Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Money Drives It All


It has gotten tough to determine what is going on in Washington. The fact that American's no longer have a trusting source for news creates a huge trust issue between government and citizens. The issue is between government officials and citizens and also between citizens and their neighbors. The dissonance created from the media going back and forth with President Trump and his officials have left the rest of treading in the tides of change. Fortunately, I have recently been thrown a life-vest. I am reading a book, not a quick read, but informative. The title of the book is called Dark Money. I don’t know if the author is a republican or a democrat. I don’t want to know. It does not matter. The book talks about the Koch brothers and how they have “used their money” to influence politics. The book makes sense to me, and has opened my eyes to practices that have taken a great deal of patience to reap the benefits. Lets say that the book is accurate, and the Koch brothers have bought America. That would make many of the things we are reading and hearing the media about Trump make sense. It would also make sense of why Trump wants to do away with EPA, the Clean Water Act, Drill in our National Parks, and lessen regulations that allow companies to do what they will with the earth and the people on it. If I was rich, perhaps I would use my money to convince people to do what I say also. Professors Martin Gilens (Princeton University) and Benjamin I. Page (Northwestern University) looked at more than 20 years worth of data to answer a pretty simple question: Does the government represent the people?Their study took data from nearly 2000 public opinion surveys and compared it to the policies that ended up becoming law. In other words, they compared what the public wanted to what the government actually did. What they found was extremely unsettling: The opinions of the bottom 90% of income earners in America has essentially no impact at all, . (Usrepresent.us, 2017). Everyone thinks they know that money is important in American politics. But how important? The Supreme Court’s Gilded Age reasoning in McCutcheon v. FEC has inspired a flurry of commentary regarding the potential corrosive influence of campaign contributions; but that commentary largely ignores the broader question of how economic power shapes American politics and policy, (Bartels, 2014). Don forget Illuminati. In subsequent use, "Illuminati" refers to various organisations which claim or are purported to have links to the original Bavarian Illuminati or similar secret societies, though these links are unsubstantiated. They are often alleged to conspire to control world affairs, by masterminding events and planting agents in government and corporations, in order to gain political power and influence and to establish a New World Order. Central to some of the most widely known and elaborate conspiracy theories, the Illuminati have been depicted as lurking in the shadows and pulling the strings and levers of power in dozens of novels, films, television shows, comics, video games, and music videos, ( Wikipedia, 2017).

When I casted my ballot I was voting for my life and the lives of my family. I voted from my experiences. I don’t think that I have been influenced by a secret society. According to another source who also attended the conference, 300 individuals—worth at least a billion each—were present. This source said that the explicit goal was to raise $500 million to take the Senate in the 2014 midterms and another $500 million “to make sure Hillary Clinton is never president.” (Windsor, 2014). Secret society, or rich people with a voice, the author of the book Dark Money discusses how money influences elections and the ideology of a country.

References
Wikipedia. (2017). Illuminati. Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illuminati

Bartels, L. (2014, April 8). Rich people rule! Retrieved from The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2014/04/08/rich-people-rule/?utm_term=.e51915a5a5b2

Usrepresent.us. (2017). One graph shows how the rich control American politics. Retrieved from USrepresent.us: https://represent.us/action/theproblem-3/

Windsor, L. (2014, June 17). Exclusive: Inside the Koch Brothers’ Secret Billionaire Summit. Retrieved from The Nation: Exclusive: Inside the Koch Brothers’ Secret Billionaire Summit

A Review of Technology in the Classroom

I have used three technologies new to me in my Math 1 class.  The three technologies used were Tweet Deck, Emaze, and Easelly.  I am providing a five-point review of technologies.  The areas that I will discuss are 1) Level of user friendliness 2) Application 3) Student Response 4) Time to finish projects and 5) Benefits.   Each technology will have a paragraph dedicated to reviewing the technology. 

