Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Petroleum Man

Does this entry belong in this blog? I don't know. Is this entry something important that should be addressed by all educators and compassionate people that care about the future and the generations that follow us? Definitely.

We are in a quiet crisis. I just finished reading The Oil Factor by Stephen Leeb and Donna Leeb. This was an informative book that investors may want to look closely at as we approach a very turbulent economic period in the years ahead. But it was this book coupled with Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy
by Matthew R. Simmons that really got me concerned about our future. Both books point to a clear and present danger to the American way of life: Peak Oil.

Peak Oil is a term coined by prescient American geologist M. King Hubbard. He predicted that US oil production would peak in the 1970s. Nobody paid much attention to his ideas until his prediction became reality. Peak Oil is the idea that there is a finite amount of oil in each field and that oil production peaks once half the oil from that field is extracted. In other words every day after that oil production declines until eventually there is none left. Most geologists and experts agree that we are nearing peak oil production globally right now. By the end of the decade we will most likely be in decline.

This, of course, is happening as the world consumes oil in unprecedented amounts. The growing economies of China and India have become big spenders in the world's oil market. This new demand for oil only exacerbates the problem. A good economy is just a catalyst for oil consumption. Historically, the two trends go hand in hand.

What will happen when the oil disappears? Who knows? One thing is for sure though: no more oil. That means our lives will be drastically different and we will endure a period of chaos and cultural change that is unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetime. The oil won't just disappear, but even a small fluctuation in price is enough to cripple our current economy. Just look what the shortage after Katrina did.

So how do we prevent a state of unpreparedness? We prepare. We start looking at alternative energy sources today. Wind, solar, hydro, fission, fusion, nuclear, coal, wood, hydrogen, biodeisel, etc. If the markets are any indicator the trends may look like this: Increased nuclear power, Increased military spending (fighting over what's left), and Increased R&D for alternative energy sources

This search for alternative fuels make so much sense on many levels: Cleaner environment, Safer energy production, Renewable energy sources, less dependency on foreign oil (Middle East), a chance for global leadership, and a better tomorrow. Petroleum Man is a species that has roamed the earth for a relatively short amount of time. With massive planning and a global effort we might be able to save him from extinction before it's too late.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

School Buzz: Mandarin is in

Chinese language is catching on in US classrooms as our leadership acknowledges the emerging global markets and our changing economy. Our Defense Department has contributed $700,000 to schools in Portland, OR to develop a long range program aimed at graduating students who will be fluent in Mandarin Chinese. Instruction begins in Kindergarten where students are most likely to develop foreign language skills.

This is not a solitary effort confined to Oregon. In the U.S. Senate, the Foreign Relations Committee is considering a proposal to allocate $1.3 billion (euro1.1 billion) to boost Chinese language and culture classes in public schools. China's education ministry has formed partnerships with states including Kentucky and Kansas to promote teacher exchange and training programs. Interestingly enough, the Chinese are pushing their university students to take English language courses to be competitive in the global market upon graduation.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Win Superbowl Tickets and Fight World Hunger by Gaming

"Food Force" is the second most downloaded free Internet game following the US Army's recruiting tool: "American Army." The game was developed by the United Nations World Food Programme to spread awareness and change the attitudes of our children. This is how it is described by The International Herald Tribune:
The game is this: The fictional Indian Ocean island of Sheylan has been ravaged by drought and civil war; millions of people need food. The player joins a World Food Program team and must airdrop food from a C-130 Hercules; pilot a surveillance chopper; navigate a supply truck through land mines and guerrilla checkpoints; coordinate shipping and prices for rice, beans and oil on the world market; design a nutritionally balanced food package for the hungry; and use food to help rebuild a community.
The National Football League Players Association is even supporting the efforts of the WFP. They have promised to award a trip to the Superbowl to the child with the highest score.

This is one example of how video games can be used to create engaging and authentic learning environments for our children. The military has long used simulations and virtual reality to train their soldiers. Our classrooms may soon have a vast array of learning games to support their curricula. Can you imagine asking the school board for joysticks and gaming consoles? I can too.

Friday, December 30, 2005

The "Flattening" World

This is the follow-up post to my first entry on "The World is Flat" by Thomas L. Friedman. I have finished the book and thought a little bit about what it means to us as educators. There is simply no way around it. We have to be smarter and more innovative if we want to continue to live the "good life" as we know it.

I was introduced to the term "fungible" is this book. To be fungible is to be freely exchangeable for or replaceable by another of like nature or kind according to Dictionary.com This what our low-skilled workers are becoming in the flatter world. Data-entry, factory workers, call centers, basic accountants, and even radiologists are losing their jobs to workers in India, China, and Russia. We will continue to lose these low-level jobs due to the impossibly low wages and superior efforts of these outsourced laborers. So, what do we do?

We get smarter. We move up vertically in the job market. Our economy will not suffer if we continue to make innovative products and offer needed services. But, innovation requires knowledge. And our knowledge base is eroding. Only 5% of American students graduate with engineering degrees as compared to Russia with 25% and China with 46%. The number of science and engineering graduates in the United States in 2003 was 400,000. In Europe the total was 830,000. In Asia the science and engineering graduates totaled 1.2 million. In engineering specifically, universities in Asia now produce eight times as many bachelor's degrees as the United States.

