Artist of the Day Dead After Just Ten Years

threat_levelDan Pink recently posted a short quote from a presidential candidate (from a NY Sun article).

“Education is only a true education if we’re developing both the left and right brain of the student,” Mr. Huckabee told scores of bloggers listening in person and on the phone. “The left brain is great for math and science and all the logical forms of education, but knowing what to do with what a student has learned is as important as what they’ve learned. Music and art, teaching the stimulation of the creative side, is absolutely critical to a total well-rounded education.”

Finally, here is a discussion of substance about education. I was wondering how long we had to go during this election cycle before we heard something more than “We need to fund our education system better” (like we have not heard that before and are still in need of it). While I may or may not agree with everything this candidate is saying during the campaign, he at least is saying the right thing here. And the media needs to listen and promote this. The rest of society needs to understand why their kids “have no common sense” or know the true answer to “What were you thinking?” (when no thinking was really going on during the bad decision). Our students are left with little or no opportunity to explore their creative side once the standardized tests kick in. It’s not fair to them, and it actually takes away a lot of the fun of teaching (remember I went from teaching primary to middle school). So you can imagine how it takes away a lot of the fun of learning.

Then that leads to the entire conversation Dan Pink started with his book A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers will Rule the Future. Even the 2.oh students are talking about it on their blogs. Anthony Chivetta wrote a post about “Teaching the Process of Design” to students. Funny thing is, design is dependent on design:

I would argue that the reason watching student videos can at times be excruciatingly painful is that they lack a cohesive design. Often, they represent a hodgepodge of ideas strewn together with very little thought to creating a unified whole. However, when students begin with picking a thesis, and then work from that thesis, a pattern, a design, begins to emerge. When the question for every single decision is “what supports my thesis?” those awkward transitions, strange cuts, and random transitions begin to make sense.

I have to say I agree here. Much of what is needed to be true designers comes from the ability to organize the design ahead of time. That come in so many fashions from basically every core subject taught in school. Papers make no sense without organization. Math results are wrong with corrupt organization. Science experiments go awry with disjointed organization. History makes no sense with a disorganized presentation of the facts.

Proper design forces abstract thinking. Abstract thinking engages the right brain. Engagement of the right brain generates new ideas, products, manipulation and processing of data, and visions. 

If we just model correct design through curricular creation and delivery, expect the same high levels of design quality from our students through problem based learning, and showcase the products with exemplary design, then maybe, just maybe, others will notice the importance. It may be just a detail in learning. But as they say, the devil is in the details. It separates the winners form the losers. In our students’ futures, it will separate the have’s from the have not’s.

So to go full circle with this somewhat rambling post…..pay attention to the presidential candidates. While we all know Congress holds the real power, we must recognize a true visionary in the White House can lead to a more innovative (some will call it catch-up) vision for education. It is about time.

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Open Meetings and Public Information Requests

Charette in ActionThe law is a prickly thing. One wrong misstep and you can create a heap of new issues. While many questions are created, few answers are understandable. It is the crux of school law.

Fortunately, Corey Wood has done a great job of capturing the information in a blog post from a TASB presentation titled “Trustees and Technology: Getting Wired Without Getting Shocked” from Thomas A. Gwosdz, a Staff Attorney for TASB. I have linked to Corey’s blog post and the TASB presentation, but I thought I would share the highlights below that will help answer some of the more nagging questions as they pertain to the new technologies. It is a very interesting read, for sure.

What do e-mails have to do with the Open Meetings Act?
Short Answer: If school board members use e-mail as a substitute for deliberation in properly posted public meetings, the e-mails may violate the Texas Open Meetings Act (OMA).

Is it ever appropriate for board members to contact each other by e-mail outside of public meetings?
Short Answer: If the e-mail exchange causes a quorum of the board to deliberate outside of a public meeting, then an illegal meeting will have occurred. Whether the board or any individual could be held liable for the violation depends on the circumstances surrounding the communications.

