Archive for February, 2011

A Different Education Math

Minnesota spend about $8500 per student each year. It fails somewhere in the middle among the states. So for a class of 30, you have a pool of $255,000 to work with. What could you do with that kind of money?

Well first thing you’ll need is a classroom for 200 days. I’ve booked a lot of meeting rooms and you can get a nice space in a nice hotel for about $250 a day. That’s $50,000. But that includes all the clean up and AV. Average teacher salary is $50,000. So let’s take two of those. We’ve spent $150,000 so far. What to do with the rest?

I know, let’s get them a health club membership. Let’s do $40 per month per student for 9 months. That’s about $10,000.

While you wouldn’t get everyone a new laptop every year, you can get a nice one with software for about $500 each. I got one just like that on my desk. That’s $15,000. Some hotels let you use their internet for free.

So know we only have $125,000 left. We can buy a lot of educational stuff like books for $2000 a student. Now we only have $65,000 left.

I know, let’s get two teacher’s aids at $30,000 each. Now we’re left with only $5,000 for other stuff.

So we have a nice airy classroom that’s always clean. We have two teachers and two teacher aids. Every kid can go to the health club every day. Everyone has a laptop and new books. Must be funny math. I wonder what we could do with the $14,000 per student Washington D.C. spends.

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Looking for a Hero

In 1934, Clark Gable took off his shirt in the movie “it happended one night,” he showed a bare chest and the undershirt industry went in the tank. When John Kennedy showed up at his inaguration without a hat, the hat industry tanked. So what we need now is a real leader to stop wearing ties.

I’ve always said that when someone is wearing a tie, it says to the world, “hey I own a tie.”

We could also use a hero for sport coats and suits.

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Think about all the movies you’ve seen about the future.  People live in a dark, dirty world in medieval garb and fueldalistic societies.  Put a lazer gun in Attilla the Huns hands and you’ve got a space movie.  Sometimes they just aren’t paying to close attention.  Here’ s my favoriate example.  In the movie the 6th day with Arnold Swartzenegger, they explore the issue of cloning.  The future is ruled, you guessed it, by one evil corporation.  They can clone anything.  In fact, every a bad guy is killed, a clone is ready for replacement.  When they clone someone, they can add or take away any medical problems.  However, the head evil guy is wearing glasses.  Every time he comes back he’s wearing glasses.  Obviously in the future they are incapable of laser eye surgery.  There is no reason for any movie set  a few hundred years in the future for anyone to be wearing glasses.  Here’s the trailer from that movie.

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Greatest Records in Sports

This is always a fun discussion at sports bars.  There are a few feats in sports that are so out of the ordinary that it’s unlikely lightning will strike twice.  We just watch on TV the other day Secretariat winning the triple crown at Belmont by 31 lengths.  I don’t think will see anything like that again.

But may favorite unbreakable record is Byron Nelson’s 1945 season.  Noone has come close to all the records broken in the season.  Not Ben Hogan, Not Arnold Palmer, Not Jack Nicklaus, Not Gregg Norman and Not Tiger Woods. 

Here’s the season to remember.  In 1945, Bryon Nelson played in 30 official tournaments.  He was the winner in 18.  Second best was 13 by Ben Hogan.  Tiger Wood’s best season was 9.  But that’s not the most impressive part of that season.  The streak of 11 in a row seems nearly impossible.  Check out the margin of victory during the streak:

  1. Miami International Four-Ball (team tournament)
  2. Charlotte Open, won by 4 strokes
  3. Greater Greensboro Open, won by 8 strokes
  4. Durham Open, won by 5 strokes
  5. Atlanta Open, won by 9 strokes
  6. Montreal Open, won by 10 strokes
  7. Philadelphia Inquirer, won by 2 strokes
  8. Chicago Victory National Open, won by 7 strokes
  9. PGA Championship (match play)
  10. Tam O’Shanter Open, won by 11 strokes
  11. Canadian Open, won by 4 strokes

Some people question that seaon because he won only one major.  However, in 1945 that was the only major played.  Some people question the competition, but Sam Sneed played in 27 tournaments that year and Hogan played in 17.  How likely is it that any golfer could win 11 times in a row in a three man tournament with Sneed and Hogan.  Except for Tiger Woods, no one on tour today has the record of Sneed and Hogan.  The closest in tour wins is Phil Mickelson with 38.  Hogan won 62 and Sneed 82.  Vijay Singh as won 34 but other than that noone has won more than 19. 

Byron Nelson has some other impressive records that still hang around.  He has 19 consequetive rounds under 70.  That’s almost five complete tournments.  He also finished in the top 20 in 113 times in a row. 

Bryon Nelson retired at the age of 34.  That’s the prime time for many of today’s golfers.  Vijay the most successful 40 something won 22 of his tournaments in his 40s.  Tiger Woods just turned 35.

Want to see the founder of the modern golf swing in action.

