The Legend of The Oregon Trail

In 1971, three student teachers in Minnesota decided to develop a text-only computer game to teach kids about the challenges of traveling the Oregon Trail. At the end of the semester, the source code was printed out onto a giant roll of paper and the program was deleted, only to come back to life several years later under the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium, or MECC. (I remember their 5.25 inch floppies well!)

@NCTQ pitching their propaganda to higher education leaders – SCHOOLS MATTER @ THE CHALK FACE

If there were ever an example of marketing with a layer of research, I think it's the NCTQ report on teacher education. The NCTQ has, quite masterfully, created a report with catchy features like four-star ratings and foisted it upon the public with the assistance of most every major media outlet in the country. With all that, it's good to see that some straightforward, honest language can still get through.

Scholarly Group Seeks Up to 6-Year Embargoes on Digital Dissertations - Graduate Students - The Chronicle of Higher Education

I've read a lot of scholarly literature, but I've never read a non-digital dissertation. I have, however, read a few books that were adaptations of dissertations. The American Historical Association, concerned that openly accessible digital dissertations will cut into the demand for such books (and thus the profit from them), has asked for an embargo on electronic theses and dissertations for a period of 6 years. They claim that this will help scholars who need the esteem (and often the money) from a book deal, but as Kevin Smith points out at, there doesn't seem to be any real evidence that electronic theses and dissertations are actually affecting the book market.

Florence-Penrose School Board OKs contract to finalize cost estimates for repairs at FHS

The sad story at Florence High School might be headed for a happier ending. In the years since the school opened, an unsettled foundation has cracked walls and floors, unevened the football field, and left parts of the school unusable. This story is incorrect when it says "the problems at high school began shortly after the school was built" - I toured the school regularly as it was being constructed and cracks were appearing in walls even as it was being built. The builders knew of the instability and extra money was spent to remedy it, but those efforts fell short. Now that things are settled - literally and financially - hopefully the district can get FHS back into proper working order.

Community counts: Fostering rural STEM education

Twenty percent of students in the U.S. attend rural schools, but for a variety of reasons they don't grab many headlines. From a research perspective, grant funders want their money to make large impacts, and that usually leads to researchers partnering with large school districts, which leaves small rural districts out of such partnerships. The internet can bridge parts of that divide, but the challenges of rural districts go beyond network connectivity.

Why do schools refuse to send exams home?

Oh, this brings up little miserable memories for me. While I let students keep every piece of homework they did, and they got their daily quizzes back, I had decided that I would keep tests because I wanted to reuse them. I'd seen a number of students cheating with copies of old tests from older students and didn't want that happening to me, so I kept the tests. Sure, I would show them to parents (and made copies for them upon request), but otherwise they were carefully organized in my files. At the end of the year, before finals, each student would spend several days reviewing all their old tests, and it was nice to see them reflect on the progress they'd made through the year. Still, some parents didn't like my policy, and some students took advantage of it to tell their parents that they "couldn't study" because I kept "everything." I'd probably do things a little differently now, of course, but I'm still very well aware of the effort it takes to make good tests every year.

Everyone saw the biracial Cheerios commercial, but kids saw it differently

So Cheerios ran a commercial involving a white mother and a black father. While parts of the internet expressed their rage, these kids didn't even notice until somebody pointed it out to them, then got confused and upset that anybody would take issue with such a thing.

Rachel Jeantel's Language is English — It's Just Not Your English

Language is a fascinating thing, and if it wasn't obvious to you already, "English" sounds different and uses different words depending on where you're from and who you usually communicate with. I'd have difficulty understanding someone with a thick British accent and heavy British slang, but that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with me, with the other person, or with the languages we speak. Unfortunately, when these kinds of language differences involve Black Americans, people sometimes blame or ridicule them. For the sad evidence, tread lightly in the comments to this article about Rachel Jeantel, a witness in the George Zimmerman murder trial.

