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All In All, Kids Just Another Brick In the Data Wall

krswan 2 things from a 20-year teacher (110 comments)

1) Based on teachers I know and have discussed this with (yes, yes, not a valid sample, blah blah blah...) I can't imagine that the 99% stat quoted is anywhere near accurate. Many teachers have problems with posting student data, especially in elementary school where I teach.

2) I can't think of one instance during my career where comparing "achievement levels" or anything like them have motivated the lower performing kids, the ones that the NCLP, RTTT, and other government programs say we are supposed to be helping by "analyzing and sharing data with kids". What I have seen happen over and over is jealousy and hatred formed for higher kids in the class, and the lowering of self-image and tendency to give up for the lower kids (not the ones scoring poorly because they are not really trying, but the ones who truly need help).

This practice is certainly the rage among administrators who don't actually have to deal with kids though.

about a year ago

To Boldly Go Nowhere, For Now

krswan Re:only from a short sighted perspective (308 comments)

I was fortunate enough to listen to an hour long debate about ten years ago between Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye on this subject at the National Science Teachers Association Conference. Tyson was on President G.W. Bush's manned spaceflight council and made the same basic argument you did, while Nye made an argument very similar to TFA - science now, humans later. At the end of the debate there was no clear "winner." I think most of the 300+ of us in attendance just walked away wishing that we put more money into both types of programs as they both have great value.

It always just comes down to money, and this is part of a much larger issue IMHO. Our government is not funding basic science at anywhere near the level they should. Everything is left to business, and as a result the vast majority of research being done is focused on immediate return (and profit), not on long-term gains.

about a year ago

Google Releases Raspberry Pi Web Dev Teaching Tool

krswan Re:Tenant? (68 comments)

I'm a public school teacher. The crap Dells my district buys last maybe 4 years before something major dies in them, and the warrantee only lasts 3. Keyboards and monitors generally last much longer (not so for the mice they way they are used by my elementary school kids, but they are pretty cheap to replace). The result is I have lots of extra monitors and keyboards, so the Pi, a vga or dvi adaptor, and maybe a mouse come out to $60, plus the plastic for our 3d printer to print cases. This was part of the plan from the profs in England who designed the thing to get it in the hands of school kids.

As for the Google tools, I just downloaded them and will play with them this weekend to see if they might be useful for my engineering club to work with. From TFA they look promising. If any of you want to volunteer to teach my 4th and 5th graders assembler, let me know. I haven't messed with it since I had an Atari 800. My goal is to allow them to begin learning to control their technology instead of just being passive users of it, and hopefully set them up for deeper learning later. HTML, CSS, Python, and Arduino's IDE have all been useful tools for me to do this the last few years, and I'm hoping to ad RPi to the lineup.

about a year ago

Disney Closes LucasArts

krswan Re: Grim Fandango (299 comments)

Or Rescue On Fractallas! An old favorite on my Atari 800xl.

about 2 years ago

Is Code.org Too Soulless To Make an Impact?

krswan I don't think that the audience for this is kids.. (384 comments)

I think that it is more parents, school administrators, and teachers. Just today a fellow teacher who had her 5th graders using Scratch to program solutions to math problems as a programming exercise was visited by our principal. The principal walked around and observed, asking the kids questions like "How will this help you in the future?" because that is apparently one way to assess teachers now. She had no clue what the kids were doing, or how it may help them understand math, logic, problem solving, or that they may find they have a talent, like, or even passion for it. We sent her a link to code.org with the hope that Gates and Zuckerburg endorsing something not in our standard curriculum may hold more weight than two rebellious teachers.

If coding is going to be more than a small elective in some middle and high schools, politicians and the educational bureaucracy need to believe that there is some value in it. They are the target.

about 2 years ago

Chicago Teachers Rip 'Big Money Interest Groups'

krswan Re:Information to reflect on during this strike (404 comments)

Here's some data from Florida to back up your point. You have to conclude that either a) most teachers who teach in lower-socioeconomic schools are bad, or b) standardized tests assess student socioeconomic status better than teacher quality. I've worked in several Title 1 schools and from my experiences, teachers there work hard, put in more time, and work smarter than teachers at upper socioeconomic schools just because they have to.

