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Thursday , October 18 2018
Home | Tag Archives: education

Tag Archives: education

Op-Ed: Heroic Perspectives

Perspective and point of view are some things that are sorely lacking in much of our student’s educational experience.

The ability to see a topic from more than one person’s viewpoint is essential for students to make informed decisions.

Daily, we see in the news adults who cannot for the life of them see another person’s point of view. Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes? Heck, they wont even put the shoes on. It is easier to just yell at each other.

The adults that create the curriculum for students often have agendas that limit the ability for any kind of followup or deep dives, limiting the chances for depth of understanding.

How often have we seen politicians try to hijack curriculum to put in such things as the highly discredited “intelligent design” in Biology or even try bizarrely, to reframe the kidnapping of Africans into slavery as a “worker relocation effort?” (Yes, that really happened.)

Such is the case with a recent kerfuffle when the State Board of Education was trying to decide whether to remove terminology in the Texas State Standards for 7th Grade Social Studies that said that the fighters in the Alamo should be described as “heroic.”

The group of educators that were revising and streamlining the standards argued that “heroic” was a term that should be removed, as it was term that was “value charged.” (Is it “heroic” to fight until the last man, is it just bad military tactics, or was it just stupidity?)

The revisers also recommended removing the “Travis” letter as a stand alone standard because one cannot teach the siege of the Alamo without teaching the Travis letter. (For all of you saying “what is the Travis letter, go ahead and look it up. And by the way, you suck as a Texan for not knowing.)

Of course, Texas good old boy politicians on the Right immediately jumped in and cried about how “political correctness had run amok.”

Apparently having solved all of Texas’ other problems, the Governor had time to tweet:

“Stop political correctness in our schools. Of course Texas schoolchildren should be taught that Alamo defenders were ‘Heroic’! I fully expect the State Board of Education to agree. Contact your SBOE Member to complain. @TXSBOE #txlege #tcot https://t.co/Ph9oBoBzKF— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) September 6, 2018

By gawd, if John Wayne, er I mean Col. Davy Crockett was a hero for deciding to lock himself inside an adobe box with a bunch of other like-minded well trained militia members, with little or no food in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of winter, outnumbered a gazillion to one, with no one ready to back them up, then they are gawl dern heroes.

And you will use the word “heroic” when talking about them. And the little children of Texas will use the term heroic. (Why, just look at the geniuses they inspired years later!) Because, history is written by the victors, and even though they got their coon skinned asses handed to them at the Alamo, we won the war. Mexico lost.

Maybe defending the Alamo was heroic, maybe it was bad planning, maybe it was crappy military strategy, maybe bad luck, maybe it was all of the above, just as the Battle of Thermopylae and Seige of Masada were. But I doubt that the little children of Texas are given the perspective to decide for themselves whether Crocket, Travis et. al. were heroes, or, perhaps maybe something a little less heroic than they have been portrayed.

Because perspective, especially in history, is sort of forgotten when the victors write the textbooks. How can you have any perspective if you start with the phrase “Heroic Defenders?”

Consider the following: There is a strong case to be made that the Texans were not heroic freedom fighters at all, but rather an immigrant refugee force, illegally occupying a huge chunk of another country’s sovereign territory. During the 1820’s and 1830’s, a large number of illegal American immigrants moved into the country of Mexico to the west and south of the then United States.

Manifest destiny and all that.

How did this all happen? When Mexico won it’s independence from Spain in 1820, it allowed some immigrants to come into the territory of Tejas from the United States as long as those immigrants agreed to become Mexican citizens, follow Mexican law, and convert to Catholicism.

At first, everything was fine. Soon however, the legal immigrants were vastly outnumbered by illegal American immigrants coming into Tejas. The illegals were under no pretense to follow the law. The Mexican Army, under-manned and under-funded was no match for the flood of illegal American aliens.

By 1830, the Mexicans had had enough and had cut off immigration from the United States into Mexico. However, the flood of white skinned invaders continued when in 1836, President Santa Ana’s regime passed laws that changed territorial rule to a more centralized one.

That caused the illegal hoards of pale skins to revolt, declare themselves their own country, and set up shop as the Republic of Texas. They wrote a Constitution and set up a government that didn’t allow the Mexicans that were there legally to begin with the ability to vote. War was declared, and over 70% of those that came to fight crossed into Tejas/Texas illegally.

