## Thursday, January 31, 2013

### Teaching is Plan B

 You shall not teach.
Don't you hate those days when you have the music students out at District Festival, the student council calls a meeting in the middle of your class period (and you have 12 of the officers), the principal has a meeting with some others, three are called down for discipline, 10% of the school is absent because they didn't feel like driving through the snow, someone is doing testing with this group, the french teacher wants to meet with that group, the drama queens are in full bloom, and the lowest priority everyone seems to have is academics?

## Sunday, January 27, 2013

### Bureaucratic Nonsense impedes Reform

 The guide has to know first.

How can you possibly expect improvement if you feel that the following is the proper way to find that person and that the requirements listed will truly be the characteristics and endorsements of someone who is ready to properly and completely look at all possibilities impassionately to discover the best path for the school to follow?

We need to stop looking at bureaucratic wonks.

We need to stop looking at one person to fill 14 different jobs in one small district containing 500 students spread across three elementary schools, a middle school and a high school.  Rather, one person should be found to do the one or three related jobs for several districts at the high school level, another at the elementary level.

It's time to stop expecting that one person can be qualified to fill all these positions ... because I've never seen one person who could.

Methinks this will get an administrator with no practical knowledge and a lot of flimsy paperwork, but I repeat myself:
The Montpelier Board of School Commissioners is seeking a Director of Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment, and Technology. Qualified candidates will provide evidence of successful teaching and leadership experience with grades PreK-12. Candidates must demonstrate extensive knowledge of best and next practices in the areas of curriculum development and Common Core alignment, standards-based instruction and assessment, data analysis and reporting, and district leadership in effective use of technology integration as well as the development of a 1:1 computing environment.

Additional responsibilities include oversight of the Consolidated Federal Grant, district-wide professional development, integration of Service Learning, pre-school programs, ELL, teacher mentoring, the district leadership team, and provide supervision and evaluation support when needed.

The Director of Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment, and Technology will be accountable to the Superintendent of Schools. Candidates must be endorsed, or eligible for endorsement as a Principal in the State of Vermont.

## Saturday, January 26, 2013

### Technology is programmed but Teaching isn't. Can't Fix That.

Dan Meyer mentions Pattern Matching In Khan Academy, quoting Stephanie H. Chang, one of Khan Academy's software engineers:
I observed how some students made progress in exercises without necessarily demonstrating understanding of the underlying concepts. The practice of “pattern matching” is something that Ben Eater and Sal had mentioned on several occasions, but seeing some of it happening firsthand made a deeper impression on me.
I find these kinds of errors showing up often on the gray, blurry line between teaching and computing/programming.

Those who teach don’t necessarily understand programming so they tend to not be able to specify what works in a classroom and the processes or habits that the software is meant to address.

Those who program have never taught so they don’t know how to write the code that solves the problem because they fundamentally don’t understand the problem - or more problematically, don't understand the math they are "teaching" well enough to actually teach it. (That wisc-online tutorial about radians is still there 10 years on, still unchanged, still displaying the same problems I talked about in 2008.)

Unfortunately, those who have done both to a sufficient level aren’t writing the programs that most of us need.  Sometimes, the incompetence is on both sides, but ...

You see this in:
-- grading programs that ignore the ways teachers operate and get in the way instead of making life truly easier ... I just need to enter grades and I don't need a "Wizard" to do it. Why do I have to put this number here and why can't I delete it later?  Why does the thing insist on showing the entire gradebook at all times - I'd like to allow a sub or a student aide to enter attendance. Why does the program not allow me to copy and paste the progress report into an email? Why do I have to use a "wizard" to enter a note to student?

-- Moodle courses that purport to teach but contain things like this gem from a graduate-credit bearing course being "taught" by our "curriculum coordinator":
Watch this online tutorial introduction for Google Apps. (Hints: your screen may not be large enough, so scroll down to see the next button. Playback controls are near the bottom of the page in the center--a very small tab above the line.) Some things on this tutorial will look a little different. Don't let that throw you.
That's it.  That's the sum total of her "teaching". "Follow this link and learn from it".  Must be nice to earn that much money doing so little.

 Isosceles has a new definition in SKOOL.
--- software that doesn’t work or fails in bizarre ways ... did you know that Greece is an island? or that a 45-45-90 triangle can have sides 252-325-403? SKOOL says it does and anything named SKOOL.com must be correct, right?  It came with the SmartBoard, so it must be Smart.

--- Tools and software that include limitations and drawbacks unnecessarily. One of the most puzzling is TI-SmartView, which allows the teacher to project on a IWB a very realistic, working version of the TI-84. The simulation has been deliberately slowed down to mimic the time that the actual calculator takes to graph a complicated function ... WTF? ... I have a quad-core machine and it takes seconds to do this graph? As a result, I use the thing only to show the students key locations and methods -  it's too damned slow and cumbersome ... I use things like Graph 4.4 instead -- better graphics, higher resolution, more colors, faster interface, free. Anyway ...

“I observed how some students made progress in exercises without necessarily demonstrating understanding of the underlying concepts.”

We’ve come a long way but not nearly far enough to allow the replacement of teachers; like one other of Dan Meyer's commenters, I see the best use of Khan as taking the rote memorization out of the hands of the teacher-in-class (though Flash Cards is the Number ONE “really cool idea” promoted by the parents I talk to, especially the home-schoolers).

Let them practice outside of class and bring basic skills to automaticity so that we can do some real work together in our limited time together.

## Wednesday, January 23, 2013

### Moral Certainty

I might add that this drive to inflict piety also shows up as nose-in-the-air certainty that our wildest steps to "protect" our children from evil and danger are necessary and effective.

