Public (socialist) school shame is on front page, again

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Posted on 16th August 2010 by Judy Breck in Equality | Obamaschool | Schools we now have | Testing and assessment

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For six years now, billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg has thrown everything he can at New York’s public schools to try to equalize student achievement. In an front page New York Times article today, titled Triumph Fades on Racial Gap in New York City Schools, we learn that:

. . . When results from the 2010 tests, which state officials said presented a more accurate portrayal of students’ abilities, were released last month, they came as a blow to the legacy of the mayor and the chancellor, as passing rates dropped  by more than 25 percentage points on most tests. But the most painful part might well have been the evaporation of one of their signature accomplishments: the closing of the racial achievement gap.

Among the students in the city’s third through eighth grades, 40 percent of black students and 46 percent of Hispanic students met state standards in math, compared with 75 percent of white students and 82 percent of Asian students. In English, 33 percent of black students and 34 percent of Hispanic students are now proficient, compared with 64 percent among whites and Asians. . . .

One has to suppose that their low numbers underrepresent the lost black and Hispanic students who drop out of public schooling. Many of them are the brightest boys, bored at school and lured into the streets for the excitement and profit of crime.

The New York City public school system is the largest school system in the world. Mayor Bloomberg’s inability to improve how well this system works for its students is a dramatic demonstration of the systematic failure of public education. The numbers above show failure for students: 60% of the blacks (who make up a large majority of the system’s students), 54% of the Hispanics, 25% of the whites, and 18% of the Asians.

The socialist notion that public education is an entitlement is being pushed hard by the Obamaists. In the real world example of the New York City public schools, that entitlement leads most of the students to failure. Shame on us for putting up with what happens to kids in public schools. How can we possibly think Obama will make public education better when Bloomberg hit the wall? When will we look beyond the public school model to 21st century learning methods.

No wonder they are taking their education into their own hands.

Mobs could be put to the tasks making education better

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Posted on 20th February 2010 by Judy Breck in Next

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When I saw the Mob4Hire website this morning I realized my 5 topics for Handschooling.com (the main ones across the top) needed one more change. I have been uncomfortable with separating Findability and Commons into 2 sections. Both are aspects of networks, and the ideas are intertwingled.

But what then should the 5th section be? We should have, I now see, what is Next. The Next section will give peeks at cool new education. Next will showcase exciting learnodes from the global commons. My recent post on crows, for example, is a demonstration of what resources will be like as the new education matures. The Next section will also review ideas from other sectors that can be used to innovate education as it lets go of outdated habits.

Mob4Hire is a powerful example of something education should be doing, but is not doing. Mobs could be hired that would included teachers, subject experts, pedagogues, parents, and students.

Mobile industry expert Russell Buckley described Mob4Hire this week at Mobhappy.

Mob4Hire is the inspiration of Paul Poutanen, who set out to solve a perennial mobile industry problem of testing not only on the huge variety of 26,000 handsets, but also over the local idiosyncrasies of over 350+ networks in 130+ different countries. Just because you’ve tested your JME* app on one handset in the US, don’t assume that it’s going to work on exactly the same handset in the UK.

Mob4Hire’s solution to the problem is crowd-sourcing and today they have a network of 40,000 highly mobile literate users throughout the world to do not only do usability and functionality testing for developers’ projects, but they do so at up to 90% of the cost of traditional testing. A very strong proposition and one which meets the main criteria for any new start-up – solving a need or real pain in the sector.

Like the mobile industry, education is sectored and splintered. Enlisting (hiring or otherwise) mobs would apply the wisdom of the crowd to the testing of open education resources OER  — everything from digital textbooks, to curricula, to assessment tests, to individual teaching websites and pages. It seems likely that next educators will devise ways to use crowd-sourcing to leave behind biased, politically correct, profit motive, and other unpleasant aspects of testing educational resources. Now would be a good time to start.

Handschooling blog is about 5 ways to help the new education arise

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Posted on 18th February 2010 by Judy Breck in General | Schools we now have

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UPDATE: This has been revised: Findability and Commons are combined and the new section Next is added. The heading beneath the logo is slightly revised. Handschooling.com is a work in progress. Thanks for your patience. Judy

The heading beneath the logo is:

Meet the new phoenix arising from the ashes of failed education, and help it take off


There are pages being developed to replace the roughly sketched ones now online for these 5 areas of action:
1 Mobiles
2 Findability
3 Nurture
4 Next
5 Politics

The purpose of Handschooling.com is to explain and illustrate the 5 areas and to make practical suggestions for action by readers in each of them. This blog is about how to use our talents, resources, and influence as educators, parents, and citizens during the transition from analog schooling to the new schooling arising around the global knowledge commons.

