Should teachers make videos for classroom use? Economics edition

January 15, 2016

Mary McGlasson teaches economics at Chandler-Gilbert Community College in Arizona.

She makes videos for use in class, and out of class, and by others, on key economic concepts. I’ve used her videos in economics with great results.

Recently she was recognized with a teaching excellence award; she wrote: “The kind folks at the League for Innovations at the Community College asked each Roueche Award recipient to create a 1-minute video, so here it is. Mine’s a bit of a fail, because it’s 1:25… hope they like it anyway!”

Good on Mary McGlasson.

You want to see the real stuff? It’s all there on McGlasson’s YouTube channel. Here are a couple of examples.

Scarcity and Choice

Resources

Congratulations to Mary McGlasson — and thanks! Economics teachers, go see what she’s got.

Can you do better? Can you adopt these methods for different subjects? Please try.


December 30 is Hubble Day; are you ready to celebrate?

December 29, 2015

Get ready to look up!

Edwin Hubble.

Edwin Hubble. (Photo credit: snaphappygeek)

At Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub, for several years we’ve celebrated Hubble Day on December 30.

On December 30, 1924, Edwin Hubble announced he’d discovered other galaxies in distant space. Though it may not have been so clear at the time, it meant that, as a galaxy, we are not alone in the universe (whether we are alone as intelligent life is a separate question). It also meant that the universe is much, much bigger than most people had dared to imagine.

December 30, 2015 is the 91st anniversary of the announcement.  When dealing with general science illiteracy, it’s difficult to believe we’ve been so well informed for more than nine decades.  In some quarters, news travels more slowly than sound in the vacuum of space.

I find hope in many places.  Just three years ago the Perot Museum of Nature and Science opened in downtown Dallas.  It’s the old Dallas Museum of Science and Natural History, once cramped into a bursting building in historic Fair Park, now expanded into a beautiful new building downtown, and keeping the Fair Park building, too.  Considering the strength of creationism in Texas, it’s great news that private parties would put up $185 million for a museum dedicated to hard science.

Displays in the Perot border on brilliance at almost every stop.  Stuffy museum this is not — it’s designed to spark interest in science and engineering in kids, and I judge that it succeeds, though we need to wait 20 years or so to see just exactly what and who it inspires.

We visited the Perot regularly through 2014.  On one visit in 2012, as I was admiring a large map of the Moon, a family strolled by, and a little girl I estimated to be 8 or 9 pointed to the Moon and asked her maybe-30-something father where humans landed.  I had been working to see whether the very large photo showed any signs of activity — but the father didn’t hesitate, and pointed to the Sea of Tranquility.  “There,” he said.  The man was not old enough to have been alive at the time; I’d wager most of my contemporaries would hesitate, and maybe have to look it up.  Not that guy.

Visitors to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Dallas

On 32 flat-panel video displays hooked together to make one massive display, visitors to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science view Mars as our new Mars Rover’s friend might see it, in a section of the museum devoted to astronomy, physics, astronomy and planetary exploration. Photo by Ed Darrell; use encouraged with attribution.

Still, kids today need this museum and the knowledge and excitement it imparts.  One recent July I accompanied a group of Scouts from Troop 355 to summer camp in Colorado, to Camp Chris Dobbins in the foothills just east of Colorado Springs.  Near lights out one night I hiked the half-mile to our campsite admiring the Milky Way and other bright displays of stars that we simply do not get in light-polluted Dallas County.  I expected that our older Scouts would have already started on the Astronomy merit badge, but the younger ones may not have been introduced.  So I asked how many of them could find the Milky Way.  Not a hand went up.

“Dowse the lights, let’s have a five minute star lesson,” I said.  we trekked out to a slight opening in the trees, and started looking up.  I had just enough time to point out the milky fog of stars we see of our own galaxy, when one of the Scouts asked how to tell the difference between an airplane and a satellite.  Sure enough, he’d spotted a satellite quietly passing overhead — and just to put emphasis on the difference, a transcontinental jet passed over flying west towards Los Angeles or San Francisco.

Then, when we were all looking up, a meteoroid streaked from the south across almost the whole length of the visible Milky Way.  Teenage kids don’t often go quiet all at once, but after the oohs and aahs we had a few moments of silence.  They were hooked already.  Less than five minutes in, they’d seen the Milky Way, found the Big Dipper, seen a satellite, a jet, and a shooting star.

Perfection!

Edwin Hubble’s discovery can now be the stuff of elementary school science, that the blobs in the sky astronomers had pondered for a century were really galaxies like our own, which we see only through a faint fuzz we call the Milky Way.

Do kids get that kind of stuff in elementary school?  Not enough, I fear.

