Sunday, February 27, 2011

Gas and jobs

It would be really nice if my paycheck went up when gas prices did. It's ridiculous that we're up to over 3 dollars a gallon based on speculation alone. Can we have an actual shortage or something before shooting prices through the roof? Supposedly, gas has gotten to its current level because of instability in the middle east. Funny thing is that we still have the same amount of oil being pumped out and even more in reserves. I hope someone gets us off this oil dependency real soon. The oil companies have run the world long enough. This is ridiculous. I'm out!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Long reaching consequences of the education debacle

Operation education

Edutainment and the modern education system

I was listening to a program today and they were talking about some more gimmicks to get kids to learn. I've seen everything from rap songs to videos to teachers dressing up in full on costume. That's nice to try to mix it up every now and then, but I think that these gimmicks actually hinder true long term learning. What I mean is that when a teacher goes the route of props and costumes it becomes the expectation that this is the only time we need to learn. The day the teacher has to give the students notes or general information about a topic the students are no longer interested because there are no dancing bears and fire hoops. We have gotten away from actually having students use their brains to think, instead we are teaching them that unless a topic is so fun and interesting that they just want to burst then they don't have to care about it. This is a tragic turn of events. When was the last time you went to work and had a day where the boss pepped up the weekly meeting or the foreman at a construction site came with a clown suit on to boost morale. The simple truth is that outside of the classroom real life doesn't cater to your likes and dislikes. The way we are trying to "encourage" students to learn does not prepare them to take on what life is going to really throw at them. I'm not saying learning should be boring or dull, but I do suggest letting the edutainment be an accessory to real learning rather than the blueprint. Suggestions - 1.) Get student input on how they learn, but then critically questions them on the choices they make. Why do you want your teacher to look like a fool so you can learn? Why don't you study? How will one effect your learning over the other, etc. 2.) Learning should be more individualized. Students are assessed and put on learning programs based on their strengths and weaknesses. This currently seems to be reserved for special education and private schools. I think it should be extended out into public school. With that, comes an overhaul to the school system itself.

The conversation not being had is the fact that we’re using a WW2 educational system to educate a 21st century student. We can no longer expect students to come out of high school and be able to find a job that could eventually land them in the middle class. Years ago that was feasible. Now we must train students to use their talents and prepare them for a more uncertain yet competitive job market. Students need to be able to recognize what they are good at and find ways to utilize those skills. We also need to prepare today’s student for the reality that they may stay in a job for 5-7 years and then may need more training. They need to realize that we are no longer in a time where your career is a 20-25 year guarantee. These are the life skills that need to be included in the modern education system. The school system is in need of a complete tear down and rebuild. That rebuild should be lead by people in the class room and should end with the lawmakers and not the other way around. When that day will come no one knows, but the sooner we start tackling these issues, the sooner we can see our education system turn around.

Cuts are hitting close to home

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Why job growth is slow

I'm not going to make this long I just want to give a real plain and common sense view as to why the economy isn't growing the way people would like it to. It's a very simple reason. Businesses are making the same or even greater profits with their current workforces. They are meeting and beating their numbers from the economic boom times. From a business perspective they have no real incentive to hire anyone else. Why pick up an 11th person when you have 10 doing the job just fine. All that an extra person adds is another benefits package to manage and what company wants to do that? NONE. People need to realize that businesses are in the business of making money, not being altruistic. They are not out to better society, they're there to sell a product and to keep the shareholders happy. With that focus in mind it's for the rest of society to realize that no matter what happens, until businesses have a compelling incentive to hire they will continue with business as usual. Any thoughts? Feel free to comment.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Self worth...for what it's worth

Tonight I sat down with the tribal counsel (Nadia,Raven and Sakina) and we talked about careers. Nothing too earth shattering, but it made me start to wonder. Why can't what you want to do be what pays the bills? Let me unpack this a little. What I mean is not everyone wants to be a doctor, lawyer, businessman, or engineer. Unfortunately, today's lucrative world sort of ends with those professions. If you're not on the track to being one of those you're on the track, to being broke. Now I know some people look at this and say "You're never broke when you love what you do." or "Money doesn't buy happiness." or "I'd rather be happy than be rich." These sentiments are all nice IF you have no debt, you're from means, or you have a guaranteed path set before you and that's where the schism lies.

