kitchen table math, the sequel: 9/13/09 - 9/20/09

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Dawn weighs in on terminology

I think you guys need to stop calling it after-schooling. What you're doing IS homeschooling, it's just that the homeschooling gets interrupted by 6 hours of crafts and confusion.
This reminds me of the time I sat next to a former head of JPL. He said he'd gone many rounds with his school district. Once he went to a school board meeting & said something along the lines of: "You have the kids sequestered here 6 hours a day and you can't teach them anything in that time?"

I remember being tickled by the word sequestered.

ESL teacher on electronic vs. paper dictionaries

I see a huge difference in my ESL students who use electronic dictionaries versus traditional dictionaries. The electronic ones are fast, but they don’t see as many words. They don’t see variations on a root word.

With a paper dictionary, students browse. Sometimes, instead of reading their novel during silent reading, they want to read the dictionary.

E-books and computers have a place in education and daily living, but they cannot replace paper books.

— Carol

Democratic Group's Proposal: Give Each Student a Kindle

If I had to bet, I would bet this teacher is right. I do lots of reading on screen (which produces eye strain, a problem Kindle technology is intended to solve), I do some reading on an iTouch, and I expect to do lots of reading on my factory-refurbished Kindle.

But I don't expect to see books disappear -- especially not textbooks.

a student compares Kindles to laptops in the classroom

I dislike that suggestion of many posters to provide netbooks to students instead [of Kindles]. I came from a high school with a laptop program. All students had an IBM thinkpad; because they were bought en-mass by the school there was a significant discount and students with financial discrepencies were subsidized. This was the largest mistake made in the school districts history. The laptops were misused and a distraction to the classroom. Even under our secured servor and protected internet connection, we as the student knew how to override the barriers. The focus left from using computers as a learning tool to a competition between students and faculty to maintain restrictions.

Keep it simple. Kindle is wise technology, with just the right amont of access for a classroom setting.

— Kelly

Democratic Group's Proposal: Give Every Student a Kindle

Simple is good.

No access to internet is good.

e.g., see: laptopsmackdown: What Are Your Students Really Doing?

"Computer Programmer" on Kindles & books

None of the books I’ve read ever required a battery.

I’ve never had to worry about dropping a book and having it break in such a way that I couldn’t read any more books.

If I lose or otherwise misplace a book, I can still read other books.

None of my books on my shelves have any sort of physical copy protection on them.

If any of my books get wet, they are easily dried off. Some of the pages may wrinkle. But the books are still usable.

None of the books I’ve read had a “screen” that gets scratched or broken. That’s because none of them has a screen.

Some of the books on my shelf, including college books, are decades old. There are no compatibility problems getting them to “work”.

It is very easy to open a book so that items on facing pages are both viewed at the same time. This is very handy with maps and other graphics. Not sure if that can be done on a small “kindle-ish” device.

Am I a Luddite? Maybe, but after almost 30 years in MIS / IS / IT and automation, I know a little bit about “not-always-appropriate” technology. (Electronic voting is, at the moment, only one prominent example. Anyone out there trying to read computer files written with Wordstar on 5.25″ floppy disks?)

I agree that the cost of college textbooks is insane. However, a good textbook that lasts decades can provide the owner with benefits that far outweigh the original cost.

— Computer Programmer

Democratic Group's Proposal: Give Each Student a Kindle

Kindles for math

from the Comments section:

I have a kindle on which I read articles, fiction and light non-fiction all the time. I would not want to use it for text books. It simple doesn’t display tables well. And when you have to go back and forth, as is often the case in math and science textbooks to understand formulas etc, it is cumbersome and one can get easily lost.

Whoever recommended that should actually spend time with a Kindle.

— Octavian

Democratic Group’s Proposal: Give Each Student a Kindle

Vicky S on starting afterschooling early

I have a close friend whose kids are several years behind mine, and I bent her ear continually about this stuff. She took my advice and began afterschooling with Singapore from day 1 of first grade (and now wishes she'd done English, too, by the way). So it was just what they did from the start, and the kids thought it was normal, so there's been much less friction.

Without a jumpstart like this board or a friend with older children, it can take years for the insanity of elementary education to sink in. I started smelling a rat when my kids were around grades 3-5 but figured it out too late to do anything but remediate and try to fill in the gaps.

With math I was lucky; it was touch and go and at least one of my boys has emerged from the other end of afterschooling and interschooling (middle school at home) both good at, and liking, math. But I'm sad to say that it was too late for writing--they were too resistant. It breaks my heart because writing is so important.

For many kids, when you catch it at middle school, I think despite a parent's best efforts it may be too late.

A couple of things I've learned as a parent are:

1. If your elementary age child is hiding under the bed every morning refusing to go to school, it's more likely that there is something wrong with the school, not the kid, no matter what the school tells you. Ditch the school, pronto.

2. If your elementary age child is crying while trying to do math homework and/or if you do not understand your child's math homework, your school is probably using a constructivist curriculum and if you don't do something about it, soon, your child will probably end up hating math for good and the world may have lost yet another chemical engineer, thanks to the NCTM.

