Rachel Evans


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How Technology is Changing Education

Posted by Rachel Evans on
How Technology is Changing Education

Most people know intuitively that the educational process is being impacted by new technology, but many may not realize the subtle ways it has been woven into our society. Most would agree that the Internet, for example, has greatly reduced the amount of time and effort required to write a research or term paper-but what about claims that technology such as smartphones are reducing attention spans leading to less qualified graduates? Such changes are difficult to discern, but a lot of researchers are looking into the impact technology is having on the educational system and at ways to make it for the better.

First, the down side-several prominent researchers studying the impact of cell phone use and video game playing on modern children have come to a consensus: it really does lead to reduced attention spans which ultimately result in less being learned both in school and at home. It also leads to faster teacher burnout as it becomes more difficult to get and hold student’s attention. One bright note is that some of the researchers suggest that instead of resorting to more entertaining teaching techniques, teachers look to new technological ways to reach their students. One of those ways might be through the use of other technology. Textbooks on tablet computers, is one example. More and more schools are doing so because of the obvious advantages: up to date information, animated graphics, sound capabilities, embedded learning applications, etc.

Another way that educators are using new technology is by taking advantage of the Internet. In a recent research project, Henry Jay Becker, conducted a massive study of teacher habits focusing most specifically on how they are using the Internet. He found that teachers are using email and texting as a means of communicating with students and parents-they’re using Facebook and other social media as well. He also found that many are using cloud data depositories to share papers, graphics, video and other classroom material and that some are also using interactive applications developed specifically for children at various grade levels. In summing up, he concludes that new technology is adding richness to the learning experience and that both teachers and students are receiving great benefit from it.

Technological change isn’t limited to just children, of course, college educators and students are being impacted as well. Universities now offer degrees online and student/instructor interactions via the Internet are now the norm. Furthermore, students have access to higher quality and more up to date research in their chosen field than at any other time in history. The most profound changes are in taking place in ways that researchers call “disrupting the classroom.” This means that instead of giving or listening to boring lectures, students interact with both instructors and automated lessons. Instructors monitor the pace of learning and offer guidance along the way rather than read from notes. The new method is believed to be more engaging, rewarding and in the end, a more pleasant experience for both instructor and student.

What cannot be discerned at this time, of course, is whether students are better or worse off than generations that have come before them. The new technology is still too new to tell. That will change of course as time passes and today’s students make their way into the work force-future research on how well they are doing will be the ultimate measure.

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Top Five Educational Technology Blogs

Posted by Rachel Evans on
Top Five Educational Technology Blogs

Top Five Educational Technology Blogs

Top Five Educational Technology Blogs

Although I would love to promote my own educational strategies and technology blog, Revolutionize Education, there are five great educational technology blogs that I make sure to check at least once a week to get ideas for my teaching. These websites have regular updates and many of the things they post are technologies I’ve never even heard or thought of. These websites inspire the educator the integrate technology often and efficiently throughout the curriculum.

I find myself adding new educational blogs to my favorites on a daily basis but here are the top five educational technology blogs that I’ve ever seen.

Jane’s Pick of the Day

Jane Hart’s blog was actually the first educational blog that I ever started to follow on a regular basis. She is always bringing new ideas to the table from her experience working with technology and explaining how to use technology in the classroom at the many workshops she attends. Her yearly, top 100 lists for useful technologies in the classroom is a thing of beauty and I look for ideas from it frequently.

iLearn Technology

This blog has been a favorite of mine for a while. Kelly Tenkely is a technology integration consultant after spending years of teaching. A lot of the technologies on this website are easily transitioned to the classroom as she provides a lot of examples and ideas for how to use stuff. The technology presented on her website can be applied to so many different subjects that it is truly remarkable.

Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day
Great website created by Larry Farlazzo that is aimed towards providing resources for teachers of ELL, ESL and EFL. A lot of resources can translate to any subject.

Kleinspiration

Erin Klein is the author of this great new blog. Just recently running across this educational technology blog, I immediately searched through it and was amazed at the amount of resources that I had never seen on these other great technology websites. There is especially a lot for the elementary level instructor.

Free Technology For Teachers
Richard Byrne knows his technology. He has been nominated for a lot of awards and accolades for his role in making technology relevant. His website is great for social studies teachers especially as he shows a lot of ways that technology can be used for teaching current events. This is a must-read for every teacher that wants to incorporate some technology in the classroom and at the top of my favorites list.

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Technology Will Continue to Drive Changes in Education, Business

Posted by Rachel Evans on
Technology Will Continue to Drive Changes in Education, Business

Technology Will Continue to Drive Changes in Education, Business

Technology Will Continue to Drive Changes in Education, Business

JWT, the world’s fourth-largest advertising agency and the largest in the United States, has said that its research concludes universities are enthusiastically taking hold of the flame of the technological revolutions that the 21st century has brought, and this factor in turn shall continue to alter the lives of students.

It cannot be denied that technology is fueling unprecedented levels of social change in the first decade of the 21st century and, by all measurable criteria, shall continue to do so for a long time to come. Now that computers are a daily part of the lives of the vast majority of people in the United States, Moore’s Law can take hold in the social setting.

