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Comment: Death of MECC was death of educational computing (Score 4, Interesting) 58

by spopepro (#44460963) Attached to: The History of <em>The Oregon Trail</em>

Ah MECC. I sometimes wonder how different the world would be if SoftKey hadn't MBA'ed all of the great educational-entertaining software companies into oblivion. After MECC, games went back to assited rote practice of basic skills, which is basically the entire educational games segment today. I kind of wonder if it would have happened anyway; was the time right just then, or would it have sustained and grown? The key is: I don't see games like Oregon Trail, Carmen Sandiego, Rocky's Boots, etc. anymore--unless it's just re-skinned versions of those games.

Fun fact: the two major rights holders these days to the SoftKey (aka, The Learning Company) IP are Houghton Mifflin Harcort and Ubisoft. Yeah... those are some fun people to try and work with...

Comment: Re:What kind of artist? (Score 3, Interesting) 173

by spopepro (#43670185) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Would You Look For In a Prosthetic Hand?
Indeed, it is a challenge to get used to at first, but after going to school with a major burn survivor who had the krukenberg procedure on both arms and was able to win the audition to be the drummer in the top jazz band at a prestigious music school for multiple years, it seems like the procedure allows amputees to do more than any prosthesis.

Comment: Re:Teacher should of been ready (Score 1) 215

by spopepro (#43622919) Attached to: Alaskan Middle Schoolers Phish Their Teachers
As a maths person, I know that 260/5 is 52, which would mean working 5 day weeks, every week of the year. So, no, very few work ~260 day years. More likely is a full year worker is around 210-220 work days per year, which is around 68k adjusted. But everyone's context is different which is why I always feel it's important to indicate what your actual contract states if you're salaried. I also think it's important to note that teaching is an exempt position, meaning that those labor laws designed to demarcate the limits of what an employer can demand of you do not apply. It's also worth noting that, yes, my retirement benefits are very, very good, my health benefits are not good at all (HMO coverage for 1 person with relatively high copays), and my sick leave does travel with me on any teaching position in the state. The end result: it's not bad compensation. It's no where near what I could make with my math degree (and I have turned down offers from Citrix and Intel), but it's also not so bad as to not be able to afford to live. I only bristle when people back up their "grossly overpaid" charge with completely made up numbers.

Comment: Re:Teacher should of been ready (Score 3, Insightful) 215

by spopepro (#43612383) Attached to: Alaskan Middle Schoolers Phish Their Teachers

I'm in year 10 of being a teacher, I have a math degree, a music education degree, a masters in instructional technology with certifications in math, music, physics and technology in multiple states. I've had fellowships at Intel, and WestEd. I make 58k per year on 186 work days officially. I have no clue where you got 90k as teacher's salary because my district, and most in the area do not even top out at 90k.

I think you're delusional in other ways as well. It's not uncommon for people to both cling to a single example of knowing better than a teacher to talk about how much smarter they are, ignoring another 12 years of times they didn't know better as well as blaming their own misconceptions on teachers giving incorect information. After I left my PhD math program (admittetly, I wasn't good enough, so if you want to crush me for not being very smart, you can do it there) I went to teach high school and promptly completely botched order of operations in Algebra class since it had been something like 10 years since I had to even think about working with numbers. I'm sure some of those kids are out there today saying "Remember that STUPID teacher we had who couldn't even do order of operations?", while others certainly remember better our use of trebuchets and catapults to measure and learn about projectile motion as an application of quadratics. The point being, you sometimes remember things how you want to remember them, and I'd venture it's more about how much you liked the teacher personally than how good or bad the quality of instruction was.

Comment: Re:Any matematician there? (Score 3, Informative) 55

by spopepro (#43225323) Attached to: Pierre Deligne Wins Abel Prize For Contributions To Algebraic Geometry

The short (and flip) answer is: who cares? Certainly not the researcher, and neither do I.

But that's not very helpful, or easy for somone who isn't a pure mathematician to understand. However, it is frequently the reality of the situation. Pure math does not concern itself with application or any dirty real world situations (hence: pure). Algebraic geometry as a field of study was popular in the pure math boom at the beginning of the 20th century and then fell out of favor in the middle part as it was considered to be a dead field (this happens from time to time when practical avenues are all exausted, limits are reached on computational methods, and departments dismantle research groups either intenionally or naturally as interests are turned elsewhere). The late 20th c. saw a resurgence precicely because of high level computer science turning back some of the issues listed parenthetically above. Parts of the weil conjectures have connections to lie algebras, which are very popular right now due to applications to physics and computer science.

