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Wisconsin Professor’s E-Mails Sought by G.O.P. – DON’T USE BUSINESS EMAIL FOR PERSONAL USES

March 27, 2011 in Public Interest

It was a lengthy and speculative examination of a national organization for conservative lawmakers that the professor, William Cronon, believed was partly responsible for what he described as “this explosion of radical conservative legislation.” The post soon received more than a half million hits, he said.

Two days later, on March 17, while attending a conference of historians, Professor Cronon learned that a public records request had been filed by a state Republican Party official demanding access to months of messages on his university e-mail account that referred to certain politicized words and names, including the governor and a number of legislators.

Professor Cronon, who describes himself as a political independent, said his initial nervousness had turned to anger over what he described as an attempt at harassment and intimidation. He said he had never engaged in any nonscholarly political work on university computers or time, which is prohibited, but was still concerned about the release of the e-mails.

I’m going to say this once, please listen. DO NOT use your business (university or other) email for ANY personal business. In fact, use it as little as possible.

I know many people like giving out their business email because it might look cool or because you don’t want to check more than one account. STOP IT! Don’t give me your business account unless you own your own business. Even then, I really don’t want it. Get a personal account and use it. Get one that won’t change over the years so I don’t have to change my address book ever time your job (or domain) changes.

It’s not just because you might be open to a records request like this professor. More importantly, your business owns those messages. You have NO expectation of privacy with these emails. Your boss (or administration) can access your account any time they want. Of course, there may be some rules and regulations in place, but these are not exactly going to protect your privacy.

In fact, I only use my university accounts for university business. For me that means about 1000 pieces of junk mail each day, a couple departmental announcements of some worth, and the occasional students email (most communication is through other, not email means).

I use my personal accounts for EVERYTHING else. This even includes most of my teaching communications. Why would I give the university access to these records? I’m not forced to and it seems that I am better off not doing so.

In addition, for you teachers out there. Anything you do on a school computer, network, and on school time is basically owned by the school. For this reason, I suggest bringing in a personal computer (laptop of course) and using VPNs or other encryption mechanisms to protect your privacy while computing at school (work in this case). At the very least, clear your cache, temp files, cookies, passwords, and browser history every once in a while and keep all non-work documents in internet storage (like Sugarsync) or use encrypted folders/drives that require a password to access.  This is all just 21 Century CYA (cover your ass) advice.

It’s odd that he said that he doesn’t do other work on university time in the article. A professor doesn’t really have “university time” unless you count classroom teaching time and meetings. That’s both a benefit and drawback of being a professor. There are no clock in/clock out times. You are always on the clock (or off the clock as some would argue). Work, for a professor, is whenever they are teaching, administering, writing, reading, or even thinking about work (most often in terms of research). So, depending on which way you consider it, he was always doing non-scholarly activities on university time….Or maybe he never did. Confusing? Yes.

Why Education Research Is Failing Us – Nice way to only half understand education research

May 5, 2010 in Education, Public Interest

Second-Class Science

Education research gets an F.

It goes without saying that effective teaching has many components, from dedication to handling a classroom and understanding how individual students learn. But a major ingredient is the curriculum the school requires them to use. Yet in one of those you’ve-got-to-be-kidding situations, the scientific basis for specific curricular materials, and even for general approaches such as how science should be taught, is so flimsy as to be a national scandal. As pay-for-performance spreads, we will therefore be punishing teachers for, in some cases, using the pedagogic equivalent of foam bats. “There is a dearth of carefully crafted, quantitative studies on what works,” says William Cobern of Western Michigan University. “It’s a crazy situation.”

I love when I hear reports like this. Honestly, this type of trash talk has been pretty much over for years. This is the same trash talked by the old guard who honestly think that the same research done in science labs can be done in the classroom, that fallacy that you can control classroom variables enough for your results to be “pure”.

I’m not saying there isn’t a bunch of junk out there. There certainly is. But to draw this conclusion from this one researcher (where it seems she got all her info) and his one study, is just wrong. Research is like a collage, or better yet, a pointillist painting. Each study is a dot that will eventually form a piece of a grand picture.

I don’t have to see Cobern’s study to know that he couldn’t control for teacher. In addtional, there is always the issue of how one is measuring growth. Methods like inquiry-based instruction result in different learning. It is learning that is more personal and broad. How can you capture this with a multiple-choice test? You can’t.

