Feb 19

Dean’s Closing Speech

Howard Dean addressed his supporters today, and you have to hand it to the man. He can turn the progressive phrase. I do hope that Gov. Dean takes the energy of his supporters and keeps them involved. We need more grass roots activism in this country. We need people to understand that activism takes time. It’s not about one win or one race. It’s about the long haul. It’s about making the best possible choice even when you can’t make the perfect choice.

The next few years should tell us whether or not Dean’s campaign had a lasting effect. I do think that he was the first presidental candidate to understand the grass roots power of the internet. (I think that Jessie Ventura’s first run for governor figured it out first.) The problems with the Dean campaign don’t overshadow that. Now, every campaign will have to have a "blog" even if most of them don’t and won’t really understand why a blog is different than a public relations release machine.

Smart candidates will understand what Dean understood… that people will respond to candidates who use the internet to bring the candidate closer to the people. Dean seemed to thrive on his interactions with every day people, and his internet strategy captured that energy.

I can’t wait to see what he does from here.

Feb 17

Linda Darling-Hammond Scares Me

From pg. 211 and 234 of The Right To Learn:

If school-level reforms continue only by waiver and exception, they will surely evaporate in a very short time, long before good schooling spreads to the communities where it is currently most notable by its absence.

[and]

Those at the front lines of inventing more successful schools have little access to the bureaucrats who regulate from offices far away, and who, in turn, typically believe they have little to learn from the real-world work of teachers and students.

O.k. — so that’s my big fear for Beacon and the schools like Beacon. If we are a revolution by exception, then are we sustainable? Or do we merely exist on the periphery, doing right by the kids we get, but also susceptible to every political shift? I feel good that what we do at Beacon is right, but how does that spread? How does it survive?

Mike Lupinacci, an former colleague at Beacon and current principal of Central Park East Elementary School, once said that "If you want exceptional schools, you have to make exceptions." And while I agree, given the current political landscape, I also wonder how systemic change ever happens.

I used to think that if a small, progressive group of schools did things so well that their results could force larger change. The last five years have convinced me that is naive. I’ve also thought, in my darker moments, that the system was corrupt, and all we could do is preserve Beacon and hope other folks preserved what was good about their schools. That path is bad for Beacon and bad for the system.

And honestly, I don’t have the time for the entire high-stakes testing movement to run its course. I don’t want Beacon to get ruined in its wake. And that’s a lot of Darling-Hammond’s point, too.

But the question is how do it, politically… not pedagogically. That’s the tough nut to crack.

Feb 16

A Educational-Technology Manifesto

This is from James Farmer’s Incorporated Subervision, and it’s a wonderful progressive manifesto for how technology and education should co-exist:

I may be an educational technologist, I may teach online, I may write online, I may advocate others doing so and I may spend more time typing than talking, but:

  • I do not want technology to replace teachers nor do I think it ever will.
  • I don’t think online education can replace or replicate people getting together in a room.
  • I would rather study and teach in a real classroom with people, I would, seriously!

I may prefer learning face to face, I may get frustrated with online education and virtual meetings, I may get horribly depressed by the crap that gets churned out in the name of educational technology, the myths of learning objects and the anonymity of a WebCT discussion board but:

  • I do think that communicating, collaborating, expressing and exploring your learning online can be unique and amazing.
  • I do think that online education has the potential to revolutionize teaching and learning for the better.
  • I would rather blog this than stick it on the fridge at home!

It’s not the technology… it’s the pedagogy!

And I don’t have much to add. Technology allows us to talk… to create… to extend the walls of our classrooms so that the entire world can see. That’s good stuff. One teacher, projecting his lectures as a Power Point presentation on a screen at the front of the classroom does nothing but take an old methodology and jazz it up with a new tool. We have to keep remember to keep thinking about what we want our schools to be and how the new tools can help us get there.

Feb 16

The Baby-Industrial Complex

Yee gods… spent today shopping for baby stuff. Beware the Baby-Industrial Complex, I say… it’s pretty amazing what is out there. Playpens with lights and noises… High-chairs that recline… Strollers with one-touch fold-up… baby bjorns with lumbar support… monitors and wiper warm-ups and gliders and bippies and boppies and god-knows what else.

Yee gods.

Feb 16

Stretching the Programming Muscles

So… I was up until 3:30 last night writing a piece of code for our office staff. The code allows Cynthia and Luwana to automatically file a database report on whose attendance was not scanned that day. It sends an email to those teachers and sends an email by band to an administrator. It’s not that sophisticated yet, but I’m pleased with it as a first draft.

I still have to build in the search page which will allow to search on period scanning / teacher scanning. And I would love to take a crack at rewriting the "send to administrator" function, because I realize now that it would be better — and probably not that hard to code — to have the report send deliberately, not automatically, but that’s a function that may need user input.

This whole thing is a little more big-brothery than I like to make tech tools, but honestly, I would like to see us do a better job of tracking our at-risk students. (What school wouldn’t, right?) There are things we can do on the student end, but there are some things we need to do on the teacher end too. This is one of them.

And hey, it’s fun to stretch those programming muscles mid-year anyway.

Oh… and if anyone wants to take a look at the PHP code, let me know.

Feb 06

Lessig on Nader

The entire article is worth reading, but Larry Lessig is furious with Ralph Nader for suggesting that those progressives and liberals who are begging / urging him not to run are engaging in censorship.

I realized today just how angry I remain at Ralph Nader, former hero of mine, while listening to him on NPR today. Apparently, Mr. Nader is considering another run for president. When pressed quite effectively by Melissa Block to respond to the many many many who are begging him not to run, including the Nation, Mr. Nader responded that such a request was "censorship."

This man is truly outrageous. The only thing a Nader candidacy would do is increase the chance that Bush will be reelected. This man has become unsafe — to himself, and to the nation. If he has friends, they should be his friend and stop him from this.

I want to take this further. Nader’s argument (and I encourage you to listen to his interview on NPR) is specious. This is certainly not a first amendment issue, as http://www.lessig.org/blog/archives/001718.shtml">Lessig writes:

But I don’t believe in this endless-love view of free speech. Indeed, the whole reason we need a space for free speech is so some people can tell other people that their speech is wrong, or harmful, or both, (see, e.g., most of the comments to my own postings) and then the other people can decide whether to respect the views that were criticizing them. "Free speech" absolutely does not mean I have to like what you say. Nor does it mean I have to refrain from criticizing what you say. Such an idea insults, I believe, the very notion of free speech: which is to use argument to reach understanding, both about what to do, and about what to say.

And that’s the point. Nader, by suggesting that those people — myself included — who would call, write, email Nader and urge him not to run would be censoring him, is, himself, trying to stop debate on the issue by cowing people with the spector of censorship. This is the height of arrogance and manipulation, and for a man who claims to speak for the common man, he is using his elevated status in society to quiet other voices. How dare he misuse and misrepresent a civil rights issue in an attempt to quiet the criticism that he is getting from many of the progressive people he would claim to champion.

Feb 05

Oh Kerry… Why…

… did you go and say this:

"I oppose gay marriage and disagree with the Massachusetts court’s decision," he said.

Yes, he’s for civil-unions, but is that good enough? I don’t want to believe all the "show-horse" comments about him, and I was really happy to support a candidate that voted against the Defense of Marriage Act, but did you have to say you were against gay marriage?

There’s other ways to make sure you don’t lose the middle… you don’t have to offend your base.