Blogging longhand

August 29, 2010

From the Department of Education where my group was in charge of dragging the rest of the research branch into the computer age — putting computers on desks of contract managers for the first time, in most cases — I moved to American Airlines.  Though American boasted the best computer reservations system in the world, at headquarters my cubicle came with no computer, not even a typewriter.

I requested a typewriter to draft documents.  “That’s what we have secretaries for,” I was told.  “You draft longhand, let the secretaries turn them into print.”

That quickly changed, thank the business gods, but I feel like I’ve been thrust back to 1987 in many ways since my laptop crashed last week.

The good people at Fry’s noted the fan wasn’t working, but feared it might be damage beyond that.  I’m informed now that it’s been sent to its birthplace with HP/Compaq in California for a more serious assessment and, I hope, quick repair.  Alas, when we bought the extended warranty (the first time such a purchase seems to have not been a really stupid idea) we did not purchase the “automatic loaner” rider.

Oh, I’ve got the data backed up.  What I don’t have is an easy access to one computer I can use regularly  or transport with me to get that information into the formats I need.  Lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and tests are essentially on hold.

A somewhat better prepared group of juniors this year.  They have heard of Columbus.  They know basic map stuff, like in which direction we say the sun rises.  Prehistory remains mysterious to them, human migrations prior to 1750 are fuzzy to them, and the Age of Exploration seems to be complete news.  All that stuff I put together last year in case this happened?   It’s on the backup drive, the drive that I don’t have enough USB ports to tap into while doing much of anything else.

My classroom for a good book!  Of course, I’d have to reinvent the book check out process, and find some way to transport a half-ton of books from the book room to the classroom, and check them out.

We had a meeting Friday on what we’re doing to differentiate classroom lessons for differently-abled learners.  Unable to get lessons to any learners, I found it a waste of time at the moment.  How much other work teachers do is frustrated by the assumptions that all systems are go for teachers, when few systems are.

A reader, nyceducator,  noted he’s never had a working computer in his classroom in 25 years.  He’s better prepared than I am as a result, and I envy him at the moment.  Should I retrench and prepare for a paper future?

Teaching in America is, too often, a constant reinvention of the wheel.

The laptop I’m typing this on is 9 years old, old enough that it can connect to the home WiFi only with an expensive modem.  That takes up the one USB port.  I think I donated the last wired mouse I had, and the touchpad on the computer is failing (which is a big reason I bought the now-ailing computer back in 2009).  The battery has been failing for a long time, but that model is no longer manufactured.  Used batteries are tough to find on eBay, even.

I can write it out longhand, and fax it to a secretarial service who will convert it to electronic files for me.

How is your 1987 going?


Compare and Contrast assignment: Martin Luther King, Jr., and Glenn Beck

August 29, 2010

From The Other 98%:

MLK's and Glenn Beck's achievements compared - from The Other 98%

Which one would you choose to follow? Which one would you choose to emulate?

Teachers, don’t you wish a student would turn in something like this from time to time?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Earthaid3.


Religion-free zone in New York?

August 28, 2010

Thomas Jefferson’s copy of the Qur’an, published in 1764. (courtesy of the Library of Congress). Image via 15-Minute History at the University of Texas at Austin.

Thomas Jefferson’s copy of the Qur’an, published in 1764. (courtesy of the Library of Congress). Image via 15-Minute History at the University of Texas at Austin.

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) joined in the calls to end plans for any worship center for Islam near the site of the destroyed World Trade Center.  But they added a twist.

CFI called for the entire area to be free from religious institutions, since, they say, it was religiously-inspired violence that caused the trouble.  Greg Laden has pithy comments at his blog, as does DuWayne Brayton from the opposite tack (Laden agrees with CFI, sorta, while Brayton thinks they’ve jumped somebody’s shark).

How about it, Joe, how about it Morgan?  Doesn’t this plan meet yours and Sarah Palin’s objections to Cordoba House?

