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David Anthony Colarusso - Sadly not Havoc Dinosaur
Intermittent musings on the law, science, education, technology, design, and life. Also, I build things: furniture, software, reasoned arguments... To learn more about that, click a persona below for my eponymous website.

General Observations

Posts filed under Education > General Observations.

An Ill-Defined Bottom Line, Why it’s So Hard to Get Public Education Right

by David Colarusso - April 27th, 2007

I’ll get to my thesis in the second paragraph, but first some background. Two weeks ago I was involved in a rather interesting discussion surrounding American education. It all started with a posting I made in response to YouTube’s Spotlight ’08 posting from former Massachusetts Governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney. He wanted to know what we thought was America’s greatest challenge and what we would do to face it. I said “adaptability in a changing world” and suggested improving public schools. To his credit, he posted a reply to my video, using it as a starting point to provide his own thoughts on adaptability. He didn’t, however, have much to say in relation to my suggestion that we improve public schools. You can judge the quality of the exchange for yourself. I’m putting all of the candidates’ Spotlight ’08 postings along with my replies here. This is so I’m not tempted to blog every time I upload a reply. Check back weekly, as I intend to respond to each of the candidates.


An educational philosophy: What are schools for?

by David Colarusso - April 22nd, 2007

In the past two year’s I’ve had the “pleasure” of contributing to the mission statements of two “learning institutions.” Unfortunately, these statements always seem to fall short of asserting any strong educational philosophy. More often than not, they are meaningless exercises in window dressing. So I decided to give it my best go. Below you’ll find my mission statement for public/state education. Tell me what you think.

Public education should aim to provide students with the skills and experience necessary to individually and collectively construct, acquire, evaluate, and apply robust emotive, descriptive, and predictive models of their world.

Noting these tasks are most often performed within the context of a community and recognizing its role as a public service, schools should aim to assure that individual learners understand their role in the healthy operation of society and that in an ever-changing world, a deliberative democracy is most healthy when comprised of individuals holding a diverse set of beliefs.

Update: 2006-04-29. That last sentence is too long and needs some clarification.

Life imitating art imitating life

by David Colarusso - March 25th, 2007

So last Thursday I broke up a fight on the football pitch, and after separating the students involved, I noticed about half a dozen camera phones documenting the whole thing. Friday morning the video was on YouTube, and that afternoon, by chance, I happened upon this posting over at about a This American Life video on a school-yard fad and its consequences–pretend video cameras. Watch the story, and you’ll understand. It definitely gives you something to think about.

When it rains…

by David Colarusso - March 14th, 2007

Since I last blogged about refresh and censorship, things haven’t gotten any better. Our security was compromised, resulting in the posting of our students’ names, logins, and passwords on the web. I still don’t have a login, and the entire school network went down today. Unfortunately, our new contract with BT requires that all service go through them. So our senior management has been leaving phone messages all day long. That’s right, they couldn’t reach a real person. As of this afternoon, there was still no reply. We should have staff on site with the permissions and knowhow to handle these issues when they arise. Unfortunately, the BT contract precludes this.

In the Firewall’s Chill, I proposed five operational guidelines for school networks, and today I really wish we had two of them in place. Unfortunately, I also realize

are needed. It’s like the “warning contents are hot” text on takeout coffee; sometimes you’re amazed at people’s staggering lack of common sense.

After talking to some students, I think the password breach was probably the result of a teacher leaving their desk and failing to log out. So I suppose one should add the guideline “Have all publicly-accessible terminals lock themselves when left idle.” This is where my third guideline, “Allow users to choose their own passwords,” comes into play. Hard to remember passwords lead users to write them down, and they also make the process of logging in a chore. People are

likely to lock their desktop/logout when the process of logging back in doesn’t cause a hassle.

I don’t know if the network issue is being looked into, and I really wish I had a way to. Whether or not I can access files tomorrow influences what my lessons will look like. As is, I’ll have to walk in with two plans, and I have no idea when things may be fixed. Even though I couldn’t access the web from school, I can from home. This is where I wish we were following my fifth suggestion “Maintain a Local Status & Maintenance Blog.” However, there might be an email explaining things. I should check my inbox. Oh wait, we can’t access work email off site. I think that should be another rule, “Allow users to access email off site.” I’ll save this rant for later. ;)

Now here’s the mind boggling lack of common sense. Wait for it… Our students’ logins are based on their national qualification IDs. That’s right, it’s like assigning social security numbers as logins. Man that was a smart decision.

Alright then, I have to head off to parents’ night now. That should be fun. All the room assignments and such were stored on the network, and the business manager was running around like crazy this afternoon working from paper and memory. Also, most teachers house their students’ marks on the network. On the up side, it should make for interesting conversation.

Just a Test?

by David Colarusso - March 9th, 2007

High stakes testing threatens American education. Well-meaning politicians and communities frightened by a changing world risk hobbling the American educational system, producing a testing leviathan incapable of responding to the challenges of a global economy and destined for mediocrity. Six months ago I accepted a Fulbright teacher exchange to Edinburgh, Scotland, leaving the Bay State and my classroom in Lexington for the home of James Watt and Adam Smith. Now preparing my students for national exams, I think of their counterparts taking the MCAS, and I am compelled to warn of the dangers ahead.


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