Thursday, May 31, 2007
Mackinac conference can make a difference if leaders stick to goals
May 30, 2007
Mackinac Island lives in the past. The Detroit area cannot afford to any longer.
So the historic island between Michigan's peninsulas seems all the odder a setting this year for the Detroit Regional Chamber's annual policy conference. But maybe, as they share horse-drawn taxis and watch fudge being made by hand, the 1,700 attendees from business, politics, education and labor can find a shared path to the future.
While the Mackinac meeting is not known for accomplishing much, the gathering that begins today will focus on something that started on Mackinac a year ago. One D: Transforming Regional Detroit is a unified effort of the chamber, New Detroit, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, Detroit Renaissance, the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Cultural Alliance of Southeastern Michigan to assure that the area works together to achieve measurable goals in six key areas. Those are: economic prosperity, educational preparedness, regional transit, race relations, regional cooperation and quality of life.
The effort is unprecedented, but then just about every region-wide undertaking in recent history has been, too, with little to show for it. Hence the emphasis of One D on measurable goals. All conference participants ought to be leaving Mackinac with a clear idea of what One D is all about and a job to do in one of the six areas.
United Way has been conducting a series of e-mail surveys on those issues and, while not drawing a scientific sample, did ask about 1,000 people about their satisfaction with the quality of life in southeast Michigan. Not surprisingly, nearly 80% said they were unhappy with public transportation and more than 60% did not like the way suburban growth and development have been managed. Both are regional issues, best tackled on a region-wide basis, and both are historically divisive.
And if going up to Mackinac Island is what it takes to lay that history to rest and start planning a better future, this conference could be well worth the trip.
Copyright © 2007 Detroit Free Press Inc.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Professors Who Blog
By Scott McLeod
May 15, 2007
from Technology & Learning
Web 2.0 publishing venues don't need to clash with higher education's traditional practices.
Although an increasing number of K—12 educators have taken up blogging in the past few years, blogging professors are still a rarity. Time pressures, entrenched beliefs about peer-reviewed publication, and a lack of familiarity all contribute to the paucity of faculty who regularly blog for public audiences.
I asked several prominent academics to share why they blog, some of the challenges they've encountered, and their recommendations for faculty who are considering such new Web 2.0 communication tools. Their responses have implications for both postsecondary and K—12 educators.
Connecting to the Larger World
Dr. Sherman Dorn, an education professor at the University of South Florida who blogs at Shermandorn.com, notes that his blog offers an alternative outlet to academic journals for his thoughts on public policy issues. Similarly, Dr. Alex Golub, professor at the University of Hawaii, says his cultural anthropology blog, Savageminds.org, creates a "public sphere" or "civil society" outside his professional association and helps him find new content and resources.
The ability of blogs to connect professors with the larger world outside of academia was also noted by other faculty. For example, Dr. P.Z. Myers, a University of Minnesota professor of biology who blogs regularly at Scienceblogs.com/pharyngula, enjoys the opportunity to discuss scientific issues with those outside his small towns. Myers likens blogs to a worldwide Speaker's Corner in London's Hyde Park, where you "can find plenty of people arguing away, and it's easy to bring your own soapbox and start a discussion on anything you want."
Integrating the Digital into Traditional
Most of the professors I contacted said their institutions were either supportive of or ambivalent toward their blogging. Jim Maule, a Villanova University professor who blogs at Mauledagain.blogspot.com, said that his regular publication in more traditional academic outlets precluded any concerns other faculty might have about his blogging. Both Dorn and Golub note that they've heard very little from their faculty colleagues about their blogs, perhaps because they try to be fairly discreet, only blogging about public issues rather than their own institutions, and categorizing their blogging under outreach or service rather than publication for tenure.
Tips for Newbies
Maule recommends blogging regularly, writing short posts, and using your blog to float ideas and get feedback. Golub says to be sure that your "enthusiasm for your subject shines through on your blog" and to use the blog as a mechanism for fostering your own intellectual development. But Myers insists new bloggers also should be patient. "The key words are fearlessness and persistence," he says. "Readers will reward you for speaking your mind—no matter how controversial you might be—but it takes a long, long time to build up a presence on the Web."
Some of these academic bloggers have tens or even hundreds of thousands of visitors per month on their blogs, a total matched by few, if any, academic journals. Postsecondary faculties are beginning to recognize blogs' potential to reach larger audiences off campus and also to see the benefits of the perspectives of non-academic peers. As colleges and universities begin to validate and even encourage faculty blogging, we will see an increasing number of professors lending their considerable knowledge and expertise to the blogosphere. I can't wait.
Scott McLeod is director of the UCEA Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE) at the University of Minnesota and a regular blogger at www.dangerouslyirrelevant.org.
(May 23, 2007)
Education and Technology Industry Leaders Hail Introduction of ATTAIN Act
New Bill Would Revamp No Child Left Behind Support for Instructional Technologies
Education and Technology Industry Leaders Hail Introduction of ATTAIN Act New Bill Would Revamp No Child Left Behind Support for Instructional Technologies
A coalition of education and industry groups lauded today’s introduction by U.S. Representatives Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX), Judy Biggert (R-IL) and Ron Kind (D-WI) of HR 2449 the Achievement Through Technology and Innovation (ATTAIN) Act. The legislation will make significant improvements to the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program as part of the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), better targeting the educational needs of today’s students through technology.
The ATTAIN Act is based upon input from education stakeholders, including the Consortium for School Networking, International Society for Technology in Education, Software & Information Industry Association, and the State Educational Technology Directors Association.
The ATTAIN Act would revamp EETT (Title II-D of NCLB), improving support for disadvantaged schools and students and ensuring that teachers are properly equipped to use the technology effectively. More specifically, it would focus funds on professional development and systemic reform that leverage 21st century technologies, prioritize funding to schools in need of improvement, and require states to assess whether students have attained technological literacy by the eighth grade.
“We are ecstatic that this well-crafted refinement of EETT is beginning to move,” said Don Knezek, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education. “Teachers are our nation’s most valuable resources and absolutely crucial to whether education technology implementations succeed. The ATTAIN Act’s focus on technology professional development will help ensure that our investments in school hardware, software and infrastructure are leveraged for the benefit of our nation’s students.”
Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking, stated: “The introduction of the ATTAIN Act demonstrates that Representatives Roybal-Allard, Hinojosa, Biggert and Kind understand the important role that education technology plays in meeting NCLB’s goals and equipping our students with the skills necessary to succeed in the modern workforce. We hope that the House will follow their lead and move expeditiously to enact this bill, thereby giving a big shot in the arm to education technologists, students and companies across the country.”
“For many years, SETDA’s members have provided us with tangible examples of educational technology implementations that yield substantial academic gains; now, we will have the opportunity to bring many of them to scale,” said Mary Ann Wolf, Executive Director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association. “This legislation’s focus on research-based, systemic reform programs that maximize the benefits of technology is an important opportunity to transform our nation’s schools.”