I’m not going to say that this study is worthless. It is another point on that painting. The creation of this painting is hampered and even harmed every time one of this brainiacs decide that types of research that don’t conform to their ideal of study design (that was perfected in the early 20th century, by the way).

I’ll end by extending her baseball analogy. There is no such thing as the perfect bat. Each batter has their own ideal that is influenced by countless factors accumulated from their genes their memories of lucky bats in their past. THERE IS NO PERFECT BAT FOR EVERYONE. Do you understand?

Class Struggle – Why waste time on a foreign language?

April 28, 2010 in Education, Language

Why waste time on a foreign language?

[This is my Local Living section column for April 22, 2010.]

My online discussion group, Admissions 101, recently exchanged verbal blows over foreign language courses in high school. Most of us defended the conventional wisdom. Learning another language improves cognitive development, we said. It enhances academic skills, encourages a sense of the wider world and looks good to colleges.

But the dissenters scored some points. “It is a waste of time and money in our schools,” said a parent who remembered seeing empty language lab stalls. A high school teacher said that “language study is complete nonsense for most people. I’d wager close to 80.percent of kids taking foreign languages in high school do so because they have to.”

How much do they learn? There is little evidence that many students achieve much fluency in high school.

It wasn’t until I decided I wanted to be a reporter in China that I got serious about grammar, vocabulary and accent in a foreign tongue. It was very difficult, another reason why high school language students don’t get very far.

How students still look good on their report cards is easy to explain. Because much of the world is striving to learn English, Americans wonder why they should bother to learn other languages. We talk about the importance of foreign language learning to our national security, but we don’t mean it. If if we need speakers of exotic tongues, we import them.

You can tell right away this guy is in Washington, D.C. in the way that he talks out of both sides of his mouth. Take a stance, man!

He makes some great points, but let’s read around what he said to eek them out.

(1) Language learning is best accomplished when it is based on an immediate need or desire to learn (job, deployment, girlfriend/boyfriend).

(2) Isolated high school programs do little to produce “fluent” speakers of the language. Anyone will tell you that it’s a tall order for someone to become “fluent” in 4 years of minimal study. This is why feeder programs are essential. We should be teaching languages from kindergarten in K-12. Before that, parents should be teaching their kids foreign languages from birth (slight exaggeration, but only slight).

He’s overall tone is very negative towards language learning (for the general public–applying to universities). He states that we (the U.S.) imports foreign language specialists when we need them. That is absolutely true. However, he sees the past with little insight into the future (or the present). It’s not that we have to worry about who will do the language work in the States, we have to worry about marketing ourselves and getting jobs abroad. Do you really think that being monolingual (even if it is the “global language” of English) will get you very far? Hell, most of these companies are headquartered in non-English speaking countries these days.

You want to go into finance? Learn Chinese or another East Asian language.

You want to go into technology? Multilingual Eastern Europeans, Middle Easterners, and Asians are going to eat your lunch.

You want to go into science? ….ok, you can probably get by with English-only, for now.

Why waste time on a foreign language? I’ll tell you why. Even if your parents were clueless enough not to prep you early to learn a second language (any language), exposure to language learning in school can start you down the path of figuring out how to learn languages. It can plant the seed of interest, or at least, get you to better know yourself, your interests, and how you best learn.

Sometimes, I just want to smack some sense into these myopic buffoons. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll knock their blinders off so they can see that there is a world outside of their suburban hell.

Wow, that rant felt good.

U.S. travel promotion bill signed into law – CNN.com

March 5, 2010 in Uncategorized

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • President “has acted to support the power of travel,” U.S. Travel Association chief says
  • Law establishes a public-private U.S. travel promotion organization
  • Part of the funding will come from fees paid by travelers included in Visa Waiver Program
  • Funding will be matched by private sector contributions

I have an idea. Let’s tax the people who don’t need visas. These guys are idiots. I’m not saying that $10 is going to keep any tourist out, but it is just another piece of a confusing puzzle for people who want to visit the US.

If you want to increase travel traffic, don’t make people jump through so many hoops to get visas. Of course, that won’t fly because it will be seen as opening holes for terrorists to come in through. The fact is, though, if they really want to get in, they will. Our huge boarders are sieves and there is little that anyone can do once undesirables are in the country.

I think we can better spend out time and money, encouraging people to experience America.