Friday, June 29, 2007

Looking Forward to the Classroom

I am looking forward to getting back into the classroom. I have many new and untapped plans that I look forward to implementing with the students. My focus will be on changing the model for teaching in the public education system. I believe there are many ways to do this while sticking to the redundant, boring curriculum that we have to teach. Who knows, maybe in the future we will have the opportunity to rewrite the curriculum so that the focus is not on standardized tests. Almost sounds too good to be true. I look forward to showing students new ways to learn and use information. I also plan on focusing on new literacies instead of the old literacies that are used presently. Blogs, podcasts, vodcasts, screencasts, ipods, smart phones, skypes, and wiki's are the new ways information is being shared. Who knows, in a few years there may be a thousand other tools for students to use. I am looking forward to this stuff.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Twitter: What are you doing?

Will Richardson , just informed me of a great link. is a site that asks everyone: What are you doing right now? It is a great feed to add to your RSS reader. I can see this working beautifully if you have a group of friends that are at a great distance away from each other. Its kind of like im/blog/text messaging all tied into one great package. The cool part about it is that you can add a feed to your RSS reader. I have to start to get my friends on board now!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Government has to interfere

I hate to continue to bring up negative aspects of the world we live in, but I believe there are some practices that are pointless. One of these instances is the government constantly interfering with the business sector.

Example: Handicap parking spaces in commercial parking lots. I have nothing against handicap people, but I do not believe that it is the responsibility of our government to make moral decisions of this nature. It is a law: if you own a business with a parking lot, there has to be a certain amount of handicap parking spaces per regular parking spaces. This makes sense, but why does the government feel it necessary to regulate this.

Scenario: Let's pretend that there is no law for the amount of handicap spaces that a business must have. I am a person that has a legitimate handicap licence plate. I enjoy shopping at the local Whole Foods grocery store. The Whole Foods grocery store that I frequent does not have any handicap spaces in the parking lot. Many times, I have have had to park 20 or more spaces away from the store front. A new grocery store opens 2 miles down the street. The owner of this grocery store decides that they will, as a courtesy to their customers, put handicap parking spaces towards the front of their parking lot for easy access to the store. These stores sell the same products, and their prices are very similar. What do you think I will do?

The Point:
Let the business decide whether or not they would like to add a handicap parking space for their customers. Believe me, if you are handicap, and need a parking space close to the front of the store, you will use the store with the space. The store without the space will lose your business. Eventually, the store without the space will add some spaces for good "customer service". This would all work itself out.

I will write about many more of these instances in the future. This gets me fired up. I don't know, maybe because I feel like the government has many other issues to worry about that are actually important to the nation and the world. Leave the business decisions up to the business!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

When are they going to get it?

I just watched an interview on my local cable channel with our superintendent of schools. In this interview, he was boasting about this brand new state-of-the-art planetarium that they will be building for student use. Working with these students on a daily basis, I know that these students will not care about a new planetarium. Anything that they can see at a planetarium, they can see on any number of free online planetariums. These students will not get excited and go crazy for learning as our superintendent instigates on his television interview. The students will get excited alright. It will be because they get to break the monotony of the boring school day that we subject them to, to go on a field trip.

The bottom line:
Our school district has partnered with Cisco to pilot all types of different technologies in the classroom. This is a great thing. The problem is that now as a district, it seems as though we are trying to boast about how advanced we are when it comes to technology. Planetariums are not new technology. It is all about the show. It is a current theme in our country. Have a nice car, can't pay your bills. Have 4 people in you family, own a huge 8 bedroom home that costs $900,000. Driving a Hummer, your kid is on the free lunch program at school. It's all about what is the perceived idea of what other people think of you. I see it every day. This is what is happening in our school district. They build new state-of-the-art buildings for students not taking into account what these students actually need. They need teachers that challenge them to become free-thinkers, have a unique imagination, and become responsible people in society. Building planetariums has nothing to do with any of these goals. This is just an ill attempt to boast to other school districts about the technology we have in our county. So, look at us, we are the most advanced county in the state. Everyone should be jealous of us! That gets us real far with the actual goal of teaching our students!

Monday, June 18, 2007

A bonus for Teachers?

I came across this article today in the NYT.

Very interesting. The debate as to whether or not teachers should be compensated for good student performance is troubling to me. Students being able to control how much money their teachers make? This is disturbing. What criteria do administrators use to judge the teacher? Who decides on the perimeters of the bonus? What happens to the teachers that don't receive the bonus?

Teachers like me are not always popular with the administration because we question the reasoning behind certain decisions. What happens to teachers like me? If I perform wonderfully on their rubric, will I be rewarded, or looked over because they feel threatened by my views?

Sunday, June 17, 2007


Why do the majority of us fear change? Is it because change is uncomfortable? Is change unfamiliar? When I speak of the idea of change, I am talking about any change in the way projects are completed, ideas thought about, or views discussed in our society. The saying "If it aint broken, don't fix it" is an easier way to say "I don't want to change it because I fear the hard work and the unfamiliar outcome"

Sometimes the idea or plan is not broken. An important concept to remember though: Any idea, concept, or plan can be improved whether it is broken or not. Another important concept: What isn't broken for one person, may be broken for another.

This is what rotates around in my brain when I think of the public education system. I think that our public education system is broken. Many may feel that it is not broken. I will give some validity to my statement.

