The interconnectedness of space and time

Just like to say thanks to everyone who read through the interview with graycie. She’s an amazing educator and I think the edusphere would be a little duller without her voice. As a matter of fact, she’s been a little silent this week, largely due to the terrible events at Virginia Tech. She writes in her latest post:

Virginia Tech is just down the road. Many of our students go on to attend Tech, or their cousins do or their brothers or sisters. The children and nieces and nephews of our faculty and staff go to Tech. Our neighbors’ children go to Tech.

For her, the events are evry close to home, and she uses that story to lead into the death of a too-young co-worker. Too often, it seems, that the aftershocks of a tragedy are more painful than the original event. Make sure you drop a line to graycie, her co-workers, and their families at her latest post — Darkness, Nothing But Darkness.

The event at Tech was astounding, and surely something we never assume will happen where we live or where we work, but these tragedies also spread further than we imagine. My students were quick to bring me the story of Liviu Librescu, a Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics at Tech who held shut the doors to his classroom so that his students could escape. He was killed as his students fled. Librescu was a Holocaust survivor and his passing ironically occurred on Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom HaShoah.

Librescu’s courage reminds me of the closing lines from the afterword of Jacob’s Rescue, by Malka Drucker and Michael Halperin, which speak of the courage shown by the Righteous Among the Nations — those who risked their own lives in an effort to save Jews during the Holocaust. The authors write about the fact that we are often unsure of our own courage, and that we might not recognize it resides within us until we are forced to show it.

This event also reminds me of the closing lines from the play “The Diary of Anne Frank,” by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, where we hear Anne’s voice echoing in her father’s ear: “In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.” Librescu showed his courage despite what surrounded him.

Further still, I find that the shooter at VA Tech was apprently a student of a poet we’ve studied in class — Nikki Giovanni. We studied two poems and discussed the possible meanings as well as the deeper connections we recognized in our own learning. For example (and this is in no way representative of the shooter’s motives, but a reminder that our actions are guided by our thoughts — that our actions express who we are and what we seek), we saw the following lines in Giovanni’s poem “Choices”:


More futuristic stuff

In thinking about the future I forgot to mention that the summer session will begin in about a month-and-a-half. We’ve already ammassed a team of teachers and students who’ll attend this summer program, which will funciton more like an educational camp than regular school, and we’re working to create curriculum for this program.

The coolest thing is that we’ve decided to align our classes so that students will always be working on one common goal across the curriculum. Science will bleed into World History will bleed into Math will bleed into Language arts, and we’l all be focuse on on unifying topic : Frontiers.

The Frontiers topic will allow us to work with students to discover what frontiers are, study specific frontiers that confront society, and how people surpass frontiers. One major segment of this will focus on space (as that will help align history, science, and math), and I’ll be working to help with anything that happens in those classes.

While it’s not science, but science fiction, I’ll try to get myself a classroom set of the book The City of Ember, and address frontiers as it’ll be addressed in other classes: The unknown and how we deal with it.

The overalll theme of the book deals with kids conquering hte unknown by eschewing the comfortable “facts” that have confined their society. It’s a “big ideas” book, and from my past experiences, I’ll assume the kids will love it. My major focus for this summer semester, beyond working with other classes on this topic is to get students to write a script based on the book, film themselves acting out the parts they’ve created, cutting it up into a product they agree with, and publishing it (I’m thinking DVD or YouTube). it’s a gigantic effort, but I think we might just be ableto pull it off, and if we do…then those kids will have crossed a frontier themselves.

More classroom 2.0

About six months ago I wrote a post about the bourgeoning field of web-applications I thought could be used in the classroom (or outside the classroom).

These days there are even more web-based applications available, and many are even designed with school in mind! I was wandering around the web looking at some of the applications and their uses when I came across Solution Watch, a website owned and authored by Brian Benzinger. On the site, Benzinger travels the web and reviews new products and services to tell his readers what may benefit them.

What’s better about Benzinger is that he’s only 19! Which is why I see a lot of understanding about school and the utility of the web-services he outlines in the first installment of a three-part series : Back to School with the Class of Web 2.0.

In part one you’ll find listings for both students and teachers :

  • Organizers
  • Gradebooks
  • Clubs and Management
  • Mathematics
  • Resume Building
  • To-Dos and Notetaking
  • Learning and Research
  • Media Sharing

Why do you teach ?

Instead of “collaboration” meetings, a co-worker and I have regular “cold-libation” meetings each Friday. Today (Wednesday) just happened to become a Friday. We’ve seen troublesome behaviors increase, and we’ve seen larger numbers of students checking out. By checking out, I mean a large number of students have refused to take their final exams. Those students who do take the final exams generally fail. A majority of students fail the classes as well.

During our cold-libation meeting, we discussed why students check out to such a degree:

  • Our district encourages failure:
    • No attendance policy.
    • No requirement for middle-school graduation (any student, as long as he/she shows up to school, may pass on to high school).
    • We’re required to give a final which encompasses the entirety of the class. The students can pass or fail, but ultimately it does not matter whether the students pass or fail.
    • The only thing that matters is the state test.
    • And the state test only matters for teachers — If a student fails the state test, he/she may move on. Teachers? That’s a different story.
    • most students see and understand these faults and therefore refuse to take a teacher’s test.