Or legally. It all depended on your perspective. Your point of view.

Davy Crockett and William Travis, heroes of the Alamo siege were illegal aliens as far as Mexico was concerned. Sam Houston, whose army defeated Santa Anna at San Jacinto more “illegal alien” as any “Dreamer” kid alive today in the US.

Think of how many schools in Texas are named after heroic illegal immigrants. How many students are taught that the state they live in was founded by illegal aliens? Not too many I suspect.

But from a certain perspective it certainly is worth considering the irony that many people in Texas, founded by illegal immigrants, want to keep immigrants out.

Perspective. Point of view. Sometimes, it is a good idea to see things from another point of view, especially if that is a valid one.

And it is definitely something our children need to be able to do.

***

Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

Op-Ed: Things Parents Can do to Help Kids with Ed Tech

In many school districts in the area, students are returning to classrooms that not only have traditional textbooks, but also some kind of digital device.

Some districts are giving students low end Chromebooks, while others are deploying higher quality laptops like MacBooks, while others are handing out iPads.

Whatever the device, there are a few things you can do as a parent to help your child use the device wisely. Here are some simple things you can do as a parent to help your child and their teachers with whatever device they have been assigned:

Remember That The Device Is For Academics, Not Entertainment:

These devices are academic devices, provided to your child to help with their classwork. The device is NOT provided to give your child another way to play video games or watch meaningless Youtube videos. You need to make sure that your child understands the difference.

Keep The Device Out Where Everyone Can See It:

Your child should be doing homework out in a common area, such as a dining room table. That way, you can keep tabs on what your child is doing on the device. See a lot of videos being played? Go over and ask to see what is being shown.

 

Know The Warning Signs:

If your child closes the lid to their laptop whenever you walk by, or always answers “Nothing” when you ask what they are doing on the laptop, then chances are there is something they don’t want you to see. Are they sitting in the corner or in their room away from your prying eyes? Not with these devices. If your child doesn’t want you to see what they are doing, that is a big red flag that something is wrong. Remember, the devices are academic ones. There should not be a single thing on these laptops that your child should not be willing to show you.

Learn The Tools The School Provides:

Many districts provide students with a large array of tools, both on the device and online. For instance EPISD provides students with the full set of Office 365 tools: Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, etc. Many districts provide students with Learning Management Systems, such as Schoology as well. Learn what the district is providing, then you will be able to tell if your child is using the tools. Have your child show you the tools that the teachers are asking them to use. Ask your child’s teachers what they want their students to do with the devices.

Never Go To Bed With A Device, Charge It:

No student should go to bed with a device. At the end of the day, the routine should be that the laptop is left in a common area (like the kitchen) where it can be recharged overnight for the next day. The device should be ready to go each and every day.

Spot Check What is on the Device:

Periodically, have your child open up the laptop and show you what they are doing. Have them show you their browser history, which shows you where they are going on the internet. No browser history? That is a red flag that your child may be hiding something from you. Have them show you their online storage files. Check their emails. You are not invading their privacy. You are making sure that they are using the tools properly.

Do a Monthly Inventory:

When your child was issued their device, chances are that it also came with some additions as well: A charger, a carrying case, etc. Check every month to see if these are still accounted for. If something is missing, especially if it is the device itself tell your campus administration immediately. Most devices have some kind of tracking software that can be turned on of the device is ever lost or stolen. The sooner the administration knows the device is gone, the better the chance of recovering it.

Learn Something Everyday:

Have your child show you one thing each day that they can do on their device. If you get into a routine of learning from them on a regular basis, seeing the device daily, they will be less reluctant to show you what is not it when you randomly ask.

Be a Good Role Model:

You need to be a good model of responsible technology use. If you ask your child to recharge devices overnight, why not do the same with your devices? If you ask your student to turn their devices off at certain times, you need to do so as well. “No devices at dinner” is a good rule to keep so that everyone can occasionally speak to each other!

Limit Screen Time:

Set limits on the amount of time that your child can be on their devices. If you say 9:00 PM is the cutoff time to stop using devices at home, then stick to that. Don’t hem and haw and change the rules. Remember, you are the boss at home.

Read Those Handouts:

How many times have you received something from school that you just glanced at and forgot about? Chances are, when your child received their device, there was information for parents handed out as well. Did you get it? Did you read it? Can you remember what said?

