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To:Support list for open source software in schools. From:Jim Kinney Subject:Re: [K12OSN] Silverlight? Date:Sun, 18 Mar 2012 12:46:03 -0400

On Sat, Mar 17, 2012 at 5:10 PM, Bill Fitzgerald <> wrote:
Some thoughts inline, below -

When one finds a cutesy novelty 'teaching
tool' they seen in a magazine ,it is shortly monkey see, monkey do.

These are teachable moments; by far the greatest challenge I have seen/experienced is getting people to set aside preconceived notions and actually listen/converse. Many issues masquerade as "technical problems" when the real issues/barriers are carbon-based.

I concur. Many teachers are trying too hard to show improvement and they will lock onto to ANYTHING that shows promise. Sadly, the school process that teachers go through to qualify them for the job makes them totally unsuitable to do the type of evaluation required to determine if a particular tool, technology, or process has the effect they think it does. In other words, they are trying to do psychology experiments but have no scientific background or training in how to set upo and devise controls, etc. for any type of experiment.

So the challenge for us tech geeks is we have to get them to explain what they are trying to do from a teaching standpoint, and we have to understand it. Then we have to go searching for tools that
1. run on our platforms
2. do what they think they need

After nearly 10 years teaching college level physics and astronomy, the best technology is that which is invisible. Much of what I see being pushed at schools and teachers by vendors is the robotic teacher replacement drone garbage - practice drills with little to no knowledge enhancement. Invisible technology is like when looking for a specific TV program, they change the channel. The technology behind the process is "magic" yet accepted. Sadly, a teacher sees some web-based multimedia <insert other buzz words here> and because it "works" like changing the channel, the common assumption is the education process will also work the same. So by getting the teacher to do the evaluation of what that "tool the must have" really does, often they will find that a pencil and paper is more effective.

I cringe daily looking at the text books my kids use in K12. Color and pictures take up money and space (which is money in publishing). Designing a book to have a full color picture on EVERY page doesn't encourage learning if the picture is not relevant to the text on the page. So the books got huge and very expensive and now they are causing back pain in kids who have text book based homework every night in every subject. A 65 pound kids can't carry a 30 pound book-bag.

A web video can be informative but must be used in the context of other solid instructional methods. Migrating from paper to e-book will certainly make carrying the contents easier but the educational content is being diluted by the publishers. It makes the school district book review committee happy to see books, electronic or dead tree, with the important word highlighted and a per chapter glossary and a short chapter summary. Too bad that crap eliminates ALL of the student's learning process as they no longer have to figure this out on their own.

The open text books group is doing it (mostly) right. The tech part still missing is an easy to use tool for student annotation of the PDF files that is transportable (i.e. their notes can "stick" with the PDF version and can be easily transferred to someone else). Tablets are nice but a tablet with a pen is even better. The ability to highlight a word or sentence or add a personal definition or reference in the margin will make the open text books better than the dead tree texts. The will make them belong to each student.

If there is a way for the teachers to review the student's notes in their books and add extra comments, etc, wow! personalized teaching at the K12 level.

James P. Kinney III

As long as the general population is passive, apathetic, diverted to consumerism or hatred of the vulnerable, then the powerful can do as they please, and those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome.
- 2011 Noam Chomsky