Thursday, March 17, 2011

Accountability in Education

This post is really inspired by the idea of Rafiq Kalam Id-Din about creating teaching firms. Thanks to Gideon Burton for putting the article up on Diigo.

I am not going to go into the details of what Rafiq's idea is; you can read about it in the link above. I just want to make a quick comment about why I think it is a good idea and maybe put some questions out there.

First off, I think his idea is great because it centers around accountability. I think one of the major disconnects in education right now is knowing who is accountable for what. It often seems that when problems arise people point fingers each other and say that everyone else besides themselves is accountable. It is a hard situation because kids are learning to be accountable and the transition to adulthood is not clear cut. I will say that I attribute much of my educational success to my parents because they help me accountable. I always knew that I would have to report back to them. Even now I know I have to do well in college or else I will lose the money that they provide for tuition.

So I would say that a break down in education comes when students do not have someone to be accountable to. If they do not have the support system they need at home it makes it very difficult to succeed. It is not impossible but much more difficult. If you look at some of the great success stories of education, the success came when the students became accountable to the teacher. (Erin Gruwell-Freedom Writers; Jaime Escalante ) The teacher became the support system when the home environment was lacking it.

I am not trying to say that having a teacher replace the home is ideal, good, or even appropriate in all situations but everyone should be given the best opportunity to learn and gain an eduction as possible. If this new teaching firm system can do that, I am all for it.

Now quickly for some questions. My first question is who will be funding these programs? Rafiq talks about teachers in these programs making upwards of 150,000 a year. Where will that money come from? Will these schools be private and the students have to pay to enter? If that is the case I am not sure that this system will work. The kids that need the help are the mainly ones that some from minority backgrounds and low socioeconomic level families. They cannot afford a private school. Is the money going to come from the state? I hate to say that I really doubt the states will jump to fund these programs if they cost more than the existing system. States are having a hard time funding the existing system as it is and we are seeing huge changes within all government programs right now. (Also quick note, I don't think that the federal government should step in on this. Education is a states right and I don't think the federal government should be heavily involved. Personal opinion.)

So that is my take on everything. I look forward to following this issue more.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Political Bitching

Okay, so first off it has been a while. No really explanation for that I just want you to know that I acknowledge that also. Secondly I could really think of a better title for what I want to say so please chime in with any ideas you might have.

This entire thing has really been building up in me for the last little while. I don't know if any of you have noticed but the animosity in politics seems to have grown to extreme amounts over the past little while. I don't think that the severity of comments has gotten much worse but the amount of arguing and fighting seems to have skyrocketed. There are always extremist out there and I think that they are necessary to bring in knew ideas and keep things going but I have always thought that politicians should be more moderate and take into account new ideas and work together to make decisions that will benefit the people. The problem is that it seems more and more common for people of one party to target members of another party. It is irrational.

I also realize that the system is messed up right now. We are fighting numerous dead end wars; we have a huge federal debt that is growing; the economy is in the tank and in general it is not the best time that the USA has ever seen. But so what? It happens and we work through it. Yelling at each other doesn't fix problems. It just makes people vindictive. And what happens when people are not mature enough to settle differences like grown-ups? People die.

I am sure you all noticed the tragic shooting in Tucson. I am not going to point fingers and say who is to blame for that because it would be impossible to define all of the factors that led up to that event but I will say that we should not have to turn on the tv and watch that kind of news.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The End is Just the Start of a New Beginning

So I am going to frank. The whole reason that I started this blog was because it was required for my class. Its pretty simple. But now the class has come to an end and I am really going to miss all of it. I wouldn't say that I have fallen in love with blogging and I think that I would classify myself more as a person who likes to listen to conversations rather than a person who initiates them or plays a major role in them, but I will say that I have really enjoyed the things that I have learned because of my class and maintaining a blog.

#1- The process is just as important as the final product. I always bought into the dogma that the final result of something carried the most benefit. Now I am glad to say I have realized that the process that we take to reach a goal, whether that goal is a school report or some other object, is just as helpful to people as the goal itself. I am not talking about the intrinsic benefit that comes to a person as they learn but I am saying that as we include more people in the process leading up to a goal the outcome is better and those people also benefit.

#2- A man is not an island. This is not necessarily a new view of mine but merely an altered one. The ability to connect with people with new digital tools almost limitless. I think that Kristen taught showed me possibilities the best with her research in India.

#3- Its not about what you know. Its about who you know, what they know, what you know that they don't know and how you both can teach each other what you both don't know. Knowing something is only meaningful if you share it with those around you and don't worry if yo do not know something because you probably know someone that knows tons about that one thing that you are trying to figure out. Get connected and learn.

Just to wrap up I want to say that my Digital Civilization class has been amazing. I have learned more in this class that I can readily apply to my life than any other class I have ever taken. Here is a list of the digital tools that I learned how to use that I will continue using:

-Google Reader
-Wigits on Blogs
-Use Google Sites
-Alternate Search Engines
-How to embed Video
-How to write a blog
-Photo Editing

And the list continues. So in the words my friend:
To infinity and beyond!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Song of the Week

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Blog Post Nominations

Historical Content
[IMG_1361.JPG]   - Kristi does a great job of summing up some of the ideas about Modernism. Quick to the point and uses good examples and ties in different aspects of the period together.

