I organized the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute to create a space where educators have the time to be creative, experience the ways in which computing can enhance learning and interact with some of the greatest thinkers of our time.

I’m thrilled that Lesa Snider is part of the CMK 2009 faculty.

She literally wrote the book on Photoshop!
Lesa Snider King

I often tell people that I am “Photoshop disabled.” I know how to use about 1% of what Photoshop can do and am often confused by the software. Lesa Snider is such an amazing teacher that her clever examples and clear presentation helps me understand the complexities of this critical software. Her expertise in digital photography and image manipulation allows her to tailor instruction for any learner.

Lesa is on a mission to teach the world to create and use better graphics. She’s a stock photographer and Chief Evangelist for iStockphoto and founder of the creative tutorial site GraphicReporter.com. Lesa is the recent author of Photoshop CS4: The Missing Manual along with many video training titles, including: Graphic Secrets for Business Professionals, From Photo to Graphic Art, and Practical Photoshop Elements. She writes regularly for Macworld Magazine, the National Association of Photoshop Professionals, Elements Techniques, and Layers Magazine. Lesa is also a corporate trainer and teaches at many industry conferences including Photoshop World, Macworld Expo, Mac Mania Geek Cruises, and the esteemed Santa Fe Workshops.

Since 2003, she has assisted New York Times technology columnist David Pogue’s with many projects, including his Missing Manual book series and NYT videos. You can catch her Graphics Tip of the Week live each Wednesday night on the Your Mac Life internet radio show, which she also co-hosts.

During free time, you’ll find her carving the twisties on her sportbike or hanging with fellow Mac geeks. Lesa is a proud member of the BMWMOA, F800 Riders Club, DACS, NCMUG, Washington Appe Pi, and LiMac.

Lesa Snider, Deborah Meier, Lella Gandini, Peter Reynolds, Brian Silverman, Cynthia Solomon and Sylvia Martinez will all be at Constructing Modern Knowledge 2009! Will you?

Constructing Modern Knowledge provides a rich learning environment in which educators have the time, resources and inspiration to learn via the creation of personally meaningful technology projects while interacting with some of the wisest educators of our time. Social events include an opening institute dinner plus a reception at the legendary FableVision Studios before a big night out in Boston.

Constructing Modern Knowledge respects the budgets of schools and educators by keeping registration costs affordable and by offering team discounts. The institute is appropriate for all K-12 educators, administrators and teacher educators.

We are entering the cruelest part of the school year, standardized testing season. For those of you interested in introducing a bit of levity into your classroom without overtly protesting the tests, might I suggest the following books to read aloud to your students. Don’t just sit there! Read something! (then opt your own children out of the testing)

Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! is a literary gem begun by Dr. Seuss and completed posthumously by Jack Prelutsky with illustrations by Lane Smith ofHooray for Diffendoofer Day! Stinky Cheese Man & Math Curse fame.

Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! tells the story of a fabulous teacher, Mrs. Bonkers, who teachers her students at Difendoofer to be creative, to think and to appreciate that learning can be fun. That is until the principal, Mr. Lowe, who normally treats Mrs. Bonkers with great affection and respect, tells the children that if they don’t do well on an upcoming test, their school will be shut and they will all be required to attend school in dreary Flobbertown where everyone thinks alike.

Perhaps the coolest part of this delightful (and timeless) little-known classic is that the book contains a substantial chapter explaining how the book came to be. This includes Dr. Seuss’ sketches, notes and word play. It might be a neat project to show kids JUST this section of the book and ask them to write a book from Dr. Seuss’ sketches and notes, just like Prelutsky and Lane Smith did.

Buy Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! from Amazon.com

The official Seussville web site offers a free collection of project ideas for teachers who wish to use this subversive book in their classroom.

Other books you might consider are:

Parents and educators interested in learning more about standardized testing and what they might do about it should click here for a collection of books and videos.

You might also point your browser at PencilsDown.org, SusanOhanian.org, AlfieKohn.org or FairTest.org

I’ve been outspoken in my concern about the education policies of President Obama, who I supported and voted for. I am not alone in pointing out that President Obama is continuing the misguided education policies of the Bush administration. This saddens me, but seems par for the course.

However, when the former Harvard Law Review editor and professor of constitutional law has proof that his predecessor’s administration violated our nation’s law by torturing prisoners and illegally wiretapping citizens and chooses to do nothing, I am deeply alarmed.

The fact that CIA employees tortured humans illegally with the written consent of senior Bush administration officials, including a sitting federal judge, is not a mere act of political name-calling. The facts are not in dispute. President Obama released the written memos today. Former Assistant Secretary of State Richard Armitage acknowledged knowledge of the torture program and did nothing. Former Vice President Cheney has come close to bragging about supervising the lawbreaking.


