Tuesday, March 27, 2012

'Tis the season to be grumpy....

I thought for awhile that the articles and op-ed pieces against teachers in this nation were diminishing but apparently I was wrong.  All of a sudden a number of articles and opinion pieces showed up in newspapers, national magazines and the like.  I wondered why all of a sudden and then it dawn on me that legislatures around the country were dealing with budgets.  And in some cities, belt tightening was being enforced, particularly those school districts that are run by city councils.  Where is there a fair amount of money that can be cut?  In Education.  The goal is to cut funds, not provide education for our kids. 


As if on cue, another blog posted an article about the worst ten cities to be a teacher.  I found it interesting and looked to see if I could find some connecting link but for the moment I haven't found one.  These ten cities are all over the country in industrial areas as well as agricultural places.  You can read the article on the web at:  http://www.onlinecolleges.net/2012/03/26/the-10-worst-u-s-cities-to-be-a-teacher/.  Thanks to my friends at OnLine Colleges for the posting.


If that didn't get stuck in my craw, then I went to Amazon.com lately to look for some new books to read.  I thought I might skim a few educational textbooks.  Heaven's was I mistaken.  Textbooks range in price from $14.95 to $268.99 for a chemistry textbook.  Aw, come on now--$268.99?  But that was the price.  I am having problems looking at the prices of textbooks, particularly in the science fields.  If we want more science teachers we will have to figure out a way for those wanna-be-teachers to be able to purchase those books.  The price of most of the textbooks was high and then something caught my eye--I could RENT one of those textbooks for $32.95.  RENT THE TEXTBOOK!  Unbelievable.  


Perhaps as they say to some politicians I need to get out of my office and see what the real word is like.  


So my next spin off in my research was to find out how much school districts pay for classroom textbooks like pre-primers, social studies textbooks, and science textbooks.  I didn't look to question what workbooks cost, those newsprint soft copy books for spelling and mathematics, primarily bound work sheets.  School Districts are reluctant to give out the cost of these books as they are complicated by the fact that some textbooks last seven years, others are outdated in just a few years, i.e., software programming.  However, textbooks are a major part of a school district's budget in some cases right behind wages.  So back to the drawing board or in my case, the iPad.


I wondered how much it might cost to publish a textbook on the iPad (forget for the moment about brand specifics, such as APPLE or DELL).  According to one web site it would cost me $2.74 to publish my own book that was eight by eleven in size and a hundred pages long.  I not sure what they do for that money but it is a bit cheaper then the some of the costs I've seen published.


However, I then review the SMART BOARD which are in many classrooms.  I could write my own texts and project on the White Board.  BLACKBOARD, a software program that is formulated to allow professors and teachers to provide a basis for print material to a class room of students who have computer access. It is one of my favorite programs.  This would certainly cut down on the cost of textbooks for students if they could get the necessary material from the Blackboard.  


However, I went a step further and asked APPLE what they could do in this realm
of high costs.  They are already ahead of me...  Watch the following web site from Apple as to their new textbook idea:  http://www.apple.com/education/ibooks-textbooks/  Be sure to watch the video that is to the right of your screen--a small logo.  


Be aware that this video includes advertising material favorable to APPLE.  But I suspect that MICROSOFT is not far behind if not already pushing a similar product.  It is the idea that I want you to consider.  Put interactive textbooks on pads and let kids learn.  And an interesting point--these interactive textbooks on the pads can be up-dated and up-graded.  What a great idea.  Just like my computer software and apps now that get free up-grades whenever necessary.


You would think I'd be a happy fool given this idea of interactive textbooks for the iPad but there is a catch.  Apple appears to be willing to set the authors up but they will be charging a price.  And in reviewing some publishing houses they will be selling these textbooks for one year only.  You don't get to keep the books.  If this is true I will be very, very unhappy.  We have the technology to help students learn but we going to still make them pay.  


So what is the answer.  I don't have any answers at this point--I'm still looking and pondering.  I have downloaded two apps for my iPad and computer, the Khan Academy and TED.  However, I haven't made much use of them as yet but I shall.  I did skim the Khan Academy and even did several of the learning apps.  They are well done but I was overwhelmed by the mathematics selections--literally hundreds of learning programs.  "Which Knowledge is of Most Worth?"


I also reviewed a number of apps in the Apple App Store.  Lots of games and those that purport to teach something do so with little skill.  Once again I have people who write these programs who are not teachers.  Sad.  And a lot of the apps appear to be games, not a learning lesson.  But this will work itself out as the cream rises to the top.  I think that is where the Khan Academy has the edge--students have used their programs and have learned.  


Some years ago there was a computer program developed by the Learning Company called, "Oregon Trail."  It was (and is) and interactive learning program that has student go from St. Louis to Oregon.  The student has to make decisions as to how many oxen, how much food, who is to go along, how many bullets for hunting, etc.  It was basically well done except in the first edition of this program one had to circle the wagons when indians attacked.  My problem with that was that I had student teachers teaching in schools with a high percentage of native Americans.  Those students doing the program immediately were on the side of the indians.  "Get those white people!"  So I told the programmer of Oregon Trails and his response was, "Well, just don't use it."  I have always thought this was a teaching moment as to the clash of the two cultures.  What an opportunity to teach cultural differences.  By the way, you can now by the fifth edition of Oregon Trail for very little on Amazon.  


I suspect we'll see more of these problems as the technology develops.  


I suspect if I had a point to all of this is that there are too many people who think teachers are costing too much but are overlooking $269.00 textbooks.  I am still concerned that people who are just getting by in this society will have poor schools.  The rich people will send the kids to private schools.  It has been that way for ever, hasn't it.


Thanks to all those teachers who still want to teach, even those in the ten worse cities for teachers.  They are indeed a breed apart.  









1 comment:

  1. what is scientific notation
    Scientific Notation include in the mathematics course. In the world of science some time we deal with numbers which are very small and those which are very large. In some branches of science large numbers while in others very small numbers are used.

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