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December 2008

November 2008

Certification/Education

Am watching CBS Sunday Morning and saw something that really disturbed me.  Cleveland has got someone running an Academy (small high school), who is neither certified or has education credentials.  At least he sees the value of standardized tests.  So many people with that background don't.

Now, I am not only certified, but have a Master's in Education -- Cognitive Studies and Computer Education.  However, when I first decided I wanted to be a teacher I tried to do it with out the credentials.  And I honestly don't think I would have lasted or made it if I had gone the road I wanted to go -- which was emergency certification.

Emergency certification in Texas places someone in the classroom without the education and credentials.  I think I would have fallen flat on my face.  Though I will admit that that teaching certification didn't do a whole lot for me when it comes to classroom management.  I mostly learned what not to do.  Teaching dog obedience classes taught me more.

We also have alternative certification where the teaching candidate pays someone, often a district but Region 10 does that too, to get trained to be a teacher.  I've not been very impressed with the abilities of those who come in that way -- there are missing a lot of skills and information that I had before the Master's, much less after.

Which also reminds me of a movie I saw this weekend -- which is Freedom Writers.  They never explained where she came from -- but man, oh man, was she not prepared those first few days.   It also bothered me that the actors were way too old for 9th graders, but beside the point.  I was glad to see at the end of the movie that the teacher acknowledged that she didn't know if she could duplicate her success with another group of kids.

Here's the deal:  when you teach high school you are influencing lives.  If you screw it up, you can screw up someone for life.  To this day, there are two teachers I remember the most: one is the idiot who taught Algebra II in Jackson, MS who claimed I couldn't do Computer Science because I couldn't do word problems.  The other is the Physics teacher at the same school who held an extreme prejudice against me because I was a Yankee.  He also wouldn't induct me into the National Honor Society even through I was in the top 10% of the class.  I have viewed NHS with suspicion ever since.  Both have added to my academic insecurity.

The whole point of my rant again is to explain why teaching without certification bugs me and while Freedom Writers bugs me.

An successful educator can duplicate their results.  Also successful curriculum has to work for every student, not just a few.   I think both the principal in Cleveland and the Freedom Writers' teacher have stumbled on a technique that is only going to affect a few.  Granted these are a few students that really need help, but if the technique depends on the educator's personality meshing with the personality of the students we're not accomplishing the task.  What happens if something happens to the teacher? 

Also the Freedom Writer's program was extremely impractical.  Who has the time and energy to work two jobs to support the main job, and why should you?  At lot of her funding issues should have been taken care of by the school -- books for example, but she had a lot of expenses that just were not practical no matter the neighborhood.  I love Randy Pausche's line from his book -- airline attendants give the best advice, put on your oxygen mask before you put on someone else's.  That's why I am taking off next Friday, I'm going to take care of myself.


I hate Tech Apps especially Web Mastering

I am certified in Tech Apps, and I have can also teach web mastering as I taught it before you have to be individually certified in it.  In other words, I've taught a lot of web mastering.  I really hate doing it though.

First, I'm not an artist.  Yes, I can look at a website and know it sucks.  I can even design some elementary graphical art if I can find a tutorial that does what I want it to do.

Second, I'm a programmer.  HTML coding is not programming.  It's doing what I am doing now, typing.  It's got a simple set of rules but so does desktop publishing, etc.  Code is at a much higher level and is much more fun.  HTML coding is boring.

Third is projects.  High school students are horrible at long terms, as a rule.  There are exceptions, but the kids that are attracted to a web mastering course do not have the attention span for a long term project.  In fact, CS kids do better if they can finish an assignment in a class period, and thankfully most of the projects in my CS courses are one day projects.

I really admire the people who can teach web mastering and multi-media, BUT give me a math class any day over the tech apps courses.


Moving Sites

First, I am seriously thinking of moving to TypePad.  It is the easiest way to migrate, and frankly I'm tired up hosting my own website.  I need to find out if I can move my email address to one place and the blogs to another, and how.  It would cut down on expenses too.

 

I'm also not interested in keeping up with Linux/Unix stuff, it is REALLY a pain.  And it seems once I get everything working again, Movable type does an upgrade I have to install.

 

The nice thing is that Adobe Contribute works REALLY well with Typepad.



Working on Tuesday

I am teaching staff development on Tuesday.  And yes, I will know acknowledge that probably doing staff development during the school year only is probably going to save the district money, as I am teaching this session for only 3 people and did the rest of the computer science teachers last summer.  They would not have to pay me Tuesday if they required us to do the staff development on the same day.