Passage from a Bybee "torture" memo

I realize that the country/world is in a mess and that the President has an ambitious schedule he needs to pass without Republican congressional support. I appreciate that Fox News and other white supremacists are whipping up hysterical crowds of racists while the Governors of Texas and Alaska openly speak of secession. These are dangerous times and the President’s plate is quite full.

However, refusal to prosecute those who broke our laws and undermined our constitutional principles – especially for war crimes – is not “retribution” as the President suggests. It is the right thing to do. It is the law. It is his moral and constitutional obligation to seek justice.

Political unpopularity is not an excuse for obstruction of justice. Inaction out of fear of offending the CIA scares the snot out of me. The military, Department of Justice and intelligence community serve the elected civilian President, not the other way around.

You may download and read the recently “top-secret” torture memos here.

Keith Olbermann’s special comment this evening, makes this case eloquently.

Thus far, President Obama and his disappointing pick for Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, show little evidence of an education policy different from that of his predecessor. Of all the stupid ideas, distractions and crackpot educational fantasies being offered, teacher merit pay may take the cake. There seems to be a part of a politician’s reptilian brain hardwired to believe that teachers are deliberately suppressing the almighty student standardized test scores until the government awards them an extra buck a day.

I published the following article in the August 2004 issue of District Administration Magazine. You may note that bad education policies are bipartisan.

Kerry’s Education Plan

Raise test Scores – win a prize

I was horrified by recent news referring to U.S. Sen. John Kerry’s education platform. The newsflash reported that if elected president, Kerry would reward teachers for increased student achievement. The news media may have over-simplified a more comprehensive policy statement or the Kerry campaign may have distributed this bumper sticker slogan for its own purposes. Either hypothesis is plausible since there is so little thoughtful discourse on the status or future of public education.

In his book, Political Leadership and Educational Failure, Seymour Sarason reminds us that although we expect that our elected officials will be briefed by the best and brightest experts when concerned with issues of taxation, highway resurfacing or sewage, no such expectation exists for discussions of education policy. Members of both parties seem to increase in ignorance proportionate to their proximity to schooling decisions. After all, U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy cosponsored No Child Left Behind.

Taken at face value, reports of the Kerry proposal could suggest either a generous desire to increase teacher pay or a cynical scheme to pander to the electorate. While I’m supportive of dramatic increases in teacher compensation, merit pay is a mischievous idea that continues to plague public education.

Is the key to educational quality a tip jar for teachers?

In a Harvard Business Review article, Alfie Kohn states, “… at least two dozen studies over the last three decades have conclusively shown that people who expect to receive a reward for completing a task … simply do not perform as well as those who expect no reward at all. … Incentives [or bribes] simply can’t work in the workplace.”

You don’t have to agree with fuzzy teacher lovers like Kohn. The week of the Kerry announcement I read articles in Business Week and Business 2.0 stating unequivocally that incentive pay does not work in the workplace. W. Edward Demings opposes the destructive effects of merit pay as do Peopleware authors Lister and DeMarco. They detail how extrinsic rewards and performance reviews contribute to teamicide, the unintentional destruction of well-jelled teams. Most people believe they do the best job possible and reviews that merely reflect this fact lead to disappointment, lower morale and drive a wedge between colleagues. Even seemingly innocuous schemes like “employee of the month” do little to motivate excellent employees, but can increase resentment.

Countless psychologists have demonstrated how extrinsic rewards are unsustainable since the bribe must be continuously increased in order to maintain the same level of performance.

Making Enemies

Perhaps teachers are different. Could it be that they are more mercenary than Enron employees or waiters jockeying for tips? If it doesn’t work in industry, why is it constantly touted asthe cure for all educational ills? Merit pay is a ridiculous idea for improving teacher quality for a number of reasons. Let me share a few:

Teachers are not in it for the money. Remuneration is low on the list of reasons why people become and remain educators. While all teachers would prefer to earn more money, it is not a high priority.

Merit pay shifts all responsibility to teachers. Teachers would like to be treated more professionally and have their judgment trusted. Merit pay denies teachers autonomy through a top-down manipulation, yet holds them responsible for student performance.

Student performance is based on multiple factors. A good teacher can make a huge impact on the life and development of a student. However, human development is complex and learning is not merely the result of being taught.

Merit pay makes students the enemy. Linking teacher pay to test score increases invariably leads to teacher resentment of the very kids they are employed to serve.

Will Teach for Bonuses

The message implicit in political demands for pay linked to accountability is that teachers are failing to assist students until they get an extra food pellet. Demonizing teachers is so much easier than assuming responsibility for meaningful education policy.

According to his campaign Web site, Senator Kerry appears to offer a more comprehensive, less punitive vision for public education. Regardless of this November’s election results, I hope public policy will lead a serious national effort to benefit children without scapegoating teachers.

I recently wrote two articles about project-based learning for The Creative Educator Magazine.

Download and distribute:

  1. What Makes a Good Project?
  2. Raising Our Standards – Developing Projects that Endure

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