We named a great telescope after the guy; shouldn’t we do a bit more to celebrate his discovery?

More:

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


Learning economics on Christmas vacation: What’s a bank run?

December 25, 2015

In education we miss out on most information technological innovation. Textbooks were notoriously dull when books were the chief medium found in schools. Schools took 60 years to make progress in showing film. Television, which started out commercially as a great education tool — what was arguably the best orchestra in the U.S. used to play every Sunday on NBC way back when. Then video, then computers, then the internet and personal data devices penetrated modern life, but not yet schools.

So I am always pleased to hear after Christmas break the questions high school economics and history students came back to class with, especially after “having to watch” that hoary and venerable old movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Frank Capra’s film cuts through the fog on some important history and economics issues.

Not that you find it used much in U.S. schools. What follows is a blog post I did for my U.S. history blog some years back, to answer some of those student questions.

New York -- a classic

George Bailey (played by actor Jimmy Stewart) works to deal with a run on the Bailey Savings & Loan Association in Bedford Falls, New York — a classic “run on the bank” — in the 1946 movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” by Frank Capra. Image from Warner Bros., via Our Values blog.

“What’s a bank run?”

Whenever we get to the Great Depression, somebody asks about bank runs. What is a “run on the bank?” Why would people suddenly rush to get their cash out of the bank? And why can’t the bank just pay it out?

Frank Capra showed and explained it best, probably, in his 1946 film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” But first, my weak attempt:

Banks don’t keep all the money deposited there in the vault. Banks make money by loaning out to others the money put on deposit. The people who get the loans must pay interest on the loan, and that allows the bank to pay interest on the deposits people put there (precious little today — my first account paid 5.25% on my first $5.00 deposit; today you’re lucky to get 1%, and you have to have a sizable minimum, generally. But I digress . . .).

So, if you and a hundred other people each deposit $100 in the bank, the bank turns around and loans out as much as they can. Of the $10,000 deposited, say, they loan out $9,000 to the guy who lives next door to you, so he can put an addition on his house. He’ll pay it back, with interest.

But, that loan means that there is only $1,000 left in the vault. Generally a 10% “reserve” will cover all the cash transactions a bank makes in a day. That is, if they have 10% of their total assets sitting in the vault, making no new money for them, it is highly unlikely that in a normal day there will be a demand for more than about $1,000 of that $10,000 on deposit. (The actual reserve amounts vary; last time I looked, several months ago, the Federal Reserve Board required member banks to hold about 7% of their total assets in cash on hand.)

You can begin to see why a bank run is a problem. If, in one day, every depositor showed up and demanded their deposit, the bank couldn’t pay them all. This is a death sentence in the banking world, for a bank to be unable to meet obligations, and generally that would mean that the bank would be out of business. But of course, that’s rather unfair to the bank — they have their money (your money, really) loaned out to dozens of other people. When those loans come in, the bank will have the cash to pay.

A run on the bank puts a kink in those careful, conservative calculations of how much cash a bank needs to have on hand to cover all the transactions of a day.

Banks fear a run. That’s what killed banks in 1932 and 1933, in the last year of the Hoover administration. Even a good bank could be doomed by an unjustified run — no bank could repay all of its depositors, in cash, on any one day.

Roosevelt’s bank holiday, just a week after his inauguration, stopped the runs for that week. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insured deposits, so that even were there a run on a bank, a depositor could get his or her money back. Those measures essentially stopped runs on banks for decades.

Frank Capra’s 1946 movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” tells the story of a man who manages a small town savings and loan association, which is similar to a bank in that it accepts deposits and loans money, but different from a bank in that it is chartered for the benefit of its depositors, or members, and not for a bank corporation. In fact, the antagonist in the film is the town banker, Potter, who does what he can to bring the savings and loan to ruin.

In one memorable scene, a rumor that the savings and loan is about to fail prompts dozens of the members to make a run — indeed, there is also a run on the bank at the same time. Jimmy Stewart explains to the members why he can’t pay everybody . . . but he also has an infusion of $2,000 cash he plans to cash for his honeymoon. This is what a bank run looks like, with a smart banker (savings and loan manager in this case) who can keep his organization going:

This film clip is undoubtedly copyrighted by the current owners of the film’s intellectual property. I wish they would make it available for classroom use without heavy copyright fees, in the interest of the public.

It’s another case of a fictional film portraying history better than any history book, and economics, too. Licensing the film for classroom use costs more than teachers can pay — plus, in the dog-eat-teachers world of the War on Education, few administrators stand the use of fiction in history and economics classes. That’s before a teacher even gets to the issue of whether there is technical support to show the film.