What kinds of e-mails qualify as deliberation of public business?
Short Answer: According to the attorney general, if even one board member speaks (or, presumably, e-mails) about school business to a quorum of the school board, deliberation-and therefore a meeting-occurs, even if no other member responds. If a one-way communication by one board member to a quorum of the board constitutes deliberation, then a listserv posting, cc to the rest of the board, or a reply to all e-mail on a matter of public business could run afoul of the OMA.

Is forwarding information from a non-member considered a deliberation?
Short Answer: Arguably, yes. By expressing views in a message copied to all board members. Potentially causes a deliberation among a quorum of the board. On the other hand, if the message is sent to the superintendent without copying the board, no violation will occur.

Can the administration use e-mail to contact board members outside of a public meeting?
Short Answer: The superintendent is not a member of the school board; therefore, he is not technically subject to the OMA. As a result, the superintendent and other members of the administration may use e-mail to communicate with the board (even the whole board at one time) about school business. Superintendents and others who are not on the board should exercise caution, however, not to use e-mail in a way that facilitates an open meetings violation on the part of board members.

Are board members’ e-mails public records?
Short Answer: The e-mails are records subject to the Public Information Act. According to the attorney general, e-mails about district business sent to or from a government official’s home computer are subject to disclosure absent an applicable exception.

What about a personal e-mail sent from a school e-mail account?
Short Answer: E-mails that are not related to the transaction of official district business are not subject to public disclosure.

Are trustees allowed to make personal use of school district technology?
Short Answer: Perhaps not, at least according to the Internal Revenue Service.

Are there any limits to what a trustee can say on his or her own website?
Short Answer: Yes. Just because it is easy to say your peace on the Internet does not mean it is free. If members cross the line and disclose confidential information or commit defamation, they may expose themselves to a variety of civil penalties.

Can trustees use cell phones to conduct school business?
Short Answer: many of the legal issues presented by the use of e-mail are also presented by the use of cellular telephones.

Is there a way board members can participate in meetings while they are out of town?
Short Answer: Yes, but it will not be easy. The OMA provides several telecommunications options for participating in or broadcasting public meetings, but each applies only in limited circumstances. Although a telephone conference call is not an option, the OMA appears to permit participation by video conference if the district can overcome several technical hurdles.

So there you have it. Clear as mud, right? Well, thanks to Corey and TASB, I have learned a few things here. Check out their links and see what else you can gather from their work. Lord knows that I am no expert (consider that my disclaimer for answers listed above). Check with a school law attorney whenever there is a question about these things.

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My Favorite Photographs of 2007

While we focus on design being important in educating our youth (or their learning), I have begun to pay particular attention in how things look around me. I think that giving our students the opportunity to understand and appreciate the elements of design will allow them to create better finished products to display their learning. Photographs will also allow them to generate tons of writing. Have your students share their photos with the rest of the class. Give them time to create a storyline about what is happening in the photo. Then allow the owner of the picture to divulge the truth. Vote to see which storyline is the favorite. You can even create a bulletin board out of this project. The kids will love it!

While I am at the earliest stages of caring what my photographs look like, I am at least trying to get better. Following the tips of others, I think I will show some improvement over the next year. I am getting to the point where I can visualize what I want the photo to look like. Now I just need to get the skills to adjust the camera accordingly. If I start this post as an annual event, it will give me a little inspiration to get better as well.

I had the opportunity to play with several different digital cameras over the past year. I have many favorites of family members, yet they (the family members) remain shy about Internet exposure. Following the lead of educators such as Dean Shareski, David Warlick, Brian Genier, D’Arcy Norman, Ewan McIntosh, and others, I thought I would join the “sharing” group. So with that being said, here are the photos I have chosen. Feel free to give me suggestions to make them better. I generally use an Olympus E-Volt 500 now.

My son anticipating the waves at Gulf Shores, AL, USA:P7042572

My son enjoying the rodeo in Gladewater, TX, USA (my personal favorite of the year):P6050796

I took this one at a church camp during a men’s retreat outside of Tyler, TX, USA:P4210299

This photo was taken while picking strawberries in Hallsville, TX, USA:P4060116-web

Of my nature photos, this is one I really liked because of the different perspective. Taken in my front yard:P4050058-web

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