Tweet Deck
Tweet Deck is a useful interface for Twitter.  TweetDeck consists of a series of customisable columns, which can be set up to display the user's Twitter timeline, mentions, direct messages, lists, trends, favorites, search results, 
hashtags, or all tweets by or to a single user. The client uses Twitter's own automatic and invisible URL shortening whereby a link of any length will only use 23 characters of a Tweet's 140-character limit. All columns can be filtered to include or exclude words or tweets from users. Tweets can be sent immediately or scheduled for later delivery, (Wikipedia, 2017).  TweetDeck was very easy to set up.  Without having previous experience, it took me less than five minutes to set up my columns to receive tweets from my students.   The interface is very easy to use.  So far, I have only used the platform as a means for my students to share the answers to problems that they have worked out in groups or individually.  My students like the opportunity to use their phone.  I like the level of engagement that students exhibit.  Another way I have used TweetDeck is to give students a forum to discuss problems in real-time.  They post findings and ask questions on my TweetDeck.  It is cool to watch the messages pop-up on the screen, probably more so for me than the students.  Students chat all the time.  One issue with TweetDeck is that students, per the students, don’t use Twitter as much as they have in the past.  Twitter’s lack of popularity is a small problem.  Not much time is required to use TweetDeck.  You just sign into the interface and have the kids chat to your handle. 

Emaze
Emaze is similar to PowerPoint and Prezi.  If you visit the Emaze website, the about us sections states, “emaze is the next generation of online content creation technology, enabling beautiful content design within minutes. While initially just presentations, emaze has now expanded its realm to offer a creation tool for beautifully designed social hub websites, blogs, ecards and photo albums in minutes. State of the art HTML5 technology enables the addition of media, gifs & live social feeds. Innovative video, pan and zoom and 3D transitions transform content into journeys through virtual worlds. Easily share content anywhere on the web and then analyze who’s watching with advanced analytics. emaze empowers the everyday creator to be simply amazing.”, (Emaze, 2017).  Emaze is very user-friendly.  The commands are similar to the commands of the majority of the software programs in the world of retail and online applications.  Universal symbols for media, sound, etc., are you used with the appropriate wording associated with the symbol to avoid confusion.  Learning how to use Emaze takes a few minutes of experimenting with commands and functions.  After creating a basic presentation any familiar with word commands will create a conference worthy presentation in no time.  The uses for Emaze are similar to the uses for PowerPoint and other presenting software programs.  One difference between PowerPoint and Emaze is that Emaze is internet based.  There is a free version of Emaze and a professional version.  As one can imagine, the upgraded version allows users to utilize features not accessible to users using the free Emaze version.  My students were not blown away by my use of Emaze.  My students appreciated the organized presentations, but I did not improve the academics of my students using Emaze anymore than if I had used PowerPoint.  For me, completing Emaze projects takes a great deal of time.  Project times for me average one hour or more.  Emaze users have nice pre-constructed templates that they can use to speed up production.  Time needed to complete a project is comparable to using PowerPoint and Prezi.

Easelly
I used Easelly least of all.  I created three pages using Easelly to organize my lesson plans, post videos, and to post supplemental material for students to access the information online.  It is another tool for presenting and organizing information.  Students like organized material.  Easelly helps to organize links, data, lessons, and student resources.  



References
Emaze. (2017). Emaze. Retrieved from Emaze: https://www.emaze.com/

Wikipedia. (2017, January 20). TweetDeck. Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TweetDeck