The point being, that the world is hungry. Many countries feel that this is "their" time to grow, prosper, and shine. Our country needs to realistically assess the current situation and prepare itself for what's on the way. We need to focus on how we can best prepare our children to compete in a global economy.

If you walk into a classroom in your district and it looks the same as it did twenty years ago, something is wrong. Our lack of preparedness is referred to by Friedman as the "quiet crisis." Let's start shouting before it's too late.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Save the Worms!

Thanks to sites like Froguts.com and Net Frog worms, cats, frogs, and other lab subjects are able to sleep at night.
Clemency for frogs, worms
Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 12/22/05

A bill that sailed through both chambers of the Legislature last week is great news for queasy high school students. It's even better news for New Jersey's share of the 3 million bullfrogs dissected annually in biology classes.

The bill allows alternatives for high school students who object to dissections in science class, for religious, moral or just plain eeeeyeeew! reasons. It will prohibit schools from giving lower grades to students who choose not to cut up reptiles, animals or invertebrates in the classroom.

Technology today offers virtual dissections, allowing students to use a mouse and keyboard rather than a scalpel. Why not take advantage of that technology?


House of Stupidity

This is Bob Englehart's "House of Stupidity" cartoon from the Hartford Courant. A commentary on the poor decisions to cut education funding in response to an overwhelming budget deficit. The U.S. Senate on Dec. 21 quietly approved a new education budget for 2006 that will cut federal education spending for the first time in nearly a decade. One of the biggest cuts was to educational technology. There will be $221 million less for the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) state block-grant program, the primary source of federal funding for educational technology. The House and the Senate have both approved the measure. So now, it will be passed to the desk of President Bush for final approval. Most likely, he will regretfully sign it despite his desire to have the program eliminated in it's entirety.

It could be worse. The overall budget for education has been reduced by only 59 million, compared to the original 300 million in cuts that Bush had originally proposed. I found this to be particularly interesting- $95 million went to establish a new Teacher Incentive Fund, which seeks to reward educators for helping students meet the goals of NCLB. Hmmm... Let us know how that works out.

What's the deal with the Clickers?

In conversations across the nation, educators are asking each other "What's the deal with the Clickers?" I most recently discussed the student response systems with my own family at our annual holiday party and decided it was a post-worthy topic. And, no, I didn't bring it up first.

How would you like to get the whole class involved when you pose a question? And how about being able to give every student instant feedback on their response while maintaining their anonymity? Would you like to take attendance in 5 seconds? Does instant assessment sound like a great tool for customizing instruction on the fly? How about giving those multi-tasking 21st Century children another way to engage themselves and stay on task? And what if you could capture the responses and have self-paced quizzes graded instantly? All this is possible with a student response system such as the one made by eInstruction.

Of course, there are other brands as well. I encourage you to find the best solution for your environment. But, this is the system that I am most familiar with. Although other equipment is not necessary to use the clickers, the most common set up combines an interactive whiteboard, a digital projector, and a computer. Basically, the teacher asks a question and the students respond by keying a letter or number on their remotes. Then the responses are totaled and the results are shown on the screen for all to see in graph or table format. The teacher runs the show by entering a question on the fly, or by having prepared a template for a series of questions. Some textbook companies are making this easier by preparing the materials to coincide with individual chapters and units.

Teachers can always appreciate methods that will allow them to become more efficient. This tool can make learning more engaging for students and help teachers to become more efficient by precisely targeting their instruction.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Following the Dollars: Map Political Campaign Contributions in Your Area

This is not so much an educational tool as an interesting use of web technology. But, it's the holiday season and we can have little fun, right?

Do you want to know your neighbors political affiliation? Just wonder who has extra money lying around for political contributions? It's public information and we all know their is no hiding place in this day and age.

This is another very interesting Google Maps Mashup. A mashup simply takes data from one source and then maps the corresponding locations in a Google Map. Very cool.

Go ahead! Try it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

State Board of Education Approves Increased State High School Graduation Requirements

State Board of Education Approves Increased State High School Graduation Requirements

The state of Michigan just approved a new set of graduation requirements:

The Michigan Merit Core of academic courses in the State Board’s plan include:

* four years of English language arts;
* one year each of Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, and an additional math class in the senior year;
* one year each of Biology; Physics or Chemistry; and one additional year of science;
* three years of social science, which must include a semester of civics and a semester of economics;
* two years of world languages;
* one year of health/physical education; and
* one year of visual and performing arts.

The State Board also requires that all high school students take the Michigan Merit Exam, or the alternate MI-ACCESS assessment for students with severe disabilities; and that all students complete at least one on-line credit or non-credit course or learning experience, in order to graduate.

This is what we should all be thinking about. Most schools tout themselves as institutions that strive to promote lifelong learning somewhere in their mission statements. This is a step in the right direction. Online learning is accessible, affordable, and collaborative. Perfect for the flat world.


I changed the name of the blog (EdVista) after stumbling onto another blog/web site that goes by the same name. I didn't want my stuff getting confused with their stuff. So, I brainstormed something else and came up with AdaptEd. It's kind of Darwinian. It is based on the idea that we must adapt our educational system to address the changing needs of our students and to prepare them for the world they are going to enter after graduation. In this age of globalization, innovation, and economic instability, adaptation is the key to survival.