Friday, January 23, 2004

Mike S. Adams: Welcome to Civility 101
January 5, 2004

Dear Students:

Welcome back! I hope you had a good Christmas break (or Kwanzaa break, or whatever you celebrate). Mine was great but now it’s time to get back to work as we kick off a new semester. Those of you who have had my classes before need to pay close attention to this memo because I am changing some of my class policies this semester. Specifically, I am changing the way that I deal with those who interrupt class by either walking in late or by allowing their cell phones to ring during a lecture.

At the end of last semester, I decided that something had to be done about this diminishing level of respect shown by students towards their professors and their fellow classmates. This decision came shortly after I sat in on another professor’s class. While I was listening to a 75-minute lecture, the students interrupted the professor at least 58 times before I lost count.

First, a student came in class three minutes late. Then another student came in 15 minutes late. Then another student came in 25 minutes late. Then the first cell phone went off. Then the second cell phone went off. The other 53 interruptions were variations of “what was that again?” and “could you repeat that?” A raised hand accompanied none of these 53 interruptions from daydreaming students. They just shouted at the professor to get his attention. And they didn’t seem to care whether he was in the middle of a sentence. Interestingly, most of these students were in their third year of college.

I haven’t ever had a major problem with the hand raising issue. I just don’t answer students’ questions if they don’t raise their hand. But the cell phone and tardiness problems have exploded over the last five years or so. Most of my liberal colleagues have just allowed these problems to get worse. No matter how bad it gets, these PhDs just can’t seem to find a solution. Actually, that isn’t fair. They could find a solution if they wanted to, but they just don’t like imposing their own truths upon their students, who may live according to a different set of truths. And, of course, being disrupted by late students with cell phones gives them something to whine about during department meetings.

As most of you know, I take a different approach to these problems. First, I shut the door at the beginning of each class period. Then, if a student walks in late, he (it usually is a male, no offense to tardy feminists) gets three points deducted from his final average. If his cell-phone rings (no offense to co-dependent feminists), I deduct three points from his final average per ring. And if she (sorry guys, it is usually a female) actually answers the call, she fails the course. And, last semester, I actually started deducting points from the students’ average if they (regarding gender, this is a closer call-no pun intended) are merely in possession of a cell phone. But, unfortunately, last semester, four different students let their cell phones (which were hidden in their pockets) go off in class. All four were one-ringers. I also had one student in each class who decided to repeatedly come to class late.

In light of the on-going problems with tardiness and cell phones, I am going to modify my class policies this semester. I am not going to follow the advice of my anti-war colleagues who think that we need to talk to tardy cell phone people in order to find out why they hate us. Instead, I am going to let them do most of the talking. The specifics of my new policy follow:

If your cell phone goes off in class, or if you are late to class, you must write a 2500-word paper (minimum) entitled “The Death of Civility at the Postmodern University.” In this paper, you will be asked to write about the decline of civility in our public universities in recent decades. Please note that if you are late more than once, or if your cell phone goes off on more than one occasion, your paper must be a minimum of 5000 words. If you have three separate transgressions, you automatically fail the course. Finally, the paper must be of “A” quality in order for you to stay in the course. You will receive no other credit for completing this project, except, of course, for its positive impact upon your character.

Since you have probably never written on this subject, and since the paper is fairly long, I have listed a couple of suggestions to help you get started and to help you fulfill the minimum word requirement. These suggestions are not exhaustive, nor are they mandated, but I think they will be helpful.

Suggestion #1. Interview a person who was alive during World War II. Ask them the following questions:

1. How often did students walk into class late when you were in school?
2. How many of your failures in school were the result of a lack of “nurturing” by your teachers?
3. Did your teachers spend a lot of time boosting your self-esteem and soothing your inner child, even when you failed to adhere to the rules of the classroom?
4. Did any of your teachers ever suggest that punctuality was an antiquated Western notion with racist, sexist, and classist overtones?
5. Did students ever get up and leave in the middle of a lecture if they had to go to the bathroom, without asking the permission of the teacher?
6. Did students ever take long potty breaks in the middle of exams, without asking the permission of the teacher?
7. Did students ever get up and leave class just because they were bored?
8. Did you ever appeal a test score in front of the entire class or help other students do the same? If so, did you predicate your complaint with “hey Dr. Ummm,” or “dude, you ripped me off.”
9. Did you ever interrupt a professor to ask whether what he was saying was “important” or whether you “had to know it for the next test?”
10. Did people actually manage to finish school without having a cell phone with them at all times?