Self Directed Learning
My Photo   - I really like this post from Kristen. I was unsure of what to categorize it under but I decided on self-directed learning because it shows how she learns something about interacting with people and then applies it to her research. She took advice from Jay about her interview questions and then incorporated it into her discussion with Norbu. Shows how she uses connection with others online to learn.

Digital Concepts
Jeffrey Whitlock - jeff_whitlock
   - Jeff shows a great understanding of digital culture in this post when he talks about the network effect. I also really like how he is able to show how digital culture affects his own personal life. The examples he uses from his own life make it easier for me to understand the concepts and see how they are applied.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Citizen Journalism: By the People for the People

I want to put up some quick thoughts about journalism. The internet is an amazing thing and it is revolutionizing nearly every aspect of our world. Journalism is definitely at the center of that revolution and over the past years there have been considerable growing pains associated with all of it. Tradition media and news sources have been rocked by all of these changes. I am going to discuss just one of the new frontiers that has emerged because of the new technology, citizen journalism.

The basis for citizen journalism is that it is news created by the normal citizens. People that are not trained professionally in journalism but still make efforts to report on events in their area or give opinion on what is happening in their nation. This has appeared as an economical way of presenting news especially on a local level. Since many news corporations are feeling the money pinch(newspapers taking the major hit) that has come with free media available online, they have cut news that does not appeal to a wide audience. Essentially they are eliminating unprofitable news in hopes of staying alive and in the black. So citizen journalism as stepped in to fill these gaps, or at least says that is doing that.

Citizen are able to become journalists themselves because the amount and effort required to be published has be reduced to almost zero by the internet and other tools. Virtually everyone as a digital camera of some sort, whether on their cell phone or in their purse. So when news 'breaks' they can just take a picture and upload it instantly to the internet. So when a mysterious missile appears in the sky off of the California coast, why wait for the mainstream media to tell you what it is? Just snap a photo and put your own conspiracy theories online via Twitter.

The digital tools that make this possible are endless.
-Comments-(when you comment on anything online you participate in journalism)

So at the core of citizen journalism is the conversation that goes on about the current topics. Instead of listening to everything that someone tells you is important you decide what is and then write about it. It is the dream come true of every America. We have long since thought that we control our own destinies, now we even control the media because we are the media. Its perfect, right? Maybe, maybe not.

There are definitely things that are lost without professional journalism. Citizens just do not have the same resources that a professional journalist would have. A citizen based news group cannot travel to other countries and cover news there and I don't think that we can replicate the quality of news that professionals produce. At the same time I think that professionals often overlook opinions of the people and focus too much on making money. There definitely needs to be a healthy balance between the two. It is just going to take some time to get there.

More opinion:
Leaning more in favor of citizen journalism
Leaning more in favor of professional journalism

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Media Influence, The Fourth Branch of Government

The mass media's influence on America is huge. We live through media in one shape or another. We grow up on it and whether we trust it or not we are greatly affected by what is said in the media. From the time we are little the media that we watch colors our lives. I grew up on Disney movies and anything that Harrison Ford played in; I listened to NPR on the weekends with my dad and to talk radio in the mornings on the way to school with my mom. I had most songs by Cat Stevens, The Beatles, The Eagles, Bob Dylan, James Taylor and John Denver memorized by the time I was ten and I enjoyed reading Calvin and Hobbes comics. My opinions were greatly shaped by the media I took in and by the media I continue to ingest. Pandora Radio and Google News feeds direct much of my media consumption today.

I want to take a step back and make some brief observations on how media affects politics. I would say that media is the unofficial fourth branch of government. There are a branch of government in that they provide a huge check on what the government does. They do not check the other branches directly but they scrutinize almost everything that the government does and then report that to the people. Government officials are always worried about what their 'public image' is and many of their actions are dictated by how the media will interpret those actions to the public. Will it help them win approval and reelection? Or will is reveal all of the scandals they have been involved with over the years (Bill Clinton?).

This can be a too-edged sword. It can keep government official accountable for what they do but it can also cause them to become so engrossed in what their image is that they fail to do their real job or to keep the nation's best interests at the fore front of their minds. They are under a huge microscope 24/7. I do not envy them in the least.

The media also has great influence on the government because it has a great influence on what the public is interested in. Lets take the legal drinking age in the states. Did you know that every individual state has the right to establish its own legal drinking age? Then why is it that all of the states have uniformly adopted a minimum drinking age of 21? Long story short they were many studies in the late '70s and early '80s that showed an increase in auto accidents in states with lower drinking ages. Much of the public became interested in establishing a uniform drinking age in order to cut back on alcohol related accidents. The media reflected this sentiment and the government to notice. They passed the Uniform Drinking Age Act that restricted federal funds to states that had a minimum drinking age lower that 21. They couldn't actually mandate a uniform drinking age but they felt the pressure from the media and did the only thing they could do, they withheld money from the states that would not conform. And you all know that it worked.

This aspect of the media can also be good and bad. It can help focus the people on the issues that are most important but it can also distract people from the actual important issues. I would consider media that follows celebrities to be a huge distraction.

Some people say that mass media is all really just a conspiracy and that it is run by the 'man' but I would say that media, when used correctly, is a huge benefit to our society. It is up to us to decide what we will watch.