The United States continues to be the strongest developer and distributor of new technology, so it really comes as no surprise that technological changes would be making a strong difference in the course of future educational trending.

Universities are beginning to offer classes in how to become an entrepreneur. This journalist knows that the local community college in his rural hometown is offering studies in the ways of the entrepreneur, and the press release from JWT confirms that it’s not some local trend from an out-of-the-loop region of the national psyche.

Education is also more often becoming a remote possibility (bad pun intended). Online classes offered by universities have increased their number substantially in the last 10 years, and like so many other emerging technologies under the academic umbrella this format of classes has become almost mainstream. Along with remote learning via the Internet, virtual reality tools for interactive learning and realistic simulations have grown in number by leaps and bounds in the last decade.

And then there are the latest technology trends in campus entertainment. The iPod and the iPhone, on- and near-campus scavenger hunts using GPS devices and the Internet forums, and the widespread ownership among student bodies of laptop computers all make fun-time talking and electronic gaming exciting in ways that few could have imagined only ten years ago.

But perhaps most significantly, technology’s spread on the university campus is reflecting its ever-increasing presence in the world of business, where most students will end up in one format or another after they graduate with their degrees.

“Everyone from marketers to employers wants to learn more about what makes the Millennial generation tick and how they’re going to shape the coming decades. These students will bring the culture forged during the university years into the wider world, shaping broader society. As they grow up, the way we work, socialize, parent and even run the world will change — the future is in their hands,” says Ann Mack, JWT Director of Trendspotting.

Sources of information used to research this news story:

JWT (PR Newswire, US Newswire), “JWT Explores the University of Today and the Future”

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Technology in Education

Posted by Rachel Evans on
Technology in Education
Technology in Education

Technology in Education

Predicted Changes in Curriculum
In the next decade there are a number of changes expected in school curriculum. I believe the majority of these changes will be a reflection of huge growth in the area of technology. Today many school districts have some form of technology in the classrooms, but the use of this technology is expected to become less cumbersome and more widely affordable, thus available to students and staff alike. There has been great progress in bringing hardware, such as computers, monitors, keyboards, etc and various software programs into many schools, yet the lack of instruction on “how-to” use these systems seems to be behind the present trend. As such, it is my belief that the majority of changes in curriculum changes over the next decade will be influenced by teacher and staff comprehension of educational software. In order for this to take place; many districts need to seek out user-friendly software that makes curriculum preparation and design simple. In addition the design of this software should encourage comprehension and ability growth, thus driving the learning, instead of holding it back with complicated, and/or unsatisfactory software design.

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Whether or not we are ready to accept it, a large percentage of our students are not only ready to take on educational technology, but require the use of technology in order to reach their interests and keep them focused. The subject area and age group I can easily identify as being most influenced by the ease of access of technology is the language arts classrooms of both middle and high school aged students. I say this because I believe much of what is learned in the language arts classroom is also used in other subject areas, such as history and science. Consequently student comprehension of the use of technology in language arts will empower students to perform at the same levels in other curricular areas using technology. For example, I recently had my tenth grade English students type an essay using Microsoft Word. The assignment they followed was a Webquest that guided them through a bit of Internet research. At the same time, many of these students were researching and typing up a report, also using Microsoft Word and the Internet, for their Science project on genomes. By providing them the instruction and practice on the Internet and with Microsoft Word, my students found completing the Science project to be less challenging.

Influences

Students see technology as a means to completing tasks expeditiously. Many of these students have the technology at home and are accustomed to completing many tasks, such as researching topics and writing essays with the use of their home computer and access to the Internet. With this capability, who would want to go back to taking trips to the library, visiting the card catalog and manually writing down where these sources can be found? Who would prefer hunting through the stacks to find the sources over the ease of researching from the comfort of one’s home using an online library? The individuals who prefer to perform their research manually are likely to be individuals who decline the use of such technology due to lack of access and/or the feeling of uneasiness while using it.

I believe students, teachers and staff will influence the growing use of technology as a learning method. As each individual becomes more familiar with the capabilities technology brings to the learning environment, the more each will desire the use of it. An analogy I like to use is why ride a bike to one’s destination when one can drive a car and get to their destination much sooner? This car is not only quicker, but also provides protection from the weather elements that may make riding a bike less desirable. Computers make many tasks much quicker, and provide other benefits such as ease of access to learning materials on and off campus. The ease and capabilities technology offers classrooms will positively influence its use in our classrooms.

Development and Design
Many districts are currently involved in developing and designing these technological advances in the learning environment. However, there appears to be an unavoidable learning curve that affects these decisions. As such, it has become evident, through trial and error, that it requires more than the upper management to make the choices on the hardware and software that will be available to the school sites. Let’s take into example my district’s plan, The Hemet Unified School District District Technology Plan (2006). This plan has hit this learning curve head on. The plan was created in 2006 and is to span until the end of the school year, 2009. As I take a look into the well intentions of the plan, now in retrospect, it is quite evident that we are in need of finding software that makes working with the hardware not only easier, but more desirable. Very little of what we have available by means of educational software conforms to the needs of our classrooms. Due to this fact teachers are left with the option of researching programs available through the Internet. What a disappointment it is to find that much of the educational software that is free to the public is also disorganized and little help to the average classroom teacher. In addition, the programs that might be of interest to most teachers require annual fees, and thus place a burden on these individuals to pay the subscription price to test out the software capabilities. What we lack in our district is software that is readily available and useful for all. In other words, we have learned that having all this technology doesn’t allow us to perform at our anticipated levels without the proper software to support student and staff needs effectively. This was an issue not recognized at the time the plan was put together.