Suggestion #2. Interview an employee at the Office of Campus Diversity or any professor currently teaching in the social sciences or humanities. Ask them the following questions:

1. Is it possible that the diversity movement, with its emphasis on moral relativism, causes students to dismiss the rules a professor establishes with regard to appropriate class conduct?
2. If it is good to refrain from judging other people, doesn’t that mean that we should stop expelling people for plagiarism?
3. Isn’t the statement “ it is good to refrain from judging other people” itself judgmental?
4. Is it possible that liberal professors who teach that people are not responsible for their own behavior unwittingly encourage their students to engage in anti-social behavior such as compulsive tardiness?
5. Is cheating wrong just because a professor says it is wrong?
6. If a student claims that cheating is acceptable in his/her culture, is he/she exempt from punishment for cheating?
7. Can a student be given credit for an answer that the professor deems to be wrong, just because the student “feels” it is right?
8. What if everyone decided to come to class late every day?
9. If tardiness becomes even more prevalent than it is today, can we just write “whenever, man” under the designation for class meeting time in the course-scheduling catalogue?
10. When professors come to class late, does that in any way encourage their students to do the same thing? Does that undermine the professor’s moral authority?

In closing, let me say that I hope you don’t put yourself in the position of having to write a civility paper this semester. If you do, I would advise you to follow the first suggestion and interview a person who was alive during World War II. I don’t mean to stereotype, but these people tend to be very helpful and patient.

Unfortunately, you may find the second suggestion to be less fruitful. University professors and administrators tend to be less patient and less accessible. After all, they’re usually busy constructing a Utopian society. They seldom have time to talk about civility.

Mike S. Adams (adams_mike@hotmail.com) is an associate professor at UNC-Wilmington. While he was jogging in 1998 he was nearly killed by a 90-pound woman who ran a stop sign in her 6000-pound SUV. She was talking on her cell phone and appeared to be running late. Dr. Adams still has nightmares about that woman.
Stagecast Product Overview:
Stagecast's products allow children and adults to build their own simulations and games and to publish their creations in a Web page. The basics of creating an application are quite simple: kids create objects, animate them and make them interact. The objects can be made to do different things depending on what objects are around them, as well as depending on user-defined properties of those objects, such as weight, energy level or speed. By defining these properties for the objects and writing rules for the objects' behavior, kids create interesting multimedia simulations complete with key-controlled interaction and sound effects. Along the way, they internalize fundamental object-oriented programming concepts like generalization, specialization, and the bundling of behavior with state into objects."

Thursday, January 22, 2004

: "Alice address both the mechanical and sociological barriers that currently prevent many students from successfully learning to program a computer. Alice addresses the mechanical barriers to programming by making it much easier for students to create programs. Rather than having to correctly type commands according to obscure rules of syntax, students drag-and-drop words in a direct manipulation interface. This user interface ensures that programs are always well-formed. In addition, Alice reifies object-based programming by providing animated, on-screen 3D virtual objects. Alice makes learning to program easier. And it's fun.
Sociological barriers are far more complex. Alice addresses the specific needs of the subpopulation of middle school girls. By supporting storytelling, an intrinsically motivating activity for middle school girls, Alice will make programming a means to an exciting end."

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Arm from a cadaver too 'gross' for some:
Thursday, January 08, 2004
By Jane Elizabeth, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

It's fair to say that both doctors showcased at a Fox Chapel elementary school on Tuesday made an impression. In one case, it was just a little more lasting.

The oil painting "The Gross Clinic" by Thomas Eakins, depicting a 19th-century medical school lesson.

Dr. Seuss was the attraction in some classrooms at Fairview Elementary, with parents reading "Green Eggs and Ham" and using seaweed and other green foods for props.

Meanwhile, Dr. Michael Horowitz was headlining a fifth-grade science lesson on the human body. His prop was a human cadaver arm, which he opened to show its nerves and other parts.

At least one child vomited; five children left the classroom feeling ill. Another child fainted almost immediately.

The experience angered some Fairview parents, kept school board member Shirley Wiley's phone ringing yesterday and had school officials scrambling with damage control much of the day.

And it left science experts scratching their heads about why a human body part would be presented to such young children.

"We've never seen that with fifth-graders," said Cindy Workosky, a spokeswoman for the National Science Teachers Association.

"An arm?" said Allegheny County Coroner Cyril Wecht. "That would be kind of upsetting even to adults."

So what exactly was the severed limb doing at the elementary school?

