Sunday, March 20, 2011

Tedious tech

I accidentally clicked on an old Parallels Edubuntu virtual machine instead of Windows, and thought, okay, might as well update it -- it was several hundred days (over 800? is that possible? not launched since I played around with setting up an Edubuntu server at the school in late 2008? Which never went anywhere.)

Several hours later, after downloading and installing all of the packages, cleaning up, rebooting -- oops, the X server wouldn't load, so no GUI. It was probably to be expected -- I have held off on upgrading the Parallels Desktop client -- I felt Nova was just randomly changing the product to keep a cash stream flowing. But this update might actually be necessary to get the latest Edubuntu to work.

So the new Parallels finally finished downloading, but before I upgrade it, I'm thinking I should back up the Windows disk images, just in case. So I do that backup, and twenty minutes later, I'm ready to install Parallels 6, but the installer informs me that an update is available, and I should download that.

And at the same time, I have been trying to get my tweets -- which I don't do very often -- to automatically show up on my Facebook page. The Twitter app for Facebook (which has a useless and ambiguous interface) is supposed to do that, but for some reason it stopped working. Sorting out problems with Twitter and Facebook seems like a hopeless cause. I found another Facebook app called Selective Tweet which only posts tweets that end with #fb. That seems to work, and the help page is, well, helpful.

While trying to write this, the Google search widget on this blog has stopped showing search results. Not a Firefox 4.0 issue, as it happens with Safari too. Finding help on Google products is a tedious process, sifting through Google Search results, with no date filter (the blogger search widget seems to have a history of problems).

I tried to make this post as boring as the process that it documents. But it is also a test to see if the change I made to Twitterfeed, to post these blog updates to both Twitter and Facebook, works. Because every word is precious.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Diane Ravitch in Chicago

Diane Ravitch, author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education and frequent critic of what she refers to as "corporate education reform" spoke to over 400 people on Saturday (March 12, 2011) at the UIC Forum. The event was sponsored by the Chicago Teachers Union.

An iPhone is not the easiest thing to take notes on, but here is an assortment of what I was able to take down. The bits below end up sounding like tweets, and it so happens Ravitch is a prolific tweeter ("I am not on Facebook").

"Is this an age of insanity or an age of stupidity?"

"[Corporate education reformers are ] standing on children to push agenda. School reform as a front to destroy public sector unions."

Referring to events unfolding in Wisconsin and there potential impact on education there, "Where is Arne Duncan? Will Arne Duncan meet me in Madison? Where is President Obama?" And "Money was not the point. -- killing collective bargaining was the real goal.

"We can't let the corporate reformers destroy public education."

"The NCLB mandate [that all students be proficient in reading and math by 2014] is utopian. It can't be met. No country has done it. NCLB is a timetable for the destruction of public education. Private entrepreneurs are waiting in the wings." By analogy, if NCLB was extended to police departments: "If the United States is not crime-free by 2014, close all of the police departments, and give a badge to anyone who wants one."

"The future of public education is in the balance. It is the cornerstone of democracy. It should not be privatized."

Synonyms for Race to the Top:
  • NCLB 2.0
  • Race to the Trough
  • Dash to the Cash

On testing:
  • "Testing is not the same thing as instruction."
  • "Take test scores with a box of salt."
  • "Testing is not a science." Testing is a social construction.
  • "Data is just a representation of reality, it is not reality."
  • "How can you evaluate teachers on data that is meaningless."
  • "We need a broader vision of education. We need tests for diagnostic purposes. But high stakes testing is a corruption of the test."
Poverty is the the problem, not teachers. Where the Harlem Children's Zone (Geoffrey Canada, hero of Waiting for Superman) succeeds, it is because it is an antipoverty program. Poor children arrive at school with an achievement gap already in place. Teachers had nothing to do with that. Education in the United States as a whole is not failing, only poor peoples' schooling.

"Merit pay makes no difference." See work by Daniel Pink and Edwards Deming.