“We do not want our students to fall behind in this era of innovation and global competition,” said Ken Wasch, President of the Software & Information Industry Association. “Technology is vital for providing students with a learning environment that prepares them for the world beyond the classroom. The ATTAIN Act will ensure our educational system adopts modern methods to remain effective in the digital, information economy. We thank Representatives Roybal-Allard, Hinojosa, Biggert and Kind for their leadership on this important legislation.”
Rep. Roybal-Allard stated: “When schools are properly equipped to meet the technology needs of students and when they have properly trained teachers, students are engaged, eager to learn, and are ultimately better prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.”
“One of the most effective ways we can sharpen America’s competitive edge is by investing in technology in the classroom,” said Rep. Hinojosa. “This bill will further the technological prowess of our nation’s schools and students and will ultimately increase our economic prosperity and capacity for innovation.”
Rep. Ron Kind stated: “We cannot ignore education technology’s value in developing critical thinking skills and media literacy into this and future generations of students. We all want our students, and this country, to compete effectively and succeed in the global marketplace. Education technology is a key component to achieving those goals.”
Specifically, the ATTAIN Act would update the existing EETT program by:
- Increasing the share of state-to-local funding distributed by formula from 50% to 60% and adding a minimum grant size in order to assure that more school districts receive allocations of sufficient size to permit them to operate significant education technology programs.
- Strengthening the program’s emphasis on teacher quality and technology skills by raising the portion of formula-grants set aside for professional development from 25% to 40%, while emphasizing the importance of timely and ongoing training.
- Channeling the 40% of funds allocated for competitive grants, previously unrestricted, to schools and districts for systemic school reform built around the use of technology to redesign curriculum, instruction, assessment and data use.
- More closely aligning the program with NCLB’s core mission by giving priority in competitive grant awards to schools identified as in need of improvement, including those with a large percentage of Limited English Proficient students and students with disabilities, as well as by focusing formula grants on students and subjects where proficiency is most lacking.
- Renewing NCLB’s commitment to ensuring that students are technologically literate by the eighth grade through requiring states to assess student knowledge and skills, including through embedding assessment items in other state tests and performance-based assessments portfolios.
- Drawing state, district and school attention to the age and functionality needs of school technology infrastructure, access and applications by requiring states to provide technical assistance and guidance to districts on updating these resources.
About CoSN, ISTE, SETDA and SIIA:
The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) is the country’s premier voice in education technology leadership, serving K-12 technology leaders who through their strategic use of technology, improve teaching and learning. For further information, visit http://www.cosn.org.
The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), a nonprofit membership organization, provides leadership and service to improve teaching and learning by advancing the effective use of technology in PK–12 and teacher education. Home of the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) and National Educational Computing Conference (NECC), ISTE represents more than 85,000 worldwide leaders in educational technology. For more information, visit http://www.iste.org.
The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) is the principal association for state directors of technology and their staff members providing professional development and leadership around the effective use to technology in education to enhance competitiveness in the global workforce. For more information, visit http://www.setda.org.
The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) is the principal trade association for the software and digital content industry. SIIA provides global services in government relations, business development, corporate education and intellectual property protection to more than 800 leading software and information companies. Many SIIA members develop and deliver educational software, digital curricula and related technologies and services for use in education, while all SIIA members depend on the nation’s schools to provide a skilled, high-tech workforce. SIIA and our member companies have long collaborated with educators, policymakers and other stakeholders to improve education through the use of innovative learning technologies. Visit http://www.siia.net.
By Jay Mathews
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 30, 2007; B01
He counts the Prince George's County school superintendent and D.C. school board president among his disciples. He has advised the D.C. mayor on cuts in school system bureaucracy. He and a better-known West Coast entrepreneur are spending millions to persuade the next president of the United States to improve teacher quality and lengthen school days. He is spawning a new generation of school administrators who hail his name.
He is a billionaire, like his ally Bill Gates.
The question is: Can Eli Broad succeed in his campaign to help America's schools shed years of bad management practices and avoid the pitfalls of divisive community politics?
After creating two Fortune 500 companies -- residential developer KB Home and insurer SunAmerica -- the results-focused Broad has decided to use his money and expertise to help urban school systems tunnel through a mountain of obstacles that have long held back student achievement.
He and his wife, Edythe, have committed more than $250 million to school improvement projects since 1999, and they plan to spend most of the Broad Foundation's $2.25 billion in assets on education. The Los Angeles couple, along with Bill and Melinda Gates, are widely considered the most influential public education philanthropists in the country.
Broad (rhymes with road) has provided much of the money and advice behind efforts to bring business practices -- including freedom from what he considers meddlesome school boards -- to New York, Boston, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Now he has turned his attention to the District. His conversations with D.C. officials, Broad watchers say, are likely to bring more money and expertise to efforts to overhaul the school system.
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's plan to take control of the D.C. schools is just what Broad has been recommending for many troubled urban systems. In January, Fenty (D) quizzed Broad on guidance he has given New York school leaders in recent years as a large number of central office personnel have been moved to other jobs or out the door.
"I think there is a big opportunity here," Broad said of Fenty's plan in an interview with The Washington Post. "But I told him I am concerned with this board of education."
Broad said Fenty told him: "They are not going to have much power."
Broad replied: "Yeah, but they're going to have a bully pulpit to create a little mischief here."
As it happens, D.C. Board of Education President Robert C. Bobb is a graduate of a Broad urban school executive program. This month, Bobb drew notice for raising concerns about Fenty's takeover plan with a U.S. senator at a delicate moment, before an implementation bill had cleared Congress. But Bobb said in an interview that he did not agree with Broad's view that the board's activities might get in the way of school improvement.
Bobb also said he supports Broad's many educational initiatives, among them the 10-month leadership academy he attended in 2005. The academy, Bobb said, taught him a lot about the use of data and getting access to experts and other resources. "He is putting his money where his mouth is," Bobb said.
Other academy fellows include Prince George's Superintendent John E. Deasy; Deasy's chief of staff, William Hite; and John Q. Porter, a Montgomery County deputy superintendent recently named to head the Oklahoma City schools. The academy said it has placed its fellows as superintendents in Pittsburgh; Houston; Oakland, Calif.; San Diego County; Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C.; and other significant urban systems. This year, several current and former high-ranking military officers have been chosen to be academy fellows, a sign of Broad's interest in cultivating nontraditional educational leadership.
Broad began his management training efforts after visiting school leaders around the country. "We didn't see any great competency in any of the notable areas that one would expect to find," he said.
The human resources departments in many districts, he said, were appalling. "There were a whole lot of clerks that weren't very welcoming," he said. "They took forever to make decisions . . . or even get paychecks out in time. . . . It took forever to requisition what a school needed, and maybe you would get a plumber three weeks later, and maybe you wouldn't."
There is a restlessness to the 73-year-old Broad, a lifelong tendency to get things done and move on to the next challenge. Tall, with a thick Midwestern accent from growing up in Detroit, he started his career at a young age as a certified public accountant in Michigan and then at 23 turned to home building. With partner Donald Kaufman, Broad became a visionary force in the industry, developing single-family homes as mass commodities. He had the same impatience with the traditions of the insurance industry, making SunAmerica into an annuities giant.