Comment: Re:let's start a giant math debate (Score 4, Informative) 55

by spopepro (#43224805) Attached to: Pierre Deligne Wins Abel Prize For Contributions To Algebraic Geometry

No.

From your comments on the matter I suspect it would be challenging to even begin to explain this to you, since it looks like you are interpreting "field" as "area". You're about 3 semesters of algebra away from understanding the vocabulary, let alone the purpose and function of these conjectures.

Note: this isn't meant as a slam, and you shouldn't feel bad (honestly!). Cutting edge pure math research is so far out there it's really difficult to jump in as an enthusiast in the way that interested parties can casually follow things like particle physics. When I was reading algebraic topology as a phd student (I flunked out... wasn't good enough, so feel free to take this with a grain of salt) I couldn't even begin to explain what it was that I was doing to people, even very smart people, just because of how abstract it all is.

Comment: Does anyone think about instruction? (Score 2) 60

There's been an explosion of tools for creation coming out at low prices, and every time someone says "it's for schools!" like the only things that's keeping students from an engineering curriculum is the cost of the hardware.

The biggest obstacle is instructor support/training/professional devleopment/curriculum... basically everything except the hardware. So in the mean time you have university/foundation sponsored projects at indivudual schools that get everyone excited, all of which have absolutely no portability to any other context. So then we're back to individual people doing special things and you're lucky if your kid is at that school and screwed if they aren't.

But we get to feel good about "doing something for education", I guess...

Comment: We already know it works! (huh?) (Score 1) 102

by spopepro (#42467915) Attached to: Khan Academy Will Be Ready For Its Close-Up In Idaho
I really enjoy the fact that this is a clinical study (although, I use that term very loosely here), yet, a film maker is already making a film "which will highlight positives of education, like the Khan Academy pilot in Idaho." Last time I checked studies and pilots were conducted to figure out if things work. But, like many times before, Khan is assumed to be the answer before anyone even tries it. (P.S. don't cite Los Altos School District, which had the highest test scores in the state *before* adopting the "flipped" classroom. Conincidence that it what the "best" district in the state that happened to be put forward first?)

Comment: Re:This is already happening (Score 1) 102

by spopepro (#42467839) Attached to: Khan Academy Will Be Ready For Its Close-Up In Idaho
So he stopped droning on and things got better? Amazing! Lecture has always been the most efficient (in terms of planning and energy), least effective educational method. Khan moves the lecture to a new place and adds some limited formative tools. Not really anything new, and is really more of an indictment of how bad most educators are, rather than how good Khan is. Things *could* be so much better, and certainly much better than Khan, but most of us don't get VC money bankrolling our practice.

Comment: The grasshopper says "uh, no" (Score 1) 220

by spopepro (#41165699) Attached to: Are You Gaming For the Right Reasons?
The tag at the end of TFA says "Justin... thinks a lot about the role video games play in his life & in modern culture." I might suggest Justin read more, and think less. That does seem to be the issue with nearly all armchair philosophists. In this case, he might be well served by "The Grasshopper" by Bernard Suits. Then he might realize that most of what he just thought, and wrote and published, is bullshit, and things are much more complex. Then he can go back to thinking, but hopefully about some of the ideas as to the nature of work, gameplay, and life that the book raises.

Comment: Bonds are a political game: My District (Score 1) 248

Bonds are voter approved which means that you have to play politics. Our district needed to make structural improvements on a few of our campuses that hadn't been touched in 50 years. We also needed to overhaul our network infrastructure, especially with a couple of our sites still communicating with the data center over T1. However, buildings and network/data center improvements are not sexy. Not one bit. So we also put interactive whiteboards, doc cams and projectors in every classroom. The Interactive classroom tech came out to about $3 million. It was a $175 million bond. Guess what all the publicity/propaganda was focused on.

Comment: You're not in charge, are you? (Score 1) 208

Based on your description, it seems like you have a cursory idea of the orgainizational structure of your school district, but very little knowlege about how things get purchased, out of where, and who is responsible for what. Based on your description, I have you pegged as a support tech, and there is 1 maybe 2 other people in the IT department (like a Technology Coordinator/Director and maybe a Network Manager). No?