 

Here's how it's been working -- they offer staff development in the summer -- my session was only one day since there was about 12 computer science teachers in the district.  If we do the staff development in the summer, we don't have to do it during the school year.  Thus, I have Monday off.

 

So what am I planning to teach:

  • The first part will be done by my specialist. It will probably take two hours.
  • Raptor
    • How to download
    • How to do a basic flow chart
    • Details in graphics and animation.
    • Short hands on assigment, probably bounce a ball around the screen
  • Alice -- will be loaded on the new computers
    • Overview on Alice and how to set it up so it does Java code
    • Short Alice assignment
  • Java --
    • Overview of A Plus materials (probably not needed) since we're using them
    • Do a A Plus lab
  • Java - Computational Media - where are the resources
  • Visual Basic
    • How to download VB Express
    • Coding For Fun - Cowbow on the Mobile phone assignment
    • Creating Websites - my personal and Hillcrest Website
  • C++
    • How to download C++
    • combination of Visual Basic and Java
    • Allows Zune and Game development

 

Probably won't get through EVERYTHING but its better to overplan and if I guess correctly on how is going to show up, a lot of this will go fast.


Coding Horror: We Are Typists First, Programmers Second

Quoted from http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/001188.html:

 

Coding Horror: We Are Typists First, Programmers Second

 

Coding is just typing.

 

He's right.  First, at one point in my life, I typed over 150 words a minute and was even faster at 10 key.  Why?  Because I wanted to know what my program was going to do.  I've have lovely ideas, but I couldn't see them come to fruitation until I got them entered.  I was also extremely accurate because we were doing punch cards.

 

Worse, yet, I've often described my programming classes as a really bizarre typing class.  It takes a LONG time for students to get programming and start writing their own programs. Its' more than just typing though, they have to read and follow the directions and let me tell you 9th graders are horrible at it. 


By the way, I just got a lovely email telling me my passing rate is over 20% and I have to fill out a ton of paperwork. Sadly, I let a lot of kids get by because a) they were trying things, and b) it cuts down the paperwork.


Chumby

I've had my Chumby for 2 1/2 weeks more than a year, which is why I am a bit disappointed.

Here's my Chumby today:

Imag0001

I contacted them the forum in September.  At the time, I couldn't find anything about a warranty on the website, and no one from Chumby responded to my post, so I assume it was a 90 day warranty.  Wrong, it had a one year.

However, they won't honor the warranty because I didn't discover the truth on the warranty until yesterday.  Yes, I should have just shot an email to their support and asked but I have been so overwhelmed at school I wasn't up to it.  However, I was yesterday.

But no budging, I even offered to go halves on replacing it but no dice.

Would I spend $179+ on a chumby having had one for a year? Nope.

They are about the size of a softball, maybe a bit bigger.  They play Flash files and function as an alarm clock.  WHEN they function.   A year later, and it is not reliable enough to work as an alarm clock/internet clock radio.

Plus there are some features I have not seen implemented that I think are essential.  I should be able to adjust alarm settings from the internet, and while I can SSH in and edit the alarm files, it's not well documented.

It also doesn't have a snooze function through people have written scripts.

Basically it's just too expensive and too unreliable for the functions it currently has.

Oh, and my biggest issue? Made in China with typical Chinese quality control. But at least they not only kill our pets, but they kill their own babies. Oh, and the sick people in Columbia they killed. Almost forgot.


Fun times

In order to get paid for being Campus Technologist, I have to get the computer inventory done.  No inventory no check for tech.  <smile>

The good news, is that most of the people in the building are helping.  The inventory is done yearly, so I could give each person their last yours inventory so it's a matter of checking the inventory and making additions and deletions.

At the same time, I'm getting new equipment.  Yeah -- great timing.  I'll find out when on December 2.  So I have to arrange the lab for new equipment.  The rules are no daisy chaining of power supplies.  I've had a pod of 10 computers in the center of the room forever, BUT it violates those rules and has since the initial install.  Several years ago, new drops were put in, but they aren't that convenient to place.  I've got a really long narrow room.

So the old seating chart looked like this:

Seatingchart

Now it is going to look like this:

Newseatingchart

I have to put a storage area in the center because:

a) there are some drops imbedded in the floor there from "Round 2" of wiring the lab.

b) My room is currently the home of all the dead equipment in the building.  I am hoping that I'll get it moved out before the new computers come.

That stuff will all be under some tables I'm using for lunches, time outs, etc.