Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Playing School, Irreverently

Playing School, Irreverently: "My teaching experiences have involved a variety of encounters with this computer savvy generation which indicate that many can barely word process (electronic copies of papers that are a disaster in terms of formatting), they have poor file management skills, they are not at all adventurous with web searches, and they do not readily adapt to new programs. My summer class of freshmen barely used email. They said they didn't need it since they had cell phones -- and we all know that writing/typing sucks. Or should I say sux? ;).

I'm not actually trying to generalize in the opposite direction of all the hype, just to say that for every savvy student I've met there's been another who can or will only compute in a very limited manner. Do others share this experience? What are your students like in terms of technology skills (if you know)?"

Which American city are you?

You Are Austin

A little bit country, a little bit rock and roll.
You're totally weird and very proud of it.
Artistic and freaky, you still seem to fit in... in your own strange way.

Famous Austin residents: Lance Armstrong, Sandra Bullock, Andy Roddick
What American City Are You?

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Everyday Economist

The Everyday Economist: "The Facts About the Port Deal
February 22nd, 2006 by Josh

The recent announcement that a company from the United Arab Emirates was seeking the rights to manage six major U.S. ports has set off a firestorm of political criticism of the Bush administration on the left and the right. These attacks are entirely the result of political grandstanding. Democrats and Republicans fear that by allowing an Arab company to manage our ports, we are somehow endangering our country. Comments have even been made that the ports should only be managed by a U.S. company. Those complaints are all well and good, but here are the facts:

* The free market emphasizes specialization. Those who can best provide services should do so.
* The ports are not currently managed by a U.S. company. In fact, not one U.S. company bid to manage the ports.
* The people working at the ports will not change. The same individuals will go to work each day. The only change will be the name of the company on their paychecks.
* Those who manage the ports are not responsible for the security of those ports. Contrary to popular belief, the U.S. is not outsourcing its port security. The Coast Guard as well as U.S. Customs agents are responsible for port security.
* Critics are quick to point out that some of the terrorists who attacked the U.S. on September 11 were UAE citizens. This argument is hardly an indictment of the UAE company. After all the terrorist responsible for the London bombings were British citizens and a British company currently manages the port.
* Critics also fail to mention that the UAE was the first country in the Arab world to open its own ports to U.S. inspection."

ScrappleFace ? Kerry Backs Port Deal If NSA Taps UAE Calls

ScrappleFace ? Kerry Backs Port Deal If NSA Taps UAE Calls: "
February 23, 2006
Kerry Backs Port Deal If NSA Taps UAE Calls
by Scott Ott

(2006-02-23) — Sen. John Kerry, D-MA, announced today that he would back the sale of a British company that manages U.S. seaports to a state-owned firm in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) only if President George Bush will order the National Security Agency (NSA) to secretly wiretap phone calls and emails involving Dubai Ports World.

“If an emir in Dubai is talking to an American port manager, at the gateway of a major city, we want to know why,” said Sen. Kerry. “and we can’t allow the whiners in the civil rights movement to jeopardize our national security in the name of the so-called right to privacy.”

Sen. Kerry rejected calls for the UAE wiretaps to be approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court.

“We’re not trying to build a legal case,” said Sen. Kerry, “We’re protecting our homeland from a potential devastating terror strike. People need to wake up to the fact that we’re living in a post-9/11 world.”
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Friday, February 24, 2006

Nebraska and Desperate Housewives? A Great Plains Education for Young Celebs

Print: The Chronicle: 2/24/2006: A Great Plains Education for Young Celebs: "A Great Plains Education for Young Celebs


From her tidy 'home' on Wisteria Lane, the 15-year-old actress Andrea Bowen submits her assignments to a school 1,500 miles away, in Lincoln, Neb.

Ms. Bowen, who plays Julie Mayer on ABC's Desperate Housewives, is enrolled in Independent Study High School, a program operated by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln's Office of Extended Education and Outreach. Every day the 10th-grader meets with a proctor on the Universal Studios lot and does schoolwork for five hours through the online program.

Other celebrities, like the pop musicians Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake, and the actress Emmy Rossum (who starred in The Phantom of the Opera), have obtained their high-school diplomas from the accredited program."

No Computer Left Behind

Print: The Chronicle: 2/24/2006: No Computer Left Behind: "As it turns out, 'good enough' is precisely what multiple-choice exams are all about. Easy, mechanical grading is made possible by restricting possible answers, akin to a translator's receiving four possible translations for a sentence. Not only would those four possibilities make the work of the translator much easier, but a smart translator — even one with a novice understanding of the translated language — could home in on the correct answer by recognizing awkward (or proper) sounding pieces in each possible answer. By restricting the answers to certain possibilities, multiple-choice questions provide a circumscribed realm of information, where subtle clues in both the question and the few answers allow shrewd test takers to make helpful associations and rule out certain answers (for decades, test-preparation companies like Kaplan Inc. have made a good living teaching students that trick). The 'gaming' of a question can occur even when the test taker doesn't know the correct answer and is not entirely familiar with the subject matter."

