Sunday, March 22, 2015

Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert D. Putnam

Is income inequality a serious concern? Impacting opportunity for upward mobility? Robert D. Putnam, Harvard University professor and author of Bowling Alone, argues yes to both in his new book Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. Putnam combines observations of his 1959 high school classmates and of current students with statistics, data and research to support his argument. 

Putnam and his book Our Kids were recently featured on pbs so if you only take one thing away from this rather long post be sure to watch that interview:


Video and transcript available here.

Putnam focuses on families, parenting, schooling, and community in separate sections of his book.  He makes many wise observations, including, “Because of growing class segregation in America, fewer and fewer successful people (and even fewer of our children) have much idea of how the other half lives. So we are less empathetic than we should be to the plight of less privileged kids.”  Don’t agree? Then take the “quiz” proposed at a recent Ted Conference by journalist and author Anand Giridharadas; he says:

“If you live near a Whole Foods; If no relative of yours serves in the military; If you’re paid by the year, not the hour; If no one you know uses meth; If you married once and remain married; If most people you know finished college; If you aren’t one of 65 million Americans with a criminal record. If any or all of these things describe you, then accept the possibility that, actually, you may not know what’s going on, and you may be part of the problem.”  

Read that again – and then turn to Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis for more detailed insight.
In the past few years, I have noticed much more interest from our students on economic and social class issues.  They have been sharing ideas recently as they grapple with questions for a major research paper.  Here are a few examples of questions that interest them:
  • Why do people end up becoming homeless? What factors contribute to it? To what extent are parents obligated to sacrifice their dreams to provide for their family? 
  • Should the Federal minimum wage be raised? Who works in fast food establishments? How has this changed over time? Can those workers earn enough to support a family?
  • How do parenting styles impact children’s ability to cope with stress and to succeed at school?
As we research, I am certainly mentioning Putnam’s Our Kids and the pbs interview, but I am also encouraging them to be on the lookout for other articles and editorials that will contribute to their arguments.

Here are a few that we found recently which are worth a look by everyone. Each probably deserves its own blog post, but they are certainly more powerful when read together:
  •  The Global Flight from the FamilyWall Street Journal (Feb, 20, 2015) which provides additional examples to show that these changes are not just happening in America.

Kudos to the teachers involved for encouraging exploration of these issues and kudos to the students for their critical thinking and raising some important, timely and relevant questions. If you are looking to explore these ideas further, read Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert Putnam.  Think about it – maybe take it with you on your family’s Spring Break trip to Mexico or Belize – we will have plenty to discuss when you return.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Illinois Computing Educator Resources

The Library Department spent our Institute Day (Friday, February 27th) at ICE, the annual conference for Illinois Computing Educators.  The schedule included an opening keynote and then a variety of poster and breakout sessions. Especially helpful this year is the set of online resources which are posted here. It means that even though we did not attend Thursday’s keynote on the Maker Movement, for example, we can still access the shared notes or look at presentation materials from other sessions like the one which Kathy Garneau  with husband Marc (who is New Trier technology Staff Developer and Librarian)  presented on “My school is 1:1 what do I do now.”  Use the drop down menus at the top of the main page to search by presenter, by day and time and so forth to find materials of interest to you.

This year, tons of resources covered topics like “Creating with iBooks Author” to “Getting the most out of your ChromeBook” and many, many more ideas. In fact, even though they were applicable across a range of grades and subjects, it did seem as though the sessions were more stratified by device and I am wondering what that portends for the future of both the ICE Conference and student exposure to technology.

As always, it was great to see friends and colleagues from sending schools and many local high schools.  I found myself missing Judy Gressel and thinking of how she always encouraged us to come away with at least one new thing that we could use immediately.  Lisa Dettling of Stevenson provided the one for me.  Her poster session was highlighting primary sources now more easily searchable due to a Library of Congress grant to Barat Education Foundation.  I know that are Modern World History students will love the cartoons and other information about Imperialism in the Philippines. Certainly, our AP US students who are building DBQ’s will be grateful for the general link, too.  

But the learning doesn’t stop – it will be fun to go back and review presentation materials from bloggers and tweeters like Nick Provenzano, Josh Stumpenhorst, Vinnie Vrotney, and more.  Also, several of us attended a session on Flipboard and decided  to explore its functionality further at an upcoming Library Department meeting.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Wes Moore to Speak at New Trier

Most of you are probably aware that Wes Moore will be speaking at the Cornog next week.  Here are the details:
Wednesday, January 14
7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Northfield Cornog Auditorium  7 Happ Road, Northfield, IL 60093

This event is sponsored by Fan and more details are available from the press release and on the FAN (Family Action Network) web site.

The Library is also purchasing two copies of his new book called The Work: My Search for a Life that Matters with review comments as follows:

Booklist noted: “He tells his own whirlwind story of Oxford, investment banking, military service, a White House Fellowship—all the while questioning how the work he did contributed to the lives of others…. This is a beautifully philosophical look at the expectation that work should bring meaning to our lives through service to others.”