Report: Mitch Daniels sought 'cleanup' of 'propaganda' in college courses

Emails show that Mitch Daniels, as governor of Indiana, tried to censor college curriculum that he opposed, such as Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States." Daniels said of Zinn, "This terrible anti-American academic has finally passed away. ... [Zinn's book] is a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page. ... [H]ow do we get rid of it before more young people are force-fed a totally false version of our history?" The book was being used in a course for teachers on Civil Rights, and Daniels approved a plan to "disqualify propaganda." I'm sure you're a nice place, Indiana, but it's things like this that put you down on my list of places I want to be.

Georgia Tech's $7000 polyester masters in computer science - I, Cringely

Robert X. Cringely looks at Georgia Tech's $7000 MOOC-ish master's in computer science and concludes, "You can only serve 40 times as many students with eight extra heads by *not* serving them." Basically, students who complete the program and pay the $7000 for the degree are going to get something, but it's not going to compare to the in-person, full-cost graduate program with access to researchers and their work.

Fuzzy math? School District to review how subject is taught

Some news of the math wars makes a solid attempt at balanced coverage. This article does not. Using "fuzzy math" in the title of the article and getting quotes from anti-reformers is pretty one sided, and I'm pretty sure the statement "You literally have to memorize" isn't something you'd hear a learning scientist familiar in math education say to describe how math is learned.

Shanker Blog » A Few Points About The New CREDO Charter School Analysis

Matthew Di Carlo at the Shanker Blog digs into the realities of the latest CREDO charter school study. While superficial readings of the report will conclude that charters seem to be doing better than was seen in the last study, there's a lot to keep in mind about relative performance, small effect sizes, sampling effects, and the judging of schools using only standardized scores in math and English.

Brandeis Tries a New Tactic to Speed Students to the Ph.D. - Graduate Students - The Chronicle of Higher Education

To help students on their way towards a Ph.D., Brandeis University is offering candidates a dissertation fellowship. In exchange for finishing their dissertations in a year, students agree to not engage in outside work. We have a similar agreement here in the School of Education at CU-Boulder: students are promised at least 3 years of full funding (and typically get more), but we aren't supposed to work outside the program. Part of that is to maintain our focus on our studies and decrease the time it takes to complete the program, but working as a graduate assistant in the program is seen as essential preparation for further careers in academia.

Ph.D. Attrition: How Much Is Too Much? - Do Your Job Better - The Chronicle of Higher Education

I'm pleased to say that of the 23 students in my PhD cohort we have seen the early departure of only two: one because she got the dream job she wanted to get after a PhD, and the other due to academic struggles (more or less). We've been generally supportive of each other, and I think that helps. Unfortunately, that's not the case in every cohort, and in our most recent cohort 3 of 14 students have chosen to leave after their first year. That's not the 50% attrition rate mentioned in the article, but PhD programs are long and inevitably some will not finish their dissertations.

Video: How Rap Battles Are Helping High Schoolers Learn to Love Science

Sometimes I worry that if people are only scanning headlines they might think the only advance in the teaching of math and science over the past 30 years is rap music. While I'm sure some students have been helped in some way by rapping their facts, I'm pretty sure this phenomena gets way more attention than it deserves compared to other research-based classroom practices.

Burton: I put hands outside car when pulled over

Actor LeVar Burton and author Tim Wise explain the differences in their interactions with police. For LeVar, the lyrics become "Butterfly in the sky, keep my hands nice and high. Take a look, I'm not a crook, I'm from Reading Rainbow..."

Oklahoma withdraws from national college readiness testing alliance

Oklahoma is dropping out of PARCC, and this story says (a) "dropping out of PARCC could save the state up to $2 million a year" and (b) "The state Education Department will take bids soon on testing options." I wish Oklahoma the best, but a little part of me thinks that in the long run Oklahoma might end up paying more for testing, not less, and the tests they get might not be as good.