Identifying where we have fallen short of meeting our goals allows us to further plan and implement a much needed plan that focuses on discovering and utilizing software that students and teachers will find desirable and effective in meeting our goals. A long story short, we have the hardware to support our staff and students technological needs, but lack the software that best supports the desired learning experiences. The next decade should bring with it an increased use of technology with the provisions of viable software. As such, I suspect Hemet Unified School District will place its focus, over the next decade, on finding and testing software that most closely meets the needs of the classrooms while additionally providing content that best supports the state standards.

My Role

Very little has been done in the past per individual support and decision making as it pertains to technology. As such, my role is to make every attempt to become involved in the decision making process, and encourage my district to continue to reach out to staff for their opinions on the needs in software. The number one thing I can offer in this area is my voice. Secondly, it is in my best interest to continue to explore the technology options currently available at my site and strive to become better skilled with the use of these items. One such example of technology I have yet to become familiar with is the InterWrite Pad® I have stashed behind my white board. My goal is to become familiar with it very soon and begin using it in the classroom with the upcoming school year. Lastly, I expect to be involved in continuing education and staff development that supports my district’s desire to keep up with technological advances in education.

Personal Impact
When I look back to the year 1990, and my introduction to education by means of undergraduate studies at the University of Southern California, I can’t recall any talk about technology. Although there may have been some discussion about possible advances in this area, it was not impressive enough to remain on my mind. Thus, I recall learning how to deliver classroom instruction and meet the needs of the diverse communities of Southern California using methods such as SDAIE, Collaborative Groups, etc. It wasn’t until one decade later, while completing my fifth year for my preliminary credential, that technology, and the use of software in the classroom, received its own class. Another five plus years later and another “computers in education” class is added to the courses required to clear my credential in California. This is confirmation that education is becoming technology based, and thus it isn’t hard to predict that classrooms will continue to grow to accommodate the hardware and software needs of the changing curriculum. The impact this has on me now and in the future, is a personal and necessary drive to keep abreast of the advances in technology. My job and my future in education are strongly dependent on my ability to grow with the innovation of the times. Computers in education and the technology that goes along with it is the unrelenting innovation of the decade.

References
Hemet Unified School District (2006). Hemet unified school district district technology plan. Retrieved March 29, 2009, from http://www.hemetusd.k12.ca.us/business/technlgy/techinfo/0609mstr.pdf

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How Technology is Changing Our Kids’ Education: A First-Hand Look

Posted by Rachel Evans on
How Technology is Changing Our Kids’ Education: A First-Hand Look
How Technology is Changing Our Kids’ Education: A First-Hand Look

How Technology is Changing Our Kids’ Education: A First-Hand Look

When I was in elementary school, computers were largely used as a source of educational entertainment. Once a week, the elementary school classes would each spend about 20 minutes in the computer lab playing fun educational games. It was not until I was in high school that we started using basic word processing software to type reports and papers. If you are wondering how old I am, I graduated high school in the mid-1990s. As my children have entered public elementary school and now middle school, I am fascinated at how public schools have embraced technology and how easily the kids are using it.

In Elementary School Today

As early as first grade, my kids used PowerPoint to prepare basic presentations for parent-student conferences at the end of the year. They were shown how to use the program, and they created a computer slideshow that showed off their work for their past year. This was standard for all of the kids from first grade through fifth grade in my . They also used various programs to edit photos and videos for other presentations, and they often type papers now rather than handwrite them.

In Middle School

Perhaps the most significant difference that I have noticed as a parent begins with the middle school years. As early as sixth grade, kids in my child’s school are encouraged to bring their smart phones and other devices that have web capabilities with them to school. The school has a strict policy that prohibits texting, phone calls, taking photos of videos and more at school. The devices are permitted purely to provide kids with Internet access at their desks, and the school offers WiFi for the students. For students who do not have a smart phone or other device, they have invested in a few iPads for each of the classrooms. The intent is to provide kids with the ability to conduct research as needed throughout the day. The cost to the school is minimized because the kids are using their own devices.

Further, some of my child’s teachers have further used technology in an innovative way. For example, one of my child’s teachers gives the class homework each night of watching her pre-recorded lesson online and taking notes. Rather than spend time in class listening to her lesson, the students can watch it and absorb it on their own, repeating it as many times as necessary. In class, the kids work together in groups or online on exercises, assignments and more related to the previous night’s homework. The teacher is available to answer questions about the assignment the class is working on. This is directly opposite the “old” way of teaching a class, which involved spending time lecturing in class and doing the assignment at home. I believe this new method maximizes class time in a manner that is most beneficial to the kids.