Many people come out of high school knowing what they want to do. They go to college to pursue that career and at some point they realize that their lofty idealistic goal bears a very sparse and low paying fruit. It may be a noble goal that you're reaching for, maybe starting a rec center for under-privileged kids or an animal shelter, but you soon find out that neither of those will pay your bills. You'll find a whole community, city, or even a state official that may commend you on your work, but they will also drive off in a car that is worth more than your salary for the year, but at least you can say you go home happy. Well, that's if you can afford a home to go to. Maybe you'll take the bus back to your one bedroom apartment on a sketchy side of town, and then once you get there you can open up a can of tuna and enjoy your days work. You can have that happy feeling of doing something. I guess that's something that can keep a person going. I just think it's unfortunate that the more you try to do the right (noble) thing, the bigger gap you find yourself facing from living comfortably. Why must a person "suffer" through a job that they hate for a number of years in order to pursue something they really "want" to do? I don't think it's right or fair that society today puts its value on things that don't allow people to truly pursue their passions. When was the last time you saw an artist go to college and come out as a well to do member of society? Who was the last trombone player you saw come out of college and win a Grammy? Who was the last teacher that you knew that was able to go to a car dealership and put down 20% on a new car? These questions are ones that America doesn't want to answer or deal with because that would then start paying people for their passions and more people would end up wealthy, but that can't be. Those in power already have their friends and they're not looking for any company at the top.

In the end, you have to choose. Do you want to be happy or to be paid? In the rare occasion you can have both. Either love what you do or be happy where you are. I don't see this problem being solved anytime soon, so I wish you well in your endeavors and many years of happiness.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

It's getting heavy

Days after writing a post about education cuts in the state, I now see pockets of deep educational regress and distress around the country. The most notable is in Wisconsin. The teachers are about to have sick outs. The governor is about to cut off unions all together and it looks like states across the nation are watching this play out ready to pounce at their chance to do the same. My problem with all of this is that the real issue at hand constantly gets lost in the shuffle. Why aren't the kids learning. Some say because of teacher tenure,some point the finger at unions,some say it's laziness. Whichever camp you're in the fact remains we need to fix education.

I think the current system is in shambles and needs to be reconstructed, not reformed. We should allow students to leave high school with marketable skills that they can use that will give them skills to get work experience as well as career guidance. Schools nowadays are setup identically to the system we had during World War 1. Are we still living in a ww1 society? Last time I checked I would have to say no. So why shouldn't our education system advance?  In order to do this we need to realize primary and secondary education is the foundation of our society. Second we need to realize if we want a society that can fix and avoid future problems it must have an educated populous. Finally, we need to stop politicizing education. It shouldn't be something that someone runs on. It should be something that we all look to in order to better ourselves and in turn our society. As I've stated before this situation will get worse before it gets better. It's up to us to fix it.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What you get and what you miss with the cr48

After having a few days with the Cr 48 notebook from google (cr 48 ), I have an initial thoughts post that I’m going to do. It’s not going to be a review. There have been enough of those done and a google/youtube search will yield you numerous results. What I would like to do is give a little insight in to what you get and don’t get with the cr 48. My unit is stock and not in developer mode so this review pertains to stock cr 48 users. Disclaimer: This is a pilot program to help work out any issues. Lets get to it.

We’ll start with what it’s lacking and move on from there.

1. No local storage - This would probably be the most recognizable shortcoming of this unit at this time. You can’t save anything “on” the computer. Any saving is done directly to the cloud (your Google account). This is fine for things created in the cloud, but if you want to save your friend’s pictures from the latest meet up on your unit that may be a problem. That leads me to the second thing missing.

2. Can’t read external media - As of right now, external media can’t be easily read. So even if you just want to upload some pictures to your Picasa account from a jump drive right now you may have some difficulties. The file manager on the cr48 is very bare bones and doesn’t yet seem to be able to read files and manage or organize them for use from an external device. This is something that may or may not be addressed in production models, but for now it’s pretty much unusable.

3. No offline mode - You can not operate in an offline mode that will allow you to still work on docs, spreadsheets, etc. I’ve heard some people say they can, but in my testing I wasn’t able to get it to work. The unit does come with 100 Mb of free data per month for 2 years from Verizon, but I didn’t see how to make it work without data. Supposedly the google apps are supposed to have an offline function and the apps in the Chrome OS web store give devs the ability to allow their apps to run offline, so this may be something coming in the future.

