Saturday, March 31, 2012

Cheating, Instant Everything, & Absolute Nothing

Our kids live in a world of instant gratification, where any answer they need is two seconds away.

Google's Instant Search (now two years old) makes finding info even easier ... users start typing and Google fills in the blanks, guessing where the searcher is headed. As one types, search results appear automatically ... without hitting enter.

Here's an article further pushing this instant info envelope: Future search engines may actually anticipate your searches for you, based on your user habits. Log onto the web, and your searches will appear before you even make them.

Now add studying to the picture. "Why did I need to study for this," a student wonders, "when all of the answers are available through the phone in my pocket?"

Technology clashes with moral relativism

It's a morally ambiguous time to begin with, and technology races forward as boundaries and social standards are constantly being pushed, redrawn or shattered entirely.

I'm taking a grad class right now in research - which one would think would be very straight forward. Not the case.

There are four basic types of research in the social fields, my textbook explains, and the most scientific of them is called "Postpositivist." The "post" in this research worldview signifies the fact that research now "challenges the traditional notion of absolute truth in knowledge."

Here's the part that got me: Since truth can't be found, a researcher no longer proves a hypothesis. Instead, he can only "indicate a failure to reject a hypothesis."

Got all that, students? You can find the answers to your test in .5 seconds, and there's no such thing as truth (and thus, right or wrong). But, don't you dare cheat!

Good grief, it's gotta be a confusing time to be a kid.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Fair and Balanced

I love getting political in the classroom. Political philosophy is my favorite area of study, maybe second only to media studies. Combining the two puts me in teacher heaven.

So I thought this Virginia teacher's assignment was very cool: He had his students do "opposition research" on the remaining Republican candidates ... and he even had his students source Obama campaign officials so they could, in theory, forward their findings onto the president's campaign team.

This assignment is awesome for several reasons. As a former PR guy, I recognize these kids are building real-world critical thinking and research skills. In my opinion it's a thoughtful, relevant, and probably fun assignment.

Except the teacher didn't assign any dirt digging on the president; instead, he had the kids focus entirely on the GOP candidates.

If he'd have simply opened up the assignment to researching both sides, he wouldn't be in the national news.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Misplaced Priorities

Got some great news today ... our school district is facing yet more tough budget cuts.

As far as I can tell, our superintendent is some kind of wizard. He's brilliant when it comes to saving cash, and cutting corners only when absolutely required.

But even the incredible competency of our fearless leaders isn't enough to keep at bay layoffs (234 positions, according to the news report above) when there is simply no more money.

We also got an all-staff email today letting us know we are out of computer / printer paper.

My freshman class is working on solving big problems today, combining art and science in the spirit of Da Vinci. Thinking about the state of our nation, a freshman girl just asked, "Mr. Bank, why do we spend so much money on wars ... but not enough to keep like three extra teachers?"

I had no answer for her.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Blogger Loves Google Calendar

When I started using Blogger as a classroom management tool a few years ago, I did it for one simple reason: Every new blog post = a new date and lesson. It made perfect sense to me, and still does.

Last semester I taught English 12. Say I teach it again next year ... I can just copy / paste in my old posts ... change the date ... and presto - I have online lessons ready to roll.

I started using Blogger before Google bought it, and now they play even more nicely together. For example, I can grab the embed code from my Google calendar, and pop it anywhere on my blog. Like I did above.

Now kids have instant access to homework, test schedules, tutoring, my schedule, etc.

Blogger and Google - a match made in 2.0 classroom heaven.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Free Teacher Face Lifts = PR Train Wreck

When a story like this hits the press, it makes the PR guy in me cringe. And it's disturbing from a teacher's perspective. Heck, it's bothersome to me as a taxpayer, for that matter.

Apparently Buffalo, New York has been offering free plastic surgery - no deductible - to all public school teachers in the city for the past 40 years.

Police and firefighters have the same union-negotiated benefits, but of course the media focuses almost solely on teachers.

And, understandably, mainstream and conservative news outlets / blogs are blowing up with angry news stories ... and even angrier reader comments.

Every story like this is accompanied with a thousand comments from the public, such as "Wow three months off plus free breast implants!" And so our collective image slides further into the muck.

Teachers are unfairly attacked with frequency. But this nonsense does not help anyone (except plastic surgeons). I'm reminded of a favorite saying of my grandmother: God helps those who help themselves.