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A Mathematician’s Lament

A Mathematician’s Lament by Paul Lockhart [pdf]

A musician wakes from a terrible nightmare.  In his dream he finds himself in a society where Amusic education has been made mandatory.  “We are helping our students become more competitive in an increasingly sound-filled world.”  Educators, school systems, and the state are put in charge of this vital project.  Studies are commissioned, committees are formed, and decisions are made— all without the advice or participation of a single working musician or composer. Since musicians are known to set down their ideas in the form of sheet music, these curious black dots and lines must constitute the “language of music.”  It is imperative that students become fluent in this language if they are to attain any degree of musical competence; indeed, it would be ludicrous to expect a child to sing a song or play an instrument without having a thorough grounding in music notation and theory.

Competency-Based Schools Embrace Digital Learning

A student walks past trailers set up for additional construction at Lindsay High School in Lindsay, Calif., where the rural district has put in place an ambitious competency-based education system for all grades. —Daryl Peveto/LUCEO for Digital Directions

Tom Rooney sees competency-based education—supported by digital learning tools—as the path to building a better school district.

The superintendent of the 4,200-student Lindsay Unified School District in California, Rooney set in motion this school year a plan to move to a system in which students progress not on the basis of their age or a set school calendar, but by demonstrating proficiency on learning objectives.

Educators in the district are aware that the transition will undoubtedly hit some bumps in the road, as do most districtwide school improvement efforts. But school leaders entered the school year feeling well prepared because the district has been gradually putting competency-based education, or CBE, in place since the 2009-10 school year.

The move to competency-based education—also known as proficency-, standards-, and performance-based education—by Lindsay Unified and other districts will likely give them a head start in preparing for the new demands of the Common Core State Standards, experts point out, and in their ability to use technology more effectively to personalize learning.

“We have these practices that are ingrained in the traditional public education system that are not consistent with principles of learning and not consistent with how most of the rest of the world operates,” says Rooney.

“Prior to kindergarten, everyone learns to talk at a different time,” he continues. “They get potty-trained at different times, but suddenly when you get to kindergarten, you’re placed in this box, and you’re given the kindergarten curriculum because you’re five, not because you’re ready for it, or even if you already know it all. Kids learn in different ways on different time frames.”

Wear radio chip or leave, school tells students

by Jack Minor, (c) copyright WND Education

Brushing aside privacy concerns by parents and civil rights activists, a Texas school district has gone live with a controversial program requiring all students to wear a locator radio chip that will enable officials to track their every move – or face expulsion.

At the beginning of the school year students at John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School within the Northside Independent School District were told their old student ID badges were no longer valid. During registration they were required to obtain new badges containing a radio frequency identification tracker chip.

Students refusing the chips were reportedly threatened with suspension, fines, or being involuntary transferred. Unlike chips used by retailers to track inventory which activate when scanned by a reader, these chips contain batteries and actively broadcast a continuous signal.

The Bingity – Bangity School Bus

By Ray Holt, Graduate Student, University of Mississippi,  October 2, 2012
Tribute to:  Miss Marjorie Bell, Ulysses Grade School
2nd grade teacher
, Ulysses KS, 1952

Miss Marjorie Bell was my 2nd grade teacher at the then Ulysses Grade School. I remember the very large brick building as if it were yesterday.  I remember Miss Bell as a young girl in her mid-20’s.  She was cheerful, had a great smile and as a young boy, I found her to be very pretty.

My father was an Okie itinerant welder and pipe-fitter.  Five of us lived in a 17’ trailer. We moved around often to states such as Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.  Every once in a while we would stay in California.  Usually we moved every few months so my stays at elementary schools were short.  My sister who is 2 years older went to14 elementary schools, I went to six.

I had spent my Kindergarten days in Amarillo, TX, my 1st grade year in Liberal, KS, and when it came time to start 2nd grade we were in Ulysses, KS.  I have strong memories of our trailer park in Ulysses, KS and my 2nd grade teacher Miss Bell.   My slow learning ability was very much affected by our moving, not having longtime friends, and not having any kind of study discipline.

During my time with Miss Bell we seemed to ‘hit it off’ quite well.  I believe she took me under her wing as a challenge. I remember her constantly encouraging me in everything I did with many positive comments.  I am sure not all of them were deserved but they were welcomed.  I was always excited to attend school and tried hard to please her.

Can Students/Children Be Trained with Proven Dog Training Techniques?

By Ray Holt, Graduate Student, University of Mississippi,  October 2, 2012

The use of dog training methods to train or teach students and children could be effective but certainly a highly controversial subject.  Obviously, some dog or animal training techniques are not appropriate for children (such as food rewards, choke chains, negative reinforcements, etc.)  (Estep). However, there are a few methods that are already similar between training dogs and students/children that are worth mentioning.  These methods include positive training, exercise, diet, dealing with negative behavior, playing, and leadership.

“Positive or reward-based training is not a new concept. Trainers have been using reward-focused techniques with great success for many years.  We know that if a dog offers an action or behavior we like and that action or behavior is rewarded there is a strong likelihood that the dog will offer it again.”  (Stilwell, 2008).  Positive, deserving rewards given to a child or student usually yields a child that wants to repeat the behavior or a student that is willing to continue learning for the reward.

Should Calculators Be Allowed In The Classroom?

By Ray Holt, Graduate Student, University of Mississippi, September 19, 2012

The use of student calculators in the classroom has been a very controversial topic over the last several years. Calculators are in use in classrooms from elementary schools to universities. The controversy stems from the use of the calculator as the solution to a problem and not as a tool to calculate the final answer. Some see the use of calculators before the student understands the math concepts as the cause of many future math education problems. (Education World, 2002). The controversy continues on both sides of the issue from the classroom to academia.

The most obvious reason to let students use calculators at any age is that it is a tool that they need to learn as a job skill. Not every student will be mathematicians and engineers so being able to use the calculator for basic problems should become fundamental to everyone. The strongest and most fundamental argument for not letting students use calculators is that it will “keep students from benefiting from one of the most important reasons for learning math – to train and discipline the mind and to promote logical reasoning.” (Education World, 2002).

Small calculators showed up in our society in the mid-to-late 70’s. Sometime in the mid-80’s the price of the handheld calculator was within reason for most households. Consumers and businesses purchased them in order to be more efficient and to help perform the complex math that most had long forgotten. By the 2000’s, calculators were so powerful they were considered a handheld computer by most. The average price has now dropped to below $100. It is now considered a no excuse tool for everyone.