Leave it to the Experts

et advisory high

Leave it to the Experts

When Protestant denominations leave ecclesiastical matters to “the experts” and the “professionals” (that is, the clergy) there is great, great danger. “Professionals” often want to make a name for themselves, stand out among their peers, or rise to positions of greater influence and wealth.

The largest conservative #Protestant and #Reformed denomination in the US is the #Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). The #PCA makes the distinction between #clergy and laity by calling the former “Teaching Elders” and all non-clergy Elders are dubbed “Ruling Elders.” The bible makes no such distinction between EldersAll #Elders are supposed to #teach#preach#shepherd the flock of #God and all the rest of it. But not all can do it “full time” and be available to #minister at any time. So we have “Teaching Elders” (professional clergy) who can devote themselves to full-time ministry, free of the burden of having to work at a job or run a business. That’s perfectly biblical and proper.

But Ruling Elders gotta rule, y’all. When we defer to the “experts,” the “professionals,” we set those who may already be predisposed to “making a name for themselves” up for greater sin and greater judgement. Those “mainline” denominations that have gone over the cliff have done so because the Ruling Elders let the Teaching Elders run roughshod over them. After all, they’re the experts, right?

We leave the #education of our #children to the #professionals who know “better than we do” about teaching children and what do we end up with? Kids taught to hate each other, hate God, hate America – and they can’t read, spell, write, or balance a checkbook.

We leave #lawmaking up to experts as well. After all, they’re the professionals, right? #Lawyers make up 99.999% of our #legislatures and federal lawmakers. But what do we get from these “experts?” Super-duper-ultra-mega stupid laws that benefit only lawyers, confiscatory taxes, politically correct bovine excrement, and crazy spending to absurd heights of indebtedness.

These people may all be #experts, but handing stuff over to them, deference to a fault may sound sensible and even noble. But life teaches the opposite. From the pulpit to the halls of power in Washington and the training of new generations in the classroom, we must be diligent and keep all the “experts” accountable.

The good news in the PCA is the result of Ruling Elders ruling. The highest percentage of Ruling Elders as delegates to this year’s General Assembly is the reason that potential disaster has been – at least for the time being – averted (or delayed).

The College of Central Florida Needs a New Name

The College of Central Florida needs a new name, to better reflect it’s actual mission and purpose: To make money for the Pearson Education publishing house; to enslave students to a single proprietary vendor whose policies, prices, terms, and forms change on the whim of that vendor, and to promote political correctness and discourage independent thought.

Almost all of my classes insist on using Pearson textbooks, and the Pearson web site for homework. Almost all of the instructors and classmates passionately hate the Pearson books and web site. They would choose different textbooks and certainly a different web interface for exercises and homework. Yet the college tells them they have to use these awful textbooks as a matter of policy. What real college does such a thing? It stinks of kickback, and I’m not the only student who thinks so. More than one of my professors thinks so too. Perhaps it should be re-named Pearson College.

But I suspect that my school is not a wholly owned subsidiary of Pearson Education, Inc. Microsoft surely has a large stake in the College of Central Florida as well. Because all work in all classes has to be submitted in Microsoft format. Both of the two alternatives for the required computer literacy classes are classes in Microsoft’s Windows® operating system and Microsoft applications, and all work has to be submitted in Microsoft format. Technology for Educators, the class I chose, makes no mention of any alternative to Microsoft products and formats, even though many schools, businesses, and even governments are freeing themselves from being bound to a single system from a single vendor. It is completely unrealistic and unethical to train future educators in only one single proprietary vendor’s system and software when most of the world is free to choose any other vendor, system, and software. Mac. BSD (OpenBSD, FreeBSD). Or any one of hundreds of GNU/Linux distributions. So maybe we should call it, Microsoft-Pearson College. Or an abbreviated blend, like Soft Pears College, or Micro Arson College. Any of those names would make more sense and better reflect the real mission of this never-to-be-recommended institution of so-called “higher” learning. I can’t wait to get this insanity over with and get the hell out of there.

