Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bye Blackberry

This weekend I let my Blackberry go. After years of wating for better options where Apple (iOS) & Google (Android) had passed them by, I finally stopped waiting.

I loved having the biggest screen on my monochrome Blackberry 6200. It was cool when the RIM team gave me color. I went to the little Pearl & back to a full QWERTY keyboard. However, the dominant team in the early 2000s slowed down as the new guys came to market. As I got older, and I wanted a larger screen. Apple & Google responded with bigger screens. RIM finally put a large, touch screen Blackberry into play with Verizon, but at that time I was on a contract with another...and all the major carriers had non-RIM, large screen options.

CNET does a great job showing Blackberry through the years.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Debate Kids Need Your Help

Atlanta Urban Debate League

I have found debate to be one of the most diverse, powerful, learning experiences that students can have.

I volunteer as a middle school debate judge for the Atlanta Urban Debate League (AUDL - When I started, I had zero experience with debate. The AUDL needs more adults to volunteer as judges for their monthly debates. That means you, your alumni group, fraternity, sorority, and friends.

AUDL debates are on these dates
(2011) November 12 (Tri Cities HS), December 3 (McEachern HS)
(2012) January 21 (South Cobb HS) , February 11 (Tri Cities HS), March 3 (Tri Cities HS)

We will have a judge training session at 8:45 a.m. to help along any of the reluctant potential judges acclimate themselves to the activity.

Interested parties should email


You can also find the AUDL on Facebook.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Another Education Idea?

I pay attention to many people who speak about K-12 education. As a parent, I recognize that the topic touches many of us--most as parents, and more as taxpayers.  Because almost all adults have experienced at least some of the K-12 Amercian education adventure, most people have an opinion on education. Without digging in on a particular side, I would say that parents want a good education for their kids. What defines a good education is very subjective, depending on your view. Different people want different things that are usually better fit for some, but not all kids. I'd prefer that the discussions have some common, easy to understand points that we all can look at during the evaluation of these ideas.

Once we work through the schools, school boards, local & state politicians, parents, communities, & local businesses, there isn't much space left for the advocacy of 5, 10, & 15 year olds that don't have jobs or vote. We have to do right for them, not take advantage of them. If you expect retirement money in your 70s, someone has to keep the economy moving in a positive direction. The generations of students that grew up after you will have to fuel the future economy.

I would ask those that push an agenda to help the average person understand basic things in the educational pitches for the ideas you advocate.

  1. How does it help the students? Which students? (All, elementary only, disabled, economically disadvantaged, etc.)
  2. Where do the consumers of those students weigh in? (employers, colleges, next level of K-12 education)
  3. What do you expect of the parents & K-12 schools to get your proposal done?
  4. How long to implement?
  5. What's the cost? How do we pay for it?

As I see news that highlights lack of preparation for college or the work force, I have to question--are we doing the right things to help our kids succeed? When I see proposals that tell us to do more testing, but the results seem more impactful to the principals & teachers than the kids--I question the focus on testing. When school budgets continue to get cut and we lose certain subject areas, I ask, why these? Were they the least valuable? When it takes 5 years to make a change, what happens to the kids that will graduate in the next 4 years? As schools lose funding due to loss of property taxes, how do we afford anything new? Should there be a different way to fund schools? I see lot's of controversy around charter schools. Is the competition good? Should the competitor (local school board) determine if you can exist? Can local schools take ideas from charters & implement them in ways that help some students?

Answering the 5 questions will help us understand the next education proposal.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


One way to get an idea of school involvement in higher level thinking is the number of students involved in school fairs. Regardless of the fair/festival type--science, technology, social studies, art, media, etc.--the effort involved in working on a project gets students to think beyond their basic education...and that's a good thing.

While many are not moved by Obama's Sputnik moment, the country doesn't have as strong an interest in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math). However, the increased use of technology tools has led to a larger separation between the creators and users of technology. The cash register has gotten much more sophisticated. However, I suspect that the average fast food worker had more math competence 40 years ago than one does today.

As a result, the high end of technology creators need to evolve and innovate faster than ever before. That means the low end is falling farther behind.

It doesn't matter what level of skill they show at the start. Just get the kids to work on an appropriate idea or topic of interest. Guide them through the steps required to participate. A parent can add a level of discussion as the student works through the process. Help make the adventure of learning enjoyable.

Make sure that the student owns the process. Parent, if you want the display to look good, let the student use premade shapes, letters, pictures, etc. It is their responsibility to create the materials. Sure you can help younger kids print the information, but let it be the student's information. Here is your test--if the judges took the student into a room without you, what could the child explain about the project?

Let's learn from the experience and get better next time. The students will improve critical thinking and project skills by working on school fairs. Kids begin to learn how the school assignments relate to real life.

More complete version in link of Prepare for the Science Fair with instructions on HOW to do a science fair project by Kevin Temmer, talented HS student who may have won a media festival award.

Recently, I helped to judge a science fair. We needed more volunteers to judge these events. There were several students who really showed a flair for science. The key is to get those with a flair for the subject to continue to learn & grow.

Ultimately, I want the kids to figure out what they like to do and to do well in those areas. Part of that discovery is both trying to do things and learning how to take what they know to higher levels of insight.