Classroom technology

Technology can be really helpful when teaching.  I cannot actually imagine not teaching my classes in a “smart” classroom these days.  I could replace powerpoint with overheads, but to be able to show youtube clips of campaign ads, etc., or trace a piece of legislation through Thomas is great and really adds to the class.  That said, the technology triumphalists really annoy me.  It’s still all about engaging students and technology is just a small piece of that.  Anyway, interesting piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education about a new plan which seems to suggest good teaching in the 21st century is dependent upon technology.  To wit:

Mr. Dede’s arguments (in more bureaucratic language) form the basis of a new National Educational Technology Plan, issued in draft form in March by the U.S. Department of Education. “The challenge for our education system is to leverage the learning sciences and modern technology to create engaging, relevant, and personalized learning experiences for all learners that mirror students’ daily lives and the reality of their futures,” says the plan, which he helped write.

Like I said, I like technology, but I just don’t buy that bit of jargon.  Should the classroom experience really “mirror” my students’ daily lives.  Should I start texting them questions in the classroom?  Have them right an instant blog post on their smart-phone rather than raising their hand and sharing their opinion?  Maybe I’m just a 20th century dinosaur.

Fareed gets domestic

I’m a big fan of Fareed Zakaria.  Truth is, though, he tends to pull his punches a bit when talking about domestic US politics– a bit too much of the pox on both their houses approach.  He lets loose pretty good here, though, on the GOP approach to the economy and taxes:

For the past few months, we have heard powerful, passionate arguments about the need to cut America’s massive budget deficit. Republican senators have claimed that we are in danger of permanently crippling the economy. Conservative economists and pundits warn of a Greece-like crisis in which America will be able to borrow only at exorbitant interest rates. So when an opportunity presents itself to cut those deficits by about a quarter — more than $300 billion! — permanently and relatively easily, you would think that these people would be leading the way. Far from it.

The “Bush tax cuts,” passed in 2001 and 2003, remain the single largest cause of America’s structural deficit… According to the Congressional Budget Office, nearly half the cost of all legislation enacted from 2001 to 2007 can be attributed to the tax cuts.

Those cuts are set to expire this year. Republicans say they want to keep them all, even for those making more than $250,000 a year (less than 3 percent of Americans), because higher taxes will hurt the recovery. But for months Republicans have also been arguing that the chief threat to the economy is our gargantuan debt and deficit. That’s what’s scaring consumers, creditors and businesses. Yet given a chance to address those fears by getting serious about deficit reduction, they run away…

The idea that the average American is overtaxed is a nice piece of populist pandering. In fact, federal taxes as a percentage of the economy are at their lowest level since the Truman administration…

The simple facts are these: All of the Bush tax cuts were unaffordable. They were an irresponsible act of hubris enacted during an economic boom…

We have one of the smallest governments among all the world’s rich countries. Yet we refuse to pay for it

Anyway, these are all excellent points.  I wish your average political reporter seemed to understand them instead of just parroting GOP spin; or at least giving us the ridiculous “Republicans say…  Democrats say…” when the situation on taxes is simple what “the facts say…”

Palin speaks; why do people listen?

Sarah Palin says something offensive and ridiculous about Obama.  Does this really count as news?  Isn’t this just dog bites man?  From today’s Post:

Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin said Sunday that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) has “the cojones” that President Obama “does not have” to take on illegal immigration.

As long as she keeps getting the coverage for this absurdity, she’ll keep doing it.  Dear mainstream media: please stop.

The Irony of Advanced Placement

So, I was having lunch on Friday with a friend who teaches High School history in Wake County.    We had a great and wide-ranging discussion about teaching at both the college and HS level.  He’s going to be teaching an AP class for the first time this year.  It occurred to me that when you are teaching AP American Government there is a very specific set of standards, created by the College Board, to which you need to teach, or your students will fail poorly on the AP test.  You probably won’t be surprised to learn that I scored a 5 on the AP American Government test 20 years ago.  Wish I hadn’t, though.  As good a job as Connie Peduzzi did teaching me Government, no way could it have compared to the class I ended up placing out of at Duke (I think I’ve done alright in understanding American Government, nonetheless).

Anyway, it struck me as a great irony that in order to get college credit for American Government via AP test, you have to take a class which adheres to a very strict set of standards about what you are supposed to learn about our government.  Yet, ironically, there are, of course, really no standards at all for a college class on American Government.  As long as I do not go totally crazy with topic matter, I’m not really accountable to anyone.  I spend a couple weeks on elections and less than a week on Congress.  Some people do the opposite.  I spend a week specifically on policy– until 2007, I spent none.  So, you take my class vs. Cobb’s class vs. any of our grad students teaching the course, and you’ll get quite coverage of material– none of it quite the same as what the College Board wants.  I’m pretty curious how my students would do on their standards (I definitely spend less time on the Founding than they want).  I did look through, and I’m pretty sure  that I’d still get a 5 if I had to take it today :-).

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