These are the most prevalent uses of technology in my kids’ schools, but I am sure there will be many more exciting changes in store before my youngest graduates!

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Attachment Parenting Older Children: Alternative Education

Posted by Rachel Evans on
Attachment Parenting Older Children: Alternative Education
Attachment Parenting Older Children: Alternative Education

Attachment Parenting Older Children: Alternative Education

Practicing attachment parenting generally leads to a great deal of research. In addition to simply wanting to be well educated about my parenting choices, I’ve found myself researching parenting topics regularly for many reasons. Family and friends tend to come to me for advice and information because they know I’ll find the most accurate available. This led me to further research in college, focusing most of my electives in psychology and education. You’d be surprised how much a thorough knowledge of such topics helps in political advocacy, as well.

Whether you practice Attachment Parenting or not, your children’s education is probably very important to you. Most parents still think their choices revolve around money. The options seem to be public or private school. More and more parents are realizing that they have the right to take responsibility for their children’s education and consider homeschooling as well. What most people don’t realize is that the choices aren’t that cut and dry. If none of those options seem to fit your needs quite right, you don’t have to settle.

While money can play a part, the main concern is how active you want to be in your child’s upbringing and education. There is a spectrum that ranges from boarding schools and nannies to unschooling.

Boarding School

In the united states, most boarding schools are limited to 9th grade and up but there are a few for younger children if you’re really determined. Boarding schools are known for providing children with regimented educations and connections that help them in their future careers. They are also known to be outstandingly expensive and provide minimal opportunities for parents to guide and interact with their own children during.

Public School

Public schooling is a social welfare program every state in the United States is required to offer. Public school is available in some states as young as two or three years old, and through twenty-one. The educational and personal guidance offered children varies more widely in public schools than any other educational option. Children may be offered horribly neglectful and abusive school years or incredibly uplifting opportunities to improve themselves, and this can vary from one teacher to another within the same school. Parents have no say in what academics or morals their children are taught and there have been national cases where parents were tried for trying to keep their children from being taught morally objectionable messages. Public schools in many areas expect parents to pay out constantly, but as a welfare program they cannot actually require payment from low income families. In such cases, they are required to offer alternative programs. Public schools usually welcome parentally involvement and volunteering. While some even expect it, few require parental involvement. One of the main reasons public school is so popular is that it is a free way to pass off most of the responsibility for a child’s upbringing. As such, it can be nearly impossible to force or coerce parental involvement at times. This program is earnestly needed by many parents throughout the nation, but it is also filled with children whose families are perfectly capable of raising them without assistance.

Private School

Private schools are run by private organizations and individuals. As such, they are operated on different legal standards than public schools. They can be very expensive but often have scholarship programs for children with financial need or high academic performance. They generally offer more effective teaching methods and more talented teachers than public schools. They almost always have specialized curriculum. This can range from academic focus to religious foundations. Private schools can vary greatly in their desire for parental involvement. Some prefer parents to simply pay them enough to hire the best mentors as staff. Others require parents to volunteer in their children’s classes and throughout the school.

Dual Enrollment

Many public and some private schools allow children to enroll part time. In such cases, the school teaches one or more specific subjects and the parents are responsible for the rest of their children’s upbringing. In such cases, parents often have to prove they are teaching their children using methods the school approves of. This method is great for parents that want to take responsibility for their children’s education but doubt their abilities in some areas. Generally, dual enrollment students enroll mostly in electives and extra-curriculars like band or sports. This is a less expensive than enrolling in community or private programs and can be a huge help to homeschoolers on a budget. It is usually free, and at least much less expensive than full time enrollment. Plus, it allows much more parental involvement than a fully institutionalized education.

Co-op

A co-op is a group of parents that share the education of their children. They are sometimes organized as private schools legally, but usually just another way homeschoolers can organize parts of their children’s schooling. Generally, each parent takes one subject they are knowledgeable about. All the children will be dropped off at that person’s house, or another designated location, for classes. Classes often meet daily, with each parent taking one day per week. Children are not generally subject to the age segregation of other classroom situations, making both the teacher and student’s job much easier. Costs are nominal for small co-ops, but administrative fees can become costly with large ones. This is the most involved a parent can be in their child’s upbringing while still utilizing the classroom organization mainstream America thinks children need to learn.

Charter School

A charter school is another form of public school. With the exception of academic charters, they look little to nothing like the standard school model. Families typically fight for the opportunity to enroll their children in these schools when they are available. They can look like anything from a science lab to a farm to something from a sci-fi novel. They can also look just like homeschooling. Homeschool is a legal designation, not an educational method. Many charter schools will provide parents with their choice of curriculum and supplies. They provide teachers for advice and often even offer extra-curricular programs as well as academic classes. Children are welcome to participate in such programs, but not required to. They also allow the state partial control in children’s upbringing. Parents are required to meet with teachers or educational advisors regularly to prove their children’s progress. Sometimes this means proving what they’ve been learning but all too often it means proving they’ve been producing a set amount of busy work, regardless of what they’ve actually learned. Still, if a family naturally follows methods and patterns similar to the standard classroom model, this option can be a huge help.