I know that the politicians and testing and charter companies have done everything they can over the last few decades to convince you otherwise, but nothing pisses most teachers off more than when one of their students isn't learning and we do everything possible to help them.


more than 2 years ago

How Do You Explain Software Development To 2nd Graders?

krswan Scratch, also check out CT (430 comments)

I'm an elementary school teacher, and we have 2nd graders using Scratch at my school with great success. Having them create interactive multimedia may be a better way for you to start - create some characters, program them to do or say things in sequence and interact when they touch each other. Be sure to check out the in-program help section and print out the "Scratch Cards" as an easy way to get kids started. Also, check out http://scratched.media.mit.edu/ for lesson plans and ideas from teachers around the world.

Another idea - I just downloaded and started reading some documents on "CT" - Computational Thinking from ISTE and CSTA ( http://www.iste.org/learn/computational-thinking.aspx - free registration required to download). Haven't read it all or used it with kids yet, but it looks interesting. There are suggested activities that don't involve computers, similar to a few mentioned in previous posts to get kids to think about processes, algorithms, etc... including stuff for younger kids.

more than 3 years ago

Homemade 'Mars In a Bottle' Tortures Bacteria

krswan Thanks KSR (154 comments)

Kim Stanley Robinson wrote about "Mars Bottles" in his Mars Trilogy 20 years ago. I'm glad someone is finally trying it!

more than 3 years ago

Ask Slashdot: Online Science For 8th Grade Students?

krswan Re:Scratch ? (225 comments)

I'm not a grad student at the Media Lab, and I'll second everything the poster above said. I've been using Scratch with 5th grade students for physics and even some simple ecosystem simulations (all student created) for about 4 years now. The programming language is simple enough to get out of the kids' way and let them create what they want. Whatever you are teaching - if the kids truly understand it they can show you by creating a sim for it, and if they don't understand it they have to figure it out in the process.

more than 3 years ago

Ask Slashdot: Online Science For 8th Grade Students?

krswan Re:math and science gizmos (225 comments)

Gizmos are great, but pretty expensive... figure out when you are going to use them and start the 30 day trial right before you need it!

more than 3 years ago

Obama Says Offshoring Fears Are Unwarranted

krswan Re:Of course it ignores today's reality. (763 comments)

I have a friend who just flew to India for a month to clean up an outsourcing mess for his company. Months behind schedule, 1/2 million over budget... from what he told me folks there had been promoted way above their ability level resulting in really substandard management and unsurprising results.

more than 4 years ago

Union Boycotts LA Times Over Teacher Evaluation Disclosure

krswan Re:RTFA before commenting (629 comments)

I obviously don't know all the details of these two classrooms, and the data appears to show a real difference in the teaching abilities between these two teachers. However, let me throw out a few real scenarios that could provide other explanations...

If Teacher A's students get lower test scores and Teacher B's students get higher...

1) Teacher A specializes in working with lower level and learning disabled kids. He gets good results, although his students regularly don't make whatever the state deems "annual yearly progress" with his LD kids, so his results seem lower.

2) Teacher B is friends with the principal and is regularly assigned students who are already high performers. What, your boss never shows favoritism in your workplace?

3) Teacher A sees the standardized tests for the jokes they are, and concentrates on higher level skills that aren't measured well these tests - (processing, analysis, creativity, teamwork) all the while teaching the required reading, math, and science. Teacher B drills his students with the test prep books, the kids do ok on the tests, then forget everything. Teacher B's students do well as they continue on in middle school and high school because they have learned how to think, not just regurgitate. Teacher B's kids become part of the majority of High School students who can't really think, and whose scores and performance continually drop. Which class would you really like your child to be in?

Yes, I'm an elementary school teacher and no, I'm not just whining. Standardized tests are one measurement, but not the only or best one... just the cheapest and the easiest for politicians and lazy reporters to spout about. In evaluating teachers they should be considered by school administrators as one metric. The problem with what the LA Times has done is that while they say that there are other metrics for evaluating they present none.

more than 4 years ago

400 Years Ago, Galileo Discovered Four Jovian Moons

krswan Re:I missed something (161 comments)

I just don't see why there is anymore reason to celebrate it tonight than there is to celebrate it in June...

