Monday, May 9, 2011

Teachers Say That Google is the 3rd Best Search Engine???

An interesting article about some research the author did to see what search engine was favored. This is not an exhaustive study, but it did do a good job of talking about the differences between the search engines. 

Dogpile seemed to win...I haven't used this search engine for a while, but it did inspire me to try again. Results were very good! 

Another little-known kid safe-friendly search version of Google that I would like to mention is:


Excerpt from the article:
The results were completely surprising.  We expected Google to consistently provide the best web search results.  According to our teachers this was only true 1 out of 7 times.  Bing consistently outperformed Google’s results.

Dogpile, a meta search engine that pulls their results from both Bing and Google, had the best overall ratings.  Dogpile had a knack for always choosing winners from both Bing and Google. Here were our overall results:

5th  Place – Ask

4th Place - Blekko

3rd Place –  Google

2nd Place – Bing

1st Place – Dogpile

While Dogpile did produce consistently great results, please be aware that we just provided our teachers with the organic search results and did not include the ads that they throw in there. If you look at Dogpile’s web site and perform a web search, you will notice that about half of the results are ads. This didn’t sit well with our teachers.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Funding for Public Schools- Shock Doctrine

The Shock Doctrine Case Study: Pennsylvania Public Schools

Even though I work overseas, I like to keep a close eye on what is happening with education in the USA. STEM education, keeping our country competitive in the world are all concerns. But funding is a huge issue right now, with public employee benefits and salaries getting decimated in cost-cutting moves by various groups right now. Funding leads to quality teachers which leads to..quality kids. The article above talks about these issues as well as reform measures such as merit pay, vouchers are being looked at. I have been back and forth myself on some of these issues, but the author raises a good point about the actual cost of some of these reform measures including:

The Corbett administration supports funding a voucher system that has been demonstrated not to raise achievement test scores and ends up costing taxpayers more money. Voucher programs are not funded by some magical pot of money. Taxpayers pay for them!
Corbett also wants to develop a grading system for public schools that has the ability to wreak chaos on property values. The governor plans to implement the Keystone exams (exit exams) that national research has shown add nothing to a child's education, and in the state of California is estimated to cost over $500 million dollars a year to administer. Additionally, Corbett wants to create a merit pay system for teachers that will narrow the curriculum, end teacher collaboration and cost taxpayers even more money. As Diane Ravitch recently pointed out, "when the Vanderbilt study of merit pay was published, the U.S. Department of Education immediately released nearly $500 million for -- what else -- more merit-pay programs, and promised that another $500 million would be forthcoming. Data mean nothing when your mind is made up." Therefore, Corbett's plans for public schools will end up costing taxpayers more than the initial $589 million cut.

The point which was most interesting was about merit pay. In a competitive world, it's dog eat dog and teaching has always been and should be non-competitive. It should be collaborative. That is the hallmark of schools in Finland, Singapore, and Canada which consistently have the highest scores around.

If you know that you are being judged according to how your colleagues are performing, and you have a method that consistently keeps your test scores high for your kids, are you going to share it? Doubtful- because then it means you won't get that extra pay because the teacher down the hall now knows the method if you share it with them, and your competition is that much higher. Whose loses out? The kids of course. Good teachers will consistently shine through and share their knowledge. Those that are bad, still won't learn the tricks of the trade, and should and will be washed out of teaching anyway....

More from the article (made some good points about how the public is being "Shocked" into making uninformed decisions...)

In The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein pushes the concept of how the public can be manipulated during times of catastrophe or perceived crisis. Lately, it has been argued that the "financial crisis" is being used by market-driven reformers to undermine the public services sector. Specifically, if we look at public education, lawmakers are explicitly telling public schools that they will need to deal with less in the future because of state budget deficits. All of this is done with large support from the citizens because they are "shocked" and believe there is an economic crisis and that any publicly-supported service should be drastically cut to help bring back balanced budgets. Simultaneously, "the shockers" offer rewards in corporate tax cuts and in some cases implement new programs that end up costing the taxpayer more than the proposed cuts....more....

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Technology Literacy Framework Project

NAEP Technology and Engineering Literacy Assessment

Something that is coming down the pipe is that technology proficiencies are going to be measured in students just like other core classes (such as Math, Science, Writing, etc), starting in 2014. The US government has commissioned a group called WestEd under contract to the National Assessment Governing Board, to develop the test.

Check out their website and download documents here:

At my current school, we are developing a student self-assessment to get a snapshot of how students feel they are learning technology and 21st century skills at our school. However, we also devote time to assessing students using the NWEA test for core subjects. This does not allow much time for giving another performance assessment so a survey was felt the best we could do now. We follow an integration model where teachers with the assistance of technology coaches/coordinators, plan and deliver and assess lessons that incorporate 21st century skills and technology. Teachers do try to map tech integration into their curriculum maps, but it takes time, and we all know teachers are lacking in...time...