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Archive for February, 2009

President Obama & Education: Part One

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

I have been reading about President Obama’s Blueprint for Change plans for education, found here. He outlines three main points: (1) greater investment in pre-school programs, (2) No Child Left Behind (NCLB) will be reformed, and (3) higher education will become affordable to all Americans.  This post is the first of three exploring these initiatives and commenting on same.

Mr. Obama calls his plan to invest in pre-school programs the “Zero to Five Plan.” There have been many attempts to prepare pre-school children for elementary school. My grandmother worked in the Head Start program for many years in rural West Virginia. Churches and communities have dayschool or pre-school programs. The difference in the Zero to Five Plan (Z2F) is scary; it includes early care and education for infants. Many of my friends at work have small children who attend daycare, which is usually a structured sitting service. Most programs have some degree of educational goals tailored to the childrens’ individual maturity levels. The Z2F plan sets up Learning Challenge Grants to promote state efforts as they move toward “voluntary, universal pre-school.”

I am “all about” lifelong learning and fullfilling one’s potential. However, between the lines of Mr. Obama’s Z2F plan I see state-run mandatory child care. Isn’t that what they had in Soviet bloc countries during the Cold War? Is the state better equipped than parents to shape the critical first years of a child’s life? Can we honestly point to other government-run programs and state unequivicably that they are successful and well worth public monies spent? We definitely need to improve the education system in the United States, but shouldn’t we start with what we have in place, such as public education at the elementary level? How will we staff these facilities? We certainly want experienced teachers in the classroom but where do we find them? Where are the universities which teach infant education courses?

I am very concerned about how the program will work and ultimately how to measure its success. Children learn in the moment so it is imperative that parents/educators grab the moments as they come and build upon them. Finding the teachable moments can be harder than teaching in a classroom! There must be some curriculum Mr. Obama has in mind, but what could it be? The maturity level of babies/preschoolers varies widely. There are practical considerations, too. How many should be in each class? Is there a structured nap time? Potty time? When I was a young mother with children, my day was directed in part by what they did, how they felt, and whether they were open to learn.

I applaud the intent behind the plan which seeks to improve student readiness for kindergarten. Preparing students is critical to their early and later success in school. My mother taught my brother and me social skills as well as how to read prior to attending our first day. I credit this in part for our success in school and career. Studies have shown that early educational intervention and support reduce at-risk behaviors which result in poor performance and social issues. Building a better tomorrow rests squarely on the shoulders of educators and parents who together help prepare students to be productive members of society.

Thank you, Mr. Obama, for bringing awareness to America’s early education needs. However, I am just not able to support this the Zero to Five Plan, as it sounds more political than practical, and way too Big Brother-ish. A better idea? Teach parents how to teach their own children and encourage community support to create a nuturing, learning-centric environment.

Remember to check back for Parts Two and Three in this series, “President Obama & Education.”

GEN480: Networking and LinkedIn

Monday, February 16th, 2009

We discuss the importance of networking in GEN480 at the University of Phoenix. This  is the Interdisciplinary Capstone course, generally taken at the end of the students’ programs. One of the recommendations that I make to students is to join LinkedIn or other professional networking sites. My LinkedIn public profile is here. Most of the students have never heard of LinkedIn, but some know about Facebook or MySpace.

GEN480 assignments reflect on the students’ goals set in GEN300 or GEN101 at the beginning of their programs. The course also stresses the importance of critical thinking and lifelong learning. The University of Phoenix has several courses that entwine critical thinking skills in discussions and assignments. We also discuss the relationship of the University’s learning goals with respect to students’ professional skills. The learning goals are (a) Professional Competence and Values, (b) Critical thinking and Problem Solving, (c) Communication, and (d) Information Utilization. Students write a “Past, Present, and Future Paper” reflecting upon their development through the program with an eye to the future.

Usually this class is fairly small because most are getting ready to graduate. Sadly, it is no secret that the drop out rate creeps up as students get closer to graduation. I only have four students in the class this time, which makes leading discussions a bit challenging. However, I have had large, medium, and small classes over the years and accept them all.

This week is the fifth and final class, and I will continue encouraging the students to network and to become lifelong learners. Some will go on to master’s programs and others will never take another course. However, I hope to have encouraged them to continue learning throughout their life by developing a hunger to know and discover.

Statistics Help

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

I wanted to make sure that I was on the right track with my statistics MGT5028 course, so I contacted a fellow learner to help me. We set up an hour of tutoring over the phone. I found that she was very encouraging and she said that I was doing well. We talked about assignment 5 and this was a good exercise for me. My problem on the assignments is knowing what to right for the analysis section. How detailed should I be? How deep can I draw conclusions? I am doing just fine so far with grades, having got three 100% right in a row. But I do know that the assignments build on each other so I want to make sure that I have a good foundation. I have also discovered that there are many stats websites to help students. Sometimes just reading something a different way helps to bring clarity. I feel pretty good about statistics right now, and I hope to complete this course in less than the allowed time frame. This is my last core course and then I start the research phase.

MGT5028 Business Statistics

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

Today is the first day of MGT5028 Business Statistics. There are 12 activities, each building upon the previous. Some of the activities have two parts. I am now working on part b of assignment 3, which is called “Data Analysis Project 1.” This activity includes running a frequency in SPSS and analyzing the output. It is my understanding that the activities become more involved as we go along so I don’t want to get behind. I have also set up a tutoring appointment with a fellow learner next Sunday so that I can make sure I am on the right track. I am certainly nervous about this course. I had statistics years ago and believe I understand the basics, but I am not familiar with SPSS. I want to make sure that I am looking at the right things and making the right choices.

I sent a note to another learner who is taking the course as well. She said that Dr. S. prefers “short, thorough analysis of the output data.” This is good info to know. I will be turning in the first assignment today. Wish me luck!