User Name and Passcode Please

The title of this blog is misleading. You would think that this article is about computers, internet security, or how to log into the latest and greatest website. Well, the content of this blog has nothing to do with any of the previously mentioned topics. This blog is about the relationships between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. The question that Americans are asking is what is the nature of the relationship between the two leaders. I am usually a calm citizen regarding political matters. I must be honest and say that I am concerned about what I has been communicated by the media to the public regarding the relationships between my President and the leader of Russia. Now, don’t think that I am a post-war American that believes that our country is constantly being infiltrated by spies from Russia. I know that this is the case! But, I don’t think Russia spies on us anymore than we spy on Russia, or Britain, or Germany, or any other country we feel the need to watch. What I am concerned about is that Putin may have his own username and login for America’s political infrastructure. The dominating story in the news is that Trump and Putin have a relationship that from a historically perspective is possibly inappropriate for a United States and Russian president to have. After a campaign that saw Trump repeatedly praise Putin’s leadership and promise to mend relations, the U.S. President-elect would likely need to grant Russia a string of concessions in order to fulfill that promise, (Shuster, 2016). If the rumors that President Trump wishes to mirror Putin’s leadership style are true, then the relationship signals the direction that Donald Trump wishes to take the American political system. There are evidences already. Trump wishes to control what the media reports, similar to how a communist society controls the media. The White House on Friday barred news outlets — including CNN, the New York Times, Politico and the Los Angeles Times — from attending an off-camera press briefing held by spokesman Sean Spicer, igniting another controversy concerning the relationship between the Trump administration and the media, (Borchers, 2017). What the White House was doing was handpicking the outlets they wanted in for this briefing. (Borchers, 2017). There are legal issues with censoring the press. Courts have held that a government press conference is a public forum generally open to the media, and any restrictions must be based on reasons other than content,” First Amendment attorney and LawNewz columnist Susan Seager said, ( (Stockman, 2017). At the time the news organizations were prevented from attending the press conference it was known that the organization had reported unfavorable stories about trump. Trump publicly shared his disdain feelings for CNN, which he called Clinton News Network, and for The New York Times, which he refers to as failing news. President Trump criticized the “failing” New York Times on Thursday for what he called a “big lie,” hours after the New England Patriots called out the news organization for posting a purportedly misleading side-by-side photo comparison of the team’s attendance at Super Bowl ceremonies with Trump in 2017 and former President Obama in 2015, (Barrabi, 2017). Am I being critical. Perhaps! Every president has endured media pressure. Obama certainly had his share of negative press. Which is strange to say, because if you are a consumer of any kind of political news these days, the only impression you get is that the Obama presidency is on the verge of collapse, and that he either doesn't know or doesn't seem to care, (Cherlin, 2014). There is even a funny cartoon where the media has attack so much he is wrapped in bandages. President Trump wishes to increase the ruling power of the upper class. I don’t think any president before President Trump has attacked the media or barred them from a press conference because of good or bad press about the sitting president. Although funny, it isn’t American. Our society has always valued, although the word valued is overrated, the opinions of others. The only place I see this kind of behavior, where the government controls the media and attacks opposition, is in communist societies. It is both known and believed that communist leaders deal with the media and opposition differently than Americans. "If you support stopping Russia's war with Ukraine, if you support stopping Putin's aggression, come to the Spring March in Maryino [a Moscow suburb] on 1 March," Nemtsov wrote in a social media post, published hours before he was shot (in Russian). The direct relatives of the executed uncle of Kim Jong-Un have been put to death upon the orders of the North Korean leader, it has been reported, (Parry, 2014). I read that upper 1% of Russian citizens rule the country. Often, after someone criticized President Trump, he lashed back at them. Thankfully, for the people upset Trump, we live in a democratic society. Like Russia, America’s top one percent make decisions about the country. That was true before Trump and Putin. I looked briefly to find support for this claim, but found nothing worth quoting. An unknown, Alexander Zakharov, stated, “However, all these differences are insignificant compared to the fact that in both countries all the real power is in the hands of the ruling class (that 1 percent), not the common people.” Jackson (2015) stated that “Until now, aside from the upper 1%, the American people have not been reminded that their opinion has done little to influence American’s political agenda.” If b

