Teaching Issues

School Shootings

I honestly don't think they can be prevented without making major changes in how we live.  I'm watching a PrimeTime Special and they showed how students let other students in the dorms.  I know our building isn't at all secure.  We joke that we're secure from 7:30 - 8:40 but that isn't even true.  Since we have portables, we have to have full access into and out of the building.  Anyone can get in with no problem and the metal detectors are only out from -- you guessed it from 7:30 - 8:40.

You'd have to completely reconstruct our building if you wanted it to be secure -- and that kind of money just doesn't exist.  As it just isn't OUR building that needs to be fixed but almost every building in the country. 

One thing that can be fixed though -- I'm sick to death of the faculty members who won't wear a badge -- it's time to grow up and act like an adult.

Funny -- I didn't realize that it bothered me that much until I started typing.

Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson : Do We Really Need Computer Applications Classes?

We do need to teach our students -- or at least the students in my school -- computer applications.  The first month in my Webmastering, CS I and PreAP CS classes are mostly computer applications.

Kids today do figure out a lot of "computer stuff" on their own. They certainly could figure out a lot of the things we generally teach in computer applications courses. The problem is that they don't. I gave placement exams for a computer applications course for years and very few, perhaps 10%, of those who thought they "knew it all" actually knew enough to test out of the course.

Source: Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson : Do We Really Need Computer Applications Classes?

My students got quite a bit of computer applications in grades K-6.  At least one of the feeder schools does a fabulous job.

However, the kiddos get one semester of computer literacy in middle school, usually in 7th grade. 

The low income kiddos no computer access from that time until they hit me.  If they haven't forgotten what they have learned, the applications have progressed and they don't know how to use them. 

We spend a week on common web applications -- email and searching.  A week on word processing, a few days on spreadsheets, and on power point.  I finish the unit with a project.  The kiddos are to shop for their "Dream Computer", and create a word document, presentation, and a spreadsheet supporting what they want to buy.  The even more fun part -- many parents DO go out and buy the system the kids want, or one similar.

I believe a student can't use an IDE well, if they can't use a word processor.  I also think that all CS students should be able to do a simple spreadsheet -- that's why I have them comparison shop -- they have to at least come up with totals.

I go a bit further with the web kiddos -- they have to publish their products on the internet.  Real life things that web creators have to do.

We also have a lot of kids that were NOT educated in our system.  Most of them are non-English speakers and many haven't touched a computer until they get to us.  These kiddos go to a local credit keyboarding class and then BCIS.  After that, I'm happy to have them. 

So yes, we do need to teach computer applications in high school and will probably have to have a few sections for the non-English speakers of keyboarding then applications.  Otherwise they will be victims of the digital divide.

Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson : Advanced Placement Computer Science - Time for a Big Change?

I thought for a long time, that we are covering way to much material in both subject areas.

However, I'm not sure what material should be cut from the A exam.  Having experienced and taught Java for a few years, the coolest part of Java is inheritance.  It definately needs to be included.  Perhaps moving arrays and array lists to the AB exam might be a good choice.  I know that some colleges don't do them until the second semester of CS.

The AB exam is also way too big.  It was fine when it stopped at queues and stacks.  Most data structure classes stop there, or only briefly touch on Maps and Sets.

I honestly do not believe that the AP CS program would survive another language change.  However, I wish we'd never left Pascal.  It was designed as a teaching language and there is nothing wrong with that.  I would never, ever want to see us go back to C++.  Even going there was a big mistake.  It drove a lot of high school teachers out of teaching computer science.  It also drove a lot of schools out of it, because it was just too expensive.

Changing to Java drove out teachers also, but most of those are ones who had trouble with coping with the C++ change, and thought it would be as bad.  I know a few who left during that area and I think they should have hung out longer.

I do believe Java is a good choice.  I just don't think we should be jumping to each major release.  Remember, it takes a long time for textbooks to be revised and a longer time between adoptions.  Texas adopts new textbooks every 7 years.  We should also give the teaching tools time to adapt.

The main reason I like Java is there are a lot of good free materials out there.  However, there are not enough yet.  Many of them are written by college professors for the college market and these are high school students. 

I also like the case studies.  I've tried using them as I go, but it never seems to work out.  This year is working out well though.  I am also really looking forward to GridWorld though I think it is not much different than the MBS.  However, the biggest reason I like the case study is that the students have access to a large body of code to model on during the test. 

I would like to see the local universities do more to help us.  They have talked about it in the past, but they never seem to follow through.  I'd also like to see more online learning opportunities, and not just for the AP program.  There are a lot of high schools who have choosen Visual Basic and I would like to see Microsoft giving us more support.  The Mainfunction was a great website, but we need more!

Link to Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson : Advanced Placement Computer Science - Time for a Big Change?

Texas bill proposes fine for missing teacher meetings - CNN.com

I hope this is for disclipine conferences only.  I would sure hate for it to be for missing the biannual scheduled conferences. 

Parents beware: Miss a meeting with your child's teacher and it could cost you a $500 fine and a criminal record.

Source: Texas bill proposes fine for missing teacher meetings - CNN.com

By the way, the Texas legislature usually only meets every two years, so it is a big deal when they get together.  And big ideas come out of it, fortunately not all get implemented.

Teacher Interruptions

Did I just wake up on the wrong side of the bed?

Something happened today that just irritates the heck out of me.  One of our less than computer savvy teachers walked into my classroom while I was obviously teaching a class to get an answer for a probably stupid computer question.

