FunnyMonkey Blog

Bill Fitzgerald | May 8, 2014

In talking about education, it's very easy to get bogged down in the rabbit holes of policy debates, who supports what and how fervently, and other details that circle around education, but aren't directly tied to education.

To break that pattern of thought, I started asking myself these questions relative to some of the work we do, related to how learning and teaching environments are created and sustained:

  • What does an hour of learning look like? How about a day?
  • What does teaching look like, and is "teaching" even the right word to use?
  • What does school look like, and is "school" the right term to use?
  • For someone supporting learners, who do you talk with while planning?
  • For learners, who do you talk with while learning?
  • If someone asks you to explain why you are doing a specific thing, or what questions you are trying to solve, how would you respond?
  • If someone asks you to prove that it works...
Bill Fitzgerald | May 7, 2014

I've spent the last few weeks reading and re-reading This Is Not A Test by José Vilson. In my past life, as an English teacher, I would churn out responses like no one's business. It was a simple pattern - read --> cogitate --> time and caffeine --> pronto! Occasionally, though, the pattern wouldn't work - with books where I got stuck on the corners - books where I kept returning because there were pieces of the conversation (and yes, I see all text as an invitation to a conversation) that I missed. These books - the ones that keep calling you back, the ones that push you - are, over time, the most enjoyable.

This Is Not A Test defies easy categorization - the text is equal parts essay, coming of age story, history lesson, and primer in what it means to teach - and each facet is equally necessary. Reading through the text, I kept returning to the idea that our concept...

Bill Fitzgerald | April 29, 2014

As is now painfully obvious, Oregon wasted milions of taxpayer dollars on the failed Cover Oregon site. A sizeable amount of these millions went to Oracle, the main contractor on this failed build that didn't sign up a single person for health coverage.

President Obama showed his outrage at this incompentence and waste of taxpayer money by playing a round of golf on Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's private golf course this February. Nothing says "I'm outraged!" like leaving an extra divot on the green.

Let's contrast this with the position of the Federal Government on teachers who are not performing:


Bill Fitzgerald | April 25, 2014

On April 24th, Washington State became the first state in the country lo lose its No Child Left Behind (or NCLB) waiver. The state lost the waiver because the Washington State legislature refused to tie teacher evaluations to student scores on standardized tests.

The letter, and the attached conditions, make for an interesting read. The implications also point to additional showdowns in the near future. The adequate yearly progress goals of NCLB, broadly criticized as unrealistic, will result in many schools that have been considered successful to become failures overnight. Randy Dorn, Washington State superintendent, describes the situation as follows:

"You have to write the letter to everyone that you're a failing school," he says. "You're supposed...

Bill Fitzgerald | April 8, 2014

In conversations about privacy in schools, it's easy to get mired in the details of what isn't working. The incomplete list below provides some starting points for making things better. This list isn't comprehensive by any means, but it's intended as a starting point for people looking to dig deeper. In an ideal world, we could round up funding to bring together a team of people for 2 two day work sessions (a total of four days) to begin working through this list. All work would be released under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license.

  1. For non-lawyers, finding and accessing the text of federal privacy laws can be a challenge. The ideal would be to create online versions of FERPA,...
Bill Fitzgerald | April 3, 2014

NOTE: An earlier version of this post included language from a draft version of a NY Assembly bill. Thanks to Paige Kowalski for pointing this out. END NOTE

Earlier this week, New York State pulled out of inBloom. While this has been hailed by some as a victory for privacy, it's worth noting that the data points that are collected - and have been collected for the last several years - haven't changed. The federal accountability requirements driving much of the data collection that currently occurs haven't changed. In New York, the withdrawal from inBloom means that districts are right back where they started: managing data collection and accountability...

Bill Fitzgerald | March 18, 2014

Last night, I went to the Portland Public Schools Board meeting. Shortly before that meeting, while perusing the meeting materials, I learned that the meeting would feature a demo of a service called "GoNoodle."

It was around 5 PM when I read about GoNoodle. I was hungry. I like noodles, generally. My curiosity had been piqued.

Company History and Pivots

GoNoodle is part of HealthTeacher. HealthTeacher evolved and pivoted from VerusMed, which became ConnectivHealth. During these transitions, the companies received several rounds of venture capital (VC) funding. A high level chronology is laid out below:

Bill Fitzgerald | March 13, 2014

Darren Draper has a post summarizing some thoughts on David Wiley's proposal for a fifth "R". Both David's and Darren's posts provide context around what I'm writing here.

Textbook rental companies are sprouting like weeds. Publishers have done this to themselves, by positioning themselves as gatekeepers and selling for as high a price as possible. Most of the large textbook companies, like Pearson, have engaged in some strategic moves that blunt some of the impact of textbook rentals. These strategies - openwashing, and diversification...

Bill Fitzgerald | March 10, 2014

In December, 2013, the Fordham Center on Law and Information Policy released a study on privacy and cloud computing in public schools within the US.

The study is a worthwhile read - I'm cleaning up my notes from several passes through it and will be putting them out in the form of a (long, messy) blog post later this week, but I wanted to highlight a "Document Coding Checklist" the authors created for the study, and included as Appendix B.

To highlight this work, I excerpted the checklist* from the study and included it here as an attachment (pdf download). The requirements defined in the checklist could be applied by any district, principal, or teacher when evaluating a piece of software or cloud-based service. A deep dive into the background knowledge required to accurately apply this checklist should be a one or two day...

Bill Fitzgerald | March 1, 2014

Until proponents of Value Added teacher ratings can explain how Mark Berndt was a solid educator, the use of Value Added rankings as part of any teacher evaluation plan is pathetically, harmfully myopic.

According to the logic of Value Added, Mark Berndt was actually improving - look at how his Value Add in math climbed from 2009.

On a related note, Mark Berndt created a data trail on the students in his classroom. How much of that data trail is still intact? What would a FERPA review (pdf download) of that data look like? What recourse does a family have when a teacher...


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