His interest in education, he said, grew from that same yearning to make big changes, right now. He said that when he thought about national problems he might help solve with a windfall from SunAmerica's merger, he decided "K-12 education was a big problem becoming a bigger problem, and not too many people were doing anything about it."
Like other business leaders who have become involved in education, Broad is used to a corporate system where the top executive makes the decisions and the company board, with rare exceptions, goes along. School boards, on the other hand, often consider themselves in charge of major decisions, with the superintendent just there to carry out orders. School board members, including those in the District, have often engaged in political battles that critics such as Broad think have taken attention away from raising student achievement.
Broad's fondness for one-man rule in school systems is seen by some education experts as anti-democratic. "Education is a communal activity and not a competition and bottom-line activity," said educational psychologist and author Gerald W. Bracey. "Inefficiency in schools does not bother me that much because democracy is an inefficient and messy process."
Broad, an active member of the Democratic Party, said he has no problem with the American political system. He said he has been telling Fenty and other city leaders that they must get voters excited about the changes they are making if they are going to succeed. "You've got to start off convincing the public and the parents about why this all has to happen, why they are going to be the beneficiaries of all this," he said.
In part to convince voters that schools must get better, Broad and Gates have announced a $60 million, nonpartisan political campaign called Strong American Schools geared toward the 2008 election. It is "aimed at elevating education to the top of our list of our nation's priorities," according to a statement, and urging presidential candidates to support national education standards, effective teachers in every classroom and extended learning time.
Former Colorado governor and Los Angeles superintendent Roy Romer, chairman of the campaign's steering committee, said the group plans to build a large and powerful list of supporters who will hold the winning candidate to the promises he or she makes on those issues.
In addition to his school leadership academy, Broad has established a residency in urban education program, an institute for school boards and an annual $1 million prize for excellence in urban education. The Broad Prize is the nation's most prominent award for school systems. Broad also has backed innovation through charter schools.
"Eli Broad was way ahead of the curve in recognizing that improving our schools and school systems would require the same kinds of practices that go into building and sustaining high-performing organizations in every sector," said Richard Barth, chief executive officer of the KIPP Foundation, which supports 52 public schools in 16 states and the District.
It is too soon, several experts said, to assess the results of Broad's initiatives. Broad said he does not discount the possibility that efforts such as Fenty's might flop with the public. One reason there are not more wealthy people spending money on education, he said, is that "people get frustrated."
Teacher 2.0: The Evidence
It is nearing the end of the school year here in Shanghai. As teachers and students both make the final push to the end, I have been busy looking for evidence of what teaching 2.0 looks like in our school, and I think I found some.
Scott Hossack, a 5th grade teacher, had his students create rubrics for grading blog posts:
My grade 5 class has been Blogging for 6 months. Some of them have developed into really good bloggers and are leaving me far behind with the amount of time and energy they are investing into their Blogs.
We were talking the other day after looking at what makes a good blogger and the question came up about how to assess our blogs. So after much thought, discussion and some arguments we made three assessment rubrics. The students are now looking at other blogs as well as their own and will try to evaluate where they need some work. I thought I would post these rubrics out there so other bloggers, teachers or students may comment on areas that we have forgotten or left out. They also could comment on whether you think the Blogging Rubric was easy to use to assess blogs. I hope these are useful to others and I would love to hear from people out there if they think they are good or bad.
Blogging Rubric #1
Blogging rubric # 2
Blogging Rubric #3
Talk about putting students at the center of learning. Some of Scott’s students have been posting on their blogs questions for me to answer about blogging. Here is just a sample of some of the questions the fifth graders are asking:
1) If you get spam comments on and on by only one person how do you stop that person from making more spam comments?
2) How do you know when a comment is a spam comment if Askimet doesn’t recognize it?
3) If you have uploaded something and then how do you upload something else?
I have talked to Scott about his experience with having the students read, evaluate, and create scoring rubrics for blogs. He plans to do this same lesson at the beginning of next year. He will start the students off by having them create the rubric that will be used to assess them the rest of the school year. As Scott said,
“I’m going to make digital writing just part of what we do from the beginning.”
I encourage you to look at the student created rubrics, and drop Scott and his class a comment on what you think. The next step is to have a class discussion on the three rubrics and have the class decide/vote on what the final rubric will be. I cannot think of a better way to start the school year than to have students take part in creating a rubric.
Students at the center of learning…that is Teaching 2.0
Then there is Jason Welker, a high school social studies teacher who posted this the other day on our utechtips.com blog:
This is amazing, not only is the Wiki a place where kids can come to review content from an entire semester of Economics, but they can also chat with their classmates and their teacher, discuss and ask for clarification on concepts they’re struggling with, go over practice questions and review together from their own homes! This has me thinking I’ll never need to hold another weekend review session in my classroom again. In fact, in a way the Wiki has become not only a complement to, but a substitute for the traditional classroom! Hey, maybe next year I’ll set up a review session in Second Life… then again, maybe not. Here’s what AP Economics sounds like in “chat speak”:Students in control of their own learning…that is Teaching 2.0
NIckZ: if a dude goes to a bank that’s newly opened and deposited 10,000. RR is 10%. so then 1000 would be required reserve, 9000 is loaned out correct?
vivar: k hold on
Mr. W: sure
vivar: if the reserve ratio is 10% and the bank voluntarily holds back another 10%, would the money multiplie be 1/20% or 1/10%?
Ash: i think 1/10%
NIckZ: money multiplier is the same. but u jst minus the loans by how many extra u have as reserves now
Ash: because money multiplier is 1/RR right?
gabber795 has joined. gabber795 is now Jacky vivar has left.
NIckZ: so lets say a guy saves 10,000. so 10% is required, 9000 can be loaned out. but he wants to save another 1000, so then loans is only 8000
Jacky: Mr Welker, do we need to know aggregate expenditure?
NIckZ: i dont think so. we didn’t really do that
roger: thanks nick. I’m leaving. bye all
roger has left.
Mr. W: Goodnight, and good luck
NIckZ: i was gona watch that movie, but i lost it
Of course, you have to mention the Horizon Project that Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay organized. This project included five classes from around the globe. One of the classes at our high school was involved in the project. This week a group of judges of which I am honored to be a part of, are grading the projects using rubrics created by Vicki, Julie, and a cohort of other volunteers. I encourage you to spend some time on the wiki. The level of learning, of writing, of creation is beyond anything I could have done in high school.
Students creating and contributing to the global body of information…that is teaching 2.0.
Teacher 2.0 puts students at the center of the learning experience; they allow students to control the learning environment and create content that contributes to the global body of information. Teacher 2.0 creates an environment that allows learning to happen. They guide students by engaging in conversations either virtual or face-to-face. Teacher 2.0 understands that learning occurs when every member of the class is both a student and a teacher. That teaching and learning goes beyond the walls of the physical classroom. Teacher 2.0 understands that content is ever changing; therefore focusing on skills that help us understand the changing nature of content is more critical than the content itself. Teacher 2.0 is caring, compassionate, and is willing to take risks.