I guess because Jupiter won't be up until 3am in June? :)

about 5 years ago

Stacking of New Space Vehicle Begins At KSC

krswan Re:Maybe next year (121 comments)

Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the lower part of the rocket!

more than 5 years ago

Why Is It So Difficult To Fire Bad Teachers?

krswan Re:Public education... (1322 comments)

Ok, I know that I am biased (I currently teach 5th grade) but that has to be the lamest argument against raising teacher pay that I have ever heard. Our profession is quite a long way away from hitting a pay scale that keeps people in it just for the money. My fellow teachers and I work long, hard hours, and have to take extra jobs both during the summer and after teaching, grading, and planning all day during the school year. I'm glad you love teaching - I do too - but it is my Profession, I am highly trained and good at it, and I should be paid well for doing it well just like someone in any other profession.

more than 5 years ago

March 14th Officially Becomes National Pi Day

krswan Re:Day of the week (321 comments)

On a saturday!?

Someone didn't think this through...

It wasn't that hard to engage my 5th grade students with deriving pi yesterday - pi day eve - instead. Please find something reasonable to complain about!

more than 5 years ago

Gaming Netflix Ratings?

krswan It's just the kids... (235 comments)

I teach 5th grade, and many of my students have read and enjoyed these books. I'll bet most of the reviews are kids who liked the books, and don't really think or care yet about whether the book does justice to the movie, if the movie is any good, if Slashdotters think that their rating is fair. They're ten... and they know how to use a mouse.

And really, do you take any kind of online polling seriously?

about 6 years ago



MESSENGER In Orbit Around Mercury

krswan krswan writes  |  more than 3 years ago

krswan (465308) writes "From the NASA press release: "At 9:10 p.m. EDT, engineers in the MESSENGER Mission Operations Center at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., received the anticipated radiometric signals confirming nominal burn shutdown and successful insertion of the MESSENGER probe into orbit around the planet Mercury."

If you don't know much about this little spacecraft, check out its website. Designed with a completely passive cooling system, it will stay at 600C on the sun side, but room temperature behind the sunshade. During its 6 year journey it used its solar panels as sails, using the solar wind instead of thrusters to adjust its trajectory. Over then next year it will build a high-rez map of Mercury, and maybe determine if there is really ice hiding in polar craters on Mercury."

Link to Original Source

Jack Horkheimer a.k.a. "The Star Hustler" Dies

krswan krswan writes  |  more than 4 years ago

krswan (465308) writes "I'll bet many readers had their interest in astronomy fanned by Jack Horkheimer through his long running "Star Hustler" (later changed to "Star Gazer") program on PBS. His joy and enthusiasm for basic naked-eye astronomy was contagious, and more than once got me in big trouble as a kid for sneaking outside when his show ended at 12:05am trying to find whatever he was presenting that week. Nice story at Sky and Telescope, including the epitaph he already wrote for himself...

"Keep Looking Up was my life's admonition,
I can do little else in my present position.""

Happy 400th Anniversary Jupiter's Galilean Moons!

krswan krswan writes  |  about 5 years ago

krswan (465308) writes "Ok, the moons themselves are much older, but on January 7, 1610 Galileo first observed "4 fixed stars" surrounding Jupiter. Continuous observations of their changing positions led Galileo to postulate they were really moons orbiting Jupiter, which became further evidence against Aristotelian Cosmology, which led to problems with the Roman Catholic Church, etc... Jupiter will be low in the southwest (in the Northern Hemisphere) after sunset this evening — nothing else around it is as bright, so you can't miss it. Celebrate by pointing binoculars or a telescope at Jupiter and checking out her moons for yourself."

New Images of Apollo Landing Sites

krswan krswan writes  |  more than 5 years ago

krswan (465308) writes "NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has been testing its cameras, and what better targets than the Apollo sites? Its one meter resolution camera took a great shot of the Apollo 11 site with a low sun casting a huge shadow. More information and images at Sky and Telescope and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera website.

Coming soon... updates to all of the "Apollo Landings Took Place on Hollywood Soundstages" websites about how these images were obviously faked!"


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