Sunday, February 24, 2008

If you are anything like me you started your tech trek several years ago. Maybe even used a TRS 80 or even a VIC 20/C64.

Back then the major source of computer information was a magazine. There were several to choose from. Believe it or not, I still subscribe to one magazine and it is a computer magazine.

Truthfully, I have been thinking I should not renew it next time. Until today. The most recent issue did a piece on free and open source software. Most of the list I recognized but there were enough nuggets to keep me subscribed for another year.

Besides it is still more comfortable curling up with a magazine than with my laptop. Here's what I found:

Windows Live Photo Gallery

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Our Schools!

I just read Wesley Fryer's blog entitled A contrary view of education and NCLB and have to agree with him. Here's my take on things.

I've read some where, sorry can't find the article that most communities are very happy with their schools, but when you ask the same people about our educational system as a whole they will tell you that it is failing. How can this be?

I have been in education for 27 years and have seen its ups and downs. I have watched our kids go to prestigious colleges, the military, and into the local job market. There have been some definite trends that are consistent. We have slowly walked away from occupational education. We have been selling the notion that everyone must attend college. We treat "tracking" as a dirty word. In doing so we have created the biggest track of them all, college bound.

Another trend has been even more disturbing. This is the trend of testing. The results are scary.

Students have no time to be kids. Schedules in schools have become tighter to make up for the time taken away for the actual testing and preparations. Participation in the arts has dwindled because we need more teachers to prepare students for the tests. Teachers have become paranoid because they know that they are being judged on results of testing when by they do not control all of the factors that go into the preparation.

Evidence of these factors above is pretty apparent in my district and I would bet that if you poll the parents they would say our school does a great job, overall. So, what are the results of all of this testing?

I think we are starting to see the results. I see middle and high school students who are experts at the mechanics of taking a standardized test. I see students who are fearful of failure and rely on directions from others too often. I see students who are not very creative and act like lemmings. I see more and more students who haven't a clue about their future aspirations. I also see a local business struggling to hiring skilled machinists. It just happens that our district used to offer courses in machining until 15 years ago. At that time we did away with the classes.

The biggest fear I have is that we are losing the ability to create and innovate. That clearly has been our nation’s biggest asset. Why are we focusing so much on testing? I believe it's because it's the east way out. In this age of sound bites how else can you point a finger?

Here's my solution. If politicians want us to become more like business then give us all of the control businesses have. For instance, in business they choose the raw material that they work with. I say, let me choose the students I work with. In business they have quality controls throughout the manufacturing process. I say, let me have quality controls and the ability to eject inferior materials along the way. In business they receive bonuses for raising the company’s bottom line. I say cheers. I believe if we had the same controls we would not need tenure because our success rates would be through the roof. Give me a year under these conditions and I'll compete on any test with any school or nation.

Of course I am not suggesting that we do this. Our kids are not widgets and we as a nation have decided we must educate everyone. Rightly so. Yet we constantly compare ourselves to other nations who do not.

I came into education at a time when the Nation at Risk report came out. Talk about having your enthusiasm put to a test! I am still here and as optimistic as ever. I just do not understand why we continue to beat ourselves up as an institution.

I believe we have the best economic engine in the world. I know it's tough to remain number one. But, I ask you one question. If our educational system is so bad how has our economy remained at the top and become the envy of most? We must be doing something right!