No Class is Complete Without a Film Study

Watch Kingdom of Heaven and consider the following questions:

  1. What religious symbols are prominent throughout the film, and what was their purpose and place?
  2. Have you ever been in a conversation that was cut short with the phrase “god wills it”?
  3. “To kill an infidel is not murder, it is the path to heaven!” Discuss.
  4. How do you discern God’s will?

Consider other questions arising from class discussions.

Create a Film Review using the microcontent template (Dashboard–>Write–>Review).


Business tests students: Part Deux.

From Alberta Education:

Computer Adaptive Assessment

Computer Adaptive Assessment (CAA) is a made-in-Alberta approach to address the individual learning needs of our students through an innovative use of technology. It is a school-based computer assessment tool that immediately ‘adapts’ or tailors the difficulty of each test to the individual student. The CAA initiative provides an optional assessment tool for classroom teachers to assist them in understanding each student’s progress.

In spring 2005 Alberta Education tendered a Request for Proposal for an online CAA system. CAA can support instructional planning, along with other tools such as teacher-developed assessments, commercial assessment/diagnostic tools, and other tests.

Castle Rock Research Corp, an educational resource development company based in Edmonton, Alberta was selected as the prime vendor.

For more information on Computer Adaptive Assessment, please contact Dennis Belyk, Executive Director, Learner Assessment at (780) 427-0010.

Well I logged in to the CastleRock site. I learned a few things.

  • The Castlerock site is not “individual based,” all students write the same test questions. The student’s name will appear above a list of randomly generated questions. The questions are not selected for the individual, they are chosen by a random mathematical/computational script.
  • Castlerock is a store . . . that sells tests. Old tests.
  • The technology is not innovative, schools have had the exact same questions and answer style exam questions since the initiation of the PAT program in the early 90s. My files have many example questions of similar, if not identical style and validity. If I am called upon to create tests similar to those offered by CastleRock I certainly have the expertise. I have questions in my database that Google will never find. The last MC test I gave was marked recorded and returned to the students before the end of the period in which the exam was written. I can be compelled to create these tests at a cost far less than $.35 per test.
  • In its present form the questions are not “adaptive” as advertised. The school will be billed to take tests for up to three years, until the database gets big enough, then the computer spits out the tough questions for the “righties” and the easy questions for the “wrongies”. I’m no math genius, but won’t giving tougher tests to the “righties” and easy tests to the “wrongies” make everyone “average”? I search for gurus to point out what is innovative in this “adaptive” approach. I’ve read Harrison Bergeron, I didn’t like it.
  • The Castle rock site promises “unique” sets of questions, they are recycled test bank questions from the late 90s. Random, maybe, not unique, that’s special.
  • The CAA, CastleRock store is not “teacher-developed”, it is not “school-based”.

“All men are not created equal. It is the purpose of the Government to make them so.”

I will not participate in this “optional” program. I simply can’t find enough professional research to convince me otherwise.

I have some good ideas about education technology innovation that could use a few bucks to keep rolling, though, care to donate?

Oh, when I was a first year teacher, a mentor took me out to the local golf course. I rarely golf and borrowed his son’s clubs. He wagered me a “pop” and even allowed “one kick and a throw.” I took the bet. On the third hole he kicked my ball from the fairway over a barbed-wire fence into a field. On the eighth hole he threw my ball in the water.

Private business vending tests to students

I heard about our school division particpation in a private business site geared at “vending” standardized acheivement tests to students, today . . . a day before an English 30 final, 3 weeks after the L.A. 9 final Part A, and a week after all grade 10 classes have wrapped up. A third party, non-government, now has a list of every student I teach and is awaiting their input to validate multiple choice tests.

I do not know the exact costs to our publicly funded school for using the test “vending” site, but I think I heard $.35 per test. The site has been around for a while and the government has already poured in a million bucks every year since 2005. Until today I understood that such sites were “just another tool” in a sea of online gadgets for testing kids. I understood my participation in such sites was “voluntary.” Until today.

I was enrolled, as was every student I teach, without my knowledge or consent.

I do not know any teachers involved with creating the site. I know a lot of teachers.

So I started to research . . . My fellow teachers have already responded to the Castle Rock testing program:

reputable internationally recognized organizations such as the Educational Testing Services have pointed out that the final cost of developing even the most modest version of a program like CAA in the Alberta context would run into the tens of millions of dollars. In the Association’s view, the overly ambitious claims being made for CAA are neither educationally sound for students nor financially realistic and sustainable.

Why the Alberta government would commit millions of dollars to a private company to modify old provincial test items and put them online remains a mystery.

in the Language Arts Provincial Achievement Test, about one-third of student outcomes can be assessed through multiple choice questions; that of the 200 learner outcomes for Grade 9 science, only 63 (32%) can be assessed; that of the 51 learner outcomes for Grade 9 Mathematics, 24 (47%) can be assessed; and that of the 67 learner outcomes for Social Studies, only 22 (33%) can be assessed.

During the fall, Association staff responded to calls from many teachers who reported feeling pressured to participate in CAA. After being informed that the Association does not support CAA, most of the callers decided not to participate in the program.

as of January 30, 2007, … the superintendent and board of trustees of Edmonton Catholic Schools recently advised its teachers that the board would no longer be participating in the CAA project and that, given the implementation and professional concerns (including those raised by the Association), involvement in the program was henceforth voluntary.