References

Barrabi, T. (2017, April 20). Trump, Patriots Criticize NY Times Over WH Obama Photo Comparison. Retrieved from Fox News: http://www.foxbusiness.com/features/2017/04/20/trump-patriots-criticize-ny-times-over-wh-obama-photo-comparison.html
Borchers, C. (2017, February 24). White House blocks CNN, New York Times from press briefing hours after Trump slams media. Retrieved from The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/02/24/white-house-blocks-cnn-new-york-times-from-press-briefing-hours-after-trump-slams-media/?utm_term=.3d77c7c811b3
Cherlin, R. ( 2014, August 4). The Presidency and the Press. Retrieved from Rolling Stone: 2014
Jackson, P. (2015, March 7). Who killed Russia opposition politician Boris Nemtsov? Retrieved from BBC News: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-31693234
Parry, L. (2014, January 26). Now Kim Jong-Un executes his late uncle's entire family to prevent 'mutiny' - including women, children and the ambassadors to Cuba and Malaysia. Retrieved from Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2546506/North-Korean-leader-Kim-Jong-Un-executes-family-uncle-Jang-Song-Thaek.html
Shuster, S. (2016, November 9). What Vladimir Putin Is Expecting From Donald Trump. Retrieved from Time: http://time.com/4564254/president-donald-trump-russia-vladimir-putin/

Stockman, R. (2017, February 24). Trump’s Ban of Reporters at Press Briefing Isn’t Just Wrong, It’s Unconstitutional. Retrieved from Law Newz: http://lawnewz.com/high-profile/trumps-ban-of-reporters-at-press-briefing-isnt-just-wrong-its-unconstitutional/

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Silver Kills Black

Hollywood has a habit of insulting black people, killing them off, and making them look incredibly stupid on the silver screen. The latest example of this is the 2017 Power Rangers movie. I am not a loyal fan of the Power Rangers franchise and have nothing against the show. I watched Voltron as a child, the original power rangers, and loved the series. However, I was an adult when the Power Rangers came along, so I missed the whole "I am a fan" opportunity. My son loved the Power Rangers as a child, second only to Pok√©mon. Of the few Power Rangers' shows that I have watched, I don't remember a cowardly ranger, not like the one in the new Power Rangers movie. Not only is the black ranger (the blue power ranger) cowardly, he was weak, simple, and had to be saved several times by his peers. The funny thing is that after all that was done to the ranger to make him the comic relief, the weak and unworthy ranger, he was made to make the mega-droid do a stereotypical ethnic dance at the end of the movie. I am sure the Power Ranger movie will do well since the franchise is popular. However, I am not discussing the Power Ranger movie because of its popularity. It is the featured movie because it killed off the black ranger ( the blue ranger) in the movie. When it happened, I shook my head. My thoughts were that it wasn't even possible for creators of a children’s movie to leave out the need or unwritten law in Hollywood to insult, minimize, or kill the black character(s) in the movie.

Prior to the Power Rangers movie coming out, there have been other movies, many others that have the same theme. Recall Episode VII The Force Awakens. The pre-hype for the movie was that there was going to be a black jedi hero. Yes, Samuel Jackson was a black jedi, but he was not the main character. How laughable was it when the movie opened and the “black jedi knight” was portrayed as feeble, bumbling, cowardly, and accidental as the Blue Ranger (the African American ranger) in the Power Rangers movie. The black actor in The Force Awakens wasn't even a jedi knight. Another known example of how blacks are portrayed on the silver screen is the mortality rate for black actors in horror movies. Out of 50 horror movies, 35 of the movies killed off the black actors. Seventy-percent of horror movies killing off the black actors is more than just a coincidence. Yes, it is better to have black representation than not, even if the actors meet horrible deaths. I do not see anything wrong with the black actors dying. The white, Hispanic, etc. actors die also. It is only a concern when the act of killing or beating the hell out of the black actor is obviously or presumably the target because of his or her ethnicity. The black jedi knight turned out to be a cowardly-turncoat imperial soldier that worked his way up from sanitation worker to soldier. This example has to be the most blatant example of, not racism, but an example of the embedded negative feelings that Hollywood has for the black presence on the silver screen or in general. Sanitation worker, ha-ha, you get the joke right? I will name a few more examples of Hollywoods hiding messages, then I will rest my case.

