K-12 Education

Should We Teach Algebra?

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algebraI was looking something up and I ran across a opinion piece in the NY times called “Is Algebra Necessary?” I was shocked to read the nonsense babbled by the author that we don’t need Algebra as a subject in our schools as a requirement. Really, Are you listening to yourself Mr. Hacker? That is an appropriate name for this gentleman because it really is a poor point of view on his part. This is especially true because Mr. Hacker is a Professor of Political Science which is the one Science that you don’t have to be right because you make it up as you go in politics. Maybe if you cared more about the skills that Algebra teaches the Political Sciences would be more reasonable and you would see more conflicts settled with common sense problem solving skills. Today’s politicians do no problem solving, they just take sides and place their feet in cement.

I have only one point to make about teaching Algebra as a required course in High School and College. It teaches problem solving skills that are useful in every part of life. It makes you think, it makes you  take the time to try to figure something out. There are many studies that show taking more math actually helps in other subjects. One of which I wrote about some years ago “The secret to being good at Science: Take more Math classes”. It says it all. Anyone that thinks you can get by with just basic math in life needs to go back to school, sit in any class and tell me that you don’t see Algebra and its problem solving skills being used.

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HTML, CSS, ASP, PHP, JavaScript, SQL Oh My

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cssIn my job as an Instructional Technology Technician I help administer the LMS that our students use in the school district I work for. I also have other hats that I wear, one of them being technical support for pilot programs. Part of all this is some programming needed experience from ASP to VBS and everything in between.

Now, that doesn’t mean I have to be a certified expert in any of these, I just need to know how to get around to make things work. I’ve been working on learning skills in writing iRules for our F5 Big-IP appliance which has been fun and fruitful. I have basic HTML and CSS skill, but not enough to write directly in the code window without seeing the design side at the same time in a split window. A recent project that is going to go live in the near future is an implementation of Office 365 that has been in the pilot stage since the beginning of the school year in August.

I am looking forward to it being released to the general student population, while I am also proud of the work that was done by myself, my boss and the Instructional Technology Specialist that spent a lot of hours on the phone with support, making video’s, training staff and following up. As we got closer to the finish line we have hit some speed bumps, which in the long run actually makes the end product look much better and inspired this post.

Why? Because as a group we worked for a week on creating a professional landing page for our Office 365. I did the preliminary work in getting a template that I rewrote and manipulated so that we could add, what elements we wanted. Our boss, who is a geek in and of himself, did a lot of manipulating of both the HTML and the CSS to get things to where he knew the rest of the management team wanted it to end up. Adam worked very hard on content and idea’s including two great instructional videos. He and I sat in front of my computer screens for hours going over ideas, changes and more changes. We would make even more when we got feedback from our boss about changes to the changes.

In the end the experience that I had in CSS and the other acronyms made this a very satisfying project. It also made me think of all the things that I need to do to increase my skills in these area’s that will make projects like this even more fun. At the same time it will make me a more valuable asset to the team.

School Year Ramps Up and Do What You Can

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I am enjoying my last long weekend before teachers come back on Tuesday the 14th. As a 12 month employee I work over the summer vacation doing 4 day weeks, 10 hour days. I’m one of the few people that does not like the 4 day week because while it ends up being the same amount of hours for the week as a 5 day week, you really can’t get everything into that 4 days that you can in a normal school year week. One reason is that we have projects that take a lot of planning and not just one project, many that all have time limits that your work is dependent on other departments. Teamwork and timing are extremely important. I miss the extra day.

The most important part of the year are the next 2 weeks, teachers next week and students the week after that on the 20th. It’s full of work, no matter how planned out you make it, you can’t rely on that plan. It really is just a wish list of things you want to do because there will always be something that makes it so that you cannot do any of your list. That is where the “Do what you can” comes in. If you worry about getting everything done, pleasing everyone then you will fail. Not only will you fail, you will make yourself sick worrying about it.

What are the most important things to remember?

  1. Do your best
  2. Do what’s important
  3. Smile in the face of adversity as all hell breaks loose around you
  4. It will all be there tomorrow