Although some of these rules may seem a bit Draconian, the proper use of school digital devices is very important for our children’s future learning. You are the school’s eyes and ears when students are away from school.

Only you know if your child is using these laptops properly at home. The school cannot be with your child after hours or on weekends. You have to help the schools with your child’s success. If you don’t help then you are skirting your duties as a good parent.

A friend of mine once explained it this way: The job of parents is not to be best friends with their children. It is to make sure that they successfully make it into adulthood. Sometimes that requires a set of rules and to stick by those rules. You are as much a part of your child’s digital learning as the school. Set rules, set expectations, work with teachers. Student digital academic success takes more than a teacher and school.

***

Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

Op-Ed: Dual Credit Programs – It Could be Better

Last week, our local community college sent out a press release that their Dual Credit and Early College Program was up for a national award. Congratulations. Kudos. Bravo.

For those that are not up on the latest edu-lingo, Dual Credit programs allow high school students to take freshman and sophomore college classes at an associated college or university. The course is taught by a certified high school teacher who has had their course approved by the college they are attending (like EPCC). A college professor acts as a facilitator for the course, and approves the work of the students.

Theoretically, a student could take these courses and graduate high school not only with a high school diploma, but also with an Associates Degree because, as the name implies, the student gets high school AND college credit simultaneously. These programs have been in place for several years now, and each district in the area has some form of it in place for their students.

That’s a big deal.

School districts are essentially paying for your child to attend college. Parents or students could save a ton of money towards a four year college degree. Imagine 2 out of your 4 years of college already taken care of by the time you graduate high school. That is the promise of Dual Credit: Save money, earn college credits.

These programs have proven successful for a number of years, and have benefitted many local community colleges across the nation by increasing enrollment. (All those high schoolers are also community college attendees after all…) Research shows that getting students into higher ed in high school improves their chances of actually finishing a four year degree.

Again, that is a big deal especially for many in El Paso which has a high poverty rate.

After reading the press release from EPCC, I couldn’t help but wonder if there were ways that this type of program could be improved. I think there are.

Saving Money?

Tonie Badillo, Dean of EPCC’s Dual Credit and Early College High School Programs said “These students have the opportunity to save time and money by getting a head start on their college career.” Notice who is saving money: Just the students. The public schools that are sending their students actually are not saving any money, and in most cases, have split their ADA funds with the college.

Teachers have to be certified to teach dual credit, which costs additional money, and the public schools also have to supply college level textbooks to students taking these courses. College textbooks can cost hundreds of dollars for a single copy. The national average cost of a college textbook is $153 per book.

Clearly, the Community College is not losing any money in these transactions. They could, if they so choose, help out the local public schools by requiring all of the professors that teach any of these courses to use Open Education Resource (OER) textbooks. Typically, an average college textbook costs between $125-$250. Multiply that by the number of students enrolling each year in Dual Credit, and the burden placed on the providing public school district becomes prohibitive.

OER textbooks are created in the public sphere, and are free to use and download. And before anyone says “Free must mean bad” consider the Open STAX textbooks from Rice University . These are written by college professors specifically for college classes and have close to 40 college level courses available. For free, for anyone, forever.

The University of Minnesota also has an entire online library of OER college level textbooks, reviewed by college professors for rigor viability in the subject area. Even the State University of New York has an online library of OER textbooks. Surely, if OER is good enough for Rice University, the University of Minnesota, SUNY and hundreds of other institutions of higher education, it might just be good enough for El Paso Community College. The money saved by the public schools could be reinvested in teacher training or student technology.

There is no reasonable argument for paying $200 for a textbook when a OER equivalent is available for free. (This scenario also applies to Advanced Placement courses as well, where students are expected to take college level courses in High School. There is no reason to use expensive college texts when an OER text would be just fine.)

From Free Textbooks to Textbook Free

Another way to pass a savings down to public schools is to simply eliminate the need for a textbook altogether. The University of Texas Austin has an online program called UT OnRamps, which differs a bit from the Dual Credit programs offered in our area.

The OnRamps program is a Dual ENROLLMENT program, where the students are enrolled and taking a high school class AND taking an online college class offered by UT Austin. (Texas Tech has a similar OnRamps program.) The high school teacher acts as a facilitator for the university professor, working closely with the students who take the course 100% online, but have their high school teacher as a guide. Under this model, students receive a grade and credit from UT Austin and another grade from their public school, thus the term “Dual Enrollment.”