Kirkus: “Though a less-charismatic offshoot of that former effort, Moore's writing remains consistently articulate and escorts readers through a decade of pivotal years ….The takeaway is crystal clear: Take pride in your endeavors, and make every attempt to discover the ‘meaning of success in a volatile, difficult, and seemingly anchorless world.’ An inspired story of a passionate American who has delved into a variety of livelihoods and made a distinctive mark on each." 

I like the way that Wes Moore has interspersed the stories of others (for example, a combat veteran or a Teach For America educator) along with his own experiences as a Rhodes Scholar, on Wall Street, fighting in Afghanistan and as a family member.  Overall, I personally think that this new book will be hugely inspirational for students and adults; I am looking forward to hearing him speak at New Trier.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Some end of the year lists worth a look

At this time of year we are often thinking about lists of numbers so here are a couple of others to peruse:

5 Things We Know about College Students in 2014, published by The Chronicle of Higher Education which summarizes the findings of a recent survey:
  • They love Apple
  • Print is not dead to them
  • They are not that into Twitter
  • They think libraries and computer labs are swell
  • They have not ditched scholarly works for Wikipedia
Of course, I particularly liked the positive comments about libraries and I found this pretty consistent  with observations of our own high school students and with scholarly studies such as those profiled by Emily Singley in How College Students *Really* Do Research

100 Top Tools for Learning 2014 – which includes results from the 8th annual survey.  Based in the UK, this survey compiles results from learning professionals in 61 countries.  The top ten are shown nearby.  

School Library Journal also publishes several lists of top Apps, Books, Tech and More.

For more top 100’s see these Book lists:
 Above image from SLJ's Best Adult Books 4 Teens 2014

Prefer a video instead? Here are the 10 Best TED Talks of 2014 for Educators.   And one personal suggestion that combines tech and art: Tim’s Vermeer is a fascinating movie about an attempt to replicate the work of Vermeer using lenses and innovative technology from the 17th century. I thoroughly enjoyed this film and highly recommend it.  And for fun - an absolute favorite created by students at Mount Desert Island High School in Maine:

There are many, many more lists … feel free to share your favorites in the comment space below.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

What We’re
Intrigued by/Reading/Watching
Right Now…

Mr. Stuczynski:  
“TED talk that I saw recently made an impression upon me because it deals with both marketing and leadership and how great leaders and companies sell emotions/feelings rather than facts and give people what THEY themselves want rather than what the leaders want.”

Ms. Lazar:
“A link to a blogpost from  Rich in Color (Rich in Color is dedicated to reading, reviewing, talking about, and otherwise promoting young adult fiction starring people of color or written by people of color. ) The post is short but also includes a link to  the Youtube Adichie’s TEDTalk, “The Danger of a Single Story,”  I invite others to watch or rematch this 18 minute talk "just to remind ourselves the power books."

Ms. Burns:
This is a brief story about how an artist works with books....

Ms. Novak:  
My article is an episode of This American Life but it also exists as a transcript.  It is a story on the school to prison pipeline and has stayed with me particularly since Ferguson.  I think it speaks a lot to the impact we have as educators on students of color. It is in Act One - Time Out

Ms. Straube:  
Written by a Systems Librarian at Harvard, this is really 7 articles in one, given the bibliography.

Ms. Peterson:  
This Will Revolutionize Education - video

Saturday, November 08, 2014

A Journey through a revolution ...

From Cambridge University Press, Computing Universe by Tony Hey and Gyuri Papay was just released this week and I have been leafing through a digital version of its pages which are “intended to be intelligible to both high school and first year university students and to stimulate their interest in the wide range of opportunities of a career in computer science.”  The book covers developments related to computers from the 1930’s to the present day and includes discussion of topics like semiconductors, the rise of robots and computer games. 

As I started reading, I thought of my review of Innovators by Isaacson and although that book covers a much bigger time period, both titles focus on pioneers like Alan Turing.  And with The Imitation Game movie coming soon, there seems to be plenty of general interest.  Authors Hey and Papay make frequent reference to [Gordon] Moore’s law, lectures and contests from Richard Feynman, and predictions from Michio Kaku which will hopefully promote exploration of and greater familiarity with work by those distinguished scientists.  I also enjoyed the section explaining how algorithms were developed for IBM’s Watson, the eventual Jeopardy! champion.

Computing Universe includes plenty of pictures, but still seems a bit “dry” and “textbook-ish” overall.  I am wondering why publishers are not building more links and interactive elements into their books, especially on a subject such as this one; certainly, that would increase the appeal for their intended audience.

For example, Maria Popova at Brain Pickings created a terrific visual review  (check out #27 about Hedy Lamarr’s contribution to wifi type communication; who knew?!) of 100 Ideas that Changed the Web by Jim Boulton.  Or look into The Gentleman who made Scholar and be sure to investigate 12 Lesser-known Google Projects that are Absolutely Amazing.

A favorite quote found in Computing Universe is “every 30 years there is a new wave of things that computers do.  Around 1950, they began to model events in the world (simulation) and around 1980 to connect people (communication). Since 2010, they have begun to engage with the physical world in a non-trivial way (embodiment).”  I look forward to a future edition of Computing Universe filled with engaging, interactive elements.