What is your Teacher 2.0 evidence?
The 2.0 Agenda: Transparency, Sharing, Access--Are You Ready For Enterprise 2.0?
Big changes are coming: new rules and technology, and more efficiency and value. Make sure your business is prepared, or it could get left behind.
By Steve Wylie, InformationWeek
May 26, 2007
There's been much talk recently about Web 2.0 tools, mostly in the consumer market with companies and products such as MySpace, Flickr, Wikipedia, and YouTube. Harvard Business School professor Andrew McAfee coined the term "Enterprise 2.0" to describe Web 2.0 in a business context, defining it as "the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers."
McAfee established six key attributes of Enterprise 2.0 that he describes with the acronym SLATES. We're all familiar with Search. Then there's Links, which implies that the most linked-to information must be the most relevant. Authoring says that everyone has something to contribute. Tags provide content categorization. Extensions use algorithms to find user patterns and make recommendations. And Signals alert users to new content and updates. These attributes explain what social computing technologies such as wikis, RSS, and presence are accomplishing and why they will play an increasingly important role in the future of business.
Enterprise 2.0 provides a much needed change in our business communication and productivity tools, which have been built largely around E-mail. E-mail is the most widely used, or perhaps misused, business application we have, yet we curse the ceaseless flow of messages and spam. We struggle to find relevant information buried in E-mail and question whether the right people have been included. It's a closed medium that does a poor job of capturing and sharing knowledge, a key ingredient in the success of any business and a key feature of Enterprise 2.0.
Enterprise 2.0 tools will break the E-mail addiction and our reliance on other outmoded apps. They unlock value in the form of transparent, contextual communication, ease of access to information, and more effective use of data inside applications, on desktops, or in E-mail attachments. They let us capture the knowledge and opinions in the minds of workers through simple participation. Early adopters are finding them powerful and liberating.
As with any new technology, adoption is critical to success. People have to be willing to break their addiction to E-mail and work in more transparent and public forums, such as wikis and blogs. The shift to Enterprise 2.0 is as much about enabling the right business culture as it is about providing users with the right tools. The shift also will happen organically. As new generations enter the workforce, they'll demand a Web 2.0 experience from their business apps. We're already seeing this with young workers who are more accustomed to IM and Facebook than to E-mail and restrictive applications. They embrace transparency, share information, and willingly participate in public, digital conversations.
This creates both a challenge and an opportunity for businesses. Changes are taking place often unbeknownst to IT managers and with little regard for IT policies and controls. This presents an alarming reality for companies with potentially sensitive information or in heavily regulated environments. IT must bring some level of control and align Enterprise 2.0 with corporate policy while not stifling its benefits. Striking that balance is key to Enterprise 2.0 success.
But IT shouldn't just be reactionary. There's a real opportunity here to drive the Enterprise 2.0 agenda as a strategic advantage. This will become easier as business-grade Web 2.0 tools continue to reach the market and best practices are established. New vendors are emerging in droves to address this need, providing the functionality of Web 2.0 tools with the security, integration, and scalability required for commercial deployment. Existing software and tools also are adding Web 2.0 features, providing a bridge from familiar business-grade applications.
If the consumer market for Web 2.0 tools is any indication, radical changes are ahead, with new rules and technology leaders, and certainly more efficiency and value from business apps and knowledge workers than ever before. Brace yourself for the new Enterprise 2.0 reality.
Down To Business: Technology Debate On The Campaign Trail
When you've got border fences and melting ice caps on which to grandstand, who needs tech policy? The country does--or at least some cogent discussion of the issues.
By Rob Preston, InformationWeek
May 26, 2007
As the presidential primary campaigning starts to heat up, the candidates are being pressed on the biggest issues of the day--national defense, education, health care, immigration, the environment. Technology policy isn't top of mind; net neutrality doesn't quite stir the masses like border control and global warming. But it's a conversation worth forcing, as our country's technology industry and business technology applications are core to our international competitiveness. So here's a very short list of issues to consider.
Next-generation tech workforce. Here, many of the top-shelf issues, including education, immigration, and even defense, are intertwined. The 40,000-foot view: The United States isn't graduating enough engineers and computer specialists to meet future demand. U.S.-based companies are hiring tech pros offshore while lobbying to make it easier to import talent. Meanwhile, critics argue that domestic companies aren't doing enough to cultivate their people and that offshoring and immigration abuses threaten not only our competitiveness, but our security and overall standard of living as well.
Questions for the candidates. Where do you stand on immigration reform, including expanding H-1B visas and evaluating visa and immigration applicants based on their skills and advanced degrees? What would you do to promote and improve science and math schooling? Would you spend substantially more money there? Would you give companies incentives to attract and develop employees at home? Would you expand the government bureaucracy to tackle these issues, or do you favor market-based approaches?
Universal broadband Internet access, including wireless connectivity. The professed goal: Upgrade and expand the U.S. telecom infrastructure to improve education, health care, and other critical services, and to make U.S. businesses more competitive by improving remote and home-office connectivity. Some pundits go so far as to call on the presidential candidates to declare the Internet a "public good," putting Net access on an equal plane with electricity, water, highways, and public schooling.
Questions for the candidates. Like most big infrastructure issues, this one comes down to money and market approach. It would, for example, cost an estimated $15 billion to $20 billion more just to roll out DSL to everyone not currently wired. Who foots that bill, assuming that network operators already serve most of the places where they can turn a profit?
Ubiquitous wireless data connectivity is a whole other Marshall Plan--and black hole, if you consider the business and technical difficulties of this country's politically driven muni Wi-Fi build-outs. Do we raise the many billions of dollars by charging all current subscribers a fee to subsidize nationwide wireless rollouts? Do we make it easier for the private sector to build out broadband networks by freeing up radio spectrum and reducing regulations?
Net neutrality. Put 20 voters in a room and you'll be lucky to find one who can muster an informed opinion on this issue, which boils down to whether carriers should be allowed to charge Web companies tiered prices depending on their content and the level of service the carriers are providing to them.
Questions for the candidates. Should we just stick with the Internet status quo--"pure" net neutrality? Or since carriers own and operate the Internet's backbone networks, how much leeway should they have to charge extra for enhanced security and prioritized delivery of certain content? What is the role of regulators to ensure that carriers don't favor their own services and those of fat-cat partners to the detriment of others?
Rather than set a sweeping tech industrial policy and micromanage its every element, the U.S. president must play to the country's main capitalist strength: can-do entrepreneurialism. We can set ambitious tech-related goals and challenge the private sector and government agencies to go after them, but throwing money in every direction isn't the answer.
VP/Editor In Chief
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
9:00AM: Opening remarks Dr. Ward
Work at Hand
- Focus on AIM Discovery Program elements and scheduling, transportation issues, budgetary considerations, etc.
- Marketing: AIM Discovery Program 2007 Students, Teachers, etc.
