FunnyMonkey Blog

Bill Fitzgerald | September 7, 2014

When I see a group of white teachers, largely female, posing and smiling in their NYPD t-shirts, it gives me pause.

Not because their union told them not to, but because it shows an incredible degree of cluelessness and disregard for the students they are supposed to be serving.

According to the NY Post the photo above shows teachers at PS 220 in Queens. By my count, there are 20 people in the photo. I was curious about the demographics of the school where this picture was taken, so I went to NCES where you can look these...

Bill Fitzgerald | September 6, 2014

Update, 25 September 2014: ClassDojo founder Sam Chaudhary responded to this post in the comments. I followed up in a new post. End update

As part of a survey of privacy policies I was doing for work, I took a read through the Privacy Policy and Terms of Service for Class Dojo. For those unfamiliar with Class Dojo, teachers can use it to collect and share feedback on student behavior. One of the uses of this information (optional - not required) is to create an online, real time behavior wall, where all kids or classroom visitors can see other kids' feedback.

The Class Dojo privacy policy is pretty easy reading. They clearly have made an effort to make the...

Bill Fitzgerald | September 1, 2014

I've written about this a few times, and I'm wondering what movement (if any) there has been within either union leadership or rank and file on open content as a union concern, especially as it relates to teacher professional development and local control. Doing this well would require paid staff time, which is why union involvement is key.

To quote from an earlier blog post on the subject -

At a high level, here is how this could be done:

  • If every teacher within a school shared 3-5 of their best units from each course they taught, that translates into a significant amount of useful content that is relevant and successful within a local context.
  • If a group of districts agreed to pool the resources shared by teachers from the different schools within the district, the shared content would likely translate...
Bill Fitzgerald | August 29, 2014

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, gives students and parents rights to access, review, and dispute educational records. FERPA also attempts to define an "educational record."

However, having rights is one thing, being able to use them is another, and being informed of those rights is yet another. In order to get a sense of how easy or difficult is is for students and parents to learn how to use their FERPA rights in different educational settings, we conducted a series of basic searches on charter school districts and large urban school districts.

Our method is pretty simple: start with a Google search on the term FERPA and the phrase "Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act" limited to a specific school district or charter organization.

In some cases, we would then do a follow up search using the site's native search for both terms separately: FERPA, followed by "...

Bill Fitzgerald | August 28, 2014

Washington State Schools that were making progress a year ago are now failing - not because anything changed in schools, but because the US Department of Education moved the goalposts.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction put out a press release, but Randy Dorn, Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction, was pretty succinct:

"By losing our waiver, we've had to do some things I think are ridiculous, stupid, ineffective and a waste of resources."

Because the USDOE shifted the definition of "progress" nearly 90% of schools in Washington State are not making enough of it. In Washington "adequate progress" is...

Bill Fitzgerald | August 25, 2014

Over the last few weeks, we have all been following the events in Ferguson.

In the middle of the protests, the Ferguson Municipal Public Library provided resources for community members, and a safe place for kids that met them where they were at. The library worked with Ferguson teachers and volunteers to set up a full ad-hoc schoolhouse until it was safe to open the public schools.

This is what libraries do. They provide a safe place where people can find out more about who they are, what they love, and who they want to become.

The Ferguson Library has been there for the people of Ferguson. I'd like to see what we can do to ensure that the Ferguson library has the resources they need to support their patrons in the weeks, months, and years to come.

On the Ferguson Library home page you will see a "...

Bill Fitzgerald | August 7, 2014

Personalized learning is frequently discussed, and rarely defined. People can mean many different things when they talk about personalized learning (and arguably, we need to reclaim the term) - but personalized learning can refer to software used for, at least, any of the following:

  • Learning the basics;
  • Remedial help;
  • Reinforcement and review;
  • Taking advanced coursework; or
  • Credit recovery.

Each of these uses carries a range of additional questions: who is being given online or personalized tools? Who supplies and maintains these tools? For students using personalized systems, how was it determined that software was the best approach for that student? To what extent are educational and pedagogical choices driven by "personalized" tools?

The use of these tools are all over the spectrum. There is a significant different between...

Bill Fitzgerald | August 7, 2014

While doing some research for another blog post, I was looking for information on COPPA, FERPA, or student privacy in Michigan's Education Achievement Authority.

It appears to be in pretty short supply.

EAA Privacy Policy - you get nothing!

Bill Fitzgerald | July 7, 2014

UPDATE, 10 July 2014: Matt Tullman from digedu commented to announce that digedu has updated their terms. I have not read through the new terms yet, and will update this post when I do. END UPDATE

I've been reading terms of service for a while, and I've seen some bad ones, but the terms of Digedu are just about the worst I have ever seen. If you don't want to wade through the details, please skip straight to the conclusion.

With Digedu, the issue is compounded because they list two separate terms of service and privacy policies. The text of these policies is not the same, which is a separate problem. For this review, I focused on the terms of service listed at...

Bill Fitzgerald | June 22, 2014

When working in software development and support, troubleshooting is part of your daily workload. The people who are the best troubleshooters often, when encountering a problem, approach it from the perspective of "what did I do to cause this problem?" Because their first step in addressing the issue involves a close look at how they interacted with the technology, they slow things down, look at their interactions, and gain a clearer understanding of how the software works as a result. Like it or not, computers are consistently, maddeningly logical - they are remarkably good at doing exactly what we tell them.

People who skip over the first part - the part where they examine their behavior in an effort to rule out human error - can still be competent troubleshooters, but for obvious reasons they are prone to committing a PEBKAC.

I was reminded of this over the last few days when, on Twitter, a woman showed...


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