I have discussed how Hollywood insults, kills, minimizes, and making black people look stupid on the silver screen. They also like to use blacks for examples of violent actions- when someone needs to die, have their ass kicked, or show humility to the main character. Take the two movies Deadpool and Criminal for example. Kevin Costner beats the crap out of two guys by a van, noticeable the only blacks in the movie. The same sort of scene is observed in a Deadpool bar scene. The only black actor in the movie appears just to get knocked out in a bar room fight.

Finally, Hollywood is not replacing black actors. There are a few new black actresses running around Hollywood, but unlike new talent among other ethnicities, there are few black faces popping up on the silver screen. Samual Jackson, Denzel Washington, Laurence Fishburne, Morgan Freemen, and a few others are the black actors "still" being used in Hollywood. I love and respect these guys but they are going to die at some point, except Morgan Freemen. The black actor's pool is scarce under 45 years of age. Spike Lee discovered most of the old guys and Hollywood just jumped on the train. Will the next Spike Lee please stand up?

References
BARONE, M. (2013, October 31). Fact Check: Do Black Characters Always Die First in Horror Movies? Retrieved from ComPlex: http://www.complex.com/pop-culture/2013/10/black-characters-horror-movies/

Lo, C. (2016, September 8). Is it racist that in most hollywood movies, the asian, black, or hispanic characters die before the white protagonist? Retrieved from Quora.com: https://www.quora.com/Is-it-racist-that-in-most-hollywood-movies-the-asian-black-or-hispanic-characters-die-before-the-white-protagonist


Friday, March 17, 2017

Student Motivation and Relationships


·       Student achievement is a constant topic of debate in the national spotlight.   Lawmakers, both locally and nationally, set academic standards that students should meet to ensure that America has a high-quality pool of students ready to fill high-tech, twenty-first-century jobs.  The future contributions of current students joining the workforce will potentially move America forward into the next millennium as the leading country regarding economic progress and innovation.   Study after study shows that, although it is known that America needs qualified workers to move the country from an industrial economy to an intellectual economy, the American educational system is not producing sufficient numbers of qualified students to fill the jobs that will be needed to keep The United States of America positioned as the number one superpower in the world.  In 2014, while 80 percent of high school seniors in the United States received a diploma, less than half of all those who graduated were able to read or complete math problems with proficiency, (Martin, 2014).  The graduation rate for students attending American colleges was 60 percent for first-time, full-time students who began seeking a bachelor's degree at a 4-year institution in fall 2008 and finished their degree by 2014.   The lack of student performance within America’s school system ultimately leaves students that fail to perform academically with fewer life-choices once they graduate or drop-out from high school.  Today, it's harder to earn a middle-class wage without a college degree. 

