Friday, February 18, 2011

Our Duties and Responsibilities in Education

If we lead with contradictions we miss-lead. We must speak, act and vote from a perspective of each of our own individual testimony's; guided by the core desire to improve life for all Americans. When it comes to educating and raising our children, being influenced by the contradictory manipulations of a political campaigning machine; built to sway groups of voting lemmings; can not enter in to the sensibilities required to update an aging and failing education system which has not significantly changed it's method of educating in over 50 years.

A friend of mine, whom I respect a great deal, recently announced he was running for a position within his local school board.
"By state legislative enactment, local school boards are delegated power and authority to develop policies, rules, and regulations to control the operation of the schools, including system organization, school site location, school finance, equipment purchase, staffing, attendance, curriculum, extracurricular activities, and other functions essential to the day-to-day operation of schools within the district's boundaries. Boards may also be authorized by the state legislature to levy taxes, invest resources, initiate eminent domain proceedings, acquire land, and assume bonded indebtedness." -
Duties and Responsibilities ( )
"In most states, it is the local board that is fully charged with the responsibility to establish and maintain a basic organizational structure for the local school system, develop curriculum, meet federal and state mandates for public schools, appoint a superintendent and key members of the central office staff, adopt an annual budget, and create a climate that promotes educational excellence. Consequently, school boards initiate educational policies at the local level and have a responsibility for implementing a variety of state and federal policies. These boards provide important administrative oversight relative to the educational policies and programs they institute; play a central role in establishing systems and processes to ensure the school system's fiscal, programmatic, and outcome accountability; and undertake broad human resource functions that include making crucial decisions regarding the district's top-level leadership and key staff. Finally, school boards provide leadership for the local school system, adopting a unifying vision and mission, soliciting and balancing the participation and input of members of the community, and advocating on behalf of the educational needs of children at the local, state, and national levels."
Impacting the future of education in this state and around the country is an incredibly difficult challenge, one that is hard to even find a starting point for.
"A host of contemporary concerns present challenges to the local school board's pivotal role in the governance structure in American public education. These challenges include declining public confidence in public schools; limited financial and operational support; changing demographics; perceived drops in student achievement and performance; persistent student attrition or dropouts; reports of crime and violence in the school setting; and adversarial relationships with employee groups." -
I am frustrated by the notion that running for a position on any school board in this state or country is unlikely to yield on opportunity which it is "all about the kids". It is after all an elected position on a large governing body. Therefore, it is very similar to those groups many of us have seen within even large religious organizations. As most of us have inevitable witnessed, they often seem to be less about God and more about the elevation of man's ego.

There are over 7,000 elected school board members in Texas. Out of a total of 1,068 school boards in Texas, 1,062 boards are members of TASB.

Given all the current budget short falls which are being published around the state, the latest slogan every school board is expected to follow is, "Do more with less". Reminds me of a similar slogan NASA adopted years ago in the face of it's federal budget cuts, "Faster, cheaper, Smarter". In their case they truly acted and made the most of this new set of philosophies, yielding some of the most compelling and effective space and research missions their field had ever scene.
"Given the variety of policy considerations for school boards, the decision-making process of the board will vary depending upon the issues addressed, the parties involved, and the organizational interests, operational procedures, time constraints, and personal values of the decision makers. School boards are political organizations with members elected to serve a broad constituency. Decision-making in this environment is a highly political process in which coalition building, bargaining, competition, and adaptation are common." -
Any elected forum at the helm of large institutions often tends to eventually serve the egos of those who council from it. Assuming this natural human tendency of serving one's own ego could be avoided; and each vote cast by individual board members was able to avoid posturing, hidden agendas, stagnant thinking, or any stubbornness brought on by those really just trying to protect their current position, here are many of the approaches and resources I would encourage anyone entering any such opportunity or position to consider.
"As with most organizations, it cannot be assumed that school board members are unified actors, and studies of school board decision-making show that individual role interests and social roles often serve as analytical constructs to explain decision-making processes. Local boards typically consist of members who possess divergent individual agendas and a limited set of mutually shared values or beliefs. Nevertheless, existing school board policies, extant procedures, and regularized customs and practices create and then enforce a unifying culture within the school board that is designed to maintain the status quo and has a relatively conservative perspective." -
Align with the most empowered greatest thinkers in American education.