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I find it interesting that many well know magicians are renown skeptics, Penn and Teller perhaps the most famous.  I think that once you know how the trick is done, you can see it when it happens in other forms.  Siegfried and Roy really don’t make the tigers disappear, it just looks like it.  Since they are on stage, we really don’t concern ourselves with whether it’s real or not.  unfortunately, there are a host of things that are passed off as real that are easily faked. 

I find it fascinating when a TV show uses a game or three card monty or find the Queen.  The hero can always find the Queen while others can’t.  Yet it’s a simple card trick.  There are about a dozen moves or passes that allow the dealer to control where the Queen is or whether it’s there or not.  Yet people stand around and bet on a magic trick. 

When things are done for entertainment, all well and good.  However, it can be harmful and even deadly when done to deceive for other purposes.  It’s easy to fake a medical cure because a placebo will work in 30 to 50% of cases.  (Basically, a lot of things get better on their own.)  So if you create a device and claim it cures something, at least 30% of the time it will.  That’s a lot of positive testimonials for that product.  Think of a claim that a natural herb promotes weight loss.  Well it will in 30 to 50% of cases.  Equally as well as a sugar pill.  So people waste their money on basically a magic trick. 

I found this interesting quick clip about Astrology.  For entertainment purposes only.

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In a corporate setting, it’s rare to find someone who is good at curriculum design, writing training and presenting training in a classroom.  They are very different skill sets that take a long time to get really good at.  As a result, most organizations hire different individuals to fill these roles.  Traditionally teachers have done all these roles and I would suspect, some are better and some of these than others.  It also leads to making every classroom different.  And based on normal statistical distribution, some are excellent, some are mediocre and some are really bad.  Therefore, I think it only makes sense to reexamine what teachers do to see if the quality can be more consistent and that teachers focus their time on what they do best or that we find teachers to fill much more defined roles.

Since my degree was in teaching history, I’ll use it as an example.  However, what I purpose should work for anything.  First, there is a lot of history that is simply about telling the story.  While there is a lot of disagreement about interpreting the story, that basics of what happened are fairly standard.  So what’s the best way to tell the story about the War of 1812.  I think the worst way would be a lecture.  For one reason, once you’ve heard it, it’s gone.  And second, half the class is already nodding off.  While there may be great lectureres, the vast majority of history teachers probably don’t hit that standard. 

Last week I saw a history channel special on the War of 1812.  Because of the reenactments and the high production values, I really learned a lot that I had never heard before.  While these are expensive to produce, if the cost is divided among 150,000 classrooms each year, year after year, it’s probably not.  The idea of giving the same content in a high quality is attractive to me.  Maybe if you identified the best lecturer or the top 10 and they gave all the lectures via web conference that might work as well.

No the teachers role is to discuss how to intepret are to apply the lessons of the events.   However, every teacher doesn’t need to figure out how to do this.  This can be standardized using the best practices and creative input of the best of the best.  A teacher can focus on practicing and getting really good at being a discussion leader and coordinating the learning activities recommended.  If this is structured well, class should seem more similar than different.  I shouldn’t make that much difference which school you were in.

I know your saying, but what about the differences in students.  While some students do need more help that others, they all need to learn the same things.  I think it’s important to not affect those who are doing just fine by those who aren’t.  Other teachers could specialize in helping those who need more.  Some may simply need to repeat things two or three times.  Trying to do everything for everyone in each classroom is a losing proposition. 

Finally, let’s talk testing.  For history at least, I’m in favor of eliminating all multiple choice, fill in the blanks, matching and true/false tests.  While  they are easy to score and compare, they really don’t test deep understanding and the ability to apply what’s learned.  Tests should all be writing and speaking on a topic.  In fact, I don’t like to do these as a surprise.  I think students can be told on day one what they will need to write and speak about so they can prepare along the way.

If these same type of testing is done year after year, students ability to write and speak about history will greatly improve and that’s really the point of teaching history.  This does put the pressure on other classwork to teach writing and speaking but I’d say that was a good thing.  Learning how to write well takes a lot of practice and it’s not just English classes.  Think about how many pages a student should write in K-12 to become a good writer.  If everyone wrote a page a day, that would be about 2,400 pages.  Maybe about 500 presentations.  I think that might do it.

Bottom line until we challenge the idea of teachers doing traditional things in traditional classrooms we will always have the good, the bad and the ugly of education.

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Do You Hear What I Hear?

Have you ever heard of a Mondegreen?  No, it has nothing to do with the environment.  It’s usually relates to music where you hear something different than the actual lyrics.  Sometimes happens with a bad recording or poor enunciation by the singer.   For the etimology go to Mondegreen.  It comes from an old ballad where a young girld thought the last line was and Lady Mondogreen.  The real line was And Laid Him on the Green.

So here are some famous Mondegreens you may know:

Jimi Hendrix (Purple Haze)    —   Actual — ‘scuse my while I kiss this sky  — Heard — ‘sxcuse me while I kiss this guy.

Neil Diamond — Actual — Forever in bluejeans — Heard –  Reverend bluejeans

Better yet, here’s a video with a nice string of mondogreens.

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