District where standardized test scores are high
- Schools get more funding for programs
- Local Newspaper prints schools test scores
- Realty Companies advertise on this same page
- Property value increases
- Families move from low scoring districts to high scoring districts
- More student population
- More schools have to be built

Some of these outcomes may not sound too bad.
The problem: We are getting away from the idea behind "The Purpose" for a public education system. We are there to give students tools and vehicles to help them with the learning and maturing process. We are not there to teach to a test that is given at the end of the school year. I am sorry, it's not given at the end. The test is given in March. We are expected to teach a full 9 months of material in 7 months.
We as a society have lost focus on why kids even go to school. I see it every day. All students care about are their grades. Why? This is all their parents care about! Their parents pay them for good grades! That is the most ridiculous idea I have ever heard of. Where I am from, this is called a bribe. Great lesson to be teaching your kid!
We need to put the focus not on assessment, but on learning. This will be a huge undertaking. There are going to be a lot of people that say the system is not broken. If you are a teacher, I don't see how you can deny the broken system. It needs to start with discussions like this one. Let's start moving for change!!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Prices will always be too high!

I was sitting around last night with one of my good buddies. We began chiming in on different types of businesses and how they become profitable. We came to the conclusion that industries have to raise their prices according to how many people have their hands on the profit. In other words, the more middle-men, the more the price increase. It's the old drug dealer phenomenom. Drugs are illegal, so they have to be secretly passed through many hands down the line. Each person ups the price and usually sacrifices the impurity of the product. The more hands touch the product, the more it costs: this is the idea behind all big business.

I began discussing how my former landscaping business would cut out the middle men in order to undercut other landscape companies with the bids on jobs. Most landscaping businesses, big or small, buy their materials (retaining wall block, pavers) from stores in which sell it. These stores buy the product from local distributors in which buy it from regional distributors in which buy it from the manufacturer of the material. You can see where the problem is. By the time the landscape company saw the product, it had been through 4 companies, all of which made a profit off the product.

What we did:
We called as many manufacturers as we could until we found one that would be willing to ship to us directly. This was not my idea. All the credit goes to my former business partner for having the money saving idea. This idea completely cut out 3 links in a chain that was too long anyway. We saved money, we were able to undercut other landscape companies, and the customer saved money. This worked out for everyone.

The bottom line:
We were able to buck the system. Not every business can do this. The problem lies when business becomes TOO BIG. The further the business is spread across the state, nation, or globe, the more middle men have their hands on the product. It has to be that way. Why would the huge billion dollar lighting product company want to deal directly with a customer that wants to order 500 lighting fixtures. They are used to dealing with distibutors in which buy 500,000 lighting fixtures. The more distributors, the more the product costs. When you see a box truck with a distribution company name on the side: just think "middleman".

How many middle men are in these industries?

-real estate

I don't know the answer to this question, but I guarantee that the price of everything involved in theses industries have at least doubled because of middlemen that don't need to be there.
Just a thought!!!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The "Information Revolution"

Information is changing, from how we get it, to how we use it. I heard an interesting idea last night on the nightly news: "Left-Wing Bloggers are starting to sway the way congress thinks". Now this statement was not followed up by any proof or instance how. I think that if this is true, we have reached a new milestone in the "Information Revolution". Information is so widely available now to everyone.

A great example: Every morning, I wake up, drive to the school in which I teach, and sit at a computer. First, I look at my school e-mail, then I log on to my account to read my news feeds. I subscribe to feeds like that discusses all the new efficient technologies that are available to live a greener lifestyle, Will Richardson blog in which discusses the read/write web that is changing the worlds idea of learning, and in which has all the latest news stories from the UK's perspective. Now I read about 20 other feeds on a daily basis. Yes, I even subscribe to my own blogs feed. This is so I can jump to my blog quickly while I am in my pageflakes account. This all takes me about 10 minutes to actually read every bit of information that I wish to hear about on a daily basis, and it all comes to me with my free subscriptions. I do not watch the news at night or read a paper on the weekends. Why wait for a magazine in the mail. These pieces of information are not instant enough for me.

This is why information is changing. Our kids are already using information in this capacity. E-mail is becoming the new snail-mail. Kids are using IM, Text Messaging, downloading videos to YouTube, creating MySpace accounts, creating Podcasts, and publishing their thoughts on blogs. They have become writers, editors, reporters, photographers, producers, and film directors all on their own. I think that we as teachers should permit these students to use these vehicles to learn in school also. We need to catch up!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Textbooks vs. Internet

In our public education system, we are still using textbooks that were written 5-10 years ago. This seems disadvantageous to me.

When I was teaching 4th grade in the system, we were still told to teach the old Christopher Columbus story. Everyone knows this myth. Christopher Columbus sailed across the ocean to find a new land, he did, and he was a hero. The students that have sat through my Social Studies classes see this story entirely different. They researched the man and not the myth. They came to their own conclusions, as to who Columbus really was as a person. They decided that Columbus never found a new land! Columbus stumbled upon a land that had been found hundreds of thousands of years prior by the Paleo-Indians, or so we call them.

The most powerful idea to put into a child's psyche, is the idea that they can direct their own learning and they can be responsible for the information that they deem important.

Let's get going

The first Blog. I have been blogging for the last six month on with all 100 of the 5th graders in my school. It has been a great journey. One that I have really learned from. School has just 1 day left. I figured I would start a blog on this sight as well. I may say a few things that would get me in trouble with the "system" on the the other sight. This way, I am not affiliated with any school on this sight. I will continue to keep the other sight for summer purposes and into next year with a new group of students. The link to my students blog is

Some students adding to their blog in the Media Center

Until next Blog!