Often the grades are different, as the rigor of the college course is more than the that of the high school one. (EPISD offers OnRamps at several of its campuses.) What makes the OnRamps program interesting is that there is no textbook required. All of the material is online in the program’s learning management system. No text, no extra cost. Districts pay only for the cost of enrolling the student.

Like so many programs in education, the Dual Credit program is a boon to students, especially those coming from families in the lower income brackets. But also like many programs, it could be better. Using Open Education Resource textbooks in all dual credit classes would save money for local school districts that could be invested elsewhere.

There is no logical reason, when possible, that this is not happening.

***

Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

Op-Ed: Growing the Next Steve Jobs

My friend and education guru Kevin Honeycutt had a conversation where he said to me that many of the most creative minds in history all hated their school experience.

He spoke of Einstein (who’s Algebra teacher told him he was no good in mathematics), and of Thomas Edison, whose teacher called him “addled.” One music  teacher in a Liverpool high school failed to recognize any musical talent in  two of his students: George Harrison and Paul McCartney. That’s George and Paul of John Paul George and Ringo fame.

Imagine that: Half of the Beatles didn’t have any musical talent according to their music teacher. How tough was that music teacher? How good was that school’s music program?! (There are even websites that list people that dropped out of high school or college that became great successes in life.)

Our conversation naturally shifted to the late Steve Jobs, who famously dropped out of college to start a little company called Apple Computers and who said “I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and how college was going to help me figure it out.”

The thought was, and one that Honeycutt told in a keynote presentation the next day at Ysleta ISD, that public education failed to meet the needs of creative types like Jobs, and he mused what undiscovered Steve Jobs is out there right this minute that we are failing to identify and help.

“What are we doing to help the next Steve Jobs?” he asked his audience. The implication of course, was that nothing is being done to help the next Steve Jobs, and that kid that everyone dismisses as weird or as a discipline problem may in fact, just be bored out their minds.

I agree with the idea that public education, as it currently is practiced in many places, does little to help the “crazy ones” as Jobs called them.

But..

I wonder how much of that lack of understanding on the part of teachers or the education system in general, actually helped shape those people into the person that they became? If for instance, Jobs had been able to find a mentor in school, he would never have met Bill Hewlett of Hewlett Packard who became his Yoda.

If he had followed the “normal path” of a student, he probably never would have traveled the pathway he traversed. Would a Math or Science teacher in high school been able to mentor Jobs the way Hewlett did? Doubtful.

One of the hallmarks of those creative thinkers, the Jobs, the Gates, the Harrisons and McCartneys is that they were shaped by circumstances, it was what they didn’t do that forced them to become who they were. So, even though the public school system failed to ignite their passions, they were, as far as anyone can tell, all self motivated. They wouldn’t take failure or lack of resources as an excuse not to succeed.

Sir Ken Robinson, perhaps the world’s most respected expert on childhood creativity once stated:

“Human talent is like the world’s natural resources, it’s often hidden from view. Sometimes we have all these talents and riches in our lives just beneath the surface but because we’re looking for something else we don’t see it.

We often have children who are buzzing with brilliant possibilities which are thwarted because we say ‘well that’s all very well, but can you pass this test and can you qualify to go and do a law degree at university. Some people are cut out to earn law degrees, but many people aren’t, and if we look instead for what people really have to offer rather than asking whether they’re capable of this particular thing I think we’d find a much greater harvest of human potential.”

Maybe a better question to ask, instead of how can we as educators can help the next Steve Jobs, is how can we as educators help move students to think like Steve Jobs? How can we train students to be as creative as McCartney? How can we help students locate their Yodas?

How can we move those students that believe they are stuck with their lots in life, to begin to think that they can indeed nurture their creativity and make that a ticket out of poverty or abuse, or even to move out of the middle class? Perhaps we begin by believing ourselves that every single student has the ability to become the next Jobs, or Gates. Who are we to judge that they wont be?

I once read a quote that said “Business is run by “C” students.” Not the valedictorians, not the salutatorians. The average students. The “C” students. There are a lot more “C” students than “A” students.

