Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Potpourri of Subjects from taxes to Kindles

I have been subdued, maybe a bit sad over the news about education in our nation. More folks are writing about how we need to get rid of bad teachers. It seems that the American Federation of Teachers is endorsing teacher evaluations based on student achievement. But I have not been able to get a good read on what is behind this thinking as yet. But also in the State of Washington the State Superintendent of Education is going along with a plan to do something along the same lines. Here it seems that we are changing some state policies to evaluate teachers in order to gain access to federal monies. This state is in such dire straits financially, along with many other states, that we will do most anything to increase federal funds, private donations, company grants--anything to save education.

Already the journalists are saying that cuts in education are probably going to happen as our state legislators gather in the state capitol for their yearly session. Having been a lobbyist it is way too early to ascertain what the thinking is, what trends should we expect and what will happen to the kids. As I've mentioned in an earlier blog, when I was the president of the teachers association (yes, the union to most of you) we had really only one standard to follow--would this help students. No, we didn't always go to the legislature and ask for pay raises. And I doubt if there will be many folks this year (2010) who will be arguing in that direction. We just don't have sufficient income for the state.

What bothers me is that those that send their children to private schools will continue to do so. Lakeside school in Seattle and the Little School in Bellevue will still have small classes, sufficient supplies, field trips, and a good education will continue while the public schools will be cutting back. And, no, I don't have the answer to this perplexing problem. What to do?

I suspect public education will cut more pre-schools, release some more teachers with the result of larger classes. If music, art and theatre haven't already been eliminated, these will also go. There are tough times ahead for education and I suspect teachers on a whole will just suck it up and go about teaching their students the best they can. That is what they have always done.

On the bright side--a change of subject. I've had my Kindle for less then a month but I am quite taken with it. I've read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin, Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome, three potboilers (mystery, romance) and one How to Use My Kindle. The latter has not been that good although I have gotten tips and wander the Internet because of it. So I'm reading away. I've noticed that I watching less television at night because I'm reading more.

Here is what I have ascertained. I like reading off the Kindle. Easy on the eyes. I also like having it in a leather case, in this case, an expensive one--it feels good. So those that say they still want to feel a book ought to try a case on their Kindle. Another thing that I've noted: I read several books in the same period. For example, I'm re-reading Pride and Prejudice looking more at the sentence structure then I did when I first read it. But I only do this for a short period, then I switch to another book, like the How to on the Kindle. When I tire of that, I might switch to a potboiler or something else.

Now here is my point. Would I change readings if I were using hard copies (including paperbacks) of the books. I don't know. My wife is reading Collapse by Diamond, which I have already read a year or so ago and it is a large book. She, like me, is reading it at the dining room table for the most part. The Kindle is the answer to large books.

I have eight or so books on my Kindle. And I haven't yet tried the voice approach on it. Too busy reading--I read faster then most voice reading. However, I am day-dreaming of getting a Harlequin romance and having the Kindle read it to me. Will I get embarrassed? Will my face turn red? What primeval research this could be.

Please note that when I mention the Kindle, I also include the other eReaders in my thinking. Both Microsoft and Apple are poised to debut their own eReaders in the near future. Sony and Barnes and Noble are already on the market. I did peruse the bookstores on the web recently and was amaze at the prices of textbooks. There are a number of textbooks in the field of Instructional Technology that sell for over a hundred and twenty dollars. Lordy. No wonder some university students are dropping out of college. I would be embarrassed if I mandated a book for my class at that price. However I could live with a textbook for my class on the Kindle (or equal) for ten bucks..... I think teachers will endorse some form of an eReader for their classes that hold the students' books for that subject.

There seems to be some good stuff here. Let's say a student in high school takes beginning Biology. The next session they take Biology 2 (advance Biology, whatever you want to name it) and have forgotten something from the first course. A quick flip of their Kindle and they can review what they need to know. Had it been a traditional method of teaching, the book would have been returned and already in use for a different class. No, I like this possibility.

At the moment, I think having a laptop computer and a Kindle would be very valuable to a student in our school system. Perhaps Bill Gates could pick out a school and supple the students with these items and give it a try. Match the one school with another like school and lets measure student performance after a year. I wonder what we would find out.

Have you thanked a teacher lately for sucking it up and teaching more kids then they would like? We need to do this. Thanks to all the teachers out there working with students.


  1. Les, I agree with your thoughts about textbooks. What if students could keep everything they ever read and then simply search for content they want to revisit (rather than hunt up a physical copy)? There are so many companies out there working on "rental" strategies and reselling strategies for physical textbooks. In the era of digital abundance, those services will be less and less needed. These are the ideas I write abut at my edukindle blog.

  2. Will, thanks for your comments--a good addition. I was in shock at the price of textbooks these days. I think the prices will encourage eReaders. I wonder what would happen if students, particularly those in high school could "keep" all their books throughout their time in school. Interesting thought.

    edukindle blog? I'll look it up--sounds like it is right down my alley. Thanks for writing.