School in distant, difficult classrooms: Kenya

December 4, 2015

Photo from Heidi Totten, who is spearheading a campaign to get desks for schools like this one in Kenya:

Tenkees School, in the Mau region of Kenya. Photo by Heidi Totten

Tenkees School, in the Mau region of Kenya. Photo by Heidi Totten

Ms. Totten, working with a group called 100 Humanitarians (Entrepreneurs Changing the World), posted this in November, for a November 27 fundraising project.

Our next $5 Friday Fundraiser will be for additional desks for this school in the Mau region of Kenya. This is a very remote area that we visited. The school serves over 300 students with very few desks that they cram into.

They also have two latrines for each gender. With 300 kids you can imagine the sanitary conditions.

*   *   *   *   *

Our hope is to start with adding more desks, then rebuilding the kitchen and adding latrines. Just $5 can go far!

Please feel free to click over to this group and contribute.

How well would you or your kids learn in this school?

More:


Wisdom: How to tell your classroom technology helps

November 21, 2015

This is much an encore post from a couple of years ago.

Wise man Alfie Kohn Tweeted a photo of this list by Bill Ferriter. I’d blogged about it before.

It’s still solid, and most school administrators still miss the point. Teachers get sent to courses to “learn to do a PowerPoint,” but rarely can anyone leading those courses tell when to use a PowerPoint, or Keynote, and when a simple list on a chalkboard/whiteboard is more effective, or perhaps when having students copy a list would be more effective, or when students making a poem/song/poster of a point would be more effective.

An international law firm recently directed that it’s army of a couple thousand lawyers would, henceforth, use Prezi instead of PowerPoint.  Nevermind that the lawyers hadn’t mastered PowerPoint and don’t have a clue what to do with Prezi: Some “managing co-partner” was taken in by the swoops of Prezi.  More than four years ago I learned Prezi at a technology course for technologies my district later decided not to support (money, use, lack of internet connections, etc., etc. — I suspected a lack of planning and thinking about how technology could be used).  In the course, I asked the instructor how to tell when to use Prezi instead of PowerPoint — and how to embed YouTube videos for classroom use of a Prezi.  After working for too long, we decided we couldn’t figure out how to embed videos, and so PowerPoint might be more useful.  Then the instructor confessed he didn’t know how to embed videos in PowerPoint, either.

Let alone, when does a video work better than other instructional methods?  Long or short? Notes, quiz, or oral feedback?

Many Texas districts struggle to teach “keyboarding” to students who have difficulty printing notes, letter by letter, because they don’t know cursive writing (and therefore, cannot read their teachers’ comments on their written work).

Is “integrating technology” really the problem?

Anyway, here’s Mr. Ferriter’s list, a checklist to tell whether you’re getting close to actually using technology, or whether you’re just ringing the bells and tooting the whistles of machines on the desks.

Cheat Sheet: What do you want kids to do with technology? By Bill Ferriter

Cheat Sheet: What do you want kids to do with technology? By Bill Ferriter The Tempered Radical blog.williamferriter.com @plugusin

_________________________________

What do you want kids to do with technology?

Wrong answers Right answers
·         Make Prezis ·         Raise awareness
·         Start blogs ·         Start conversations
·         Create Wordles ·         Find answers
·         Publish Animotos ·         (Answers to
THEIR questions)
·         Design flipcharts ·         Join partners
·         Post to EdModo ·         Make a difference
·         Use Whiteboard ·         Take action
·         Develop apps ·         Drive change

Technology is a tool,
NOT a learning outcome

_________________________________

“Technology is a tool, not a learning outcome,” Bill Ferriter says.  He’s right, of course.

Tip of the old scrub brush to April Niemela@AprilJNiemela.

Alfie Kohn’s Tweet:

More, generally:

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


Quote of the moment: John Adams, nation must have public schools, paid by the people

September 10, 2015

What would John Adams have said about charter schools?

Adams was quite clear, during his lifetime, that a nation should be known by the good people its good schools produce. No, not private schools: Adams insisted the schools must be open to the public, and funded by the people. Public schools, not private contractors brought in at public expense.

Do you think Adams changed his mind after his death?

