Friday, February 27, 2009

The Class

School Gate just posted an article on the French film called "The Class". It's the story of an inner-city teacher in France. Apparently, the story is unrelentingly depressing, but also very realistic. It's not one of those movies I'd want to see, but is more of a movie I have to see. Watch the preview:

Allan Bloom on YouTube

Open Culture -- what more can I say about that site? -- has dug up some Allan Bloom videos on YouTube. Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind was one of the books that most influenced my thinking on education. I've changed quite a bit in how I look at education (and the world, for that matter), but it's still something that made me who I am.

Bloom forced me to look at Plato's work and take it seriously. I'd read Plato as an undergraduate and again in grad school, but it all seemed so remote and useless. I remember pouring over his translation and commentary on the Republic for hours. I finally understood why Plato mattered. He opened up an entire world of philosophy to me. I'd studied it before, but he truly brought it to life.

Twitter? What Is That?

Twitter is an interesting (relatively) new web service. Here's what their web site says:

Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent messages. People write short updates, often called "tweets" of 140 characters or fewer. These messages are posted to your profile or your blog, sent to your followers, and are searchable on Twitter search.

When I first used the service a few months back, I really couldn't make heads or tales of it. I just don't have all that much to "tweet" about. Since then, however, I've come to use it more as a quick way to stay informed. I follow a number of interesting people who frequently update their accounts. There are publishers, newspapers, academics, politicians, and even celebrities who tweet. I'm not sure that anyone following me gets all that much enlightenment, but I certainly get a lot out of following others.

Here's a recent TED talk from Evan Williams, the CEO of Twitter, discussing some of the many interesting ways that people use the service.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

World Newspaper Headlines

Open Culture directs its readers to the Newseum's web site which has an amazing feature -- a map where you can get a look at current world headlines.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Nerd Cred

The Star Wars official site has 1978 radio ads promoting the film. I never heard them, but the production values take me back to my younger days. I can't figure out how to embed them on this site, so follow the link.

Conquering Technophobia

Edutopia has an article which outlines tips for teachers who would like to use technology in the classroom, but are a bit nervous.
Ask for Help
Learn from Students
Take Baby Steps
Be Precise About Your Expectations
Expect Snags
Allow Students to Take the Reins
Beware of Plagiarism
Keep an Open Mind

Read the whole article for full details. There's also a video about a veteran teacher who has learned to embrace new technologies in the classroom:

Post-Stimulus Career Planning

I won't comment on my views on the stimulus package here, but Yahoo HotJobs has an article speculating about the job fields that will prosper as a result of the $787 billion plan. They are:

1) construction
2) the green sector
3) medical information tech
4) education
5) energy and utilities
6) Federal government

I know that many, many students went into business-related fields over the past several years. This had an enormous impact on education at all levels. Will this reorient our system? In what ways?

The Formula That Killed Wall Street

Wired has an article that explains the mathematical formula at the heart of the current Wall Street collapse. It's tough for me to explain the main argument, but it's a fascinating story of math gone wild.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


The New York Times defends recess. It's about time -- as a father of three, I know the importance of letting kids run around.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Dumbest Generation? Another take

Thanks to Cool Cat Teacher Blog for this video. Author Don Tapscott outlines in a pretty direct way all the charges about kids today. Watch it all the way through, no matter what you think about his comments.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Podcast vs. Lecture

A new report argues that students who have access to podcasted lectures perform better than those who just attend lectures.

Students have been handed another excuse to skip class from an unusual quarter. New psychological research suggests that university students who download a podcast lecture achieve substantially higher exam results than those who attend the lecture in person.

Podcasted lectures offer students the chance to replay difficult parts of a lecture and therefore take better notes, says Dani McKinney, a psychologist at the State University of New York in Fredonia, who led the study.

"It isn't so much that you have a podcast, it's what you do with it," she says.

What interests me here is that this report doesn't reject the lecture per se, but instead sees podcasts as an important way for students to review their work.

Hacking Education

Jeff Jarvis' What Would Google Do? really impressed me. He's written a post on his blog Buzz Machine that touches on the topic of education. Here's how the post begins:

Educators - like musicians, journalists, carmakers, and bankers before them - won’t know what hit them. But as sure as change is overtaking every other sector of society, it will overtake education - as well it should. Our cookie-cutter, one-pace-fits-all, test-focused system is not up to the task of teaching the creators of the new Googles.

That pretty much sums up my concerns that I blogged about earlier this week. How are we facing these changes? I think my own school is actually doing a good job of preparing for these sorts of disruptions, but how much can one institution do?