Distance Education

Not only college students can attend school from home. There are a variety of distance based private schools, and even a few public ones. While living like homeschoolers, such children may be considered to be legally enrolled in a public or private school. Most private distance education programs actually offer no legal advantage to homeschooling though. Most people seem to think their children will be legally considered private school students if their school is accredited. This is simple not true. Accreditation is granted by private institutions, not the state or federal government. In fact, none of the major distance learning programs for K-12 students are accredited by an agency recognized by *any* state in the United States, or on the federal recommendation list. They are also known for being very expensive. Some are Internet based. While others ship their products to the family and have them report manually. That said, these programs can still be a wonderful tool. Handing authority over to someone else can ease tensions over school matters significantly. Children are still in the home, being raised by their parents. They are still learning the majority of their morality from reputable sources, and they can be monitored as their developmental level requires.

Boxed Curriculum

Similar to distance education programs are boxed curriculum. These products come with everything you need to teach your children, and instructions on how to do so. There are a wide variety available, as well. Some can be customized to children’s strengths and weaknesses, too. They are typically very expensive, though. Since parents aren’t reporting to anyone, they are able to adjust the lessons and progression to meet their children’s needs. These can also be mixed and matched to meet individual needs, both in level and products used for different subjects.

Parent Designed Curriculum

Many parents don’t have the money for boxed curriculum or don’t like the busy work they typically employ. Such parents design their own lessons. Designing lessons is very simple. There is a wealth of resources both for design and activities available to parents. Parents that design their own lessons typically don’t separate topics into school subjects as clearly. A child can learn Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, and Science in the same lesson for example.

Unschooling

Unschooling is often also referred to as Child-Led learning and looks differently in each house. In some homes, children are expected to complete school tasks but are given the right to choose the methods and/or topics they learn about themselves. In some homes, children are not expected to complete school work at all. Instead they are taught by hands on real world methods, and usually allowed to choose their areas of interest. From the outside, these families often look as if they are simply neglecting their children’s education. Often, these children learn at very inconsistent rates. Sometimes they will fall well behind their peers in difficult subjects for years. At some point, these children eventually find an internal desire to learn what they don’t know. Either they just gain an interest, or they develop a goal that necessitates certain knowledge. Rest assured, what it takes the rest of society 12 years of life to learn can actually be learned in just a few months when they are more mature and motivated. Unschooling is much easier and less expensive than any other means of education. Successful unschooling necessitates a high level of parental involvement, since most learning is from conversations and activities. It is only for confident parents, though. It can be downright nerve racking to deal with doubters when you don’t have written proof of your child’s abilities. Worse yet, self doubt can gnaw at your confidence in your parenting skills in general when it starts in on your educational choices.

Educational Neglect

While I don’t really consider this an option, it should be brought up. The less an education method looks like what someone is used to, the more likely they are to think that education is being neglected. Educational neglect means withholding education from your children. Teaching them differently is not neglectful. Most of the education laws in the United States are meant to reduce educational neglect. There are laws on every type of schooling. Public schools have waste more and more classroom time to teach kids to pass tests just to keep their funding. Private schools have to monitor and report on family and health information they have no business even knowing. Homeschools have to constantly prove themselves, even being forced to submit to regular home inspections in some areas. The problem with all these laws is that the people that abide by them are the ones doing what they’re supposed to. The ones that are neglectful simply fly under the radar. We are crippling our ability to raise intelligent children in the hopes of helping those that aren’t affected by our efforts. Instead of reporting your local homeschoolers or voting in tighter restrictions on your local schools, think about what you are trying to achieve and whether your actions will have any effect on that problem.

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Is Technology in Education Causing Child Parent Stress?

Posted by Rachel Evans on
Is Technology in Education Causing Child  Parent Stress?
Is Technology in Education Causing Child Parent Stress?

Is Technology in Education Causing Child Parent Stress?

After only eight days of school, our two middle school children are bogged down with multiple projects, lengthy reading expectations and nightly homework in multiple subjects. After arriving home at 4PM, our children immediately hit the books and read, study, research and complete homework until 9:30PM or later. There is a disconnect occurring between parents and children who have so much homework to complete that home chores, interaction and family time are pushed to the back burner. Replacing social communication are deadlines, research projects, reading lists, quizzes and tests.

The Link Between Technology and Parent / Child Stress

Researching online is quicker and easier than walking, riding or driving to the local library and searching through books, magazines and microfiche. Children of today need only a personal computer and Internet connection to gain access to the largest library ever created, but does that mean teachers are becoming more dependent on the Internet as a resource and thus expecting children to do more outside of school than in previous years and generations?

Technology has a fantastic place in education and the school system, but when expectations outside of school hours become so overpowering that children are left with no down time and no time with family without worrying about deadlines and grades, there is a disconnect that will occur between parents and children.

How Our Family is Dealing With Increased Expectation and Technology

As a family, we are tired of spending five days a week working full-time only to be responsible for all chores in a household of six people. Chores are important to teach children responsibility and no advances in technology or outrageous educational expectations will replace that fact. We are working with our children on choosing project themes that require no Internet access or detailed research. Just because the Internet is available does not mean it is the best source of information.

