Mar 312011

My AP stats kids are really not wanting to learn the calculator skills. It is killing me! They want to do it all by hand and then type in the math in the normal screen instead of using “stats” and “ttest” instead. KILLING ME!

So, to force the issue, and give them something interesting to work on I turned to the intertubes and my Google Reader for inspiration. As I was reading this morning, I came across this article.  Hmm, that sounds worth while. I am not a huge baseball fan, but I do like the stats!

Hmm, now the article used the data from every player, and I don’t want my learners needing to use a computer. They need a data set that is manageable on the calculators.  So I poke around on one of provided links and find this link that has team data

That looks promising. But I better look at it myself before I give it to them, right? I take the team data and graph it using JMP and find out it is no-where near normal. That is good. It means that the learners will run into problems doing the t-test if they actually LOOK at the data as I keep asking them to. If they don’t graph the data, they will get a happy answer, and it will be wrong. Nice.

I did the t-tests, and no matter how you slice it, none of them are significant. The means are all around .26 (hmm, regression to the mean comes up here as well.)

Then I think I will give them Barry Bond’s highest batting average (2002, .443 found here) and ask the groups to decide what data they need (and then give it to them) to determine if Barry’s batting average is significant.

So, the instructions, purposefully vague, will be:

Is the National League or American League’s batting averages significantly different in 2000? How about 2010?

Are the averages significantly different between 2000 and 2010?

What information do you need to decide if Barry Bond’s batting average is significantly higher than the leagues, and then is it significant?

The learners, working in groups, will need to write an appropriate Ho, Ha, do all conditions checks, and then, if appropriate, do the appropriate tests.

The conditions checks will fail on the nearly normal condition, but I will ask them to continue anyway and explain the problem in their conclusion.

Any feedback on this project?

Mar 192011

I don’t often post political issues here, but I was doing a bit of reading this morning and felt the need to consolidate some of the posts as well as express some opinions on the issues.

Of course, we all read the news, and know of the constant and abusive attacks on teachers and education by a certain political party. It is unfortunate that the person who is best showing the rampant hypocrisy of the that party is a comedian! None of the traditional news outlets are highlighting the fact that the Republican party has framed the debate very carefully as an “us vs. them” situation where “us” really is incredibly rich vs. the “them” of educators. Jon Stewart’s “Crisis in Dairyland” shows  this incredibly well. (Teachers v. Wall StreetFor Richer and Poorer, Interview with Diane Ravitch and Angry Curds.)

During  the height of the Wisconsin tragedy, I had a very impassioned discussion with some wall street type folks here.  What I realized out of this discussion is that they are brain dead. No seriously. Brain dead. Walking zombies who have come to the conclusion that it is okay to break contracts with teachers, but not with them, that they have no clue what it takes to educate, and that the entire problem with education can be solved by simply throwing a couple of bucks at teachers if the teachers raise scores on a test.

Of course, the wall street banker assumed that everyone is motivated by money, and that the only type of motivation that is allowed, possible, or important is extrinsic motivation. Motivate the teachers to teacher better and all the problems are solved! Yippee!

But wait! This assumes that the truly important people in this discussion have only to sit there and allow the supremely motivated teacher pour knowledge into their heads like wonderfully passive little widgets. What a terrific idea! (I guess we know why the bankers have brought our country to near ruin through the banking crisis. See what I mean; brain dead zombies.)

And then Tim Stahmer posts on his blog about a couple of studies done on extrinsic motivation and education. Guess what! Extrinsically motivating teachers is a recipe for failure! Why? Because the motivation of the TEACHERS is irrelevant. It is the motivation of the LEARNERS that matter! Throwing a few bucks at me will not mean my learners are more motivated!

So let’s look at these studies. Maybe the studies were severely biased, and that is the problem. The Washington Post has an article on one of the studies, (and here is a pdf of the story in case it disappears.) Wow, $15,000 is a lot of money! That is over 1/3 of my salary right now, and yet that huge amount of money did not cause students to do better? Imagine that? Paying the teachers did not cause the learners to do better!