I disagreed in a research paper with a bit of extreme left-wing propaganda that was required viewing in the mandatory Diversity for Educators class. The so-called “documentary” was produced by the ultra-leftist group, Southern Poverty Law Center, which was recently dumped by the FBI as an educational partner because of its radical agenda. The result of my disagreement – on a well-documented opinion paper no less – was a 75 out of 100 possible points. Instead of Diversity for Educators, that class should be re-named to the You-Should-Be-Ashamed-to-Be-a-White-Male-Heterosexual-Christian-American class.

I’m sure that the College of Central Florida will be first in line to adopt the New History when the Emperor’s “updated” version of U.S. History is released by Pearson Publications. And a great hero of America – besides Emperor Obama, that is – will be a gay and black version of Microsoft founder and major financial backer of Common Core, Bill Gates.

All this bovine excrement has got me seriously re-thinking my pursuit of a second career as an educator. I don’t think I can really do it under all of the idiotic constraints that our government has imposed. Perhaps I could teach outside of the U.S., or in a private school where the truth is still permitted; where critical, independent thought and argument are still encouraged; and where students and staff are not held hostage to a single vendor’s textbooks, software, or format.

Technology, Learning, and the Digital Divide

This is a modified paper I wrote for one of my college classes. But it belongs here on Confessions of a Technophobe because technology in the classroom is becoming a really big deal. And as an aspiring future educator and ardent advocate of free and open-source software, I propose it’s use in the classroom as a means of crossing the great “digital divide:”

Technology is a great learning tool for students, but requires the same judicious and skillful use as other tools of learning. When audio-visual tools such as television and motion pictures were introduced into classrooms, teachers and students needed to be trained in the proper use of these technologies so that they would be an aid to learning rather than a distraction or a hindrance. We have all seen – or been – the student nodding off in the classroom during a movie rather than interacting with the material, and teachers were encouraged to use movies and videos with care to avoid that unfortunate result. Some teachers became dependent upon these new tools because they made it possible to provide the required access to learning materials with little or no effort by the teacher to actually convey the content themselves. The same can be true for the newer technology that enables access to material through the Internet, but there are ways to avoid it which should be implemented in every school. And there are ways to make this technology available in ways that minimize the “digital divide” between “haves” and “have-nots” in today’s classrooms. Both considerations are vital to the success of our students. This discussion seeks to address the following:

  • Integration

    of technology into instruction

  • Student

    safety on the Internet

  • Technology

    standards for middle school students

  • Choosing

    appropriate technology

Integration

My cooperating teacher, Mrs. P., integrates technology in her 7th-grade Civics and 8th-grade US History classes using an interactive web portal with downloadable assignments, readings, study guides in pdf format, and webquests; and e-mail links for communicating with students and parents. A closed television network at the middle school is accessible in every classroom so that teachers rarely need to purchase outside videos or other audio-visual aids for their classes. But Mrs. P. has brought in some documentaries on video from her own library to supplement the network library for her own classes. “There are resources available besides the ones offered by the school that include valuable material that is omitted or inadequately covered in the textbooks and video library,” she says. “Once I obtain approval for their use, I give my students the benefit of these extra resources that they wouldn’t otherwise have” (V. P., personal communication, February 6, 2015). One of her students uses a tablet as an accommodation, and is able to submit classwork digitally either by showing it to Mrs. P. or directly uploading it.

Safety

Mrs. P. is able to address both the “digital divide” and Internet safety by providing her students with access to the school library’s computers, which offer filtered access to the Internet using built-in hardware as well as software safety features in a safe environment. She falls short, in my opinion, by not adequately integrating research skills into the instructional material. Perhaps teaching research skills is considered to be beyond the ability of middle school students, but I share the opinion that research skills should be introduced as a necessary part of accessing information on-line. One educator writes, “While they’re learning to be good researchers, students will also be solidifying key Common Core competencies, like the ability to integrate knowledge, identify truthful reasoning, and use evidence to make a point” (Shwartz). If research skills are not included as part of the actual lesson, the research process becomes irrelevant to the students. A Google search can easily lead to unreliable, biased information or outright false information. Students must learn to identify good academic sources from bad ones. It is not enough to simply forbid students from using Wikipedia “because it is unreliable.” Students need to know how to tell whether material is reliable or not. Such skills are not beyond the ability of middle school students in my opinion. Any student that is mature enough to use the Internet is mature enough to learn basic research skills. A link from Ms. Shwartz’s article provides an ideal summary of what to look for in an easily applied acronym, “the CRAAP test” (Unknown). The acronym stands for:

  • Currency:

    The timeliness of the information,

  • Relevance:

    The importance of the information to your research,

  • Authority:

    The source of the information,

  • Accuracy:

    The reliability and truthfulness of the information, and

  • Purpose:

    The reason the information exists or is published.

