Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Opening the GATES to Education?

Bill Gates - he's maybe not the evil megalomaniac that he gets made out to be.  This guy is actually pretty smart.  Watch his TED talk.  The first half is about mosquitos and malaria.  It is ok (especially the part where he releases live mosquitos into the audience) - but then quickly get to the good part - the part about the education system.  (Well the American education system anyways).  I don't agree with everything that he says but his message is definately worth listening to.  He approaches education from a slightly corporate mindset.  While initially I find that disturbing I have to think about it.  He is the key part of a highly successful and innovative company (despite what the Apple propaganda wants you to believe.)  He knows how to succeed and he knows how to effect change.  He IS worth listening to.

Bill Gates does push the current bandwagon - data and assessment.  His message about it is different though.  Don't use the data to identify who is weak and what teachers are terrible - use it to celebrate those that are good.  Put them up as examples and say - "Here is a good teacher - his/her students learn more over the course of the year.  Learn from this teacher."

He also talks about KIPP schools (Bill Gates likes them - no that does not make them evil).  If you have never heard of KIPP schools then you should read up on them too.

Watch it.  Listen with an open mind.  As I said before - he IS worth listening to.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mine? Mine? Mine?

Who owns what we create?

I mean as teachers - if I create something on school time who does it belong to? Is it mine? I made it. Or does it belong to the division? We did make it while being paid by them. (For that matter when exactly does school time end? I am paid on a salary not by the hour.) If I leave am I obligated to leave a copy of what I created? Do I even have the right to take it with me?

If an architect designs a building - it belongs to the company they work for. An engineer's work belongs to the firm. Who does my work belong to? Do I even have the right to offer it up as Creative Commons work? (Like virtually all of my work is?) What is the story with university research? Does it belong to the researcher - the university - or is it a shared copyright?

I know that there are special exceptions in the Canadian Copyright laws for education but how far does it go?

I don't know. But for the record - (to any of my bosses) - you can use anything I create, just keep me happy enough and we won't have to get into the discussion of whether I can take it with me.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Value of Time

I have been thinking about time. We always complain that we don't have enough time for collaboration. There is not enough time in the day to get together and work with other teachers.  We are to busy teaching. Administrators need to give us more time for collaboration. We need time to have those meaningful conversations with our peers. (complain, complain, complain)  Yes, I am part of that crowd.

I think I have found an hour a day of regularly uninterrupted collaboration time. Nobody is really going to like the answer.

It came to me when I thought about this past year in teaching. It had been my busiest yet. I am always feeling rushed. The only real reason I could come up with was the fact that I switched carpools. My new carpool always wants to leave right after school. Always. In fact they often call me on the intercom to hurry up. I knew this when I joined but I am too frugal (cheap) to drive myself every day.

I am sure you can see where I am going with this. How many of us are out the door shortly after the bell? We all use similar excuses - I need to get home to my family, I have prior engagements, I am to burnt out at the end of the day. How many other jobs do you get to put in 6 hour workdays? Oh but I do my work at home. Ya, so much for your argument about family.  Add in the fact that it is harder to collaborate with others from a distance.

One hour at the end of the day would give us lots of time to get things done (both together and alone). Think how much better we would do if we were not trying to squeeze in collaboration during time we are supposed to be focusing on actually teaching.