Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Super Wi-Fi transmitted via White Spaces

WOW!! I was just reading the Digital Education blog @ Education Week when I learned about Super Wi-Fi and White Spaces.  There I was . . . innocently reading their posting on how the FCC Approves E-Rate Changes . . .

When BAM, I am hit with new terms that I had not before known - Super WiFi and White Spaces.  Following the learning process that we all follow, I quickly did a Google search to find out more about these two entities.

Turns out that at the Tested blog, they had an article entitled FCC Opens White Space Spectrum for Super Wi-Fi where I learned about this new opportunity for WiFi. Turns out that the FCC ruled on 9/23/10 that they would open up an empty portion of the radio wave spectrum between TV and broadcast stations.  This "White Space" would be used for "Super WiFi."  Apparently, WiFi has been operating on a "Junk Band" since its inception and the white space will bring about a massive increase in broadcast range.

16 TIMES!!!!

One article that I read said that the Super WiFi could travel as much as 16 times further than our existing WiFi.  Presently the 802.11n routers will adequately carry a signal 100 meters. The Super WiFi is purported to have a range 16X that of our standard routers.  That means that these could have a distance of 1600 meters (= 5249.343832020997 feet) or almost 1 mile.  Imagine that!!! You could have a Super WiFi system that would range 1 mile from its source.  That means that there would be a circle with a radius of 1 mile.   Obviously there can be confounding variables like buildings and trees and ??, but the possibility is dumbfounding.

What could your school district do with routers that have a 1-mile range?  Think of the homes we could supply with Internet access so that students who li can't afford broadband will be able to do homework when they take home their laptops from their school.

Don't you just LOVE progress??????

What are your thoughts or experiences or visions about this?


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Merit Pay is NOT Enough to Make a Difference in the Classroom.

The National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt University just reported on the finding of their 3-year POINT project. This research, the first scientific study of performance pay ever conducted in the United States, investigated the foundational question, "Does bonus pay alone improve student outcomes?" Interestingly enough, they found the answer to be negative.

This research took place with mathematics teachers in grades 5 - 8 in Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. It included nearly 300 middle school teachers who volunteered for participation. These teachers were offered annual bonuses of $5,000, $10,000 or $15,000 based upon improvement in their students' test scores.

With these sizable bonuses available, only about 1 out of 3 teachers received remuneration. Over the 3-year period, the researchers paid out more than $1.27 million in bonuses with the average bonus of $10,000 for those teachers who earned them.

Question is WHY?  WHY didn't this money make a difference?

Katie Stansberry of
ISTE Connects says that it's a matter of motivation. She points out that teachers didn't get into the profession to make money. She stated that teachers are doing "the best they can for their students."  Paying them more money won't make a difference.

TRUE. Money doesn't make a difference, but the answer lies in the phrase "doing the best they can." The part of this research that is seems to be overlooked by reporters of this research is that the ONLY change that was introduced into the instructional equation was the offer of notable bonuses. This model specifically did not include any change in professional development, materials or newly-adopted instructional programs. They were testing to see if merit pay alone could make a difference. 

Linda Perlstein, who writes The Educated Reporter blog, reports that "Presuming that merit pay alone would elevate student achievement makes sense if you assume teachers have a hidden trove of skills and effort they are not unloosing on their students only because they lack the proper incentives to do so." 

Money IS NOT ENOUGH.  Change in education requires updates in the learning/teaching paradigm. Teachers need to create student-centric learning environments where students are empowered to learn. Making them active participants in their own learning brings a level of relevance and self-imposed (or peer-imposed) rigor that will make a difference.

What do you think?  Is merit pay enough?  What changes have you made that have improved your learning environment?


Monday, September 13, 2010

Wisconsin Schools Quit Internet Filters and Live to Tell About It.

I was just reading through the Edutopia website when I happened across an article entitled Freedom of Information: How a Wisconsin School District Ditched Internet Filters. This article explains how their new Director of Information, Tim Peltz, opened up his district's internet access. He provided access to most websites, discussion boards, online chats, Skype, streaming video and even web-based email services. Would you believe that he even provided access to YouTube and Facebook. Edutopia reported that the only content that he blocked "was 'adult' (sexual) sites and what Peltz calls 'hardcore extreme views' such as websites of violent gangs."

WOW!!!! How can Peltz do this? He has the passion. He believes that hiding the Internet from the students will not provide students with an opportunity to learn to use these technologies responsibly. He believes that teaching tomorrow's students requires today's online opportunities.

When asked about whether this would be a problem in their being eligible for the federal e-rate telecommunications discount, he said "I feel that if teachers and staff are showing the kids how to use the technology in an appropriate, productive manner, we'll be in compliance."

Peltz joined forces across the Racine Unified School District as well. He consolidated the technology budgets of Title I, Special Education, ESL, building services and specific subject areas into a single technology account. Using his newly-found resources, he was able to lease 8,000 Apple computers (increase of 23% over previous year) and save an estimated $200,000 in energy costs. This included a new Apple MacBook Pro laptop computer for each of their 1,600 teachers.  YIPPPEEE!

Tim Peltz is definitely a man with a plan. He shows how sometimes we need to rethink the accepted way of doing things and "Think Different."

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Bill Strickland: A Man Who Changes the World with his Vision

Bill Strickland is a man who has a vision. He grew up in Pittsburgh in a rough part of the city. He learned about building things with clay in high school and hasn't stopped building since.

He has spent his life building schools, facilities and lives for inner-city kids and parents. He believes that people will respond to respect. He creates an environment for kids filled with sunlight and flowers to reflect hope and human possibility.
He says that "it is often the way that you think about people that determines their behavior."

It is difficult for me to explain Strickland's story so it is best for you to just watch this 35-minute TED Talks presentation.

I used to teach drop-out recovery in East Los Angeles and this strikes a deeply-seated chord in my heart. What is your reaction?