We will soon begin walking to the library a couple of days a week so our older children can work with media hands on as opposed to virtually. Research days for projects will be limited to one to two days a week and no school work is allowed on Sundays – our family’s day of rest and relaxation together without expectation.

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PhD Fieldwork

Posted by Rachel Evans on

Snow-clad peaks pierced the immense blue sky, partridges strutted amongst bushes near a stream, and a gentle breeze caressed Chandu’s round face. He was collecting data for his PhD thesis. It was a beautiful morning on an early autumn day; as the day progressed it became sunny yet windy. Chandu plodded up the valley; humming on a latest Bollywood song, his field assistants followed him to heel. One of them belonged to a small village tugged away in an adjacent valley. That morning Chandu and his assistants saw groups after large groups of ibex. Whenever they came across one, Chandu got excited, stopped and recorded in his notebook. Yet the assistants wondered as to why their boss was so much interested in those mountain goats.

Soon they spotted another one, and Chandu took off his thick feather jacket and sat on a boulder and got busy observing them through the spotting scope. The assistants took out all the equipments as usual.

One assistant’s curiosity finally got the better of him and asked, ‘Sir, why are you after these animals?’

‘I am studying them for a PhD degree,’ Chandu replied.

But the assistants had no idea what the heck a ‘Pee-Age-Die’ degree was. They had limited knowledge about the academic system. One assistant leaned against a rock, twisted his curly hair, and requested Chandu in a low voice to clear their doubts.

‘PhD is the highest academic degree awarded by a university,’ Chandu informed.

‘But what is a degree? Is it some kind of a trophy that you get for observing these animals?’ asked the other assistant, who had seen only a primary school in his life.

Chandu laughed vociferously. He had a habit of laughing even when things were not funny. ‘Ok, let me explain it this way,’ he started again after a long pause. ‘PhD is like pregnancy. You conceive an idea, nurture and develop it for four years, write a small book called thesis, and deliever it in the end.’

‘Four years! That’s quite a long time,’ quipped one of the assistants. At any rate, they got an inkling about the ‘Pee-Age-Die’ by then, and added, ‘That sounds very difficult indeed. You must walk cautiously to avoid a miscarriage and stay indoors most of the time.’

‘Yeah that’s right; it is a lonely journey,’ snapped Chandu, and got back to his spotting scope.

‘But who is the father in this four-year pregnancy?’ asked one assistant naively.

Chandu was at a loss again. He thought for a minute and said, ‘the guide, who sows the seeds.’

While this question-answer session was in full swing, Tuska, the ibex, and his friend sat on a slope, and enjoyed the early October sun. They had long scimitar-shaped horns and glittering eyes. Their rough ruffs waved in the afternoon breeze. They had just rested after a bout of grazing on the few blades of grass that Chandu had left after his collection for the herbarium.

Tuska saw Chandu and the two assistants trudging and said, ‘There he comes again. Today he is accompanied by two sub-adults.’

‘How do you know that it’s a he?’ inquired his friend, flicking his tail to get rid of the last flies of the seaoson.

‘Because this one has short hair, and their females have long hair,’ reasoned Tuska.

‘But I heard that some females also crop their hair short,’ said the friend.

‘You are right, but this one also doesn’t squat while peeing,’ argued Tuska.

‘In any case, I don’t understand why he is staying in a tent in this isolated valley,’ wondered his friend.

‘The villagers probably ostracised him,’ surmised Tuska.

‘Why would they do that?’ asked his friend.

‘I don’t know, may be he sits late in the night and think about irrelevant things,’ Tuska guessed.

‘If that’s the case then the villagers are mistaken, because this person sleeps like a dormouse. He starts snoring the moment he squeezes into his canvas-tent at 7 p.m.,’ said his friend. ‘Yesterday he even snored in broad daylight and ruined my siesta. I felt like going and goring him in the paunch.

But I did hear from a cousin of mine, who had a conversation with a domestic goat, that this person does think differently. My cousin told me that once when his book caught fire, instead of extinguishing it, he tossed three more books in the fire. When asked for an explanation, he said he needs to increase the sample size (whatever that means) to understand how the book caught fire.’ Tuska’s friend continued.

‘He does not look very well today, though. May be he has a bad stomach. I think we should collect his faecal samples to see what plants and animals he ate last night,’ suggested Tuska.

‘But how shall we collect them? I have never seen him going to the toilet, although I have seen him peeing,’ said his friend. ‘The other day, he shamelessly took a leak in front of a leopardess sitting on a ledge at close quarters,’ he added.

‘He probably didn’t notice her,’ Tuska defended.

‘How’s that possible? She was sitting just twenty meters away from him!’ exclaimed his friend.

‘I also have seen many villagers walking very close by snow leopards without noticing them. May be these creatures have weak eyesights,’ Tuska speculated. ‘But I agree with you, this guy lacks decency. A couple of months ago, he took off all his clothes, ignoring the partridges and an owl sitting closeby, and dived in that pool down there,’ he continued.