      Currently, the focus for improving America’s school’s is on teachers and leadership at the school level.  Lawmakers can improve America’s educational system by implementing initiatives that focus on building formal partnerships between students, student peers, school personnel, and parents while simultaneously focusing on teaching practices and leadership behaviors that impact student achievement.  Time and time again when I am in the teacher's lounge, the answer for improving student performance is mentioned daily without notice.  On a daily basis, teachers will make comments like Shawn works in your class, but not in mine.  After a few changes, the reason is discovered.  The student likes one teacher and not the other.   I have been told by students directly that students do not work for teachers that they don't like.  The statement is true and not true.  High achieving students will work for their teacher regardless of whether or not they like them.  However, I am not talking about high-achievers.  High-achievers are probably not accounted for in the troubling statistics mentioned earlier on this blog.  Students that fail to achieve academically fail for a reason.   The reasons vary, but it is certain that relationships can help all students achieve.  It is even possible and probable that high achievers achieve because of relationships that they have formed with family, friends, and professional in education.   
 An indicator for student achievement is the teacher assigned to the student being observed.   Teachers can have negative and positive effects on student achievement.  Ross (1994) contends that having effective teachers serves a significant factor for influencing outcomes such as student achievement. Similarly, Gordon (2001) investigates how a group of individual teachers with high belief in affecting student achievement can actually yield desired high student achievement levels in a school.  Regarding teacher attitudes and characteristics, teachers in effective schools have high expectations for students and have a dual personality which consists of being friendly and firm.  One week prior to writing this blog as a student in my class became angry with me.  The student refused to do any work at all and eventually put her head down.  Normally, the student is a motivated student and wants to do well in class.  On this particular day, she shut down because she was not given a piece of candy.  The reason behind not given her a piece of candy that she won in a drawing are unimportant, but for 45 minutes the student did not participate in class.  She was mad.  It was not until she calmed down that she began to participate again.  Can you imagine how the same student would perform in my class if she did not like me as a teacher?  She would bring in the emotional barrier with her each day.  Her grade would be impacted.  Imagine if I have twenty-five children with the same emotional barrier, focused daily on hating the teacher, rather than on the lesson.  A caveat is that if a child is angry, the brain is not focused on the lesson because it is too busy pumping adrenaline, breathing hard, circulating blood faster, and thinking about knocking the teacher's block off.  To avoid such moments, I make a concertize effort to make my classroom and welcoming, relaxed environment for students to learn.  Is it always calm-did I mention I teach high school students-no!  However, I don't as many behavior problems as other teachers.  
     
It is clear that aside from focusing on teaching, there are variables that can improve educational programs across America.  
One such variable is teaching teachers how to build professional, meaningful relationships with their students.  Teachers can improve academic achievement with the understanding that their teaching is filtered through their relationships with their students, and their relationships with students help to determine what academic achievement, positive or negative, will result from their teaching.    There are very few, if any, professional development opportunities that address how school personnel should build relationships with students to maximize student achievement in the district I work.  However, there are a wealth of professional development opportunities that addresses how teachers should teach, manage classrooms, plan lessons, and increase content knowledge.  If you want to improve student achievement in the classroom, focus on building relationships with your students. 

References
Martin, D. (2014, May 14). Education Crisis Sweeping the United States. Retrieved from Liberty Voice: http://guardianlv.com/2014/05/education-crisis-sweeping-the-united-states/
  

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Sunday, March 5, 2017

Stedman Graham

Dr. Graham was born in 1951, in the Whitesboro section of Middle Township, New Jersey. He is a businessman, public speaker, writer, and educator. Currently, he has an office in Chicago, Illinois. Stedman Graham has taught Identity Development around the world and has coached everyone from world leaders to small business owners to a better understanding of who they are, to build a well-developed personal identity and to become more focused as they work toward their goals (Wikipedia Graham, 2017). He is the lifetime partner of Oprah Winfrey.

On Friday, March 4th, Dr. Graham skyped with my Math 1 class to discuss with my students how to
establish goals during their teenage years. His message was for them to love themselves, focus on their uniqueness, and to learn as many positive things as possible. His message was very positive and impactful. One of my students cried when she reflected on her life as she listened to Dr. Graham’s inspiring message. Dr. Graham helped my students look into themselves and see what was there within waiting to be discovered. It was an incredible experience for both me and my students.

Dr. Graham changed at least three lives on March 4th in my class. I know this because the students shared their experiences with me. I am grateful that Dr. Graham accepted my invitation to address my class. He is a busy man, but he took the time to give back to 32 children that might not otherwise have met someone of his status, importance, and professionalism, to see what future possibilities await them. There weren’t any cameras around or reporters. Dr. Graham talked to my class because he values my students. He is a man of his of his word. I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Graham at High Point University dinner. I sat beside him at the lunch table. He addressed the crowd attending the luncheon. After his message, I asked Dr. Graham if he would consider talking with my students. He said that he would, and he did. After less than thirty minutes talking with my students, Dr. Graham changed lives that needed and were ready to receive his message. This transformation in my students occurred after one moment of contact. I can only imagine how many lives Dr. Graham has touched during his career.

References:
Stedman Graham. (2017, March 2). Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stedman_Graham