Sep 12

Change is slow...

...unless it is caused by an earthquake. Four years ago my country embraced the idea that we were going to have change. The majority of us voted for change not knowing exactly what that would look like, but we wanted there to be change. We wanted our troops to be doing something other than fighting in countries where we can't pronounce the names of the cities and really have no desire to visit. There were, and unfortunately still are, so many things wrong with our country. With hope, the majority of those who chose to vote chose Barak Obama to be the country's leader. Perhaps this was because the person who was our supposed leader for eight years did a fantastic job of messing up our country. Who I voted for in the last election is not the point of this particular post because one of the great things about voting is that nobody has to know who I voted for. My students assumed I voted for the white person and my family assumed I voted for the non-white person. I know the truth, though.

I had hope that the US might recover from the mess it was in, but the mess was too deep for a mere 4 years to find a remedy and employ it. We had spent way more than 4 years to create the mess so why do people think that a mere year or two could have fixed our problems? All of the blame does not go to the President either. Our Congress has enacted so many messed up laws that it is no wonder our economy is a disaster. "We" allowed the majority of our commerce and production to go overseas. Whereas it used to be chic to buy imports and clothes made outside of the US, now it is depressing that the only clothes I can buy are imports because they were made in a South East Asian country.

Americans, if we weren't before, have certainly become a country of entitlement. Not all of us have earned this entitlement, but all of us feel we deserve it for some reason. People who lost jobs because we elected others to say it was OK to move all of our manufacturing overseas feel entitled to get money from the government because we no longer have those jobs. Power went to the people who already had money and those with the money figured out ways to maintain their income while not caring for those who used to work so that the US could have a tax base and recycle the dollars that were in our country. Money has gone in one direction, away from those of us who believed that if we played by the rules and chose a path commensurate to our birth status, we would be able to work at a job we enjoyed. Those who pushed themselves to do more would be rewarded with more and those who were lazy would become homeless and be at the mercy of those who wanted to care for the less fortunate.

Manufacturing jobs went overseas. This happened slowly enough that most of us did not notice. Explaining the causes for it takes more than 140 characters and the attention span for many of us does not last longer than a commercial break. Then we started losing other jobs that relied on there being an economy that kept US dollars in the US. These people went from plush jobs with good incomes to collecting unemployment. I never did figure out how to collect unemployment, but I know I've been paying into it the entire time I've had a job.

I've been mostly unemployed for the last 2 years and it really stinks. I have two college degrees, neither of which were easy or in very popular majors. I have always worked myself to exhaustion and now I can't figure out how to become employed. I want to teach online, but that is also becoming a casualty of the changes that were put in place under the Bush administration. I think they expected change to happen faster than it did because the US education system is not completely privatized yet, although it is certainly on its way. This change happens slowly and out of the perspective of most people so we are not aware of how school systems are becoming standardized and artistic and creative teachers are becoming less frequent. I am a teacher so I am aware of what I speak.

I am passionate about teaching because I love the creativity involved with finding ways to make science comprehensible to students. I enjoy developing lessons, seeing how to carry them out with kids, and have joy when I can see they understand something because of the way I let them play with the information. Now that I am disabled, the paradigm for being a teacher has changed. For me to be able to continue to do this with kids, I would have to be able to be awake relatively early every day for five days a week. My body can't handle that so I am excluded from teaching in a normal classroom. My intellectual brain still works so I could teach kids via a computer interface. This is what I am trying to do.

Finding a job with a virtual teaching company is very much based on who knows whom. I've been trying for almost two years to break into this system but I think I know too much and that is why it is excluding me. Yeah, I know it sounds like a conspiracy theory type of thing, but really, what they want for teachers online are the lazy ones who do not want to think for themselves. The curriculum is standardized. As an online teacher, I would not see my kids daily so I can't evaluate how things are on one day and make adjustments for the next day like I used to when I was in the classroom. I used to do formative assessment continuously so I could figure out what to change for the next day's lessons. That does not happen in the online world of k-12 education. Nope, the focus has shifted from the teacher being responsible for determining what students will learn to "flexibility" that lets students learn at their supposed own pace and on their own time schedule. In many ways this is brilliant, whereas in others it is going to create possibly even more problems. Change is slow. Changing the education system of the US is happening slowly and I fear that it is going to accelerate as we seek the quick fix for what has taken years to make a mess.

This entry is now >1000 words so I will pause. If I set this up well, then just about each paragraph here can lead to another blog entry. I have so much on my mind that I want to share with the world that I will either do it here or I may find a way to create a self-published book. Our education system is headed toward a revolution that will either make our country stronger because more responsibility is given to students or it will make us even more ignorant as we mechanically process students through a generic curriculum assessed by multiple choice questions.

Aug 12

You can have an Android device without having to have a phone number attached

Ok, I am in a Masters of Educational Technology program which to me means I should have a clue about the latest and greatest in technology gadgets, websites, or anything technology related that can be used for education. Nope, I was wrong. Now for the last two years I've been taking classes online. I've taken over twenty classes from at least five different colleges, universities, or companies. I'd like to think I'm pretty well versed in the online learning community. I'm certainly trying to get hired as a virtual high school chemistry teacher, so we'll have to see if I can convince others that I am a competent online teacher.

What does this have to do with Android mobile devices? I attended the 3DTeacherCamp this summer and loved every minute of it. I learned more about QR codes than you could ever imagine. I'll have to post some of my QR impressions in another post. I also learned how to make Android apps- OH! I can upload my QR codes for the apps I made. How cool will that be?!? Anyway, I did not own an Android device when we started summer camp. After making a few apps, I wanted a device so I could really try them out. The emulator on the screen is nice, but it won't vibrate. I suppose that is a good thing. Having my laptop vibrate is not exactly something I want it to do on command. My professor was really kind and did not laugh in my face when I asked him about Android devices. You see, I thought I was going to have to get yet another cell phone phone number and line just so I could use an Android device.

I learned, thanks to my kind professor, I can buy an Android device as a stand-alone object that will connect to the Internet via wifi. How cool is that? Of course it cost more than I would like to have paid, but I can now play my apps on it and some really cool games. Since it is not an iOS device, though, I am worried about viruses and other evil things that can attack my electronic stuff. So far thing are fine because I have not downloaded that much stuff. For now it is a toy I use to pass the time, and to marvel in what my fellow students and I created this summer. So if you do not want to pay the price of the iOS line of devices and you still want to play with apps, you don't have to put out more than $150 for a new app playing device.  We'll see if the prices change now that Apple won the battle over rectangles with rounded corners, but for now things are good.

Want to see the highly complex apps I made?  (joke- these are about as simple as you can get!)

 If you have an Android device, you can click on the QR code with a QR code reader and it will take you to the url location so you can download the app.

QR image for the Whack a Mole app

This app is hysterical- you have to tap on the mole before it jumps again. Having slow reflexes like mine makes this just a ball of laughter.

qr code image for Hello Purr app

This is the simplest way to make an app. It is the classic Hello World program, but in the world of apps, it is Hello Purr.

This gallery includes apps I made that were not merely step by step following the MIT curriculum. These were created in part due to the generosity others have with putting their code and block images online for newbies like me to use.

 Apparently Word Press (I think that is the software I'm using) lets me create a gallery. So some of the images are here twice. I did not want to erase the singletons that I managed to post before the gallery popped up as an option. Ah, learning curves. This is a prime example of me being oblivious to what others may see as obvious. Of course WordPress has a gallery option. I should have naturally gone there first to put the images here.