New site

12 October 2004, 16:52 PM

I have moved my blog to a new loctaion, in line with my change in employment direction

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Traumatising students for politics

21 May 2004, 12:31 PM in Current Affairs

Three teachers in California schools have been suspended for showing the video of the decapitation of US civilian Nick Berg.

Gina Grossini, an art teacher at the El Capitan High School in Lakeside, California, told students: "That's what we get for being in a war we shouldn't be in"

The video has apparantly been used by both sides of the political fence

At Villa Park High School in California, English teacher Stephen Arcudi justified showing the video by saying atrocities are occurring on both sides in the Iraq war.

Now I don't care what reasons you give, there is absolutely no justification for showing this video to kids. They simply will not be able to deal with it and it may well traumatise them permanently. This kind of political soap-boxing at the expense of our kids is simply beyond the pale.

The video itself is a demonstration of the barbarity of Islamic Terrorism, but while the event itself can and should be discussed with students, the images and sound from the video do not need to be shown.

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New Mozilla Thunderbird version

8 May 2004, 9:42 AM in Web/Tech

On an unrelated topic, there's a new version of Mozilla Thunderbird available. This is the Mozilla foundation's free, open-source mail program that puts Outlook Express to shame.

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Teaching graphics to year 9

8 May 2004, 9:17 AM in Teaching Computing

Well, I'm now two weeks into my 1st four-week teaching prac. Things are going well, I've got a year 7 metalwork class (actually, I'm just teaching them how to use CAD), and a year 9 computing class doing graphics and year 10 computing class doing DTP. They're all pretty good kids, except when you get them on last double period Friday!

On that, does anyone have any good links to info on teaching graphics to year 9s (~ 14-15 year olds). I've got to teach them theory, but I'm looking for some activities that can give them some theory knowledge without having to just write heaps in their books. Any and all info is appreciated.

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Choosing a school

21 April 2004, 11:53 AM in Public vs Private Education

There is an excellent article in The Age by Morag Fraser on how she & her husband chose schools for their children. The best way, she says, to determine the quality of a school is to actually go out there and have a look, talk to the teachers, the principal and others involved.

We had friends with children the same age. We talked (endlessly, it seemed), gathered as much local gossip as we could. That wasn't difficult, because everyone here has an opinion about the local schools.

Then we went to each school. We saw the principals, walked around, looked in classrooms, watched children in the schoolyards at lunchtime, looked at writing, drawing, paintings pinned to classroom walls, listened to teachers, and then went back to those in charge.

We were given detailed, honest information (no brochures or prospectuses). I don't remember the statistical exactitudes now but I do remember the openness and the professionalism of the teachers and principals involved and a strong sense that we could trust them.

Continue reading "Choosing a school"

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Funding differences between public and private schools

20 April 2004, 11:45 AM in Public vs Private Education

Just quickly, there's an article in the Australian today about Mark Harrison's somewhat radical idea of using vouchers to allow parents to choose where their kids go to school, similar to the United States system, rather than to funding going to the government and it directly funding schools. I don't really want to comment on that idea at the moment, as I don't have enough knowledge on the issue. It may have merit, but I also know that the voucher system in the US has it's detractors, and there may be better ways of doing it.

What did draw my attention was this paragraph:

In 2001-02, the latest year for which figures are available, private schools received $4870 in funding from the state and federal governments per student, while government schools received $8937 or 84per cent more.

While I can't exactly verify those numbers, the budget reports put out by the federal and state departments of education seem to support that statement. Public schools receive far more funding than private schools and the public system's funding has been going up, not down. So can we please stop the misleading comments coming from some places about how the federal government funds private schools more. That is true, but the funds from the state governments far out-weigh that. Also, it should be noted that in Australia it is the state, not federal government, who have the responsibility of running and funding schools.

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Battling school yard bullying

20 April 2004, 10:36 AM in Bullying

Today Tonight had an item on last night about a boy who's been to four different primary schools in the last six years due to the bullying he's been receiving. These have been both public schools and a Catholic primary school.

"I'm scared they're gonna attack me with sticks and hurt me," Beau said.

"They've locked me in garbage bins and rammed my head into the ground. Punched me in the ribs, kicked me in the stomach [and] broken my wrist."

This is appalling, and it has apparently gotten so bad now, the Department of Education has said that the Beau will be getting a support person with him to act as a bodyguard.

Continue reading "Battling school yard bullying"

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Classroom technology in NSW schools

17 April 2004, 11:20 AM in Classroom Technology, Education Funding

As computing is my main teaching method, the IT facilities that are available in classrooms is an issue that's fairly important to me. As such, the current situation in most NSW schools, especially public schools is a bit worrying. I'm not all that familiar with other states, so they may be better or worse.

In Australia, education has generally been fairly slow to pick up on technology, which is a little strange because on a whole, Australians are quick to adopt technology - we love new gadgets! Education seems to be an exception to this rule however. A vast number of schools are working with computing technology that's close to a decade old: Windows 95 or 98 and various hardware, most of which is equally as old. Schools are trying to use software like AutoCAD, Corel Graphics Suite and Adobe PageMaker and the computers simply can't keep up. Either the programs take minutes to load, or they regularly crash and/or loose data due to the lack of memory and processing power in the computers. Not to mention that a lot of new software requires Windows XP, and most schools don't have it (or have limited numbers of it). Schools are able to get software at academic pricing and seem to be able to get good application software, but it seems to be the hardware that's letting everything down.

Continue reading "Classroom technology in NSW schools"

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ERIC Database and online education

14 April 2004, 14:55 PM in Web/Tech

The US Government has announced a US$34.6 million contract to upgrade the ERIC education database.

With the new ERIC, individuals will be able to go to one website to search a comprehensive database of journal articles and document abstracts and descriptions and, for the first time, directly access full text. The database will include as much free full text as possible, and links will be provided to commercial sources so that individuals can purchase journal articles and other full text immediately. The US Department of Education has awarded a five-year, $34.6 million contract to Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) of Rockville, Md., along with its subcontractors, to develop and operate a new database system for the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC).

[via Education Network Australia]

This is great to hear. As student teachers, we use ERIC extensively through the licence that the UWS library has with the EBSCO database. This gives us access to thousands of full-text journal articles that can be accessed directly off the internet, through an extensive search function. ERIC even links back into the UWS library database to see if the journal or book exists in the library if the full-text of the article isn't available online. This tool has saved me hours of research work.

Continue reading "ERIC Database and online education"

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Tassie oposition pledges smaller classes

13 April 2004, 12:14 PM in Current Affairs

The Tasmanian Opposition has said that it wants the state Labor Government to use some of it's expected $80 million budget surplus to fund smaller class sizes in Tasmanian public schools.

The Opposition's spokesman for education, Peter Gutwein, says the Liberal Party is committed to introducing a cap of 25 students for grades two through to six. He says while presently prep and grade one classes are capped at 25 students, his party would cap them at 20.
"When we announced our class size policy we costed it at around $13 million, so the money is there and all that we are asking for is for education to get its fair share."

If there will indeed be an $80 million surplus and if $13 million is what this scheme would cost, then it sounds like a good idea. Reducing class sizes is almost always a good idea.

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