One day Chandu and his assistants left their camp early in the morning because they needed to do some vegetation sampling. After clambering a slope for a while they suddenly bumped into Tuska and his friend, who were grazing near a cliff. The two ibexes ran as fast as possible in the thin air until they reached a ridgeline, where they stopped, panted and looked back.

‘What the hell are they doing here this early? They have made our life difficult. If they keep on chasing us away from our favourite pastures like this, there is a danger that our kind will be extinct soon,’ gasped Tuska in frustration.

‘These people are not complacent with their annual hunting spree, and pester us on a daily basis,’ grumbled Tuska’s friend. ‘Today they are doing something with a rope; measuring something, I guess,’ he continued.

‘I cannot forget the incident when one of them shot my two-year old daughter in her left eye,’ Tuska sighed.

‘Yeah they are ruthless; these ones seem benign though, save for the nuisance value,’ said the friend.

One of the main activities of Chandu and his assistants was to walk a transect every second day to look for blue sheep and ibex. They walked it ten times before surprising Tuska and his friend.

‘I don’t understand why they are treading the same path again and again. Did they lose something?’ inquired Tuska.

‘That doesn’t seem to be the case, as they always look up while walking,’ replied his friend. ‘The other day one of the sub-adults carried something, which he pointed towards us. Later he looked into it while descending the slope next to that stream, and obviously stumbled and fell in the water,’ he recalled.

‘What else could it be then?’ Tuska marvelled.

‘These creatures are known to consume more than they need to, and sometimes they walk aimlessly to burn the extra calories. Perhaps these are victims of overconsumption, trying to shed the unwanted fats,’ said his friend.

‘Yeah that’s possible, one of the sub-adults is really hefty,’ Tuska agreed. ‘After all is said and done, they are a great source of amusement for us, aren’t they?’ he continued.

Chandu’s other task was to find out how mountain goats run in cliffs with such great ease. His hypothesis was that these animals run fast in cliffs because they use all four legs for locomotion, unlike humans. To test his hypothesis, he performed an experiment in which first he broke one of Tuska’s hind legs and shouted, ‘run’. Tuska ran for his life, but Chandu caught him back. He then broke one of the front-legs and shouted, ‘run’. Tuska hopped a bit, then collapsed. Subsequently, Chandu broke the other front-leg of the animal and shouted, ‘run’, but there was no response this time. He shouted again, and again, but in vain. The conclusion of the experiment therefore was after losing three legs, mountain goats become deaf.

‘This is a major breakthrough, so I have to go and write it up immediately’ Chandu bragged and left his field site.

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Music Education for Children

Posted by Rachel Evans on
Music Education for Children
Music Education for Children

Music Education for Children

The music begins

When you bring home the… guitar, trumpet, piano, drums, fill in your choice, there is a look of awe and wonder in their eyes. They can’t wait to get their little paws on the thing. Even as you are explaining how to handle the instrument, they are blocking out your annoying parental tones and grabbing for it; ready to rock. They proudly boast to anyone who will listen, that they are taking music lessons. The lessons begin and they can’t wait to show you the first three notes they learned on the first day. To you, it is the sound of brilliance in the making. You want anyone who will listen to join in celebrating the best three notes of music ever played. Out comes the video phone and soon your little Mozart, your Louis Armstrong, your Taylor Swift is on facebook and youtube. (Justin Bieber was discovered on youtube, after all).

But then there’s homework
“I’ll practice everyday”, is what you were promised; as your little angel pleaded in the store. However, beyond practicing, your child must learn music theory. It starts to resemble school. None of their friends have to endure this abuse. Your little Mozart becomes distracted, and the resistance begins: “do I have to practice?”, “I’ll practice later“, “I’ve practiced enough.” Eventually there is the inevitable ear crunching, heart shredding: I HATE PRACTICING. I DON’T WANT TO PLAY THIS STUPID INSTRUMENT. I’M QUITTING! You cringe as you consider the monetary investment. You argue, demand and threaten until eventually Mozart marches to the instrument and defiantly slams out the assigned music 10 times faster than it’s meant to be played. You begin to weaken: does the world really need another piano player? Will the world end if Suzie is not strumming her way through it?

Do you give up or do you go on?

Consider this: I’ve never met an adult who could play an instrument who said, “I wish I didn’t know how to play…” the violin, sitar, bagpipes, harp, etc. There are two things I have heard: “I’m glad my parents made me stay with it” and “I wish my parents had made me stay with it”.

My stepson is the inspiration for this article. Like his father, he is a drummer. Because of dad, he started younger than most. He was banging on his first drum at one and was responsible for a daily drum practice at three. 15 minutes was all I required; at seven it became 30 minutes. I was the bad guy. I insisted, I pushed, at times I wavered, but endured. He’s 12 now and loves being a drummer; loves being the kid at school who did drum solos for talent shows. A year ago he made the mistake of showing potential on the piano…and so, once more, the cycle began. However, for the most part, we have made it to the other side. My stepson is now aware of his talent and sees himself as a musician. The practices come easier these days and more often than not, unsolicited.