It is not necessary for students learning to do Internet research to be left to their own devices in discerning which sources are good for their research or not. By integrating research skills into the subject matter itself, teachers in even the lower grades can give their students a big head start for the later years when they will be expected to put those skills to regular use.

Technology Standards for Middle School

While I have touched on what I think ought to be included, I have not been able to find a concrete and measurable statement of middle school grade-level technology standards in the Florida Standards, but only a vague reference in the Language Arts Standards to “the use of technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and link to and cite sources as well as to interact and collaborate with others, including linking to and citing sources” (http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/W/7/6/). Clearly, there remains much work to be done in order to make such a nebulous “standard” concrete enough to make it more than a wishful aspiration. Using or adapting the CRAAP test and other simple tools can help “put wheels on the cart,” enabling students to learn research skills as part of the subject matter so that it makes better sense. It also puts responsibility for learning firmly in the hands of learners rather than teachers. “The technologies that can be used to help students take ownership of their learning include blogs, wikis, online quizzes, and VoiceThread,” according to an article on making use of technology in the classroom (Bart). Mrs. P. makes use of some of these tools on her own web portal, but they could be made more interactive through the use of online puzzles and games rather than the burdensome printed crossword puzzles she hands out in class. One of the reasons she does not is because several of her students use older computers with unsupported operating systems like WindowsXP®, which lost support for security updates last April. Purchasing a new computer to replace a perfectly good one that doesn’t have the resources to run the new version of Microsoft Windows® is an unreasonable hardship on families. It is one example of what our textbook calls “the digital divide.”

Crossing “the Digital Divide”

“Technology offers hope to many, but it does not always offer opportunity to everyone,” our textbook asserts to introduce “the gap between technology haves and have-nots” (Sadker & Zittleman, p. 195). Even with the dramatic drop in prices for computers and Internet access, much vital technology is simply out of reach for many families. Even here at the College of Central Florida it is an issue for students who are not wealthy or who work during the hours that computers at the school are available in the Learning Center. One wonderful bridge over this great gap which has made huge advances in recent years, is the development of free and open-source software (FOSS) and free operating systems like GNU/Linux. This writer uses an ancient relic of a computer – one step up from an abacus – kept out of the landfill by means of a simple, elegant, point-and-click operating system that is absolutely free of charge. Loaded with a free office suite that does everything that it’s expensive proprietary Microsoft counterpart does, I have been able to get almost all of my school work done without having to spend hundreds of dollars to replace a working computer and upgrade massively expensive office software. The only glitch has been a requirement in two of my classes to use only Microsoft format in some assignments. LibreOffice, the most popular FOSS equivalent of Microsoft Office®, is able to convert documents into Microsoft format most of the time, but it should not be necessary since LibreOffice works on every platform including Windows. Keeping modest computers working well with free operating systems like Linux, and using no-cost software like OpenOffice or LibreOffice, the Evince pdf reader and other free tools has become a great bridge over the digital divide in many underdeveloped nations, impoverished schools, and even government agencies. It has been neglected in favor of expensive proprietary systems for far too long. The time is long past that public schools should have stopped holding their students and teachers hostage to mega-corporations which lock them into a single format. Access to information on the Internet is far too valuable a resource to be kept from students merely for the sake of appeasing a corporate giant.

References

Bart, M. (2011). How Technology Can Improve Learner-Centered Teaching. Magna Publications.

Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/

instructional-design/how-technology-can-improve-learner-centered-teaching/

Sadker, D. & Zittleman, K. (2013). Teachers, Schools, and Society. (10th edition). New York, NY.

McGraw-Hill

Shwartz, K. (2013, October). Teach Kids to Be Their Own Internet Filters. Retrieved from

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/10/tech-kids-to-be-their-own-filter/

Unknown. (2012). The CRAAP Test. Retrieved from the North Carolina A&T University Library web

site: http://libguides.library.ncat.edu/content.php?pid=53820&sid=394505