Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Monday, November 17, 2008

KSTP "Investigative Report"

If you cannot view the video, you can go to the story online by clicking here.

Some comments on ideas or premonitions from this "Investigative Report" from my perspective:

  • "20% of Minnesota's Charter Schools should be shut down or restructured." - I don't tend to disagree, but would venture to guess that the same percentage, if not higher in traditional public schools are in the same boat.
  • There isn't enough over sight on many things, including teacher licenses at individual schools. - I think that there are people that get into the charter world for a wide variety of reasons. Running an effective charter school can be equated to running a successful business. It is a lot of work and isn't somthing that should be taken lightly. Charter Schools should follow the standards and laws regarding teacher licensing that the MN Department of Education sets forth.
  • If a few schools have problems, they must all have issues. - This is just simply not the case. The variety of charter schools differ by almost all of the 143 (or so) schools. This would be as logical as if you met one teacher who was lazy and then applied that label to every teacher (which certain people do). If you look around the country, the charter schools vary from state to state. Taking the "if you seen one, you've seen them all" viewpoint is short sited.
  • Lastly, I feel the the term charter school is almost pejorative. It seems like if anything bad happens within a charter school anywhere around the country, the term charter school is inserted. The headline will then say something like "Charter School Director Guilty of Fraud." Thus, whenever the general public discuss charters, they have negative thoughts. Again, I go back to the fact that there are many bad things happening in our traditional schools today (although there are many good things, but those aren't talked about unless it has to do with sports), and we don't blame the traditional model systematically for these events, do we?
Many of these issues are sure to come during this legislative session. While I am not an charter ideologue, I do think that the large, traditional, warehouse-like schools need to be changed. I am a fan of small schools (traditional or charter), were student are treated as individuals. Good public schools need to serve the community (students, parents and the locale) they are in, whether they are charters or traditional schools.

With shrinking government budgets and quickening pace of technology assisted learning (including online learning), it is time to start talking about what works for kids. If we are going to invest so much public money into educating the future of our country, we'd better spend wisely. Measuring progress by snapshot tests isn't going to give us good insight into what is working. I personally feel relying solely on academic testing data alone is a disservice to our kids. We need assessment tools that measure student growth over the long term.

I felt myself going into a diatribe. I am cutting this short at the risk of getting too political, but as always, if you wish to discuss, drop me line.

All the best,


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Google Adds Voice and Video Chat within Gmail

I owe Chris Craft for this info:

I was looking at my contacts in gmail, and noticed a green camera icon by Chris' status. I asked him what was the scoop, especially since he is a fellow mac user. I came to find that Google has released a voice and video chat that is embedded right in gmail. After you download the file, you simply enable it in the chat section in your email preferences.

Previously, in order to make video and voice calls, you had to use google talk (which exists outside of gmail). Previously, mac version of the voice and video chat were not available for google talk. I believe that google talk first arrived when google bought Festoon (also used for Skype). It is interesting for me to look back on how quickly technology is progressing. This application is no doubtably competition for Skype.

Regardless, I will check out this new chat feature in gmail and get back to you. Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think. For a more in depth article by Monkey_Bites, click here.

Or, you can check out this video that Google made:


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Microsoft Tools to Check Out

Rub your eyes, because yes, its true, I am blogging about Microsoft Tools that you should check out:
I thought I would try to explain all of these, but since I have only been to each site a few times, check them out for yourself. It seems that Microsoft is answering google's foray into cheap, web based apps. The big question is, how can microsoft support free tools, since they don't make their money off of advertising?

Out of these, I think that Live Mesh seems the most interesting. You can have a shared folder across many devices, no matter what platform they are on.

I find it odd that hard drives keep getting bigger on computers when more and more is moving to the web. More and more, you can see how this web based technology will fit seamlessly into the mobile world.

I hope you enjoy. If you use any of these successfully, especially in regards to education, please keep me posted.