- Summer Program Closure Element: (Incentive?)
- Fall AIM Program Roll-out Northwestern High School (Issues of Deployment)
*Special Guest: Beth Nuccio (Automation Alley-STEM sub-committee member) will not be able to attend due to holiday scheduling problems. We will reschedule.
Danger: Playground Ahead
AMERICAN playgrounds often seem anything but playful. Their equipment is designed not so much to let children have fun as to make sure they don’t hurt themselves. Sure, a simple sandbox and climbing gym are enough to mesmerize toddlers. But what’s to lure older children? No wonder children aged 8 to 12 — the “tweens” — have abandoned playgrounds en masse for instant messaging.
Playgrounds were originally conceived as places to raise future citizens in a social democracy, according to Roy Kozlovsky, an architectural historian, but now they seem geared more toward facilitating easy parental supervision. Well-meaning efforts to reduce the risk of injury have overwhelmed opportunities for self-expression and creativity. The idea of a playground as what Mr. Kozlovsky calls a “pure place” persists, but increasingly, it is also an empty place.
Hope may be on the horizon. We seem to be witnessing, if not a tipping point, then a seesaw tilt in playground design. The slide-swing set-sandbox-seesaw-repeat model is giving way, in some places, to approaches like slickly engineered skate parks, portable performance spaces and do-it-yourself activity centers. Instead of fostering the repetitive motor skills that are essential milestones for a toddler but mind-numbingly dull for a 9- or 10-year-old, these new spaces seek to stimulate the imagination (and the metabolism) by encouraging exploration and free play.
In New York City, for example, the Rockwell Group recently designed an Imagination Playground, which includes the unappealingly named but engaging concept of “loose parts,” a selection of blocks, buckets, shovels and the like that lets youngsters build something, tear it down and start all over again — so that each visit is a new experience. This borrows from the “adventure playground” idea envisioned back in 1931 by C. Th. Sorensen, a Danish landscape architect, after he observed that children preferred to play everywhere but in the playgrounds he had built. (There are about a thousand adventure playgrounds in Europe but only two in the United States.)
Reimagining a staple of conventional playground equipment, Carsten Höller, a conceptual artist, recently created a cluster of adrenalin-inducing slides, above right, at the Tate Modern museum in London. The work is meant, Mr. Höller has said, to instill in visitors “an emotional state that is a unique condition somewhere between delight and madness.” That sounds just about right for a child on a playground.
Can playgrounds adapt to the expectations of our increasingly sophisticated and technologically savvy youth? “The playground used to be a monument, like a major public building,” said Mr. Kozlovsky. “Perhaps in the 21st century, it needs to be updated every two years or so like a PlayStation.”
With summer about to begin, I asked four people — artists, architects and designers — to imagine playgrounds that could attract the modern adolescent.
Allison Arieff, the former editor in chief of Dwell magazine and a columnist for TimesSelect, is a consultant for a design firm.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Bill Ford worries that southeast Michigan lags behind other regions in developing technologies that would revolutionize the global automotive industry with new, environmentally friendlier propulsion systems.
Bill Ford focuses on technology
Auto exec fears Michigan lags in industry's future
May 27, 2007
BY TOM WALSH
FREE PRESS COLUMNIST
The recent explosion of interest and investment in alternative fuels and other so-called "clean technologies" feels a bit like vindication to Bill Ford.
"When I talked about this stuff in speeches 10 years ago, people thought I was some sort of Bolshevik," the executive chairman of Ford Motor Co. told the Free Press in a rare interview last week.
Vindication aside, Ford is worried that southeastern Michigan is lagging behind other regions in developing new technologies that will revolutionize the global automotive industry in years to come.
He plans to call for an intensive effort to identify and recruit cutting-edge technology firms to metro Detroit -- even tapping high-powered business leaders to get personally involved -- in a speech Thursday to the Detroit Regional Chamber's annual policy conference on Mackinac Island.
"I've spent a lot of time recently in Silicon Valley, visiting companies and venture capitalists," Ford said, noting that all major California-based technology firms have Detroit offices because the auto industry is a big customer for them.
"But they shouldn't just have sales offices here. Why can't we be the incubators of ideas here? We need to be the intellectual locus of the technology that's going to transform our industry," Ford said.
Ford, 50, has kept a low profile since September, when he hired Alan Mulally as president and chief executive officer of Ford Motor. Ford, CEO for the previous five years, took the new title of executive chairman at the Dearborn automaker. He has done few interviews since then and limited his speeches to Ford employee and dealer groups.
But behind the scenes, he has taken a more active role in Detroit Renaissance, starting a two-year term in January as chairman of the influential CEO group's executive committee, just as it was launching Road to Renaissance, a new economic development strategy for the region.
Goals are to boost entrepreneurship, attract and retain top talent, and enhance Detroit's status as a global hub for automotive and other transportation industries.
"There's no question that, in the next 10 or 20 years, we're going to have very different propulsion systems for vehicles. And there's no reason why Detroit and southeast Michigan shouldn't be where the action is," Ford said.
Problem is, Detroit and Michigan are increasingly NOT where the cutting-edge automotive technology action is.
Not only have hometown car companies Ford, General Motors and the Chrysler Group been downsizing, but the national surge in clean-technology investment is mostly happening elsewhere.
Clean tech is the fastest-growing segment of venture capital. But of $2.9 billion in clean-tech investment in North America last year, only 9% was in the Midwest, said James Croce, CEO of Detroit-based NextEnergy, a nonprofit formed five years ago to accelerate Michigan's activities in alternate energy. Nearly 60% went to the West Coast or to New England, he said, citing data from the Clean Tech Venture Network in Brighton.
Just a few years ago, some pundits were scoffing at the notion of a self-professed environmentalist -- Ford -- running an auto company.
"Now all the automakers are out to prove who's greenest," Ford said.
But Michigan must do more outreach, he said, to attract more of the innovative companies in that field.
Doug Rothwell, president and CEO of Detroit Renaissance, said Ford has been "very intimately engaged in each step of the Road to Renaissance action plan."
Ford returned the compliment, saying he agreed to chair the Renaissance executive committee only because Rothwell and Domino's Pizza CEO David Brandon convinced him that the group was committed to action and measuring progress. "The last thing I needed was another committee studying the problems of the last 20 years," Ford said.
The Road to Renaissance plan dovetails with One D, a broader regional collaboration of groups ranging from United Way to the Detroit Regional Chamber and New Detroit, championed by Ford's cousin Edsel Ford II. Edsel Ford will kick off a series of One D planning sessions at the Mackinac gathering this week.
Other scheduled speakers at Mackinac include Teamsters union President James P. Hoffa on Wednesday and UAW President Ron Gettelfinger on Thursday.
Bill Ford, meanwhile, expects to become a bit more visible in the coming months.
Immediately after Mulally's arrival, "I thought, early on, that I didn't want any confusion, externally or internally," Ford said. "I certainly didn't want anyone internally going around Alan and coming to me."
Ford still consults regularly with Mulally on the car company's turnaround progress.
