Goldman Sachs Senate Hearings – Olive Oil and Snake Oil!

Dear Commons Colleagues,

I don’t know how many of you had an opportunity to see part or all of the Goldman Sachs Senate hearings held yesterday  but if you haven’t you must read the op-ed column in today’s NY Times by Maureen Dowd.  She likens these hearings to the scene in the Godfather II where Michael Corleone is at a congressional hearing defending his family’s olive oil business.   Here is a small snippet from her piece about the “Fabulous Fab”:

“In an e-mail to his girlfriend, he called his “Frankenstein” creation “a product of pure intellectual masturbation, the type of thing which you invent telling yourself: ‘Well, what if we created a “thing,” which has no purpose, which is absolutely conceptual and highly theoretical and which nobody knows how to price?’ ”

She concluded her column by mentioning that Goldman Sachs stock actually rose yesterday while these hearings were going on.  Oh and so did the price of wholesale olive oil.

The full column can be viewed at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/28/opinion/28dowd.html?th&emc=th


Two Days without Texting!

Dear Commons Community,

Back in March I posted on this blog  information on the use of electronic devices by young people.  Specifically I referenced  a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation  that found the average young American (ages 8 -18)  spends  more than seven and a half hours a day using a smart phone, computer, television or other electronic device (see my post, Use of Electronic Devices by Young People – Study)

Recently, at Riverdale Country Day School in the Bronx, students participated in a two-day experiment where they had to forego use of text messaging.    A similar experiment was done by  researchers at the University of Maryland who reported that college students who swore off social media showed signs of withdrawal similar to those of drug addicts going cold turkey.  A NY Times article (see URL below) described some of the experiences of the students who participated in the Riverdale Country Day School Experiment.  The concluding statement in the article was:

“Fewer than half of the 250 middle school students at Riverdale participated in the experiment, but Julia, for one, found it valuable. Among the revelations was the envious reaction of her father, who pointed at his own BlackBerry and told her, “I’d give anything to put this down.”

Unlike him, she realized, she had a choice, the best youth has to offer: freedom. “


The complete NY Times article can be found at:


The Enemy – Powerpoint

powerpoint enemy

Dear Commons Community,

The above is an example of a Powerpoint slide representing the complexity of the U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan.    In an article in the NY Times (see URL below) entitled, We Have Met the Enemy and He is Powerpoint,  a number of military leaders comment on their frustration with the over reliance on Powerpoint presentations by personnel.   Their complaint essentially is  a feeling that the use of Powerpoint in the military has gone awry.  I must say that a similar thought has occurred to me at conferences and professional meetings where colleagues make presentations with slides that are a bit too complex or busy.   I also wonder what our students  think of some of our Powerpoint slides and Blackboard webpages.


The NY Times article is available at:


Seniority Rules – Potential Teacher Layoffs in New York City!

Dear Commons Colleagues,

Today’s NY Times is reporting that Chancellor Joel Klein has approached the New York State Legislature to bypass seniority rules in the event that layoffs are necessary in the NYC public schools.  This is a “hot-button” issue that will surely raise the concerns of the United Federation of Teachers.  A similar measure was passed last year in the Washington D.C. public schools that allowed school administrators to use performance rather than seniority to lay-off 300 teachers.   As the article indicates (see URL below), such a measure in New York would have a difficult time passing the legislature even in such difficult fiscal times.


The NY Times article is available at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/25/education/25seniority.html?th&emc=th

In Chicago at a Blended Learning Conference!

Dear Commons Community,

Yesterday I arrived in Chicago for the Sloan-C Blended Learning Conference.  What originally started as an invitation only workshop for about 30-40 people in 2003 has grown into a conference of about 300 people.   Many fine colleagues (Mary Niemiec, Karen Swan, Chuck Dzuiban, Karen Vignare) of mine have been part of the planning for this conference and it should provide a lot of useful information for faculty, administrators, and instructional support people.    Joel Hartman at the University of Central Florida will be giving the keynote.  Norm Vaughan, Mount Royal College (Calgary, Alberta) will be doing an afternoon workshop on student assessment in blended learning environments.  I am part of a panel discussion on “The Blended Learning  Ecosystem” which is defined as “the weaving of practice, technology, support, design, pedagogy and community into a harmonious environment capable of adaptation, evolution, and  self-sustaining growth”.   I am also hoping to spend some time with colleagues from City University of New York (George Otte, Jennifer Sparrow, Howard Wach) who are also participating in this conference.  For several years, it has been my position that blended learning has an enormous potential for mainstream academic programs in higher education (it is also beginning to grow in K-12 especially at the high school level).    In the not too distant future, it is quite possible that  blended learning environments will be the common mode of instruction for most academic programs.

More information about this conference can be found at:  http://www.sloan-c.org/blended


Chicago Tribune Columnist Steve Chapman Weighs in on School Reform!