District spokeswoman Bonnie Berzonski explained that the district participates in the Traveling Art Gallery, or TAG, which takes famous art reproductions to schools. A piece of art is chosen from the collection by parents and faculty.

This time, it was an oil painting called "The Gross Clinic" by Thomas Eakins, an American realist who had studied anatomy. In 1875, Eakins had asked a professor at the former Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia (now Thomas Jefferson University) to allow him to paint a medical lesson in which the doctor was removing diseased bone from a patient's thigh.

The result, in the words of an art critic at the time for the New York Tribune, was "a picture that even strong men find it difficult to look at long, if they can look at it at all; and as for people with nerves and stomachs, the scene is so real that they might as well go to a dissecting room and have done with it."

Medical students with blood-stained hands are shown helping with the procedure, while a woman thought to be the patient's mother hides her face in distress.

Horowitz, a local neurosurgeon who has a child at Fairview, brought in the limb and medical tools to supplement the art lesson, school officials said.

Horowitz appeared surprised by the complaints yesterday and said that he has visited the school in previous years bearing cadaver eyes, ears and a brain. The body parts are donated to the University of Pittsburgh medical school for research purposes, he said.

He said he was aware of the child who fainted Tuesday -- Berzonski said the boy was unconscious for 10 to 20 seconds and was back at school yesterday -- but Horowitz said he wasn't aware of any other problems.

Berzonski also said there have been no other complaints about the neurosurgeon's visits. She emphasized that Tuesday's demonstration "was curriculum-based" and that the lesson was designed to be interdisciplinary -- combining the study of careers, science and art.

Berzonski said the fifth-graders recently finished a study of how body systems interrelate -- nerves, bones, skin and other organs. She also said that when Horowitz lifted the skin on the cadaver arm to show the children what lay underneath, "there was no blood."

"My son left the room; he was quite traumatized," said one father, who didn't want his name used fearing "reprisal." The boy's mother was at the school to help with the Dr. Seuss program, he said. "She said he was as white as a ghost."

Berzonski said the children were told on Monday and again on Tuesday that the class would feature a cadaver arm, and that they could leave the classroom at any time if they wished. However, no notes were sent home to parents before the event, Berzonski acknowledged.

"Parental notification should have been done," said the mother of a fifth-grade girl, who "felt sick" during the presentation. "Use some common sense, that's all I want," said the parent, who said she called the science teacher yesterday morning and was satisfied that the situation wouldn't occur again. The teacher could not be reached for comment.

Wecht, who sometimes works with students in his job as county coroner, said he didn't "fault the doctor."

"I think it's wonderful to talk about it, that he gave his time for this," said Wecht. But, he added, "a simple, simple two-dimensional chart" could have illustrated the lesson for fifth-graders, rather than a real human arm.

"Save the actual tissue specimens until the later years of high school," Wecht said.

One Fairview parent said he made a point to tell his son, "I'm proud of you for leaving the class," knowing that he might be teased by other children.

Fairview parent Mary O'Sell, however, said her fifth-grade daughter, who couldn't attend the science presentation, "was sorry she missed it."

She didn't believe parental notification was necessary. "I have total trust in the staff out there," she said.

But, she added, "hindsight is a valuable thing."

School board member Wiley said she found the demonstration "extremely unusual." She noted that Fox Chapel students normally have to get permission slips to dissect animals and see movies with other than "G" ratings.

School officials are "going to review this situation and make a determination," said Berzonski. "Is fifth grade old enough to handle something like that?"

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

USATODAY.com - Webcams keep suspended students on track: "Cameras record every minute of Beverly Pearson's day as a high school English teacher. When she strides to the blackboard, a lens swivels to track her movements. A microphone captures each word.

It's all piped electronically to a nearby building at Coffeeville High School where students stuck in suspension can follow Pearson's lesson on the Internet.

The Web-based approach at this Mississippi high school is the latest twist in school discipline. As public schools face greater pressure to improve academic performance, educators are looking for new ways to punish students for bad behavior while ensuring that they don't miss a minute of instruction. And despite concerns raised by privacy advocates, the Coffeeville experiment seems poised to spread to other schools."

Friday, January 02, 2004

Which advantages do balloon molecules have?

- visually impressive molecule models
- they can be used in various ways and situations
- low price
- easy to learn
- available any time due to your own work
- learning with fun
- easy, flexible, big models
The origin of balloon molecules

Modelling balloons are known first of all as a toy or in form of balloon sculptures. But there are other possibilities….. On this web site we would like to show you how to use modelling balloons to build chemical molecules. Basically you only need balloons, a pump and some imagination. The knots you need are shown here.