"You'll start seeing more of me as we roll into the rest of this year," he said.
Contact TOM WALSH at 313-223-4430 or email@example.com.
Copyright © 2007 Detroit Free Press Inc.
May 27, 2007 Nolan Finley Business is essential to fixing schools Michigan's public schools stink, say the state's business leaders, and they're not willing to pony up more money for education until something is done to stop teacher benefits from sucking up all the dough. Those are the headlines from an education survey done for the Detroit Regional Chamber in advance of its annual policy conference on Mackinac Island this week. Asked if Michigan's school system is providing students with the basic knowledge they'll need for college and careers, the executives answer with a near unanimous "NO!" in the survey by John Bailey and Associates. Eighty-seven percent say the schools are either not preparing children to succeed or are doing so inconsistently. And they don't believe more money will make things better. Or to be blunt: They aren't crazy about pouring new tax dollars into schools only to see them used to protect obscenely generous pension and health benefits. Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Democratic state legislators, who have yet to come around to benefit reform, better be listening. Taxpayers, particularly the state's biggest taxpayers, are fed up with scarce education dollars going to protect teacher perks at the expense of classroom quality. Business must step up But the business executives can't just complain about the sorry state of education. They have to roll up their sleeves. This year's Mackinac conference is focused on the One D project to revitalize the region, and education preparedness is a top priority, Edsel Ford says. "The critical question is, 'Are we really doing a good enough job in preparing our children for the future roles they have to play?' " says Ford, who chairs One D. "And then, 'How can we as a business community help?' " Here's a place to start: Get behind Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's plan to open up to 25 public charter schools in Detroit. The mayor hopes to partner with businesses and other institutions to open themed schools with curriculums that stress everything from health care to entrepreneurship. It's an ambitious project, but offers the quickest and most effective route to finally bringing Detroit children the same education options and quality that suburban children enjoy. The mayor's plan won't work without the cooperation and cash of the business community. Michigan companies don't have a lot of spare change these days, but fixing education is an essential investment. Former Mayor Dennis Archer says businesses do work individually to support education, but says schools, particularly public schools, must better communicate their needs. "If you don't know what's missing, you don't know what you can do to help," says Archer, who is championing the chamber's education efforts. "I don't get the sense that there's a meaningful working relationship between the public schools and the business community." Business leaders obviously recognize the size of the education shortfall in Michigan, as evidenced by the survey results. I'd like to see them asked one more question: What will you do to help? Nolan Finley is editorial page editor of The News. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (313) 222-2064. Read his daily blog at forums.detnews.com/blogs/, and watch him at 8:30 p.m. Fridays on "Am I Right?" on Detroit Public TV, Channel 56.
May 27, 2007
Business is essential to fixing schools
Michigan's public schools stink, say the state's business leaders, and they're not willing to pony up more money for education until something is done to stop teacher benefits from sucking up all the dough.
Those are the headlines from an education survey done for the Detroit Regional Chamber in advance of its annual policy conference on Mackinac Island this week.
Asked if Michigan's school system is providing students with the basic knowledge they'll need for college and careers, the executives answer with a near unanimous "NO!" in the survey by John Bailey and Associates.
Eighty-seven percent say the schools are either not preparing children to succeed or are doing so inconsistently.
And they don't believe more money will make things better. Or to be blunt: They aren't crazy about pouring new tax dollars into schools only to see them used to protect obscenely generous pension and health benefits.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Democratic state legislators, who have yet to come around to benefit reform, better be listening. Taxpayers, particularly the state's biggest taxpayers, are fed up with scarce education dollars going to protect teacher perks at the expense of classroom quality.
Business must step up
But the business executives can't just complain about the sorry state of education. They have to roll up their sleeves.
This year's Mackinac conference is focused on the One D project to revitalize the region, and education preparedness is a top priority, Edsel Ford says.
"The critical question is, 'Are we really doing a good enough job in preparing our children for the future roles they have to play?' " says Ford, who chairs One D. "And then, 'How can we as a business community help?' "
Here's a place to start: Get behind Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's plan to open up to 25 public charter schools in Detroit.
The mayor hopes to partner with businesses and other institutions to open themed schools with curriculums that stress everything from health care to entrepreneurship.
It's an ambitious project, but offers the quickest and most effective route to finally bringing Detroit children the same education options and quality that suburban children enjoy.
The mayor's plan won't work without the cooperation and cash of the business community. Michigan companies don't have a lot of spare change these days, but fixing education is an essential investment.
Former Mayor Dennis Archer says businesses do work individually to support education, but says schools, particularly public schools, must better communicate their needs.
"If you don't know what's missing, you don't know what you can do to help," says Archer, who is championing the chamber's education efforts. "I don't get the sense that there's a meaningful working relationship between the public schools and the business community."
Business leaders obviously recognize the size of the education shortfall in Michigan, as evidenced by the survey results.
I'd like to see them asked one more question: What will you do to help?
Nolan Finley is editorial page editor of The News. Reach him at email@example.com or (313) 222-2064. Read his daily blog at forums.detnews.com/blogs/, and watch him at 8:30 p.m. Fridays on "Am I Right?" on Detroit Public TV, Channel 56.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Assessment in the Age of Innovation
Within the past 50 years, we’ve seen our country move from an industrial economy to an information-based economy. Now, early in the 21st century, it appears we are shifting to an innovation-based economy, one that requires what the psychologist Robert J. Sternberg calls “successful intelligence,” a three-point foundation of analytical, practical, and creative skills. In other words, the measure of success in today’s economy is not just what you know, but how you use that to imagine new ways to get work done, solve problems, or create new knowledge. This innovation-based environment calls for substantially new forms of assessment, and therein lies a major hurdle for schools, especially American schools, trying to prepare students for this new century.
American students today are largely evaluated based on their factual knowledge. A recent study by Robert C. Pianta and his colleagues at the University of Virginia’s Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning found that the average 5th grader received five times as much instruction in basic skills as instruction focused on problem-solving or reasoning. Our existing assessment system tends to reinforce rote instructional practices emphasizing the drilling of facts likely to be on a test, rather than problem-solving and reasoning strategies difficult to capture in multiple-choice test items.
If we look at the effectiveness of such practices, and benchmark our success against international competitors, the results are not promising. Test scores from the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, which surveys 15-year-old schoolchildren in industrialized countries worldwide, show that, on average, U.S. students lag behind those in Europe and Asia in problem-solving skills in mathematics and science. Schools in Europe and Asia generally teach students how to apply knowledge to novel situations more successfully than do schools in the United States.
If we are to help students succeed in a 21st-century economy and society, we must find ways to measure their ability to apply knowledge to complex and challenging tasks, and to behave in other ways that predict successful engagement in the world as it is now. Because the most salient features of today’s world seem to be change, and the accelerating rate of that change, a major part of a person’s skill set must be the ability to adapt to new conditions and imagine new solutions.