Dear Commons Colleagues,

When I taught in the school leadership program at Hunter College, I would get a question at least once or twice a semester from my students, all of whom were prospective assistant principals and principals, as to what works or what would work in reforming or turning a “problem” school around.   My response (which evolved over many years of teaching combined with my own experience as an administrator) was that there was no sure approach to reforming a school and that if you were assigned to such a school, you needed to examine every aspect of it:  teachers, students, staff, curriculum, etc. and make improvements in any and every aspect that you felt needed improvement.  I would also say that while you needed to be aware of the larger societal educational issues,  be careful of any quick fixes, and that you as a school leader needed to concentrate on your school and do whatever you could to improve it.

Yesterday the ChicagoTribune’s  columnist Steve Chapman wrote as good a summary as any that I have seen on what we have learned (or not) about school reform initiatives.   His conclusion was that all of the large-scale approaches (vouchers, charter schools, reducing class size, improved funding, etc.)  were not anywhere near as successful as proponents had hoped.  In sum,

“From the local school district to the federal Department of Education, humility, caution and open-mindedness are in order. Because right now, the main thing we know about improving schools is that we don’t know very much.”

The full article is available at the URL below:



Outsourcing the Grading of Papers!!

Dear Commons Community,

I have just finished editing the fifth edition of one of my books on education leadership and technology. When I published the first edition in 1994, the editing was done by full-time staff employed by the publisher. For the third edition, the editing was contracted out to an individual consultant/editor. For the fourth edition in 2002, the editing was outsourced to a company in Iowa. For my latest edition, the editing and production work was outsourced to a company in India. In our smaller world, this all makes good business sense.

Yesterday a colleague of mine, Jack Hammond at Hunter College, posted a comment on the faculty listserve referring to an article in a recent Chronicle of Higher Education describing how a faculty member teaching a large section in a business program at the University of Houston has been outsourcing the correction of her papers to an Asian Company, EduMetry, Inc. I find this quite provocative and am not sure what to make of it. While I had absolutely no problem with the editing service provided for my book, I am struggling to understand and maybe accept the outsourcing of correcting papers to an Asian company. It might be that I do not appreciate the task of grading papers in a large lecture class but still this does raise some interesting issues. Below is the URL for the article.




Teaching Young People about the Web!

Dear Commons Community,

How young people use the Internet is a growing concern among educators.  Beyond the hate, pornographic, and get-rich quick material, there is a kind of excessive flaming and bullying that goes on using social networking websites such as Facebook and MySpace that follows young people years after they posted something that as adults they would likely regret if someone else saw it.  In today’s NY Times, is an article about a curriculum called Common Sense that largely teaches young people how to behave online.     It raises issues such as name calling (e.g., “Amy is a slut) or posting entries for personal diaries online that can come back to haunt the individual.  While not necessarily the most serious issue facing educators, given the amount of time young people spend on the Web (as much as seven hours a day), Common Sense may be something that should be widely promoted.


The NY Times article is available at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/09/education/09cyberkids.html?th&emc=th

Welcome to Egypt – I like your president!

Dear Commons Community,

During my recent visit to Egypt, as we were checking into the hotel in Cairo for the first leg of the trip, the young bellhop who brought our luggage to the room asked:  Where are you from?  What country?  What country?  I told him the United States.  He replied:  “Welcome to Egypt – I like your president!”   Throughout the next nine days, this scenario would play itself out over and over again whether in the cities or towns or in the more desolate desert communities such as Abu Simbel on the Sudan border.  Egyptians are aware of President Barack Obama and he is someone they like and to whom they can relate.   The fact that President Obama had given a major address in June 2009 at Cairo University surely helped his popularity among the people in Egypt.  However, I felt proud of the fact that we had elected a president who was able to touch young lives in this mostly Muslim country.   It was also a welcome change from other recent trips abroad but that is a subject for another blog posting.


Egypt April 2010

Dear Commons Community,

I have just returned from my first visit to Egypt and I must say that I was totally overcome by the sights.  I have visited the great cathedrals of Italy, France, and Germany and the temples of China, but the Pyramid of Cheops, Sphinx, Temple of Isis at Philae, Temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel, and the Valley of the Kings are just much too much.  Comparable to the Great Wall of China,  you stand in wonder of the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx given that they are 4500 years old.  The saying in Egypt is that the “World fears time but that time fears the pyramids”.

Below are samples of the sights.


Abu Simbel 14 Small

Temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel

giza 2 small

Great Pyramid of Cheops – Giza

hatshepsut 4 small

Temple of Hatshepsut

horus 2 small

Temple of Horus

luxor 6 small

Temple of Luxor

philae isis 4 small

Temple of Isis at Philae

Sphinx 16 SSmall

Sphinx – Giza