But that is just one study. Not too conclusive at all. After all, one study in one school district means really nothing in the grand scheme of things. So Harvard does another study in a different school district. Guess what. Same thing. (here is the pdf text of the study.)

When are Michelle Rhee and company going to be thrown in the trash bin where they belong? They really have no plan, just more tired and wrong conclusions that do more damage than success. That is clear. If you read the book “The Death and Life of the Great American School System” it is pretty clear they are causing significant damage to education.

But then, the brain dead zombies don’t want a good education system, do they? They want a system where they can teach creationism and can create good little worker bees who will be satisfied with low pay and no benefits. It is the educated citizen who demands more.

Lest you think that I am just complaining without offering a suggestion for improvement, I offer the following article. Bill Ferriter is a person who does suggest a positive vision for improving education. It is not an easy, magic bullet like merit pay. It is a hard slog. Structurally change how we teach. Change what we teach.

Yes, we can learn a lot of lesson from handwashing. Unfortunately for reality, it is not easy, but it is worth the price of admission.

Mar 142011

Tomorrow I will be doing a short presentation at our district’s Tech Café on some google tips. The hard part is figuring out which tips will be most useful.  Here are 4 different cheat sheets for google docs, search and mail.

Google for Teachers II

Google for power users

Google Cheat Sheet

Gmail tips

In addition, the nice folks who created GoogleGuide have some very excellent tips for searching effectively. And WebDesignLedger (WDL) has a nice guide with 11 different cheat sheets listed as well. There is so much information out there!

The bad part is, these things go out of date so quickly. Someone spends a ton of time making and formatting it only to have Google add features that make the “tip” irrelevant. Keeping up is a hard thing to do. And then, looking towards the future here in Washoe County, we are planning on moving to live@edu with Microsoft. That takes away the need for Google Docs, because we will all have access to 25 GB of storage as well as Word, Excel,  and Powerpoint.

Hmm, what to do, what to do. Relevant and useful, while still teaching things.

Here is my list:

1.  Searching with the “filetype:” command. Not many people know that you can specify a particular filetype when you search. For instance the search command, “modular mathematics filetype:ppt” will give all results for modular math that are powerpoints! How handy is that when creating lessons! Acceptable common formats for filetypes are: pdf, ppt, doc, xls, rtf. If you go to and click “advanced search” for the rest of the types as well as more options.

2.  Using multiple calendars to keep track of different types of events.

3.  Publishing a calendar and allowing parents or students to subscribe to the calendar to keep updated on events (sports calendars, speech & debate calendars, etc)

4.  Enabling the calendar lab to post the birthdays found in your Google contacts on your Google calendar (making Google calendar and contacts to work together.)

5.  Using Google Bookmarks to store and communicate all those bookmarks you have to other people (I set up a new bookmark list for every speech and debate topic and share it out with my debaters).

6.  And, if that does not fill the 45 minutes (and I am pretty sure it will!), I will go over these last 2 ideas. I love these, and will be using the “homework hotline” idea next year for sure!

A homework hotline using google docs and creating quizzes (self grading) with gdocs.

Mar 012011

In AP statistics I was having a problem getting the class to actually engage during class! I know! The whole purpose of being .. in class .. is to BE IN CLASS!

Thanks to my twitter PLN, I learned a terrific idea to get the class engaged. It works. Hardcore it works. It is called a “halfsheet”. I take one problem. Just one. It goes at the top of the page. Then you put the acronym of choice down the left side to remind the learners how to do inference problems (as an example). At this point you have one problem, the acronym (PHANTOM, or I use the books Think: H:, Think: C:, Show Tell, whatever you use), on one half a piece of paper.

Small, neat, and concise. You give this to groups of 2 to work on. They work. They struggle, they learn. Then they bring you the half sheet for you to grade. You point out any errors, suggest wording changes, and then send them back. They bring it back with the corrections and you either send them back or accept the sheet.

Once you accept the sheet, you give them problem number 2!


Problem 3!


It works. They are engaged. They are working, and you get to spend your time tweaking, suggesting, and helping instead of talking at them.

Amazing what a half sheet of paper can do.