With the reauthorization of the federal No Child Left Behind Act under way, the time is right to engage the nation’s policymakers in thinking about what 21st-century assessment should be. Assessing student performance in an innovation-based economy will require a transformation—from a sole focus on traditional subject-matter mastery to a new definition of educational excellence that encompasses the skills and understandings required by the new economy. The challenge we face as a nation in building a world-class education system is not only to educate toward rigorous standards benchmarked against the best systems in the world, but also to design an education system that puts a premium on the full complement of content and skills that will enable students to succeed in this ever-changing environment.
What are the essential elements of such learning? The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a leading advocacy organization in this area, identifies them as core academic content that is infused with subject-matter themes such as global awareness; financial, economic, business, and entrepreneurial literacy; and civic and health literacy, as well as learning skills that stress creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem-solving, and communication and collaboration, along with information, media, and technology skills, and life and career skills. To prepare students to succeed as citizens, thinkers, and workers in the new century, and to enable teachers and school administrators to educate students for a future in which such skills are the markers of success, we must embrace a more comprehensive view of what constitutes learning.
Many of our high-achieving competitors are pushing for exactly this sort of innovation in education. A recent report by Singapore’s Ministry of Education, for example, opens with this statement: “Education is about preparing our people for the future. To thrive in the world in 2015, Singaporeans need strong analytical, communication, and interpersonal skills. They have to be more risk-taking, entrepreneurial, and able to tolerate greater ambiguity. Most importantly, they need to continuously learn, unlearn, and relearn to remain relevant in a dynamic environment.”
Assessments designed to gauge how well students master these more complex objectives of 21st-century learning will have to use a range of strategies, constructed-response items, essays, and other real-world and virtual performance measures that can help us evaluate how effectively students apply knowledge to problem-solving situations. Twenty-first century learning is about the process of integrating and using knowledge, not just the acquisition of facts and procedures. Hence, educators need to build assessments for learning, rather than solely of learning.
The new assessments will have to do the following:
• Be largely performance-based. We need to know how students apply content knowledge to critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical tasks throughout their education, so that we can help them hone this ability and come to understand that successful learning is as much about the process as it is about facts and figures.
• Make students’ thinking visible. The assessments should reveal the kinds of conceptual strategies a student uses to solve a problem.
• Generate data that can be acted upon. Teachers need to be able to understand what the assessment reveals about students’ thinking. And school administrators, policymakers, and teachers need to be able to use this assessment information to determine how to create better opportunities for students.
• Build capacity in both teachers and students. Assessments should provide frequent opportunity for feedback and revision, so that both teachers and students learn from the process.
• Be part of a comprehensive and well-aligned continuum. Assessment should be an ongoing process that is well-aligned to the target concepts, or core ideas, reflected in the standards.
Building new assessments is a complex and costly undertaking, and there is good reason to believe that innovation in this area will require novel funding strategies from both the public and private sectors.
In the United Kingdom, for example, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, a government body that maintains and develops the British national curriculum and its associated assessments, has invested the equivalent of $50 million in developing a new assessment system. In that system, test activities take place within a virtual city, and are designed to assess students’ information, communication, and technology, or ICT, skills, as well as their ability to use such skills to solve a set of complex problems involving research, communication, information management, and presentation.
The British assessment’s ambitious design reflects the country’s intention not only to set a new direction for the assessment of ICT skills, but also to generate an approach to computer-administered assessment that will ultimately be employed in other content areas. Interestingly, as early as 1992, the now-defunct U.S. Office of Technology Assessment published a report, “Testing in American Schools: Asking the Right Questions,” which noted that cutting-edge technologies could help push testing beyond conventional paper-and-pencil formats by structuring and presenting complex tasks, tracking students’ cognitive processes, and providing rapid feedback.
Another example of assessment innovation resides closer to home, in the National Science Foundation’s consortium of teachers, university-based researchers, and software developers designing formative mathematics assessments that run on hand-held computers. These assessments help teachers implement a form of research-based “clinical interview.” Based on the work of Jean Piaget, this assessment approach provides teachers with a window into children’s thinking. It helps them understand not only the mathematical knowledge of primary students, but also the strategies they use to solve math problems. The technology helps teachers keep track of students’ answers and reasoning strategies, and generates a performance profile at the end of an interview session. The kind of diagnostic data generated through such assessments gives teachers information they can act on instructionally.
Funding for developing such innovative assessments is admittedly a strategy for the longer term. What is important for the short term is that states realize they are in a position to exert tremendous influence over the kinds of assessments being developed for today’s students. Using the criteria cited here as a starting point, state departments of education can craft requests for proposals that specify exactly what they are looking for in a 21st-century assessment system.
Such requests are clearly going to have to break with existing conventions, however, and recognize that compelling, effective approaches to assessment are more likely to come from individuals and partnerships that are themselves focused on innovation, and not necessarily from traditional providers.
Charles Fadel is the global lead for education at Cisco Systems and a board member of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (www.21stcenturyskills.org), where he co-chairs the standards, assessment, and professional-development committee. Margaret Honey is the senior vice president for strategic initiatives and research at Wireless Generation, a data-reporting, assessment, and professional-services company. Shelley Pasnik is a research scientist at the Center for Children and Technology, part of the Education Development Center, in Newton, Mass. She serves as an education consultant to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
|AT&T rolls out U-verse in Detroit|
AT&T Inc. today announced that it is launching its U-verse combined TV, voice and data service in the Detroit area.
AT&T says it is the only national provider of a 100 percent Internet Protocol-based TV service.
It will be available in portions of more than 50 communities, reaching from Northville to the west to Rochester Hills to the south to Grosse Pointe to the east to Trenton in the south.
AT&T says it will continue to increase availability throughout the area on an ongoing basis.
AT&T U-verse offers customers a combination of next-generation digital television -- including access to more than 25 high definition channels, and high speed Internet access.
"It's an IP network for the home, and on that IP network wlll be a variety of applications, one of which is television," said Jennifer Jones, AT&T vice president and general manager for Michigan.
Included will be more than 300 TV channels, with improved picture clarity; video music channels in a variety of formats; high-speed Internet, featuring a wireless gateway for the home; and voice service that will soon be migrated to Voice Over Internet Protocol.
The service will be provided through regular copper phone wires, connected to VRADs -- those new, larger tan phone boxes that have been replacing the old pale green phone switching boxes around the Detroit area for months now. Massive fiber optic bandwidth is connected to those VRADs, which will be able to provide U-verse service to any home within about 2,000 feet of them.
Pricing of the U-verse service starts at $44 a month, and AT&T pledges plans will be competitive with Comcast Corp.'s "Triple Play" TV-data-voice service. The standard offer includes three Motorola-built set-top boxes to bring the high-tech IPTV to individual sets.
Importantly, it also includes a digital video recorder capable of holding 120 hours of video content.
And, AT&T said the service will also be available through the Web and AT&T cell phones, with users able to record TV, set or change parental controls and more from the computer or phone.
The interface features an extremely high-tech look and feel, which AT&T first showed at the January 2006 Consumer Electronics Show. Included are picture-in-picture and semi-transparent menus, searches by program name or actor's name, one-touch recording, and the ability to record up to four programs at a time -- while watching a fifth.