And Glenn Beck in ignorance leads us farther and further from the intentions of the “founders”:

Also at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:

Save


A real live preacher on empathizing with Imam Rauf

August 26, 2010

Gordon Atkinson, who often blogs as Real Live Preacher (whose drawings I really like), has already walked a mile in the shoes of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf.  Perhaps we could learn from his journey:

I would be interested in comments from you about something else, though. Having been a clergyman for many years, I can’t help but watch the drama of Park 51 unfold with a different perspective. Because I know what it’s like to carry someone else’s reputation.

~~~~

When I was a Baptist minister, I could never get comfortable with the fact that Fred Phelps was a colleague. Whenever the people from Westboro Baptist Church were on the news with their hateful signs, I knew that some of Fred’s reputation was going to rub off on me.

Whether it’s fair or not, clergy share their reputations. Many people in our culture have never met, much less befriended a preacher. What little experience they have with ministers comes from television and the occasional wedding or funeral. When someone meets a Baptist preacher for the first time, they often have some preconceived notions.

That’s just the way it is.

Ah, shades of Bruce Hornsby.  More at the link above.


Annals of DDT: 880,000 died from malaria in 2008

August 26, 2010

Once upon a time I easily found a chart from the World Health Organization (WHO) which provided a year-by-year tally of malaria deaths, worldwide, from the 1940s to the present.

Of course, now that I need that chart to note that malaria deaths are much lower today than they were when DDT was overused generally and sometimes misused in the fight against malaria, I can’t find it.  So, we’ll take the figures where we can find them.

In 2008, worldwide there were over 880,000 deaths from malaria.  This is significantly lower than the usual claim of “millions of deaths each year.”  We can find this figure in a document from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), the organization that organizes the work of 182 nations to work for solutions to environmental problems, including fighting malaria, in a report on the 2009 meeting of the Stockholm Convention focused on fighting malaria,  “Countries move toward more sustainable ways to roll back malaria.”

However concern over DDT is matched by concern over the global malaria burden in which close to 250 million cases a year result in over 880 000 deaths. Thus any reduction in the use of DDT or other residual pesticides must ensure the level of transmission interruption is, at least, maintained.

Numbers here may be estimates not updated from current-year records.  The figure “over 880,000 deaths” looks and sounds awfully close to numbers reported in 2006, as you can see in this report from the Kaiser Family Foundation on U.S. global health policies:

Number of Annual Malaria Cases Worldwide Decreases, Disease Still Remains a Challenge, WHO’s World Malaria Report 2008 Says

Thursday, September 18, 2008

There were about 247 million malaria cases worldwide in 2006, according to the World Malaria Report 2008, which was released by the World Health Organization on Thursday, Reuters reports (MacInnis, Reuters, 9/18). According to the report, 3.3 billion people worldwide were at risk for malaria in 2006, and the disease remains a major burden among children younger than age five and in many African countries (AFP/Google.com, 9/18).

The report included reduced estimates of the global malaria burden that were calculated with new surveillance measures for non-African countries. The estimate of 247 million malaria cases is lower than the estimated 350 million to 500 million annual malaria cases reported in WHO’s World Malaria Report 2005. The new report estimated there were 881,000 malaria deaths in 2006, down from the previous estimate of one million deaths. The reduced figures are the result of new calculation methods, and it is unknown whether malaria cases and deaths actually declined from 2004 to 2006, WHO said (Reuters, 9/18). Although malaria control efforts have helped reduce the global malaria burden, most malaria-endemic countries are not meeting WHO targets for malaria control, the report said, noting that there is “no evidence yet to show that malaria elimination can be achieved and maintained in areas that currently have high transmission” (Bennett/Doherty, Bloomberg, 9/18).

WHO attributed the revised malaria estimates to new assessment measures in Asia, where data used for the 2005 report had not been updated for 40 years. According to Mac Otten — coordinator of surveillance, monitoring and evaluation at WHO’s Global Malaria Program — factors such as deforestation, urbanization and malaria control efforts have affected malaria estimates in Asia (Blue, Time, 9/17). Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam all reported a decline in malaria deaths in 2006 (Bloomberg, 9/18).

