Mr. Zondebok receive less pay for one year to motivate him to teach better. Next year, if he shows no improvement, he will be fired.

So class, here are your response choices. The problem is:

A. Mr. Zondebok is a failure as a teacher and deserves to be fired.

B. Mr. Zondebok has many students who simply cannot learn skill "D".

C. Mr. Zondebok and his students are caught in a system that advances students, regardless of proficiency, into subjects which require pre-requisite skills; thereby setting them up for failure.

America's politicians, both Republican and Democrat, have chosen A. It is the choice that is easiest for them to make.

Which do you choose?

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Instruction Manual For Life

There are a lot of creative, poignant, and clever videos on Youtube. Sometimes though, one is just so good you have to blog about it.

In this short animation, we follow the life of a young person who was taught to live his life according to a certain book. Along the way his view of the book and his view of life expands.  His conclusions are, I believe, healthy.

I particularly related to the part where the two girls come to tell him that his cupboard is wrong.  He just sighs with exasperation.  Yep... been there.....

 HT: We Were Going To Be Queens
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