Hopefully, I am not overdoing the bird! Several readers have sent positive comments since my last post about the metaphor of the phoenix for what is happening to education. The phoenix myth has persisted in several cultures for many centuries, as reflected in the manuscripts and images collected in The Medieval Bestiary, the source of the images in this post. The idea is a powerful one that rings true. The phoenix reminds us that sometimes it is better to let an old institution go up in flames, and then to enjoy a creative rebirth. Handschooling.com focuses on the new young fledgling of 21st century learning — which is now like the little fellow spreading his wings here: A phoenix rising from the still-glowing ashes of the fire that consumed its previous incarnation.

Although we still await the full conflagration of schooling’s aging analog-cored incarnation, here we turn our attention and support to the exciting new fledgling.

Schooling will rise anew around the global knowledge commons

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Posted on 16th February 2010 by Judy Breck in Nurture | Schools we now have

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The phoenix metaphor is helpful in visualizing the future of schooling. We need not be alarmed, as Harry Potter is here, as the old schooling disintegrates. It is a waste of time and money to attempt to resuscitate it — and doing that just keeps the old bird whimpering along at high cost to students and budgets enduring its long, slow death.

Here, as Ovid wrote long ago, is what will happen to the phoenix of education if we quit trying to fix failing schools and look toward the bird that will be rising: Most beings spring from other individuals; but there is a certain kind which reproduces itself. . . . dying, [it] breathes out its last breath amidst odors. From the body of the parent bird, a young Phoenix issues forth, destined to live as long a life as its predecessor.

In Medieval times it was said that: When it is old, it builds a pyre of wood and spices and climbs on to it. There it faces the sun and the fire ignites; it fans the fire with its wings until it is completely consumed. Some say it is the sun that ignites the fire; others say that the phoenix starts it by striking its beak against a stone, or that stones gathered with spices in the pyre rub together to create a spark. A new phoenix rises from the ash of the old.

I suggest sunlight or a stone strike are long overdue in finishing off education as we have tried for so long to breath life into it. It is foolhardy in the digital age to keep trying to keep alive the dying analog school methodology. When the analog education sprung to life its driving realities were printed books and delivery of knowledge to geographical locations where students could gather.

The new education creature will be formed around digital versions of knowledge that can be comprehensively carried in each student’s pocket wherever he or she may be. The new education phoenix of the digital, connected age will, or course still be education — still be a phoenix, just one more more beautiful and appropriate to our times.

Since I have started writing at Handschooling.com several people have written to me or placed comments here that are, in truth, about the new education phoenix. These suggestions have included:

So I will be advocating a “open learning center”: approach to schools and a ‘networked common school’ approach to metropolitan inter-district cooperation.

I believe that many can in the rich world of content and real world experiences collaborative learn with others and self-direct that learning.

The reason I included a major section on “nurture” in Handschooling.com is because there are many local, individual aspects of education that can be re-envisioned in the era of the new education phoenix.

Is the focus on school reform big pots of stimulus money?

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Posted on 13th February 2010 by Judy Breck in Mobiles | Obamaschool | Politics | Schools we now have

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Did you feel I was unduly skeptical of good efforts in my post today about the Do school differently report? There is justification for skepticism if the focus now in education reform is on pots of money. If money is there for the taking, does the availability of still more billions gushing toward education justify once again costly, time-consuming programs aimed at making over schooling? The eSchool introductory article on which I based my post about the Do school differently report includes these lines:

One of the report’s biggest strengths is that it includes a good amount of detail on how the federal government and other players might help bring about a change in STEM education, said Elena Silva, a senior policy analyst with Education Sector, a Washington, D.C., think tank.

Although not all of its recommendations are new–people have been advocating for better STEM education and the need to be globally competitive for a number of years, Silva said–its timing is well-planned.

The report “takes advantage of the fact that we have big pots of stimulus money to be spent,” Silva said. “People are looking for roadmaps.”