Archive for February, 2013

New teachers respond to Arne Duncan

February 27th, 2013

Education Secretary Arne Duncan asked teachers on Twitter about what was the biggest challenge the first year of teaching. Click here for some of the responses. I see two trends in the responses:

  1. A need for a mentor
  2. Training that no college is giving (or at least can within the current model)

The first year is full of surprises. What’s interesting is that most of those surprises are common among teachers from across the United States. If that’s the trend, then why do most first year teachers feel at one time or another that their struggles are an isolated exception? Why do new teachers feel that they are on their own? These are the questions to be asked by those that want to strengthen the teaching profession.

Thanks, Cheryl Redfield, for the link.

Google is accepting applications for Google Glass testers

February 20th, 2013

Wearable technology has been a fascination of mine since I first saw a Scientific American story about Steve Mann‘s attempt to be a cyborg.

Now Google Glass is looking to make some of that technology available to consumers and they need people to test out the devices. You can find out more details about the application by clicking here.

Here’s the catch:

Explorers will each need to pre-order a Glass Explorer Edition for $1500 plus tax and attend a special pick-up experience, in person, in New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles.


Ghosts in the Fog by Samantha Seiple

February 14th, 2013

Alaska was invaded.

I had heard rumors, but Ghosts in the Fog details the facts. During World War II, Japan had decimated a sizable portion of the United States fleet by striking at Pearl Harbor in 1941. In 1942, Japan kept the momentum going by launching a series of invasions on islands throughout the Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea.

The Aleutian Islands (the tail part of Alaska) were one destination for invasion.

Ghosts in the Fog starts with U.S. code crackers catching a message about a possible invasion in one of two locations. The diligent cryppies at Station HYPO cracked part of the code and gave what they knew to Admiral Nimitz and Naval intelligence, who then decided where to send the remnants of the fleet that were still operational. The book then details key points in the Japanese invasion leading up to the eventual retreat of the Japanese fleet and a turning point in the war in the Pacific.

Where Seiple excels is in maintaining the human element of the events. This is a war story about more than boats and bombs. She did her research and draws quotes from both sides of the conflict.

  • We witness Admiral Theobald disobey orders and pull his ships from where they’re supposed to be and instead to where he thinks the invasion will happen; he’s wrong and an island full of people pay for his mistake.
  • We follow Charlie House in his attempt to avoid capture by burying himself in the Alaskan snow with no supplies.
  • I was surprised at how cooperative the Japanese soldiers were once they were captured; when they were so used to a bushido “death before dishonor”, no one had told them how to act as prisoners of war.
  • One of the most heart-wrenching parts was reading about the native Aleutians who were caught in the middle, either to be shipped to Japan as prisoners of war or dumped onto a different island by the U.S. Navy with little resources to start a new life.

Where the sequencing struggles a bit is when events were happening simultaneously. To Seiple’s credit, one event builds into another, so the events need to be included, but it caught me off guard a couple of times to read that the starting events of a chapter happened two months before what was just mentioned. Seiple labeled the sections well, but it still broke me out of my flow of reading.

This is definitely a purchase that librarians need to make if they want engaging nonfiction. Yes, there are a bunch of books about World War II, but because this one focuses on Alaska instead of other operational theaters, it stands out as something fresh. I was glad that Seiple was able to record these heroic stories before they faded into second- and third-hand accounts. This is magnified by the fact that, until recently, a good portion of this information was still classified and hidden from the general public.

More thoughts on BYOD policies

February 13th, 2013

We’re in our second semester of our Bring Your Own Device initiative and I’ve already seen a positive aspect of having students being able to use their own device for projects instead of relying just on the one or two that the library can provide. One example is with video projects. We’ve been more efficient with our class time because each group has at least one video camera through the use of a cell phone. Students get the footage they need and don’t have dead air time waiting for another group to finish.

And yes, we do understand that having a video camera in the hands of each group can also have some negative aspects, too. That’s why we’re teaching digital citizenship, the ethical use of technology. Education Week has a great article that goes into more detail about digital citizenship. I would be curious to hear people’s thoughts about the color-coding system used by George C. Marshall High School.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

February 4th, 2013

What do Bill Gates, The Beatles, and Andrew Carnegie have in common? They’re outliers, statistical anomalies that stray from average society into the land of superstar success.

But is that all that they share? What led to their success?

That’s what Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers is about. Gladwell looks at factors that successful people have no control over, things like access to resources and the year/location of their birth. Sure, we know that The Beatles had their big debut on The Ed Sullivan Show and started Beatlemania, but did you know that they were playing for eight hours a day in Hamburg, Germany (after starting out in Liverpool, England) years before Ed Sullivan? They had enough time to weed out the average (and, by some accounts, downright bad) songs and instead lock into the sound that made them famous.

Another case in point: Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard. If we only looked at the surface, then the secret to success in the computer industry is to go to an Ivy League school and then drop out, right? What doesn’t get mentioned much is that when he was 13, the parents organization at his elite prep school bought a terminal to access a computer owned by General Electric. This was at a time when you got charged to log into a computer because they were so rare and could only handle one process – let alone one user – at a time. (Think about how many processes are running just on your cell phone as it’s checking for signal strength, synching the time, managing the battery, checking for messages and/or email, and running any additional apps.)

On top of that, even before setting foot on Harvard’s campus, Gates had exploited a bug (keep in mind that he was still a teenager) to get additional time on Computer Center Corporation’s system after the donation from the Lakeside parents organization ran out with General Electric. When he got caught, instead of getting severely punished, he was hired to check for bugs in their system. Just like the Beatles, he put in a ton of time before trying to launch Microsoft. Those hours and hours of work cannot be ignored.

At first these look like rare stories of success, but Gladwell takes it one step further and suggests that we can create these opportunities as a society – opportunities that give people a chance to show off their talent – if we really want to. His thoughts on education are intriguing and the whole point of why he wrote the book. It’s one giant case zeroing in on the last five pages where he makes suggestions on how to improve schooling to capitalize on the talent of our students.

It’s definitely an entertaining read, which is funny given how much data is presented. Instead of coming off as a textbook lecture, Gladwell presents the information in a clear, concise, and witty manner.