There are also hundreds of video-on-demand movies available at $2 to $4 a day, or $3 to $5 for a three-day rental.
Jones also assured GLITR that the service will provide local cable access channels to schools and communities -- although those schools and communities must take the initiative to send their content to AT&T for display on TV channels.
The system will carry no long-term contract, and will offer a 60-day money-back guarantee, Jones said. And it's available in Spanish.
AT&T also says it plans to add more channels and interactive applications in the future.
Now through June 30, qualified new customers can join AT&T U-verse and receive free TV service, including HBO and Cinemax, for the first two full months when they choose the U300 or U400 programming package. Thereafter, customers will continue to receive regular recurring monthly discounts on their U-verse package when they subscribe to a bundle of TV and Internet services. Also, customers who order U-verse TV and Internet by phone receive free professional installation.
• Elite: Downstream up to 6.0 Mbps, upstream up to 1.0 Mbps.
Subscribers also receive virtually unlimited e-mail storage and powerful anti-virus and anti-spam software.
Monday, May 21, 2007
Andrew Hanagan, left, and John Robinson, both 15, prepare to buzz in during a contest in English class May 9 at Canton High. The contest is aimed at helping boys learn grammar by turning it into a game. Schools in the Plymouth Canton district are trying new ways to teach boys.
Boys can make the grade, if they're not bored
May 21, 2007
BY PEGGY WALSH-SARNECKI
FREE PRESS EDUCATION WRITER
There's a big difference in Pamela Dean's English 9 class at Salem High School when Grammar Bowl begins.
The boys clamber over desks and race for the chairs, sitting with shoulders hunched forward, buzzers clutched in hand. On a recent day, the boys beat the girls to the buzzer for 42 out of 45 questions.
That level of engagement doesn't usually happen in English classes, where girls typically far outperform boys on testing. But turn it into a sport, and suddenly the boys get it.
Plymouth Canton Community Schools is one of the few districts in the metro area making a dramatic effort to change how boys are taught in response to research showing they learn differently than girls.
"You can teach boys anything as long as you don't do it in a boring way," said Sharon Strean, assistant principal for curriculum and instruction at the district.
The district is encouraging more competition in the classroom and finding ways to make lessons more hands-on, all rooted in studies that suggest physiological differences in the brains of boys and girls are the main reason an acheivement gap between genders exists in some subjects.
"This isn't about boys versus girls. It's about identifying who the students are and identifying their strengths and potential," said Richard Weinfeld, an educational consultant and the author of "Helping Boys Succeed in School." "As we're able to do more brain research, we see more differences between male and female brains."
Right brain, left brain
The research Strean cites shows that boys tend to be right-brain dominant, making them better able to deal with spatial thinking and more mechanically inclined. Testosterone tends to make them more aggressive and competitive.
In girls, the left brain, which deals with verbal skills, tends to be dominant. Physiological differences, research shows, also make girls' brains more inclined to regulate anger and aggression and more involved with emotion and memory.
A 2006 Vanderbilt University study found girls had an advantage over boys when tests and tasks were timed, something that's common in classrooms. The study showed boys fared better when studying interesting or challenging material in smaller chunks, and without hard and fast time limits.
In addition, female teachers outnumber male teachers about 3 to 1, according to the Michigan Education Association. The ratio is roughly the same in Plymouth Canton's secondary schools. And women, with the best of intentions, teach classes in ways that are compatible with their learning styles, Strean said.
The result? "School might not be as friendly a place for boys," Strean said.
Bring on the action
The solution, Strean said, was to add elements to the classroom that would engage boys' learning styles, such as more physical activity tied to lessons and less reliance on the lecture-recite mode. Programs such as Grammar Bowl were born out of that effort.
Frankie Dinicola, 15, a Salem 10th-grader and a member of last year's winning Grammar Bowl team, said he had little interest in grammar before the program began.
"When it was just a work sheet, just a lecture, yeah, it's boring," Frankie said. "To be honest, I didn't know much grammar."
Once grammar became a competition, his attitude and his learning curve shot way up.
"It kind of turned into a sport when we did our first competition," Frankie said. "Now every time someone says, 'You're doing good,' I'm like, 'No, you're doing well.' It annoys me now."
Jeffrey Blakeslee uses boy-friendly techniques in his advanced literature class on science fiction at Salem High. The course is always full -- and almost all the students are boys.
"When you assign something you can read, and you do it in the traditional style, the kids kind of fight it. It comes as a task," Blakeslee said. "Basically I open it up to any way they want."
Instead of writing papers, Blakeslee's students are more likely to be making movies, writing stories or playing trivia games about the books they read. The projects are not only creative, they're often more extensive than book reports.
"It's the fun stuff," said Brad Lawrence, 17, of Canton, adding Blakeslee's lectures were typically no more than 10 or 15 minutes long. "This class is really a shared activity English class."
Don't forget girls
Strean and other experts caution that while most girls and boys fall into these classifications, there are plenty of exceptions. And no one's talking about forgetting about girls -- it's important to mix teaching styles for both genders.
The gap is of concern because high-stakes tests, such as the MEAP, require more reading and writing, two female strengths, Weinfeld said.
"The skills we want kids to have at an earlier and earlier age, girls naturally have," Weinfeld said.
"People are concerned. Boys are dropping out more than girls, fewer boys are graduating from high school than girls, fewer boys are going to college than girls."
All kids could benefit from adding a little more movement in classrooms, said Cheryl Somers, assistant professor of educational psychology at Wayne State University.
There are no differences in intelligence between boys and girls, she said. While research shows some differences between male and female brains, research also shows that boys and girls are treated differently, from infancy on. Boys are bounced, girls are coddled. Boys fall down, girls are more protected, Somers said.
"I think a lot more of it has to do with temperament," Somers said.
"Boys are a lot more active. So if you're not doing something to stimulate them, they're going to tune out more, because they need more activity level."
"Kids come to school with these differences," Somers said. "No matter whether their parents are creating it or their biology is creating it, they come to school like this. So let's figure it out."
Contact PEGGY WALSH-SARNECKI at 586-469-4681 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2007 Detroit Free Press Inc.
Understanding different learning styles
Falling behind girls
Ways to encourage boys to read more
• Use audiobooks and text-to-speech software.
• Provide outlines, graphic organizers and other visual aids.
• Let them see males in their own family reading.
• Leave books and other reading material that might appeal to them lying around.
• Encourage reading online.
• Allow reading to be private.
• Subscribe to a magazine that might interest them.
• Give books as a gift, alone or in combination with a related gift -- for example, a soccer ball and soccer book.
• Let them make choices at the library or bookstore. Don't criticize their interests.
• Let them pick books that are too hard or too easy.
• Look for books with lists, facts, action, and humor and about the sciences.
• Read aloud to them about a topic that they want to learn more about.
• Do an activity or project and then read to find out more information about the topic.
Source: "Helping Boys Succeed in School" by Richard Weinfeld (Prufrock, 2007)