Friday, December 7, 2007

Vouchers for Private Schools?

The on-going argument for vouchers and/or tax credits for parents who opt to send their children to private school has been an ongoing debate for several years now. It really starts to boil around election time. Guess what? It's election time again and the same old rhetoric surfaces yet again. It amazes me that so many people cabbage on to the concept of paying for private education for their children and thinking they should no longer pay for public education because they're not using it. In fact, they continue to "use" public education even after their children enroll in private school. We don't, as a society, pay for public school so that our children can go to school. We pay for public school so that everyone's children can go to school. Should we get a tax credit because our house didn't catch fire this year? The fire department never put out a fire at my house. So, why should I have to pay for it?

Additionally, the biggest supporters of a voucher system usually seem to be the most vocal opposition to "tax and spend" policies. Vouchers and tax credits won't make public schools any cheaper to run. Where will we get the money for these tax credits and vouchers? The obvious answer is that government spending on education would increase and in turn taxes would increase to fill the void.

Finally, let's not delude ourselves. Vouchers and tax credits won't equal the playing field. Low income families still won't be able to afford quality private education. The tax credits and vouchers only increase the divide between the "Haves" and the "Have nots". The wealthy, (or even middle class) who can already afford private education, get help paying for private schools at the expense of those who cannot afford private school.

Sorry for the rant, but I've never heard an argument for vouchers that didn't seem rooted (at some level) in greed. The greater motivation should Social responsibility and doing what is right.

This rant brought to you by edspresso.com who posted EDITORIAL: Charter school moratorium.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Talking Math Communication

This Blog post is in direct response to Matt Christiansen's posting "Communication in the Math classroom" and the comment posted by selias22. I agree with selias22. "Dumbing it down" is a terrible idea. One of my greatest challenges with struggling 8th graders is getting them to think beyond the operations represented by symbols on their calculators. This will never change if I don't continuously model the use of math vocabulary. I often interupt my own discourse to check student comprehension of the math vocabulary I'm using. Once I detect that some students are struggling with a term, I revisit the term multiple times throughout the rest of the unit until comprehension is achieved.

Its critical that we realize our students struggle with vocabulary. They certainly won't learn concepts and applications if they can't comprehend the basic math jargon used to teach the concepts. Matt also makes a wonderful point about exercising patience regarding student writing in Math. Writing is a wonderful way to strengthen students' vocbulary and comprehension. Writing is a difficult skill for students and becomes doubly so when they attempt to articulate math concepts that they only understand on the most rudimentary level.

Reading Matt's post has reignited my thinking about strengthening students' math dialogue. I will definitely review my upcoming lesson plans to make sure that I'm applying math communication as a critical strategy in improving student achievement.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Excellent resource by Scott Elias on presenting.

Scott Elias' "Presentation on Presenting" provides excellent advice to teachers who find themselves struggling to keep students engaged with their slide presentations. The presentation provides excellent concrete guidelines and clear strategies to avoid the pitfalls of Powerpoint.

My school purchased data projectors for almost every classroom in the school this year. The 8th grade Math teachers have worked together to create powerpoint presentations to replace the normal notetaking practice. Regretably we have committed many of the faux pas that Scott wards against. I suspect that I will revisit his document many times in the coming weeks in an effort to clean up some bad presentation habits. It has been very defeating to spend hours creating presentations that my students insist on sleeping through. Thank you for the excellent post Scott.

As an aside, I think that I will post a before and after presentation once I've implemented Scott's recommended strategies.

Got started with a couple of my NCETC inspired initiatives today.

I created a wikispaces wiki page today. The URL is http://WMSMath.wikispaces.com. I chose to create a protected wiki since the purpose of the wiki is to provide a centralized location for Walkertown Middle School math teachers to share resources and collaborate. I may even need to part with a little cash and establish it as a private wiki. I'm a little concerned with posting some of the items that we've included in our powerpoint presentations this year. Some of our examples were copied directly from our textbook software. In the meantime, I think we will simply replace the copied examples with original creations.

The other project that I've begun working on is the video to teach slope. As I've stated in an earlier post, I was very impressed with Lee Lefever's "Wikis in Plain English" video that David Warlick showed in his presentation "The Art And Technique Of Wikis" at NCETC on November 28, 2007. I've decided to do my slope video using powerpoint. I've started developing some ideas and implementing the animations. It's going to be a lot of work, but I am hoping to have a quality finished product when I'm done. I will put a copy of what I've accomplished periodically on the new wiki page so that everyone can see the progress.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Wiki excitement

Today I shared the "Wikis in Plain English" video with my teammates and with the Math department. It generated considerable excitement. As a result, I am now in charge of finding a Wiki service that will let us create accounts for our students without requiring them to provide an e-mail address. Someone suggested at the North Carolina Educational Technology Conference (NCETC) that PBwiki provided this sort of service. I will probably begin there. Valerie, one of my colleagues in the Math department, suggested that we pool our resoures into a wiki. As a department, we have been creating and sharing powerpoint presentations for our notes on various topics. Additionally, we have collaborated and shared our projects and ideas. Valerie's idea is to build a wiki page listing all the topics we cover in our classes and import our resources into the wiki. I will post details once we start the wiki.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Indirect idea from Warlick's wiki session.

During David Warlick's presentation "The Art and Technique of Wikis" at the North Carolina Educational Technology Conference (NCETC) he showed a Youtube video that illustrated the use of wikis.   The video was done by Lee Lefever and is entitled "Wikis in Plain English." (See attached link)   This video is very cleverly done.   It occurred to me a couple days after the conference that I could make similar videos to help teach concepts in my classroom.   I've got to work out a few logistical issues, but I'm going to attempt a similar video on slope and linear equations.   I will post again when I've completed the video.

Video Link