All of this was a mystery to me. And now from my confusion is emerging a very sharp professional opinion on the issue.

I have not been given the opportunity to think on this “vending” of tests to kids.

I feel my mood changing. I need a cookie.

Cell Phone and iPods Banned from Students

Peruse the articles linked below. Find your own sources.
Defend your own position, hyperlink your sources. Contribute to the discussion in the STJ forums. Write your own post in your blog. Trackback here.

From New York

When Olivia Lara-Gresty saw the metal detectors at the entrance of Middle School 54 on the Upper West Side, she turned around and ran home to ditch her contraband before joining her sixth-grade class.

From Toronto

“You’re welcome to bring the cellphone to the school itself. We don’t want to ban it outright from the premises so students can’t use it as a tool for safety when they’re walking to and from school,” said trustee Josh Matlow.


Every day, more than 93,000 New York City school children must pass through a gauntlet of metal detectors, bag searches and pat downs administered by police personnel who are inadequately trained, insufficiently supervised and often belligerent, aggressive and disrespectful. This burden weighs most heavily on the city’s most vulnerable children, who are disproportionately poor, Black and Latino.

From Weblogg-ed

So let’s review. What does this teach those kids? First, it teaches them that they don’t deserve to be empowered with technology the same way adults are. Second, that the tools that adults use all the time in their everyday lives to communicate are not relevant to their own communication needs. Third, that they can’t be trusted (or taught, for that matter) to use phones appropriately in school.

From a Toronto School Trustee

Therefore, be it resolved:
(a) That all schools include provisions in their codes of conduct to ensure that all personal communication devices will be powered off and stored out of view during an instructional class and other areas in the school, unless otherwise authorized by the principal;

From NY Times

Carmen Colon, a divorced mother raising three sons in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, considers herself a law-abiding citizen. But New York City’s ban on students carrying cellphones in the schools is one rule she will not abide by, she said yesterday.

From thge Charter of Rights

b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

From eSchool News

When word spread of an airliner crashing into the Pentagon, just 14 miles away, the phones began appearing everywhere. “The reality was that many kids are carrying around phones, and carrying them around responsibly,” Monday said.

From lawyer Morgan Lewis

a special proceeding against the New York City Department of Education

From Donna Lieberman

The cell phone ban has caused enormous disruption in the education of New York City’s children — distracting them and their teachers from the business of learning, putting them in frequent confrontations with police personnel, and eating up class time. It’s time for the mayor and the Department of Education to revisit this ill-advised, counterproductive, and inflexible rule.

From Gotham

“The majority of people are fed up with the proliferation of chatter,” says Reed, “and I feel like somebody needs to legislate etiquette, or just help New Yorkers get some peace of mind.”


After the metal detectors, scanning wands, and armies of security personnel were introduced to Clinton students in September 2005, the lines at the East side of the building extended halfway down the block to Bronx Science, one of the City’s top 5 most prestigious public high schools. The two schools occupy opposite ends of the spectrum of high school surveillance/security/cell phone ban policy. Asked what he thought about Mayor Bloomberg’s and Chancellor Klein’s newly imposed cell phone ban, Lolo flatly stated, “It’s very obvious they’re singling out minority schools. Bronx Science is on the same block as our school and they don’t have metal detectors and their kids can bring whatever they want.”


English 30-1 Tips for Personal Response to Texts

Examples of Student Responses to English 30-1 Diploma

The Personal Response Assignment from June 2006:
(literature in the question is included in the exam)

The puppet master in Keith Carter’s “Pinocchio” manipulates the marionette’s strings, giving it the illusion of free will. In the poem “Come In,” the speaker resists the allure of an appealing opportunity. In the excerpt from the short story “The Introduction,” Lily confronts the social conventions of her world and struggles to preserve her true self. What do these texts suggest to you about the individual’s ability to pursue personal well-being when responding to competing internal and external demands? Support your idea(s) with reference to one or more of the texts presented and to your previous knowledge and/or experience.

Consider the importance of the opening paragraph and the first sentence of the first body paragraph.
Satisfactory response from June 2006
Proficient response from June 2006
Excellent response from June 2006

The Critical/Analytical Response Assignment from June 2006:
(literature in the essay is from the course, not the exam)

Reflect on the ideas and impressions that you discussed in the Personal Response to Texts Assignment concerning the relationship between an individual’s perspective and his or her interpretation of the world. Consider how the effect of a new perspective has been reflected and developed in a literary text or texts you have studied. Discuss the idea(s) developed by the text creator(s) about the effect an individual’s perspective has on personal beliefs.

Proficient response from June 2006
Excellent response from June 2006

Creative Response: English 30

Choose from the following:

(Partner up if/where necessary)

  1. Write a folk song.
  2. Create a dialogue in the forums between any 2(or more) authors.
  3. Create a dialogue in the forums b etween any 2 or more characters
  4. Create a new scene to be inserted into a text synthesizing a character(or 2) from outside the text.

Trackback. Then rewrite the quiz on Steinbeck’s Chrysanthemums.(Post questions in the forums.)