3. If most or all of your child's writing exercises have to do with connections, personal reflections, autobiographies, feelings, favorite this or that, past experiences, family, community, and hopes and dreams, your child will end up with a monumental case of writer's block, won't know how to write even if he does ever break through it, and the world may have lost yet another lawyer or diplomat, thanks to Lucy Calkins.

refurbished Kindles - $219

I've escaped the black hole of hospital-land (my mom's been in and out of the hospital since August 12) just long enough to:

a) discover that Amazon is selling refurbished Kindles for $219

b) put up a post telling you so

The Agitator loves his Kindle.....

I ordered a refurbished Kindle yesterday, apparently because $219 is my 'price point' for a reading toy. I'd been wanting a Kindle since they first came out, but since Kindles don't have things I need (folders to sort pdf files into) and do have things I don't want (can't transfer Kindle books to your computer), and since they cost $359, I'd been waiting for something better to come along. At $219, Kindle is something better.

Of course, maybe that's because I read somebody somewhere saying $200 is the price point that turns a Kindle into an iPhone.

I don't have an iPhone, but come Monday I will have a Kindle.

I suppose this was inevitable

A proposal to put a Kindle into the hands of every K-12 student in the country, which will cost $9 billion more than the country currently spends putting textbooks in the hands of every student in the country:

Of course, such an upfront government outlay in these economic times seems unlikely. Mr. Freedman acknowledges that, but believes the federal government should act, particularly since e-books will inevitably migrate into students’ hands anyway.

“There are two crucial questions. Will this improve the educational experience for children, and is this budget neutral, does it cost money or save money?” he said.

answers: no and no.

e.g., see: The Computer Delusion by Todd Oppenheimer

If I were going to launch a program to put Kindles in the hands of every member of a dependent group, I'd put them in hospitals and nursing homes. Assuming they're as easy to use as I hope, that is.

Speaking of user-friendly, the flat-screen TVs in Evanston Hospital aren't getting much use in the CCC unit, I fear. Any TV that requires a person hospitalized with advanced heart failure to navigate a menu needs to be rethought.

Same deal with whole classrooms of high school kids negotiating portals.

we are doomed, part 2

Here we go: a 175-page report on "Technology in Schools" from the National Center for Education Statistics (pdf file) that has nothing whatsoever to say on the subject of student achievement:
The guide’s indicators of technology availability and use can be paired with locally determined measures of student achievement, operational efficiency, or other outcomes, so as to assess the relation between technology inputs and desired results.* This handbook does not directly address student or management outcomes, beyond evidence of deployment and utilization of technology in the K–12 setting. Outcome measurements (not themselves technology indicators) are beyond the scope of this document.

This handbook also does not directly address measurement issues, such as the reliability and validity of the data elements listed. Measurements are, to varying degrees, reproducible over time and across inquirers and forms of inquiry; and they are, to varying degrees, also accurate reflections of the concepts they purport to measure (as determined by a consensus of stakeholders, or other means). These issues matter, and much is written about them, but their proper consideration exceeds both the space available and the competence of our panel. The purpose of this document is to allow decision makers to make choices about the various kinds of information they need, to select some questions that are truly “key,” and to focus and organize data collection and information management to produce useful information, so as to make better decisions.
"Better decisions" begin and end with the student.


Teach Them All to Read by Elaine McEwan
High Tech Heretic by Clifford Stoll

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Open House - Grade 8

Well, last night was open house. I've become quite passive and docile. I didn't even grimace when they went on and on about our two rubric grading system, one for academics and one for effort. I didn't bat an eye when they talked about getting in our form detailing our child's learning styles. I won't send it in. They don't care. My son still has to do art work for learning.

Once again, they will not take advantage of 21st century tools and make sure the latest homework assignments are posted on their web site. They say that it's the responsibility of the child to make sure they have the homework assignment. What it really means is that the school doesn't want to force all teachers to do this.

In one room, a teacher was showing how a SmartBoard works - sort of, even though he has had it for over a year. We signed up (already) for our student-led portfolio review in December, where we get to listen to our son tell us how he is going to be a better student. Never mind the fact that the contents of the portfolio should have come home long ago. That way we could respond to issues sooner. We were told about weekly teacher comments (with rubric numbers or checks) that will come home in our son's planner. They are completely out of context because all of the work is stored in the portfolio. We have to sign this meaningless form or else our son will get a detention.

We got a big talk about the National Junior Honor Society (they decided to do this again) and all of the requirements. It sounded like there were too many non-academic requirements. They say that they want to recognize academics as much as sports, but in sports, students don't have to do a lot of volunteer work and be the perfect young adult. The rules seem way too manipulative. The teachers know you want the award and are watching your every step. Maybe they should have rubrics to decide who wins in sports.

Oh well, back to after-schooling.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Everyday Math Frustration

My kids started Everyday Math this year:

My 4th graders Everyday Math homework worksheet:

Find examples of numbers--all kinds of numbers. Look in newspapers and magazines. Look in books. Look on food packages. Ask people for examples.
Write your numbers below. If an adult says you may, cut out the numbers and tape them onto the back of this page.
Be sure to write what your numbers means.
I am sure glad they didn't have her waste time doing multiplication or something.

p.s. thank you for letting me vent.