In truth, you should be celebrating the fact that your department is under the Assoc. Supe of C&I. Tech needs a department, and only the biggest districts are willing to make the Director an assistant/associate supe, so you either get to be under C&I or under Business. Your purchasing issues might get better under business, but the C&I side can get more things done, and is better for coordinating implementation. And can be used in your situation here if you know what to do.

You make mention of your "purchaser" which I am also going to assume means someone at a site. This is typically how things go wrong. See, not everything is handled through the district budget and depending on your superintendent, schools frequently have significant lattitude in making their own descisions and purchases. Most of the time, not such a big deal. For tech: big deal. Now here's where you need your director of C&I, because that person is the direct pipeline into the sites, and the principals will listen to that person. So you only have to convince one person that the purchases are bad, and then it gets filtered out. Do you have weekly C&I or Educational Services meetings? You should. This is the place to get yourself (or really, your director) on the adgenda and demonstrate the problem. Don't explain it, it won't do any good talking.

Now it also seems like you need to learn how school budgets work, because if you are public K-12 there is very little ability to take from one budget and move to another. Something else is going on there, and you probably aren't important enough to be privy to what's going on. Budget swipes have been prevelent in schools over the past 2 years, and part of it is because states are withholding categorical funds that were originally promised to balance their own budgets. Just last week we were informed that we wouldn't be getting $72k of categorical money from the state that was part of this year's budget, and then we had to start shuffling, because you can't make major changes in the middle of the school year. If you want to work with those in charge, rather than against them, try dialing back the mistrust.

As far as no money, I'm going to guess that there is money out there. What is your ERATE filing? It might take some work, but most districts are leaving federal money on the table.

Comment: So you're an evangelical... great... (Score 1) 326

by spopepro (#39116995) Attached to: Tech Billionaire-Backed Charter School Under Fire In Chicago

Funny that you mention a work of fiction that's more about religion than it is about education. The ideal in the USA since the beginning of public schools has been to hire women as teachers, due to "being gentler and more sympathetic towards children" (Horace Mann), with the added benefit that you could pay them 1/3 of what you would have to pay a man making them an "attractive and economical hire". Which is completely reinforced by your cited (fictional) evangelical going on a mission for god into the rough wilderness, teaching manners and hygene for pennies and then marrying a man when her mission is done (which also means that it's time for a new teacher).

I guess when your ideals are that fucked up and antiquated, then yes, unions seems like a scourge and everyone needs to get off your lawn.

Comment: Re:A few things (Score 4, Interesting) 326

by spopepro (#39113067) Attached to: Tech Billionaire-Backed Charter School Under Fire In Chicago

I think you're sort of on the right track. The problem is how much do we respect the students' ability and right to informed consent? Do the students' have a voice at all, do they deserve one, and for that matter, how informed are the parents going into these experiments? This is true of both large and small project, and solutions are hard to come by, which is part of the issue with the snails pace of educational reform.

NCLB isn't a new idea, in fact, that isn't even the real name. It is actually a set of additional rules for Title 1 funding from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act from 1965. Title 1 federal funds have had various stipulations through the years, and the current AYP goals on annual tests are just the latest. There are other sections, also, like Title 3, which deals with funds for language learners. The federal government can't influence educational policy directly, so they gather up as much money as they can, and then attach as many strings as they can, so that eventually federal policy becomes mandated at the local level. Who does this affect the most? The least funded schools in low socioeconomic areas. Wealthy school districts don't need Title 1 money, and have always been able to just tell the feds to screw off.

But since not all schools are funded the same way (in California, look at the "Basic aid" vs. "Revenue Limited" issue which ensures the disparity) the federal money is very, very important to some districts. In fact, my current position is funded entirely through federal funding sources. Some here (actually many, having read through the comments) would say I'm exactly the kind of person who is part of the problem with public education and spending. I work out of the district office as a technology coach for integration with curriculum and teacher training, as well as a bulk of the data collection and analysis for student performance. Here's a quick hint: if you make test scores and data more and more important to schools, they will hire more and more statisticians and administrative analysts.

Anyway, sorry for the rant. I get that people all over aren't happy with what schools are doing and how much they cost, but I also don't think people understand how complicated it all is, and how impossible it is to deliver on all the expectations with a fraction of the money. It wears me out a bit.

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