The Inconvenient Truth of School Reform

In America right now, a kid drops out of high school every 26 seconds. These drop-outs are 8 times more likely to go to prison, 50% less likely to vote, more likely to need social welfare assistance, not eligible for 90% of jobs, are being paid 40 cents to the dollar of earned by a college graduate, and continuing the cycle of poverty.

Will “Waiting for Superman” become the “Inconvenient Truth” of school reform? In his new film Oscar winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim follows five families, from the Bronx to Los Angeles, as they search for better schools for their kids.

This week, the film team released an infographic offering a visual narrative around some eye-opening numbers behind the movie.

Waiting For ‘Superman’ – An infographic-driven teaser

Some people are disappointed with the movie as Guggenheim seems to cast the choices for families as good charters or nothing ignoring numerous public school success stories. The director said it was never his intention to demonize teachers or unions but to make a film that was “tough on adults.”

However, “Waiting For Superman” illustrates the dysfunction of a system by giving some well known education statistics a human face and story. It may be a good starting point for a wider discussion.

Not a question of race, a question of the education system! (c) OECD/PISA

Further reading:

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The Comeback of Handwriting

In an earlier blog post I wrote that with new technology, literacy evolves.  I was questioning the need to teach penmanship in schools drawing analogies between Braille code for the blind and teaching new literacy.

However, when talking to a blind friend of mine I was quite impressed when he told me that he still prefers handwriting for personal communication and therefore bought a special device with rubber straps representing the top and bottom boarders of a line.

Indeed, handwriting is an important part of human identity and I understand why we still stick to it in the digital age. It makes us unique.

That is exactly the big idea behind a small web application called PilotHandwriting. This easy to use app allows you to turn your own handwriting into a digital font and to send emails to your friends in your own, unique, personal style.

Maybe this is the comeback of handwritten communication in the digital age.

Have a look and try out! www.pilothandwriting.com

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A Picture Book and an App for the iPhone

Mobile Art Lab has developed a picture book for children in which the iPhone plays an important role. The phone is put into a children’s book. Readers turn the pages on the phone and in the book simultaneously. The iPhone adds interactive elements to the reading experience. In my opinion, this is not only a great idea but also a promising approach to show how electronic media and print media can coexist and create synergetic effects. The iPhone application can be downloaded for free from the App Store, the picture book is available for about $30 at Amazon in Japan.

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The Japanese Super Mario School

As the BBC observed recently, sights and sounds of old-school video games have become an important part of popular music and culture. One beautiful example is the Japanese paper stop motion of Super Mario. This may be not the first time Super Mario comes to school but it is probably the most creative visit so far. The paper stop motion was produced within two weeks using sticky notes to reproduce the pixel graphics. Brilliant!

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