All posts for the month February, 2014

Blizzard bags are busywork

Published February 26, 2014 by justicewg

Flickr user Forgottengenius (cc)

Super O’Reilly has emailed about a new program the schools will be using for any future emergency days off. “Blizzard Bags” have no snow inside, and for most students there will be no physical bag. From everything I have read about the content of this new program, the bags are shorthand for busy work, something to plug into the formula that shows education has continued even though the school has missed a day. O’Reilly’s email is after the jump.

There are two big problems in assigning material to students on snow days, the first is that the books that are needed to continue the flow of instruction are probably sitting in a locker at school. Even if the assignment would use supplementary material that could be accessed online, there is no guarantee that all students have the computers and bandwidth to do this work (a smart phone may be nearly universal for kids, but the ability to use it to complete a class assignment is not). This results in the B.B. assignment becoming a supplement to the class that has a two week completion date.

The second problem is that class work can be highly sequential, first concept A is taught, which is used to introduce concept B, then C, etc. Math classes depend on this sort of learning almost exclusively. When a snow day hits unexpectedly, the teacher can’t expect everyone to faithfully keep up the flow of instruction on a day out of school. The B.B. material will be a review of old material, which can be good, but for most students will be seen as busy work.

I understand the thinking in introducing Blizzard Bags, nobody wants to tack on extra days to the school year or require students to attend Saturday classes because of extra bad winters. The problem is that the B.B. assignment is not as good as real classroom time, and making a poor replacement for lost days is not the way to improve the teaching experience.

This also pushes open the door a bit for online classes to be used as a replacement for real classroom instruction with a teacher. As more classroom material (books, quizzes, etc.) are placed online, the idea that a B.B. day of online instruction is “good enough” can lead to it being used in more classes. The actual experience of online instruction has shown it is far inferior, it is a terrible replacement for real classes in front of real teachers. It is cheap though, and in the present mania to cut all government costs, cheap often trumps good.

O’ Reilly’s email about the Blizzard Bags follows:

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Kids say the darndest things

Published February 17, 2014 by justicewg

dead_birdThe H.S. administration is upset about a new twitter account that has been set up for kids to post anonymous tell-all confessions about the bad things they are up to. Tweet after tweet has kids bragging about vandalism, drug use, sexual encounters, etc. I think what really got the school upset is that there are a few kids making thinly disguised stories about having sex with teachers. The email from H.S. principal Chaffin is posted after the jump.

This social media acting out has been going on for as long as the internet has been around. I looked back in the archives of the old blog and found a post that covers much of the same issues. Back in 2007, the big scandal was kids writing insulting things about teachers on MySpace. I wrote some emails to the super back then, I think they are still pretty relevant to what is happening now. This quote from those exchanges gets to the nub of the issue:

There are two primary facts that have to be kept in mind when you are dealing with a situation where kids are doing bad things on the Internet.

1. Back when we were kids, there was a lot of writing on restroom stall walls that insulted teachers, other students, etc. That’s the nature of kids.
Now we have the Internet, which allows kids to write insults on a much bigger wall that can be seen by more people. But the best way to deal with this kind of childish behavior is no different than back in the old days. You paint over the insults, and move on. Making a big deal out of it just feeds into the power of the wall-scrawler.
All Internet websites have contact info for the administrators of the websites, and an e-mail to them asking for the deletion of offensive content will quickly cause the webpage to be removed. That is the best tactic to suggest to any parent or teacher who reports content that they feel is insulting to them personally.

2. You, as superintendent, are not the Internet police. You have influence over the things that happen in the school, but the things that happen on the Internet – even things that involve kids at the school – are not under your control. The job of “Internet cop” is not part of the school’s mission, and it would be futile to start down that path.

I don’t want to be unsupportive of kids who are being harassed on the internet. When it happens in large amounts over an extended time, it is reasonable for the school to help the kid get the offending material removed. Same for teachers, they shouldn’t have to put up with a campaign of harassment.

But the overwhelming majority of the confessions on this new twitter account are not aimed at any one person, they are just stuff like “Got drunk and had sex before the superbowl -OHS” , “I’m a senior and have a boyfriend but still hookup with my ex on the weekends” -Desales, “A freshman used bible pages to roll joints” -Columbus Academy.

If the school is trying to get this twitter account shut down because of stuff like this, they are being the internet police. Good luck with that! To Chaffin’s credit, he does acknowledge it is a futile task.

Once this twitter feed is taken down, there will likely be another one in a short amount of time if past trends continue.

If that is true, why even try to get it shut down?

This is the email that was sent out by principal Chaffin:
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Shovel the sidewalk!

Published February 14, 2014 by justicewg

Walking around town you notice that the majority of people are out shoveling the sidewalk in front of their house, even after they have gotten so sick of the shovel they are ready to move to Puerto Rico (do they have snow? If it is possible, they probably have some now).

Some people though just will not shovel. They might have some reason – might be too old to be out risking a heart attack, might have some physical disability. Still, as a home owner, you have the responsibility to get the sidewalk shoveled, it is the (probably not enforced) law. You can afford a house, hiring somebody to shovel shouldn’t be that hard.

I thought about knocking on some doors and asking some Grandview residents just why they didn’t shovel their sidewalk. But – people who don’t care about the safety of the people using their sidewalk probably don’t have any problem telling me to stick my head in a snowbank. So instead, I took some photos and I’ll try to guess why these people can’t be bothered to shovel. These pics were all taken on Friday, at least 5 days after the last snow.

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