Those are the most notable downfalls to this unit. They may seem big but when it comes to day to day use, these things are not that big of a deal for basic browsing and functionality. I use the cr 48 for Internet browsing, watching Youtube, blogging, checking email and listening to podcast and so far it has performed beautifully, outside of the occasional flash player crash. So what do you get with this machine?

1. Awesome battery - For starters the battery life on this thing is epic. 7-8 hours on average with heavy use (videos, streaming, email, sleep mode, etc.). I’ve enjoyed being able to use this machine for 3-4 hours and not having to worry about looking for the charger. What makes it even better is the fact you can come back a day later open it up and continue using it for another few hours before having to find the charger. Bottom line is that it has great battery life.

2, Great security - Allows your usage to be protected by a password and you can also allow guests to use your computer in guest mode. Guess mode allows other users to work without having to worry about them reading your email or having access to any of your account information. When they log off it clears their data, so they can also be assured that their information is safe.

3. Sleek design and ultra-portability - The size and feel of the unit is very sleek and lightweight. It would be very easy to carry around with you to work, class, on a trip and not have to worry about carrying the charger. You can easily make it through a day with this unit.

4. Webcam and microphone - You can enjoy video chatting on the go using the gtalk app and the integrated web cam and mic. The quality seems to be pretty good and both are very usable. Note: There is no Skype app for it right now. Right now you may be limited to gtalk, ustream and a few other apps in the web store in order to do video chatting.

So there you have an insider look at the cr 48. As stated earlier, this was not meant to be a review. Just an overview of what I’ve seen in my first few days using this awesome little machine. If you have questions or if there’s something you would like be to check out for you let me know. Until next time....take care.

CR48 better than a tablet

I just received a CR 48 notebook from Google a few days ago and I must say I’m quite impressed with this little machine. The more I use it the more useful it becomes. It is quite handy for normal Internet use, streaming music, listening to podcast, and doing a host of other normal laptop functions. Granted, it does have it’s limitations, but I would think the actual production models would have those issues worked out. With that being said I think depending on the price point you would be better served getting one of these more so than a tablet. I’m sure a lot of people would disagree and they have bought all in to the tablet culture, but why spend upwards of $600 or more on something with very limited functionality other than for the novelty of it. Either way you’re spending money on something that can’t do everything you want it to do. Where let’s say these “internet books” come out at the $150 price point. You would not only be able to get your media content, you could actually use it to get something done. It has a very usable keyboard, wi-fi and 3g connectivity, light and portable, webcam and mic, and awesome battery life to boot. If Google can get the bugs worked out I think these netbook alternatives could really cut into tablet sales. I’d buy one....wait....I already have one. What say you?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Should we be worried?

I just wrote an article for the and it really got me thinking. Should all teachers be worried about their jobs. Supposedly, the government is making this big educational push, but I'm seeing something totally different in my neck of the woods. Many districts are cutting jobs or not hiring at all. They're trying to find every possible way to balance the budget and teachers seem to be on the chopping block. So to all my educators out there, I'm going to give you a line from The Social Network, "A Harvard man doesn't try to find a job where he can work for someone else and be happy.....he makes his own job." Might this be an option that you can take advantage of? If so go for it. If you're in the classroom now, get ready to buckle down and hold on for the bumpy road ahead. Good luck to us all.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Write as much as I can

Alright world it's about that time. About to ramp up my editorial skills and get some writing done. I have a few different outlets that I'll be publishing for so it should keep me pretty busy and focused. I'm going to get a writing schedule set up to aid me in the creative process. This should be fun. I'll be writing for the, some android sites and who knows what else. We'll see. Take care!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Time to get back to work

After 4 days off from work, tomorrow is time to get back to it. I've enjoyed my days off and half heartedly look forward to going back. I'll be glad to see my students and coworkers but I don't look forward to the politics of being a teacher. The administration, the paperwork and all of the other red tape that goes along with it. I'm not going to complain though. I'm happy to have a job and will keep looking forward to the next step in life. Until then, I'll try to have a positive influence on as many as possible and make the best of the situation I'm in. Take care all. Good night. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Snow day

After days of sitting around the house I've had ample time to sit and think. I think I'm ready for a change, ready to accept the gifts and blessings laid out before me, ready to help those I can, ready move on, ready to do my best. The more I think about life the more i appreciate the things I've been blessed with. As the snow comes down I get to ponder all of the opportunities that I've seized and the ones I've let slip away. The plan is to make the most of each day. With my plan set I'm ready for whatever life brings. Take care.