More great connections between history and computing and thought-provoking ideas from Roy Rosenzweig.

Rating my Fellow Professors.com?

The Chronicle: Daily news: 02/24/2006 -- 03: "U. of Saskatchewan Fires Tenured Professor Accused of Maligning Colleagues on RateMyProfessors.com


Information Technology
U. of Saskatchewan fires tenured professor accused of maligning colleagues on RateMyProfessors.com

The University of Saskatchewan has fired a tenured professor after determining that he had anonymously posted disparaging messages about fellow faculty members on RateMyProfessors.com.

Stephen Berman was a math professor at the university for more than 30 years. According to an independent arbitration panel, he maligned colleagues in postings to the Web site over a seven-month period during 2002 and 2003. The site is designed for students to share their views of their professors with other students.

Barbara Daigle, associate vice president for human resources at the university, said investigations had found that Mr. Berman had crossed the line of professionalism and had disrupted the institution's work environment."


And we were worried about disgruntled students!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

To: Professor@University.edu Subject: Why It's All About Me - New York Times

To: Professor@University.edu Subject: Why It's All About Me - New York Times: "At colleges and universities nationwide, e-mail has made professors much more approachable. But many say it has made them too accessible, erasing boundaries that traditionally kept students at a healthy distance.

These days, they say, students seem to view them as available around the clock, sending a steady stream of e-mail messages — from 10 a week to 10 after every class — that are too informal or downright inappropriate."

The last statement is particularly telling: one professor comments that the "least powerful person always has to write back" . . . . ???

Chronicle Careers: 2/21/2006: What Conspiracy?

Chronicle Careers: 2/21/2006: What Conspiracy?: "To imagine the department heads, the deans, and the provost in a relationship of conspiracy is to fail to notice that every administrator is preoccupied with defending and advocating for his or her own unit -- more often than not over and against other units and their administrators."

I've always wondered about this. I loved a column a few months ago by Dean Dad referring to the "experts" who never want to hold administrative positions yet have all the answers. :-) The dichotomy that exists between working within the system and "against the system" has always puzzled me and some components are relics of the 1960s system that no longer works.

Friday, February 17, 2006


I'm getting ready to head to a superintendents forum for about 30-40 area school administrators to explain our Teaching American History grant work with the Gilder Lehrman Institute. Their traveling panels are great and teachers are really making good use of them. Winter has actually arrived and stayed for several days instead of just a day or two - not just to get the promised snow.

Am still in recovery mode from grant deadlines and the beginning of school but should be fully recharged by this weekend. Then to get everything done to be prepared for all the upcoming travel - Austin and Chicago in March will definitely be fun. My second home in April will be DC. And then, it's time to look forward to summer travel all over the place.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Graduating from College

The Chronicle: Daily news: 02/15/2006 -- 01: "Back in 1992, Jack and John graduated from high school. Each went on to attend a four-year college. By their mid-20s, Jack had received a bachelor's degree, but John had not. Why did one succeed, but not the other?

An expansive set of potential answers appears in a new national report that examines the factors that helped Jack and thousands of his peers earn a postsecondary diploma.

The report, released on Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Education, found that the rigor of a student's high-school curriculum is the strongest indicator of whether he or she will earn a college degree, regardless of major. The 'academic intensity' of students' high-school courses played a larger role than did their grades and standardized test scores, according to the report, 'The Toolbox Revisited: Paths to Degree Completion From High School Through College.'"

I'm still trying to figure out how they address all of the factors that the institutions themselves (and the faculty therein) have absolutely no control over. Even making it a popularity contest doesn't keep some students in school as the rest of their lives take over . . . . What will be most interesting is how this impacts colleges and universities - it's been coming down the hall but the snowball is getting much more ominous.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Monday Morning

It's started off as a great week. Monday morning accomplishments:

Submitted revised book proposal to publisher
Handled various emails
Grading caught up for two classes (yeah!) - that's what I really hate falling behind on
Phone Calls for home and car maintenance matters

The only bad news is that the dusting of snow melted yesterday.

Students this afternoon will be working hard on World History Lesson Plans.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

It's Snowing

Yeah - it's snowing. I don't think we'll get the large amount of snow expected on the east coast but I am grateful just the same. The cold weather finally came back but it's much more fun with snow - even if it's just a little bit.

It was great to get the grants done - as always. They are big projects. We're also still waiting to hear on a state history grant to interview veterans.

I've also been doing more work investigating podcasting on my other blog. Our dean of education is going to offer a workshop on blogging and his IT Director is going to come talk to me Thursday to visit about podcasting through Blackboard. I'm hoping we can figure out a way to partner with the iTunes university service as a way to make it more available to students. If you are interested in podcasting, check out my other blog.