WHO’s surveillance methods in Africa, which estimate malaria prevalence by using climate data and sample surveys, have remained the same since the 2005 report, the report said (Reuters, 9/18). According to the report, 45 of the 109 malaria-endemic countries worldwide are in Africa, and more than half of the continent’s malaria cases in 2006 occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania (AFP/Google.com, 9/18). The report noted that malaria interventions have helped reduce malaria cases and deaths by more than 50% in Eritrea, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, and the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar (Time, 9/17).The report found that about 40% of people at risk for malaria in Africa had access to insecticide-treated nets last year, compared with 3% in 2001 (Bloomberg, 9/18). The report also found that the number of ITNs distributed to national malaria control programs was enough to cover 26% of people in 37 African countries but that most African countries did not meet WHO’s target of 80% coverage for the four main malaria treatments: ITNs, artemisinin-based combination therapies, indoor-insecticide spraying programs and treatment for pregnant women (AFP/Google.com, 9/18).

Note also that this total of 880,000 is more than the previously reported 863,000.  Hmmm.


Want to teach evolution? Then be ready for THIS!

August 25, 2010

Threat to Bug Girl, Child of Satin

What would the police make of such a threat?

Bug Girl lifts the tent flap to show us just a little of what it’s like to be a teacher of evolution, including mysterious threats made on notes left under windshield wipers.

At least, I think it’s a threat.  (“If you teach evolution, I’ll make you giggle till you choke!”)

I figure that note came from the sort of person who would pray for this to happen to a good professor of biology.

(Do you think the note writer was trying to say something about the sheets upon which Bug Girl’s parents frolicked?)


Inspiration for the first day of school, part 2 – Taylor Mali, and “What do you make?”

August 23, 2010

It ain’t easy being a teacher.  Newsweek puts you on the cover, saying you need to be fired.  Texas Gov. Rick Perry says you don’t need job security, as if getting additional money for teacher salaries would make teachers secure in places like Dallas, where mid-year RIFs are a too-recent, bitter memory.  Heck, just looking at the curriculum in Texas can depress a teacher.  Parents think you don’t call them enough, or too much — but never the Goldilocks optimum.  Students?  Even the best student is surly in the last period of the first day back at school.

Taylor Mali knows all about that.  He taught for several years — but he struck out as a professional slam poet.  His work there remains among the best tributes to teaching of the past 50 years, at least.  You probably heard this poem, or somebody sent it to you in an e-mail (especially if you’re a teacher) — but attributed to “Anonymous.”

Well, here is Anonymous, the Unknown Teacher — whose name is Taylor Mali.  Watch for him and his work.

This is an encore post from 2007.  (Mild profanity.)

_________________________

Killer lesson plans:  Teachers as superheroes

Reader Bernarda noted this site in comments, and it’s good enough to promote more formally: Teachers as the alter egos of superheroes.

Teachers ARE superheroes, a lot of them. More than in other professions, certainly.

Which reminds me of this video. Teachers, you need to watch this sometime here in the first month of school. What do you say when someone rudely asks, “What do you make?” Wholly apart from the Ann Landers-style answer, “Whatever would possess anyone to ask such a personal question?” there is an answer to give, as explained by slam poet Taylor Mali; surely you’ve seen this before, but watch it again — to remember what teachers should be doing, as well as how to talk about it. See below.

[Update August 2010:  Hmmmmm.  Well, that video is out of commission at the moment — Mali and copyright?

Mali has a version at his website, for sale.  Buy it, you have it in high fidelity audio, video and emotion.

Here’s a shorter version of the tape not available above:

It remains the single best piece about teaching and why teachers do it when they don’t get paid the big bucks, when administrators make it so hard, and when society at large wants to fire them all — they do it for the kids.  What do they make?]

You can support Mr. Mali. Just purchase a pen that includes that little poem.

You can support Mr. Mali and his campaign for good teachers in another way, too. Make sure that whenever you talk about this poem of his, you credit it to him. I think we as teachers owe that to artists, and other teachers, as part of our continuing struggles against plagiarism.

But we also owe it to ourselves to get credit to Mr. Mali. Odds are he has some other good things to say. When you properly attribute his work, you increase the chances that someone else will find the rest of his work. You increase the chances that some superintendent will hire Mr. Mali to speak to the teachers in his district. You increase the chances that someone will understand that Mr. Mali is a real human being who loves teaching — he is, in short, one of those superheroes we call “teachers,” even without a cape.

Uncaped crusaders need compliments, too.


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