The benefits
Playing a musical instrument develops self esteem, social skills, promotes brain development and can even keep your child from abusing drugs and alcohol. I see discipline, confidence and creativity in my stepson that has been enhanced by music. Please visit: www.childrensmusicworkshop.com/advocacy/benefits.html. (no apostrophe s) There you will find videos as well as the results of studies, showing how children succeed in school and in life because of music.
It’s a personal decision whether or not to force your child to stick with an instrument. I recommend enduring. The battle may be long; I stuck with it for years, but you’ll see great things develop in your child and they’ll even thank you for making them stay the course; one day…

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Southern Illinois Child Advocacy Center Promotes Education, Safety

Posted by Rachel Evans on
Southern Illinois Child Advocacy Center Promotes Education, Safety
Southern Illinois Child Advocacy Center Promotes Education, Safety

Southern Illinois Child Advocacy Center Promotes Education, Safety

Tragedy in Mount Vernon led to the creation of The Amy Center and tragedy keeps it in business, but Director Ladonna Richards finds comfort in the fact that the center is educating people and helping children.

The Amy Center is one of only six child advocacy centers in Southern Illinois and it was the first in the region. Named for then 10-year-old Amy Schulz who was raped, sodomized and murdered, The Amy Center serves seven counties around Mount Vernon and more than 200 children a year.

Schulz’ father Dennis and State Rep. Kurt Granberg (D-Centralia) began the center in 1990. Last year, the center served 238 children. Of that, 128 required forensic interviews, the interview to determine if they have been sexually abused.

Richards said this year, the center is on pace to surpass that mark, having already done more than 100 forensic interviews. “We only take referrals from the Department of Child and Family services and from law enforcement, so that cuts our numbers down some,” she said.

The expense of exams and interviews, as well as the likelihood of false accusations, is why the center chooses not to accept private referrals. “We let the investigators who are trained do the actual investigating and determine if there is enough information to warrant our involvement,” she said.

The center simply cannot cover any more area because children and their representatives are having to travel so long to the very emotional and difficult interviews. “We just can’t ask people to drive an hour and a half to put them through this,” she said. “Some of our counties are more than an hour away.”

That creates a problem because there is a strip of counties across central Illinois without any advocacy centers for the children. In those cases, law enforcement officials simply call the nearest center and beg for help. “We cover them when we can,” she said.

The Amy Center began with a single forensic investigator and now has three trained investigators on staff, both because of the client load and to give investigator’s a break between cases.

Richards said as one of the investigators, she finds the job difficult but rewarding. “When you see that look on a child’s face that says they trust you and know you are there to help them, it’s worth every second of the effort,” she said. Sometimes, that means children open up enough to reveal the details of the abuse. Other times, it means they open enough to show that there isn’t any abuse happening.

The center video tapes, through hidden cameras almost like nanny-cams, the interview sessions and provides a dvd copy of the interview to local authorities for use in the case. Center personnel also help prepare children when they will be forced to testify in court and attends court hearings with the children.

“The one thing we don’t do is counseling. We believe that someone needs to be very specialized to counsel children after they have been abused and we refer to outside agencies, as close to their home community as we can,” she said.

The center also provides community education regarding potential sexual abuse and helps teach children to identify abuse. “We teach good touch, bad touch, but also good touch, confusing touch,” she said.

The difference is that some forms of abuse begin as touches that don’t fit the classic definition of “bad touch”, but make the child confused or uncomfortable. Through school visits, the center helps children from preschool age to sixth grade identify and appropriately confront things that make them uncomfortable, she said.

“The problem is, we aren’t even getting into all the schools in our area and it’s still a two year rotation,” she said. The center also offers a pre-dating safety class for children in seventh and eighth grade, covering issues like date rape drugs and how drugs use and alcohol use can affect the decisions a person makes about their sexuality. At first, Richards said, the center stuck to public schools, but then found that children in the parochial schools needed the lessons as well.

“We’re also finding that by seventh and eighth grade, we’re sometimes too late. We find that a lot of children are already sexually active at that age,” she said.

The Amy Center is funded almost entirely through grants, with some support coming from local donations. Usually, the donations come in the form of items the center can use, Richards said.

“WE find a lot of people know that we give the children a toy after their interview, so we get a lot of stuffed animals,” she said. “I hate to sound ungrateful, but there are a lot of other things we could use more.”

Children visiting the center range in age from 3 to 15, she said, and the older children are mostly girls. “Sometimes, depending on who might see them, they’ll take a stuffed animal, but a lot of time we need something to give as a gift tot he older children.”

Richards suggested many of the victims come from underprivileged families and would appreciate something as simple as a bottle of lotion from Bath & Body Works at the mall. “Even a little $3 sample bottle would be something that was all theirs,” she said.

People wishing to donate items for The Amy Center may want to consider items from the following list, Richards said.
“We can always use office supplies or gift cards to Wal-Mart, K-Mart or Staples,” she said.

Other items the center frequently needs are:
Stamps
Recordable dvds
gift bags (for wrapping Christmas presents)
school supplies/book bags
toiletries suitable for pre-teens and young teenagers
“Really, what we are lacking the most if small gift items that will appeals to 10 to 15 year olds, mostly girls,” Richards said.
To donate, contact the center at (618) 244-2100.