I honestly do not mind people asking dumb computer questions, but I hate it to happen when I'm teaching my students how to write a program.  If I walk into a classroom and I see a teacher is working with students, I leave.  If it is real important -- like a quick question about something I'm doing for them, I might ask it, but usually wait and come back.

Not this woman!  She just keeps standing there while I am teaching.  I had to stop and ask her what she wanted, but I wasn't able to help, because my mind was still on the program I was writing for my students.

In fact, I just sat down and wrote down my gripes and sent it on to our Faculty Advisory Committee.  It probably won't help, but I feel better I wrote it here, and sent it in.

Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson : The Computer Teacher is Overworked

He is not kidding when he says Computer Science teachers are over worked. 

Link to Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson : The Computer Teacher is Overworked

My first year of teaching, I taught three preps.  AP Computer Science which was Pascal, Computer Math, and Algebra II.  That wasn't too bad.

Currently I teach the following:

AP Computer Science II - 1 student in a mixed class with 4 other subjects.

AP Computer Science I - 5 students

PreAP Computer Science -- 3 class periods.  My first period is half PreAP, 4th Period is all PreAP, and 7th has two students.

Regular Computer Science - 4 class periods.  Half of first period, all of second and fifth, and I have one student taking it 7th period.

Webmastering - 1 class period 8 students, three are special ed.

I'm also trying to learn Spanish, but may hang that up, the first week of class was not good.

Bad Weather

We've been having extremely bad weather in Dallas.  It was actually snowing when I went to school yesterday.

Up north, it would have been a no-brainer.  Have school.  Unfortunately, just about every other district in the area shut down for the day, we didn't.

Here's why we don't.  We know that there is a large number of parents who are going to have to go into work.  Let's face it, in bad weather, it's the lowest paid workers who have to go to work.  That means their children, if we don't have school, are not being supervised and are not getting lunch.  Not a huge problem for my population, though I would argue that most of the 9th grades and some of the 10 graders need the supervision.

So we had school.

However, our local ABC affliate, Channel 8, WFAA, decided to announce that we did NOT have school.  Quite a few teachers, parents, and students, including myself, heard that.  Many of us went back to bed.  I started to, but my dogs wouldn't let me.  They wanted to be fed.  So I sat down after feeding them and ate my own breakfast.  Whoops!  DISD spokeswoman came on, blasted Channel 8, and told us we would have school.

I made it there, and before official school time, but not as early as I would have liked.  I also didn't like the added stress from leaving 20 minutes late, but I did get here.

We did have school.  I gave some "free" answers to some assignments as a reward to my students that were here.  I also took a group of another teacher's students, who didn't make it here, and put them on computers and had them do "Texas Web Tutor". 

All in all, it was a good day.  No thanks to Channel 8, which I am no longer a watcher of their local programs, especially their news.  That also means Goodbye to Good Morning America, since it was during their time, that the misannouncement was made.

My biggest problem with Channel 8?  They haven't sufficiently apologized.  In fact, they are obviously holding the position that we should NOT have had school yesterday.

Well, back to the facts -- there are students in the district that would not have had supervision and would not have fed yesterday.  The majority of our cafeteria workers were here.  Everyone that was here, pitched in and made the day good for the students.  It was the right decision.  And sadly, it might not count as an attendance day and we still might have to use our inclement weather day -- meaning that I didn't really get paid for yesterday.  All because Channel 8 decided to make their own announcements up.

Websense - More

When I got home and things got calmed down, I decided to research the issue on the internet.  I actually went out to the Websense site and found their site look up tool.

If anyone else runs into it, it's at http://www.websense.com/global/en/SupportAndKB/SiteLookup/

I looked up my site (you have to do the registration thing), and sure enough, it's listed as "Personal Web Sites".  I went in, and requested that the relist it as Educational.

Nothing has happened, but it was Friday night.  However, they do claim 24/7 support.

I looked it up on Saturday, and again requested it.  The database claims to have been updated on Saturday, but still it shows as a Personal Website.

I also looked it up today, and again requested it to be moved.  Still hasn't happened.  One thing I do not like, is that you do not get any type of acknowledged besides the accepted webpage.

One thing I'm planning to do today, is to change Metatags, and information on the first page so it looks more like an educational site.  Hopefully that will help.

Let me know if you have any ideas.


I hate Websense.

Right now if your organization uses Websense you cannot read this. This whole domain is classified as Membership and Clubs. That is not my main concern though.

It's my other domain kweaver.net which is the problem. And frankly the whole thing has been upsetting.

First kweaver.net is a domain I use for teaching. I have a really cool set of php pages that hit a MySQL database. It tells my students their assignments, their grades, and their status with me. What they have turned in, what I have graded and what they need to do to fix programs to get a higher grade.

Nothing in our acceptable use policy says I caanot do this. All it says is that they have the right to the code since I did it in their employ and have worked on the code when it was broken in class.

So here was what happened.

Came in Friday morning and all was fine first period. I took a quite look at 2nd periods assignment from the website. Kids came in and they tried to login to find out the assignment and they got the websense message. Nervous laughter. they told me and I checked and found sure enough Websense blocked "personal website".

I emailed the person I last talked to about this issue and since I did not hear from him by the end of the class period, called Network Services and talked with the supervisor in charge. He told me to fill out a form and email it and I did. When I left at the end of the day the email had been read but the site was still blocked.

Big Raise is not the answer

Give All the Teachers a Big Raise | Alfred Thompson | Microsoft 10

I think that the biggest problem with education is that all teachers with the same experience get paid the same.

Teachers should get paid according to how much they attract students and by how much they affect school rankings.

That tends to shut people like in the foot, since CS teachers don't tend to affect student performance as much.

But that IS how the real world works.