My co-worker was frustrated over this today and asked me: “Why do we do this? Why do we choose this profession when we have abilities which would make us more money in other fields?”

After a discussion, we came to the conclusion that we’re here for the greater good. We can’t accept that anyone else would place himself/herself in such a position — that a desire for money equals self-promotion.

We’re not here for self-promotion, and we’re not here to include ourselves in the focus of our work. We’re not here to chastise or placate, and we’re not here to fill any vacancy. We are here to contribute to the greater good. We do necessary work.

Any teacher could go on and on about the need for and utilty of teachers, but I’ll leave it up to you…

New best Lenovo convertible tablet business laptop

Aimed at business users, the rather expensive convertible tablet Lenovo ThinkPad X201T comes to the market with four models on April 29, according to the Chinese official web site of Lenovo. Now users can order online. But they still need to wait for a few weeks before finally receiving the new ThinkPad laptops.

Prices and Specification of Best Lenovo ThinkPad X201T Convertible Tablet Business Laptop

The four models of Lenovo ThinkPad X201T are priced at from 15,999 RMB yuan (around $2,400) to 25,999 yuan ($3,900) for Chinese buyers. This 12.1-inch and Convertible Tablet notebook is the competitor of HP TouchSmart TM2 Tablet laptop. It weighs 1.62kg (without battery) and fits easily inside a small bag.

In terms of specification, the cheapest model ThinkPad X201t (0053A11) uses Intel Core i7-620LM processor at from 2.0GHz to 2.8GHz, 1280 * 800 LED touch screen, 2GB of DDR3 RAM memory, Intel GMA video card, and 250GB 5400RPM hard drive. It comes pre-installed with Windows 7 Home Premium, Lenovo’s ThinkVantage Tools and Online Data Backup. This model is priced at 15,999 RMB yuan.

The second model ThinkPad X201t (3093AC8) uses Intel Core i7-620LM processor, Intel QM57, 1280 * 800 LED touch screen, 3GB of DDR3 RAM memory, and 320GB 5400RPM hard drive. It comes pre-installed with Windows 7 Professional. This model is priced at 17,999 yuan.

Other two models ThinkPad X201t(3093AH8) and ThinkPad X201t(3093AC9) use Intel Core i7-640LM processor and have other better specification. They are priced at 22,999 yuan and 25,999 yuan.

As the prices of Lenovo Laptops in the Chinese market are usually much higher than that in other nations, American users could expect a lower price for Lenovo ThinkPad X201t.

Lenovo acquired the former IBM PC division, which marketed the line of ThinkPad laptop, in 2005 at a price of $1.75 billion. Since then the sales of business laptops have become the main source of Lenovo’s income. In 2009, Lenovo became the fourth largest PC brand of personal computers in the world. The company is also the largest seller of PCs in China.

But the sales and profits of Lenovo ThinkPad laptops fell down significantly in 2009 due to the global financial crisis. Companies delayed the purchase of new business laptop PCs under the economic setback. As the economy recovering, Lenovo expects a jump in the sales and profits this year. As a result, the company launches many types of new laptops this year, including ThinkPad X201t, ThinkPad X100e, and Lenovo IdeaPad V460.

How to Compare PC Tablets 2

PC Tablet RAM

Inspect the computer for the amount of RAM. The more RAM installed the more programs (and more powerful programs) it is able to run smoothly. Having more RAM is nice when using graphic design software or high end video games and video editing programming. Often times, PC tablets are used to control image editing software, so having a large amount of RAM is incredibly important.

PC Tablet Processor Speed

Check out the processor speed. This determines how fast the computer loads and accesses information, which runs hand and hand with the RAM. Having a fast processor reduces the speed it takes for the computer to boot and load programming software.

Find out the operating system running on the PC. Some still use Windows XP, while others have moved on to the more advanced Windows Vista and Windows 7. You may have discovered you like the older version better than the upgraded Windows Vista/7, in which case you should look for a PC with XP installed. However, newer programs released may not function correctly (or at all) on the older Windows operating systems.

How to Compare PC Tablets

There are dozens of Windows based tablets on the market. If you are shopping for one it is important to pick out the best model of your money.

A PC tablet is similar to a laptop, only the main difference is the monitor is able to swivel and typically comes with a touch screen ability, allowing you to write directly on the screen with your finger (this is especially helpful for those individuals that work and design with their hands).

This allows you to display the information on the laptop to anyone in the area, without actually swinging the laptop around. PC tablets use the same hardware and operating systems, so comparing different tablets together only requires some knowledge about the hardware inside the specific computers.

PC Tablet Monitor

Check out how far the PC tablet’s monitor is able to swivel. Some only turn 180 degrees, while others allow you to close the monitor completely so the screen is facing up, over the keyboard. Having the monitor possess this option allows you to draw directly on the screen, without the keyboard getting in the way.

PC Tablet Touch Screen

Look for a touch screen interface. Many tablets allow you to touch the screen either with your fingers or with a provided stylus. This is helpful when creating artistic renditions on the tablet computer. Higher end tables allow you to use your fingers. This is done because the screen is heat sensitive from your fingertips, so other items, such as a pencil and other items is not going to adjust items or make selections.