"I believe that education is the civil rights issue of our generation." – U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan, October 9, 2009

Archive for the month “September, 2012”

Strike That, Reform It

Heads butt once again over education reform in the recent Chicago teachers strike.  Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago teachers certainly have different takes on how to improve Chicago schools. But which path is the right path to take?

Chicago teachers strike

Mayor Emanuel suggests closing poor-performing schools and opening new ones equipped with new teachers and administration. I almost laughed when I read this in the article. Really? That’s like cleaning up your bedroom by removing everything off your floor and hiding it in your closet—problem solved. Or is it?

I get it; he wants a clean plate, a fresh start, but while this may temporarily give some peace of mind, this seems relatively inefficient. There are already great teachers out there, why replace them? We already have a solid structure built, so let’s tweek it and cultivate it, not get rid of it.

Based on the article, it sounds like Mayor Emanuel thinks bad teachers are the cause of under-performing schools. To me, this is illogical thinking. At first glance you would think that a teacher’s effectiveness at teaching should be evaluated by their student’s test scores—a single input and a single output. But education is far more complicated than that, and that is why I believe it is unfair to evaluate a teacher’s performance based on their student’s test scores. A child’s academic performance is a result of many factors, their teacher’s influence is just one of them. Crime, poverty, hunger, problems in the home, and health are all factors that influence a child’s learning. Teachers do not have control over these social issues! So to evaluate them based on students’ test scores is to say teachers are responsible for these factors.

His plan is also inefficient in that it will bring us in a complete circle. Teachers and administrators are replaced. Then what? Replacing teachers doesn’t guarantee more effective teaching practices, and it doesn’t change the fact that some disadvantaged children come to school without basic school supplies. If only the teachers change and nothing else, we’ll end up right where we are now.

Unlike Mayor Emanuel, Chicago teachers are getting to the root of the problem. They are aware of the multiple factors that influence a child’s learning. Their push for more resources in neighborhood public schools is evidence that they are doing what they can to improve these factors.

This is way beyond the job description.


There’s No Place Like Home: Homesick at College

Since I’m about to enter my senior year of college, I suppose that makes me wise and old, and my advice on surviving freshman year worthy of consideration.

Leaving the nest

“Surviving freshman year.” What does this mean?! Sounds foreboding, but the term means something different for everyone because we each face different battles our freshman year. Some struggle getting along with roomates, adapting to college classes, avoiding the aroma of delicious grilled cheese in the café everyday, or making the mile trek to the grocery store—in the rain. It’s all part of the experience, the college life; it’s a right of passage really.

One thing that many new coming freshmen struggle with but do not always disclose is their case of homesickness.  I was one of them, and sometimes still am. Yes this is embarrassing, but I’m sharing this information to let other college students know that they are not alone.

There seems to be this “image” of a college freshman. You’re supposed to go to parties, make a bunch of new friends, and have the time of your life. But where is homesickness in all of this?

I suppose we are all different. Some may not miss home at all and enjoy having complete freedom away from their family and their hometown. But for me, much to my surprise, this was not the case.

Once the excitement of settling into my dorm room and starting new classes died down, I began to think about home. I remember sitting at my desk in the evenings working on awful calculus homework and thinking about what my family was doing right at that moment. They were probably coming home from work, from after school sports, making wise cracks at each other, and settling down to a meal of good ol’ mac and cheese with sliced hotdogs—yum.

I learned something from this experience.  I learned of how much I cared about my family and how much I enjoyed their company. I realized that my parents had build such a wonderful home for my siblings and I, had provided so much love and encouragement that I simply did not want to leave. Is that so terrible? What about growing up? I’m beginning to sound like Wendy in Peter Pan.

I’ve learned not to fight what is. You can try to deny your homesick symptoms, put on your big girl panties, but in the end it’s still there.

My advice: Know that what you are feeling is normal, that you are not alone, and do what you need to do to bring home to you. If you need to talk to your mom everyday, don’t feel embarrassed to do it. And if you feel like watching your family’s favorite comedy, ask your roommate to join you because I’m sure he or she is feeling the same way too.

College is a time of change and with it comes stress, anxiety, and homesickness. Many people experience these things yet no one talks about it.  Perhaps if we got people talking about it, it would make the transition from home to college a lot smoother.

Best Note Taking: Sketchnote On The iPad

Lecture. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Enough with the cramming and the hand-cramping, it’s time to upgrade your note taking with skectchnoting. And if that isn’t futuristic enough for you, try it out on you iPad.

What is sketchnoting?

Sketchnoting is visual note taking. It is becoming more and more popular as a way to capture, understand, and retain content. With sketchnoting you are taking an idea and asking yourself how you can represent that idea visually. The sketcher turns the speaker’s words into symbols, objects, arrows, dividers, bubbles, boxes, colors, and typography.

Why sketchnote?

Your drawings become visual mnemonics. Those who turn their words into drawings, making use of visual thinking, improve recall my 29 percent. Sketchnoting forces you to pay attention. And by making connections between concepts and making the material meaningful to you, you increase your retention of that content. Sketchnoting allows you to ditch the age-old linear note taking and layout your information in a format that flows logically and easily for you.

Another great reason for skechnoting: sketchnotes are more creative and visually appealing than standard note taking. By the end of the lecture you will have a work of art and an interesting study guide for later review!

Upgrading the upgrade: Sketchnoting on the iPad.

If you aren’t fond of dealing with papers, the iPad makes an excellent sketch notebook. You will need a sketch app for iPad.

Apps I recommend for sketchnoting: GoodNotes and Sketchbook Pro.

With Sketchbook Pro you might want to get an iPad stylus (using your fingers may produce undesirable results!).

GoodNotes has some nice features that assist in sketchnoting. What I like about this app is that you can move information/text/illustrations around as you please (no wasting time erasing!). You can also choose what kind of paper you want to use depending on your needs (lined, graphed, plain, or music).

Remember: To get the most out of sketchnoting you’ve got to make your drawings meaningful. If you give your drawings some spunk and personality, the more useful your sketchnotes will be for you.

Happy sketching!


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