Gov. Olene Walker on Education

The keynote speaker at the Utah Council of Deans of Education was Governor Olene Walker. The following are some notes about the major points of her message.

Embracing Culturally Diverse Students
Governor Walker expressed her concern with the brightest and gifted students, but suggested that the focus of our efforts be on the “at-risk” students. “…If we don’t find a way to help the at-risk students master the basic skills,” said Walker, “we will have major social issues in the future.” She encouraged everyone to start looking at ethnically diverse students as an asset, not as a burden or as a problem (as we often do). Walker encouraged us to look for the best from every culture. An example from her culture was the importance placed on parents reading to their children every night.

Walker concluded her discussion of culturally diverse students by emphasizing the importance of having diverse educational leaders. Nationally there are very few culturally diverse administrators, and almost none in Utah. “An example of that, look at this body,” said Walker referring to the group Utah’s Deans and Superintendents, “how many minorities do you have sitting here?” There were very few, if any.

Tuition Tax Credit
When it comes to the idea of a tuition tax credit, “I’ve never seen a model that works,” said Governor Walker. She stated that you cannot make the assumption that you can fund someone on others. You also cannot make an assumption that the business sector is going to be building schools that the common person can afford. “I’ve always been a strong believer in public schools. It’s what has made America great.”

Taking Action
As she ended, Walker encouraged educators to become more involved in the political discussions that effect education. She said that higher educators have “got to be at the table more” when it comes to the legislative process. When it comes to issues such as the tuition tax credit, “If you are not at the table on that, you will have to live with the results. All of you better be at the table on that issue.”

Walker admitted that she didn’t know all of the answers to dealing with the huge influx of children expected in the Utah public schools in the next 10 years. However, she said that we have got to find a way to make them feel that by going to school every day they can succeed. If they feel like they are going to fail, we are going to loose them. “If I went to work everyday with the idea that I was going to fail, I’d call in sick.”

Page Rank without the Toolbar

One of my frustrations with Google has been their lack of support for browsers other than Internet Explorer for Windows. For example, Mac users who want to know their Google Page Rank have had to go find a PC (which is ironic because so much web design is done on a Mac). Even PC users who prefer to use Firefox (or other browsers) are out of luck. However, the other day I found a site that allows you to get your Page Rank without using the Google toolbar. You can also get Page Ranks for multiple sites at a time, which is very useful if you host several sites.

Check it out at www.top25web.com.

Using Webcams in the Classroom

About a year and a half ago, I became frustrated by the number of teachers that I had observed that had made no effort to connect their students with experts outside of their own classrooms. I began looking for ways to “break down the walls” of traditional classrooms through new technology. One of the ways that I found was through the use of webcams, which allowed experts to be connected with students inexpensively, and without having to travel. My first test was connecting a class that I was teaching at BYU at the time (IP&T 286) to an educational technology professor on the other side of campus. Next, I set up a virtual violin lesson. After two very successful “trial runs” I contacted my good friend Baldomero Lago, a Spanish education professor at BYU, with the project. He and I began testing the idea with some high schools in Utah. Technical snafus set us back a bit (mostly due to the strict proxy settings in the public schools). Baldmonero stuck with it though, and was finally able to get it to work. Using his connections in Spain, he was able to set up a project where students from Murray High School worked in teams with students from a High School in Galicia, Spain. There is an article on the project in the Salt Lake Tribune. What Baldomero has done is one of the best examples of technology integration I have ever seen. He and I are currently working on a paper discussing the benefits of using social connectivity technology in foreign language classrooms – stay posted!

Google Suggest

There is no shortage of cool search tools from Google these days. My most recent favorite was Google Scholar. However, I just played with their newest tool, Google Suggest. In addition to making searching easier, it is an excellent tool for designers working on keywording web pages. You can easily get an idea of related search terms (including common misspellings) while you type.

Ps. If Google Suggest peaks your interest and you want to know more than just related keywords, check out snap.com.