Yesterday I attended a meeting for a Missouri TAH grant I'm evaluating and we discussed the latest 2007 budget proposal to cut TAH money by more than half. But, as a colleague pointed out, as long as each congressman/senator wants one in his district, there is jsut as good a chance the money will be restored.

Yesterday the dept. met with a VPAA candidate that is also a historian. We have an interesting group of candidates both internal and external. I only wish we were allowed to conduct truly national searches for our department. While our current VPAA stresses recruitment, it's very difficult when they don't support or even allow us to interview at the AHA or the OAH. Many serious candidates won't consider us if we don't consider that important.

The last two Saturdays I've been at meetings several hours from home so I am enjoying a somewhat relaxed day - relaxing except that I have to plan for courses and catch up on grading. I had to remind online students that if they have two weeks to do an assignment, the instructor has two weeks to grade it.

I'm wishing Blogenspiel luck on her job search. Been there, done that. :-)

Friday, February 10, 2006

Tightly Wound

Tightly Wound: "Snarky Question of the Day

RE: the whole Mohammed cartoon thing -

If no images of the prophet are allowed, then how do people know that the cartoons are of Mohammed?

Just wondering. I mean, we wouldn't want to have an embarrassing 'Oh! Sorry I firebombed the EU headquarters--I thought you drew the prophet, but actually now that you mention it, you're right. It might not even be him! After all, it's not like we have a bunch of graven images lying around...' moment or anything, would we?


Thursday, February 09, 2006

TAH Grants

Two more Teaching American History grants written with one submitted and the other to be submitted later this morning. The timing is never good but there's also something about the adrenaline rush that seems to lead to more increased productivity the closer the deadline gets. The actual submission deadline is today at 4pm but since I'm in office hours or meetings most of the day, I had to be done by yesterday. And I actually was. We revised two grants we submitted last year - one only missed being funded by 8 spots so we hated to mess with it too much. The agency director says these are my best work so far. Time will tell. It's amazing how much support and opportunity they have offered in regard to grant writing.

Since I am teaching at a small state regional regents university, there is little support for grant writing. As one of our administration officials said, "we tend to take grants out of the hide of the grantwriters" since there is no release time until after a grant is written. In this case, these grants will help with my almost approved year-long sabbatical on half-pay. That is the way I keep my sanity while teaching a 12-hour-load along with trying to publish and engage in service activities alongside those that have less than half that load. But these TAH grants really epitomize the reasons I left the secondary classroom to return to graduate school - to work with teachers. And it has been immensely beneficial not only to my professional growth but also to my personal growth.

Now it's time to catch up on grading and all those other things that fell by the wayside over the last two weeks. :-)

Sunday, February 05, 2006

And for Perfect Attendance, Johnny Gets... a Car - New York Times

And for Perfect Attendance, Johnny Gets... a Car - New York Times: "Whether the programs are working is an open question. At Chelsea High School this year, attendance rates actually went down, to as low as 85 percent. School officials and students said the decline occurred because the new policy also softened punishment for poor attendance. Students were no longer getting grade-point reductions for unexcused absences or having grades withheld if they had more than two unexcused days per quarter."

Friday, February 03, 2006

Apple and Learning Lessons

Confessions of a Community College Dean: "- Back in the 80’s, Apple changed the computer industry by putting out a superior piece of hardware (the Mac) that used superior software (the gui). It refused to license Mac clones, lost market share due to price, and nearly died. Now, Apple changed the music industry by putting out a superior piece of hardware (the Ipod) that uses superior software (Itunes), and it refuses to allow the Ipod to use music subscription services or to allow other mp3 players to use Itunes. Has Apple learned nothing? Sandisk now has a 4 GB flash player a hundred dollars cheaper than an ipod nano with the same memory, and it’s compatible with multiple subscription services. How long before Creative or Sandisk eats Apple’s lunch?"

Time will tell!

Follow the link to his blog - Dean Dad's comment is only a second of his several great observations I'd wish I'd made. :-)

- With the advent of hands-free cell phones, I don’t always know if the guy talking to himself in the hallway is on the phone or insane. This is vaguely unsettling.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Chronicle: Daily news: 02/02/2006 -- 01

The Chronicle: Daily news: 02/02/2006 -- 01: "The U.S. Copyright Office proposed a solution late Tuesday to the vexing problem of 'orphan' works -- older materials that people are reluctant to republish because they cannot track down the copyright owners. But the office's recommendation, backed by publishers, is unlikely to please archivists or scholars.

In a 133-page report, the office said that people who republish orphan works should pay 'reasonable compensation' if the owners of the material surface and demand payment for the use of their materials. The copyright office said its recommendation could be accomplished by amending the Copyright Act."

This is an interesting development. In the future, computers should allow us to more closely manage this but the current danger of people popping up out of the woodwork demanding large sums of money is definitely problematic to say the least.

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