Sometimes you will see entertainers on the streets who make little poodles out of balloons. Some street entertainers can create several figures but very often their repertoire is limited. Because of this shortage of many street entertainers' possible sculptures you could think that this skill is difficult to learn. That is not true. Within a couple of minutes the skill of the 'poodle knot' can be learned. The knotting techniques for more complicated structures can be learned quickly: After a couple of days in which you practise knotting for about one hour, you are able to model complex structures. Modelling balloons can very well be employed to visualise complex chemical structures and could therefore be used by professors and lecturers at universities or teachers at schools for a better presentation and explanation.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Partnership for 21st Century Skills - About Us: "The Partnership for 21st Century Skills is a unique public-private organization formed to define and incorporate into learning the skills that are necessary for every student's success in the 21st Century. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills brings together educators, administrators, parents, businesses, and community leaders to determine how to define and assess these skills, as well as to make recommendations and provide tools for their implementation.

The Partnership's work is supported by the U.S. Department of Education and it promotes the goals of the recently passed No Child Left Behind Act, including the more accurate and timely assessment of learning, greater accountability for students and teachers, support for the progress of all children, including special education children, and greater support for underserved populations. Specifically, the Act calls for every student to be technologically literate by the eighth grade. The Partnership will support the achievement of this particular goal by developing a specific technology literacy tool in its second year.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills is a tax-exempt 501 (c) 3 organization.

Founding Members : Apple
Cable in the Classroom
Time Warner Foundation"
TimesDispatch.com | Laptop study in Henrico raises concerns: "Laptop study in Henrico raises concerns
Some parents say they fear reprisals if they criticize the plan; others allege conflict

Dec 20, 2003

Concerns about confidentiality and a potential conflict of interest are among the issues surrounding a study of Henrico's iBook program.

SRI International, a nonprofit research organization, is using a $1.1 million National Science Foundation grant to conduct studies of computer initiatives in school systems nationwide. The three-year research project is titled 'A Framework and Network for Evaluating the Impact of Ubiquitous Computing in K-12 Schools.'

Researchers began the study in April and expect to have initial results by Spring.

As a part of the study, 2,800 Henrico County high school students were randomly selected in early November to complete an online survey about their laptop use in math and science classes. At last count, fewer than 100 had responded.

Parents had to give consent before children could complete the 25-question survey, which asks for teachers names.

Among the reasons for reluctance is an unwillingness to single out teachers who don't appear to be gung-ho supporters of the $27 million iBook program, which is being pushed by the county's school administration.

Most of the parents interviewed for this article asked to remain anonymous. One said her daughter 'has a dynamite teacher who uses the iBook very little. The teacher gets incredible results on the AP exam. Do you think I would reveal his or her name? No way.'"
The Globe and Mail: "Magnatune, a small record label in Berkeley, Calif., thinks it has found the answer. It's letting everyone steal its music.

The label, which offers a variety of genres from chamber music to techno, lets Internet users preview every song from every album from every artist it offers, on its website (http://www.magatune.com). Many of the acts are relatively obscure, but some, particularly a few classical musicians, are fairly well known.

If you decide to download a permanent copy of an album, you can then name your price, anything from $5 (U.S.) to $18. (The label suggests $8.) And if you claim you would like to use any song for a non-commercial purpose, you can download it free.

It's a notion that seems to go against everything the music industry holds dear. Free music, no set prices, utter chaos -- the antithesis of how the business has traditionally been structured.

Granted, the record industry has been trying of late to embrace the new, the latest evidence being reports of tie-ins with big-name brands such as Pepsi and Miller beer to offer free music downloads in the new year as a part of larger advertising campaigns.

But Magnatune has taken a much bigger step -- and is one example of a growing movement among arts organizations, civil libertarians and artists who are rethinking the whole notion of access to creative works and copyright laws. Some, like Magnatune, believe they can profit if their artists make their works more readily available, in some cases for no charge; or if they even relinquish at least some rights to their works.

A new kind of copyright licence developed by Creative Commons, a group started by a collective of prominent copyright and cyberlaw experts, and now housed at the law school of California's Stanford University, allows the owners of works of art to, say, keep certain copyrights while allowing someone to use an artist's photos as part of another artist's work; or to take samples from certain records and use them in another recording; or to use a portion of a film for some other kind of derivative work."

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