There are lots of little Edisons and Jobs out there. Maybe our job is not just to find them, but to show them the many paths that they can take, help them find their Yoda’s and show them the many pathways they can take without forcing them down one way or another. (And to teach English music teachers to recognize talent when they see it.)

***

Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

Op-Ed: The Democracy of Creation

Just a few years back, if one wanted to be a published author, you had to write your novel, hire an agent and have that person shop your book around all of the publishers until you found one that agreed to print your book and distribute it to bookstores across the country. Then you would wait and hope someone bought it. It was a crapshoot.

A few years back, if you wanted to make a movie to be distributed, you would have to purchase or rent hundreds of thousands of dollars video and editing equipment. You would then, much like the author of a book, have to find an agent to shop your masterpiece around to studios., show it at film festivals, and hope someone found it interesting enough to distribute. It was a crapshoot.

A few years back, of you wanted to record a hit record, you would have rented time at a recording studio, which included all of the production staff, and recorded your masterpiece. You would then, much like the creator of a movie, have to find an agent to shop your masterpiece around to studios, go out to radio stations with your tapes, and hope someone found it interesting enough to play on their station. It was a crapshoot.

Just a few years back…

Today, if you wanted to create a full length movie, record an album, or write a novel and distribute them to a worldwide audience, you could do it from your laptop. Heck, you could theoretically do everyone of those things from your smartphone or tablet computer.

Those things that were once were in the provenance of the elite and well connected are now in the domain of the everyday. That which was once was only written in the language of the chosen few are now in the vernacular.

Consider the full length movie “Tangerine,” shot in 2015 almost entirely on an iPhone 5s using an $8 app called Filmic Pro. Of course there were some post production and add ons such as a steadicam, but the point was that a small budget movie could now use a tool that people carry around in their pockets to create art. Indeed, Variety recently ran an article about 12 movies that were shot if not entirely, almost entirely using smartphones.

Dragonborne is a 90 second example of what one can do on a smartphone:

If movie making is not your thing, you have the ability to write and publish your own “Great American Novel” for free using programs such as Apple’s iBooks Author. You can write and publish, for free, any type of book you wish. (If you want to charge for your book there are a few extra, not expensive steps you need to take).

Indeed, the iBookstore is full of books published for free by little known authors. Free no longer means poor quality. The most famous book that started out as a “publish it yourself” is probably “Fifty Shades of Grey,” that started life as a freely published fan fiction for the Twilight series of books.

Anyone, anywhere can write a book and publish it for the world to read. The web is full of self published books in a cornucopia of topics.

In 1968 the Beatles had at their disposal, an eight track track recording studio at Abbey Road. That technology, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars was cutting edge for the day.

Today, anyone with a modicum of interest or talent can access a free tool called “Garageband” on an iPhone or Macintosh and actually have far greater recording power, for free, than the Beatles.

Imagine that: You may, right this second, have more recording power in your pocket than John, Paul, George, and Ringo had in all of Abbey Road Studios. You certainly have more than Elvis had at Sun Records.

Recording acts as diverse as the Gorrillaz ,Grimes, and El Paso’s own Khalid all have used the recording power of the free Garageband app to make music. The web is full of stories of how artists can now afford the once unaffordable.

Movies, music and books are not the only creations that have been democratized with technology. Anyone can record, produce and distribute their own radio show as a podcast. Over the years, the popularity of podcasts has exploded, running the gamut in both quality and length. All have some interest to someone. Want to become the next Casey Kasim and countdown your own American Top 40 each week? Want to create a weekly “Grumpy Old Man Yelling at the Passing Clouds” show? There is very little that prevents you from doing that other than your own inhibition.

Technology has moved that which was previously almost impossible to the common man. Probably no other company in the world has done more to democratize the creation of content than Apple, which has been credited with being the first with creating devices and software that allowed anyone to create; Apple has, over the years developed and released:

  • The first mass produced laser printer that allowed anyone to print newspaper-like materials.
  • iMovie that made movie producing easy and fun.
  • Garageband which did the same for music and podcasts.
  • iBooks Author that allows anyone to create and publish, for free.

The list goes on and on. Apple likes to say that they make products that are at the corner of Liberal Arts and Technology. I like that approach. Computers should not be just about writing code, editing spreadsheets, and making Powerpoint presentations.