Here’s the letter Adams sent to a regular correspondent, John Jebb, on September 10, 1785, 230 years ago today. Capitalization, spelling punctuation, insertions and grammar, as in the original; highlighting added:

John Adams' residence at Grosvenor Square, in London

John Adams’ residence at Grosvenor Square, in London; presumably, his letter to John Jebb took form in this house. Long in use by U.S. Ambassadors to England, it is in 2015 the office complex of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, envoy for The Quartet.  Image from London Cyberpunk Tourist Guide

the social science will never be much improved untill the People unanimously know and Consider themselvs as the fountain of Power and untill they shall  know how to manage it Wisely and honestly. reformation must begin with the \Body of the/ People which can be done only, to affect, in their Educations. the Whole People must take \upon/ themselvs the Education of the Whole People and must be willing to bear the expences of it. there should not be a district of one Mile square without a school in it, not founded by a Charitable individual but maintained at the expence of the People themselv[s] they must be taught to reverence themselvs instead of adoreing their servants their Generals Admirals Bishops and Statesmen — Instead of Admiring so extravegantly a Prince of Orange, we Should admire the Botavian Nation which produced him. Instead of Adoring a Washington, Mankind should applaud the Nation which Educated him. If Thebes owes its Liberty and Glory to Epaminandas, She will loose both when he dies, and it would have been as well if she had never enjoyed a taste for either: but if the Knowledge the Principles the Virtues and Capacities of the Theban Nation produced an Epaminandas, her Liberties and Glory will remain when he is no more: and if an analogous system of Education is Established and Enjoyed by the Whole Nation, it will produce a succession of Epaminandas’s, the Human Mind naturally exerts itself to form its Character according to the Ideas of those about it.

♦  Letter from John Adams to John Jebb, September 10, 1785, from Grosvenor Square, London

It’s a warning from the past: Do we like freedom? Then we must educate our children well, in public schools, to understand the public interest and their role in preserving and bettering the state. Can any presidential candidate expound on the issue, let alone the man, with any sing of erudition?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Diane Ravitch’s Blog.

More:

John Adams High School, a public school in South Bend, Indiana.

John Adams High School, a public school in South Bend, Indiana. According to the Michiana Schools site, ” John Adams High School is a public school located in South Bend, Indiana right across the street from Indiana University South Bend. Adam’s mascot is the eagle and their school colors are scarlet, blue and white. Adams has a very successful mock trail team. The school was established in 1940. They have around 2,000 students every year, making it the second largest school in the Michiana area.”

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


THIS kid wants to get his homework done! Astonishing photo from Manila

July 21, 2015

You had a clean, well-lighted nook somewhere in the house to do your homework, and you thought it was tough?

Some kids don’t even have that, but seem to have such a burning desire to get their homework done, to get an education, to get a better life, that a badly-lighted, uncomfortable homework nook won’t stop them.

Did you see this kid doing his homework?

This little boy studying outside of a McDonald’s has the Internet buzzing. (Photo: Joyce Gilos Torrefranca/Facebook)  Two photos of a boy doing his homework under the light of a McDonald’s in the Philippines have gone viral and inspired an outpouring of donations and support for the third-grader’s struggling family.

This little boy studying outside of a McDonald’s has the Internet buzzing. (Photo: Joyce Gilos Torrefranca/Facebook) Two photos of a boy doing his homework under the light of a McDonald’s in the Philippines have gone viral and inspired an outpouring of donations and support for the third-grader’s struggling family.

Rachel Bertsche described the photo and the uproar it caused, in an article in Yahoo!’s parenting section:

Joyce Gilos Torrefranca, a student in Mandaue City, spotted the young boy recently and says the significance of the moment struck her. “For me as a student, it just hit me a lot, like big time,“ she told ABS-CBN News. “I seldom go to coffee shops to study. And then this kid, he doesn’t have anything but he has dedication to study.”

Torrefranca posted the photos to Facebook on June 23 with the caption, “I got inspired by a kid.” Her post was promptly shared more than 7,000 times. In the photos, which were taken in Cebu City, 9-year-old Daniel Cabrera is kneeling on the ground, resting his homework on a wooden stool.

You can’t help but respect the kid. Nor can you help but feel sorry for him in his homework situation.  When the photo caught the eye of the public, help poured in .

After the photo made the rounds on social media, local organizations, including a welfare agency, reached out to support the family, according to ABS-CBS. Local police officers gave the family groceries and some cash, sponsors are chipping in to provide Espinosa with the capital to start her own business, and Daniel got a scholarship grant from a local politician.

And that grant should come in handy for Daniel, who has years of studying ahead of him. He told local radio station dzMM that he wants to be a police officer when he grows up.

On Facebook, Torrefranca acknowledged that the photo had taken on a life of its own. “I didn’t think that a simple photo can make a huge difference,” she wrote on June 27. “Thank you guys for sharing the photo. With that, we were able to help Daniel in reaching his dreams. I hope Daniel’s story will continue touching our hearts so that we will always be inspired and motivated in every situation we face in life.”

What are the excuses your students give for not having their homework done?

Have they met Daniel Cabrera?


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