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The Strange Holiday Mix, 2015

The annual list of holiday songs now in heavy rotation on my phone. Lots of odd, fun stuff, with some sorta traditional music mixed in. Think of it as my own personal war on Christmas. :-)

1. Winter Wonderland / Don’t Worry Be Happy – Pentatonix (feat. Tori Kelly)
2. I Feel It In My Bones – The Killers (feat. Ryan Pardey)
3. Christmas In Heaven – Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life
4. Blue Christmas – Michael Bublé
5. Christmas Wish – She & Him
6. Everyday Is Christmas – Straight No Chaser (feat. Colbie Caillat)
7. (Everybody’s Waitin’ For) The Man With the Bag – Seth MacFarlane
8. The Santa Claus Boogie – The Tractors
9. Santa, Teach Me to Dance – Debbie & The Darnels
10. Yabba-Dabba Yuletide – The Brian Setzer Orchestra
11. More Than I Wished For – Schuyler Fisk
12. Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree – She & Him
13. Let’s Ditch Christmas – Jeremy Messersmith
14. You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch – Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
15. The Christmas Song – The Raveonettes
16. Dirt Sledding – The Killers (feat. Ryan Pardey & Richard Dreyfuss)
17. Christmas At Ground Zero – Weird Al Yankovic
18. Christmas Blues – Canned Heat

Whatever you are celebrating this time of year, enjoy.

Stuff That Needs To Go

MindShift recently posted “10 Things in School That Should Be Obsolete“, and managed to come up with a good, mostly different collection than those found on dozens of similar lists.

A couple were rather odd (Dark, indoor gyms? Large restrooms?), and I certainly can't argue with eliminating computer labs since I've ranted about that topic several times in this space.

However, two of the items mentioned are not only obsolete, their continued existence is also a major impediment to any meaningful high school reform.

2. LEARNING IN PRESCRIBED PLACES. When you ask people to remember a meaningful learning experience from high school, chances are the experience didn’t take place in a space designed for learning. Working in groups, while on a trip, while doing a project or learning while talking with friends – those are the lasting, meaningful learning experiences. Yet we don’t design schools to accommodate these activities and focus only on the formal spaces.

5. DEPARTMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS. In order to break down the size of schools and to allow students to learn across curriculum, it’s essential to organize schools so that teachers of various subjects are located together. This not only emulates how people work today — in collaborative groups — but encourages teachers to consider students holistically, not only as they perform in a specific subject.

Throwing out number four, isolated classrooms, as well provides a great start to creating those “21st century schools” we've been talking about since before the turn of the previous century.

Digging Into The Numbers

How can a parent judge if one high school is better than another?  According to a New York Times article from this weekend, there are a “daunting” number of high profile rankings of the best US high schools published this time of year to help them make that determination.

As a public service to aid “anxious consumers”, the writer sets about to analyze one of those lists in order to understand how anyone could “quantify something as complex and nuanced as a high-quality education”.

Sorry, “challenge” index fans. He chose the one from Newsweek.

The writer does a great job of picking apart their system and it’s worth reading the whole thing.

But for this rant, let’s just cut to the bottom line. Where are the best schools?

Want the best high schools for your child? Move to Texas or Florida. Texas has 15 of the 100 best, placing second over all nationwide, while Florida has 10, the fourth most.

Read that again: 25% of the 100 best high schools in the country are in Texas and Florida.

This is no doubt due in good part to the reform efforts of George W. and Jeb Bush, who – like Newsweek – have made standardized test results a true measure of academic excellence.

That would be my guess.

At all costs, avoid Scarsdale, N.Y. It didn’t even make the top 1,000. Though its average SAT score of 1935 would rank it 21st among the 100 best, the school does not offer A.P. courses, and Newsweek counts A.P. data as 40 percent of the rating.

No AP courses??? I know someone who would consider that child abuse.

However, forget about the quality of Newsweek’s selection process. There’s another, far more important bottom line to consider in their decision to publish a Best American High School list (not to mention the Post’s multiple annual floggings of the “challenge”).

Given that magazines and newspapers are bleeding to death, this is the only plausible justification I can think of: Lists are cash cows.

End of story.

Please Stop Saying That, Too

As 2009 was mercifully ending, I nominated a short list of phrases for deletion from public discourse.

Now, upholding a more than 30 year tradition, the word “czars” (the public relations department) at Lake Superior University have released their annual List of Banished Words.

These are 15 words and phases selected from thousands of nomination because of their misuse, over use and/or general uselessness.

I can’t quibble with any of them, although I’m not ready to give up “teachable moment”. It may have become over used but I don’t think it’s reached a point where the meaning is lost.

As for “sexting”, that term still has some meaning. Basically as an all-purpose trigger for panic in clueless adults.

And then there’s “chillaxing”. I must be traveling in the wrong social circles, but I’ve never used the word and don’t know anyone who does.

You Call These The “Best”?

A writer at CNET offers Five tools for the world’s best teacher, calling them “five teachers’ aids that stand out from the rest”.

  1. Blackboard
  2. Classroom 2.0
  3. Engrade
  4. MyGradeBook
  5. TeacherTube

Huh?

First of all, numbers three and four are both gradebooks. To me that falls under the category of classroom management, not teaching tools.

While Classroom 2.0 is a wonderful community, it’s about professional development and not for use with the kids.

TeacherTube is also excellent, a great place for both teachers and their students to share their work.

And then we come to Blackboard.

This “technology columnist who has written about everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems” either has a huge grudge against teachers or is clueless to make that his first choice.

Or include it on any instructional “best of” list at all.

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