Recently Apple has promised to release an entire curriculum called “Everyone Can Create” which promises to help teachers show students how to become creators of content, not just consumers. Too often, teachers use computers to do the exact same thing that a pen or paper assignment could have done.

Having students create digital content not only is more interesting, it is also more engaging and research show that it can increase academic performance.

Occasionally, educators and the public will question the expenditure of funds on laptops or tablets for students, and if students are doing rote skills on digital devices, they are indeed a waste of money. However if students are allowed to create, to collaborate, to make content that just a few years ago would have been impossible to do without hundreds of thousands of dollars, then magic happens. When Technology and Humanities meet.

That is where the corner of Technology and Liberal Arts is located. And while it is still a crapshoot on whether or not anyone will like your product, that location, that special corner is where the magic of democratization of technology happens.

It is up to us to show our students the map to that corner.

***

Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

Microsoft Selects EPCC’s Clint Early College Academy for New Partnership

El Paso Community College’s (EPCC) Clint Early College Academy was selected to a new partnership with  Microsoft’s Technology, Education, and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program, which helps high schools build and grow sustainable computer science programs through partnerships between classroom teachers and technology industry volunteers.

Edmond Martinez, Principal of Clint ISD Early College Academy, a school that has long embraced the need for strong science, technology, engineering, and math programs, sees the teaching of computer science as a duty to the next generation, and encourages local technology experts step up to volunteer.

“We have a responsibility to create pathways for our students from high school, through college, and to professional positions,” Martinez said. “Technical knowledge and skills prepare our students for the jobs of today and tomorrow, to solve serious problems, and create new opportunities for humanity. It’s my hope that many of those in our community who have technology training will sign up to volunteer with TEALS this fall. What could be more rewarding than passing on your skills the next generation of innovators?”

“Our region is fortunate to have terrific schools, which will be even stronger with the addition of a program that teaches one of the key skills young people will need to be successful in our increasingly technology driven world,” said J.J. Childress, the El Paso manager of Microsoft’s TechSpark program to foster greater economic opportunity and job creation in six communities in the United States.

“We know teachers want to teach computer science, but it can be challenging to find the time and resources to learn the subject. TEALS addresses this by putting trained technology volunteers into classrooms to teach students, while helping teachers prepare to teach the subject on their own.”

The program will launch this fall at Clint ISD Early College Academy.

 

Op-Ed: Sorry, Kids Don’t Need Cursive Writing to Understand Historical Documents

Take a look at this meme that rears its ugly head once in a while across the Internet especially on Facebook:

For those of you that cannot read cursive, it says;

“Kids who can’t read cursive handwriting can’t read historic documents. Support cursive in the curriculum.”

I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s start with the probably obvious: Some people, and I am gonna guess it is people that have not been in a school in decades, are upset that cursive handwriting is no longer being taught in many school districts across the country.

There are many very good reasons for this, but the most obvious one is that a child does not need to understand or write in cursive in order to communicate in today’s world.

Printed word, audio, video, and other forms of communication are all taking over from the cursive writing of old. And computers don’t put out content in cursive, unless you tell them to.

Of course, this meme was probably made by some older, more conservative person that think our kids need to be able to READ primary source historical cursive documents that are from the early years of the United States. However, MOST historical documents are not written in English, are not written in English cursive, and are not from the United States.

And chances ARE that the ones written in English are probably written in Olde English, which most people, students or not, would have a difficult time understanding anyway.

So let’s take a look at some of those “primary source documents” that kids are supposed to be able to read. Start with the most obvious: The Declaration of Independence:

This is the CURRENT condition of the Declaration of Independence that is in the National Archives: Faded almost to the point of transparency. I have actually seen the document up close and personal. It is very close to being illegible. Even if a student could read cursive, it would be of little or no use. The writing is that bad.

How is that “Need to be able to read cursive working for you?

Let’s look at another primary source: The US Constitution:

Again, faded, almost illegible.

So historical documents were all written in cursive? The meme makes it sound like it. But like most memes, it is almost totally false and creates a story that cannot stand up under the facts.

Back to the Declaration of Independence. Most Americans do not know the original was printed in PRINT form, distributed across the colonies and THEN written in cursive later:

Imagine yourself as a typical middle school student. What is easier to read and understand: The written-in-cursive faded version we have in the National Archives or this version also in the National Archives, although in the virtual National Archives?