## Sunday, January 20, 2013

"A story about one 5-year-old particularly stands out. The little boy was required to wear black shoes to school. Because he didn't have black shoes, his mom used a marker to cover up his white and red sneakers. A bit of red and white was still noticeable, so the child was taken home by the cops. The child was escorted out of school so he and his mother would be taught a lesson."
Really?
"Students playfully throwing peanuts at one another on a school bus ended in five black male high school students being arrested for felony assault after one of the peanuts hit the white female bus driver."
Well, that IS a problem.

I guess.

It's simple. Combine stupid with racist, add in administration that is way too full of itself and stir with a ladle of cop-speak and you get this. Administrative Over-Reaction and a No-Tolerance/No-Intelligence Discipline policy.

Keep the police officers out of schools.  Call them in when you need to have someone arrested, certainly, but don't make them the first-response to student horseplay and childish antics.

Force the administration to do their jobs properly or fire them. Discipline should stay within the boundaries of the school building.

Don't even get started with the whole gun thing.

## Friday, January 18, 2013

### Innumerate Stupidity - Panic in the Classroom

"Since the horror of the Sandy Hook shootings, Americans are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stupidity Syndrome, writes Lenore Skenazy on CNN.
Folks in the throes of PTSS are so traumatized by a tragic event that they immediately demand something – ANYTHING – be done to prevent it from ever occurring again. Even if the chances of it happening are one in a million. Even if the “preventative measures” proposed are wacky, wasteful, ridiculous – or worse."
 It's not meant to look like a prison ...

"Lock every door. "
"But kids need to go between buildings."
"Install key swipes and give every kid a card. Install a buzzer and have the office buzz everyone in and out."
"Kids move every period. You'll have to hire someone to push the buzzer all the time and that negates any usefulness locking the door had."
"We must do everything we can."

There's no connection between the idea of safety measures and the reality of teenagers and the school day. I wrote earlier that we don't have a gun problem - it's true - and someone wrote back ...

"Your ideas about state-based solutions sound OK until you consider ease of access to goods in other states. A person's own state laws won't prevent them from acquiring guns and ammunition from another, more permissive, state."

Seriously?

We ARE the more permissive state.  At least 25% of my students have a personal weapon at home and are fully capable of using it ... It's that guns are used for hunting.

Drunk Driving is a problem. We have lost far more students to alcohol and drugs while driving than to gun violence but so many people panic when they see the big scary fear-mongering stories.

Doesn't anyone have a sense of statistical significance or is everyone suffering from Innumeracy in this country?

Apparently.

## Monday, January 7, 2013

### A bit o' help on some trig?

Drawing a blank on this one.

$cos(\dfrac{\pi*x}{8})=\dfrac{-x}{2}\sqrt{\dfrac{\pi}{8}$

I've got the numerical solution (easy) but I'm stuck on an analytical solution, if there is one.  Any ideas?

## Sunday, January 6, 2013

### Khan isn't going away.

but he really needs to improve his methods and style.

Methods: as many have noted using the #MTT2k hashtag, a lot of Khan's videos have subtle "errors" in them.  I say that with quotes since few people who aren't teachers have any idea how damaging it can be to overall learning when the teacher doesn't really understand things himself.

A glossed-over explanation can leave a kid frustrated and puzzling over something for the whole period or more, which doesn't bode well for learning anything else that day. Worse, it often gets in the way of truly understanding all of the material built upon it.

Style: He really needs to prepare more thoroughly for his videos.  A couple of minutes on Google and wander into the closet/studio doesn't cut it. It's not the specific facts that are wrong, it's that Khan has little idea of the vast context of those ideas.His explanations and demonstrations are good to a point but they suffer from the same tunnel vision that a student's book report written the night before the deadline does ... a few quick facts, a pithy statement, and you're never quite sure whether he has understood or just regurgitated the Cliff's Notes.

A video on quadratics and factoring contains a problem that he changes in the middle ... the coefficients aren't what he wanted to demonstrate his point, so he switches on the fly.  I have no problems with a teacher doing this in the classroom, but when you have the ability to simply stop the recording and begin again on a 10-minute video, you should make the better video.

 CBS News: Demonstrating situational irony since 1928. Graphic: dy/dan
Interaction: The biggest argument against KA is that students are supposed to be in class, interacting with teacher and other students, not staring blankly at computer screens with headphones blocking out the world, mesmerized by the little moving cursor and the trails of color on the black canvas.

This, for me is the biggest problem.  If I am being hired to teach, then I should teach.  If you want the benefit of my thirty years of experience and are willing to pay for it, why would you ask me to make a generic math video the focus of the classroom while I sit and "monitor" the teacher's dashboard or wander around doing nothing. Augment with KA after school or at home, but don't allow it in the classroom.

Bottom Line: Khan is worse than a decent teacher and definitely worse than a good teacher. Khan is better than a lousy teacher and definitely better than no teacher at all.

If your student wants to learn on his own, let him. W3Schools, Khan Academy, Purplemath.com ... they're all awesome and can be accessed at home for free. If, on the other hand, you need KA in your classroom in order to be effective, then get the hell out of teaching because you're a disgrace.

### Word dominoes, of a sort

source: MENSA puzzle-a-day.

## Friday, January 4, 2013

### If you're going to belittle people ...

it would be nice if you checked your math first.

Apparently, there are now 76 days in a year. Maybe he could ask one of the Useless Idiots if he could borrow a calculator.

## Thursday, January 3, 2013

### Holey Division Puzzle

Divide and Conquer

Can you fill in the missing digits in the long division problem below?

src: Sam Loyd, 1914 E.o.P

source: wpc