The point is, the printed version or for that matter the web version, unless there is some compelling reason otherwise, is almost ALWAYS easier to read and understand than the “historic” cursive version. Unless you are Nicolas Cage and need to steal the original document to find the hidden treasure map on the back using lemon juice and a candle, chances are the printed version will work just fine.

Consider the TEXAS Constitution: It was and always has been, printed. Never cursive:

The Japanese Surrender Documents at the end of World War 2: Printed.

Your mortgage papers? Printed.
Your divorce decree? Printed.
The local newspaper (if you even know what that is): Printed.
Textbooks? Printed.
Most online content? Printed.
Want to buy a car? I hope you can read printed script.

In fact, I bet you cannot think of an important document other than your High School diploma that didn’t use print script.

For those that insist that you still need to WRITE cursive to understand historical documents, consider the Magna Carta, written in 1215 in LATIN in print script,  and the basis for much of our Constitution, here is what it looks like:

Here is a transcript in English.  Now, tell me, what is easier to understand? Unless your Latin is good, I suspect you liked the English PRINTED translation.

These types of internet memes are usually put out by nostalgic people thinking that the world they remember was better than the world they live in now. Sadly, they don’t seem to understand that in many aspects, the world they once knew is gone, and had been replaced by something even better. Why, I can’t even recall a time when the Fox News headline scroll was written using as cursive font.

Let old ways die. Just because YOU did it, does not mean it was better. It is totally okay to remember your past, but don’t force it on the rest of us.

The world has gotten much better over the years. Much better.

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Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

Op-Ed: It Isn’t About Technology, it is About Equity

The student looked up from his new HP Stream computer, a low powered , low cost Windows laptop.

He was in 11th grade and seemed to really be interested in what was happening on the device, which if I recall, was a Khan academy video on some math concept. Our district had just rolled out our first 1:1 technology initiative and this student was one of the 18,000 high school students on the receiving end.

“How do you like your laptop?” I asked him.

He paused for a second. My first thought was we have taught that “stranger danger” stuff too well with these kids. He wasn’t going to talk to me. He looked at the computer and then back at me, the old man from central office who he had no idea who I was or how I was intricately involved with the delivery of that device into his hands.

“This device has changed my family Mister.” he said.

I knew that by providing these laptops to our students, many of them would be bringing home the first computer that their families had ever had. I wasn’t prepared for that answer. I was expecting an answer like “It helps me with my homework” or even a simple “It’s cool.” I wasn’t ready for a family being changed.

“How so?” I asked. “How did it change your family?

“We used it to get my dad a job.” He replied. “My dad was wanting get a job at a repair shop. But they only took job applications online. They wouldn’t take his application in the store. They told him to fill out the online application. He couldn’t do it.”

He didn’t have to say much more. Many of our students live in homes below the poverty level. Having laptop computers, much less an internet connections is often a luxury way beyond the means of many.

“Since we didn’t have a computer, he thought he couldn’t get that job. Then they handed these out at school the same week my Dad was looking for the job. I took my dad to McDonald’s and we got on their wifi network. He was able to apply for the job using the laptop, and he got the job.” He looked back and me and smiled.

“So the laptop changed my family.”

After hearing the young man’s story it became apparent to me that getting technology into the hands of kids in many cases wasn’t just about giving them access to a tool for academic purposes. It was about equalizing the academic playing field and in the course of doing that, equalizing the social playing field as well.

Many, especially those that were educated in public schools before technology became ubiquitous, question whether or not so much money should be spent on things like laptops for students. Indeed, billions of dollars are spent annually across the country and there are some studies that seem to indicate that technology in and of itself makes little or no difference academically.

Those studies are short sighted at best. Pencils, in and by themselves, make no difference academically. Air conditioning makes little or no difference academically. Indeed, even textbooks make little or no difference BY THEMSELVES. But the right tools combined with excellent teaching makes a world of difference, especially for our students that have to do without, due to circumstances beyond their control.

Our students, no matter their socio-economic status, are going to be living in a world of more technology, not less. They will be living in a world where artificial intelligence controlled devices will change the world in almost every area.

To deny students access to at least the most fundamental technology, and that means a basic mobile device like a laptop, is the equivalent of denying them textbooks and pencils. It is educational malpractice.

You can’t change the lives of students and families for the better by not providing the tools to make their lives better.

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Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback. Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

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