Adopt their guiding principals:
Study the values presented within well researched organizations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (They summarize many key principals within the "College Ready education plan".)
Go to page 6 of their education plan to read key bullets on:
Focus on success at a higher level
Empower excellent teachers
Innovate to support and engage students

Follow the wisdom and consider membership in renowned organizations:
Students First .ORG
Kahn Academy .ORG

Learn as much as possible about the technologies at our disposal today - and how cheaply and easily they can be implemented:
"The work of board members is seldom self-selected and is more likely to be defined for them by the superintendent, other professional educators, community leaders, interest groups, or state and federal actors. Despite the importance of policy making, board members report that day-to-day responsibilities consume most of their time and complain that they seldom have time for reflection, brainstorming, and long-term planning. Despite concerns for educational equity and quality, boards more often address matters of financial accountability, which tends to enforce a role as steward of the public purse and a perspective of fiscal conservatism." -
When people tell you "no" find out "why". Teach them "yes" and explain "how".

Always keep in mind that the brain and body requires healthy food, nutrition and exercise. Therefor our system of socialized education will fail without it:

Any decent education in this world must depend on the latest tools. And the greatest tool available to us in this day and age is information. However our current education system was formulated during an industrial revolution not an information revolution. Therefor the concentration on memorization and fact finding versus comprehension, execution and implementation has got to change.
"Models of decision-making emphasize inventing, developing, and analyzing possible solutions before selecting a particular course of action. Selecting a possible course of action is informed by the judgment of the decision maker, the analyses of the alternatives on a logical or systematic basis, and the political bargaining process. A major criticism of decision-making in the context of local school boards is that adequate alternative solutions are not always considered in the decision-making process prior to drafting policies." -
On a very personal and potentially touchy political note: I tend to think most people actively involved in careers supported by or in support of the American education system, should reconsider any positions which are outspoken about claims towards anti-socialism; since it would indeed be chatter of utter hypocrisy. Our entire education system is in fact a socialized response to not only educating our children, but in many cases raising them. In other words; a person's mere involvement or dependency for income through such institutions, is directly demonstrating support for one of our countries most crucial and blatant dependencies on "socialism". (At least as it is defined and criticized within the realm of manipulative political rhetoric.)

An early lessons all of our children should understand is their actions speak even louder than their words. Let's not pretend to be polarized by politicized rhetoric while openly depending on social systems and political machines to administer and guide the most important parental and educational areas of American living.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

How to get several free iPads - Simple, don't sign an AT&T contract!

Perhaps I should have titled this article, “I just signed up with AT&T for a new iPhone 4 plan, so I lost $1,873.76 over the next two years!” However, I didn’t think that was as catchy.

I have previously written on the many advantages of avoiding at all cost cell phone contracts; and purchasing your own handsets or smart phones out-right or in full; rather than getting sucked in to a “subsidized plan”. However, let me this time put it in even more simple terms, by making a current market comparison to just two of the leading cell phone platforms and plans. (This information was current as of 2/2/2011)

As for how you get a free iPad along the way? It’s simple, with the money left over, from this “out-of-pocket comparison”, you should have more than enough left over to purchase a couple, of the latest, top-of-the-line iPads or any other exciting piece of consumer electronics you wish. As long as you don’t THROW THIS MONEY AWAY.

As mentioned I’m keeping this comparison simple, so I’ll itemize only two (2) out-of-pocket comparisons: In one case we will purchase a new Android phone, which we’ll use on Virgin Mobile’s pay-as-you-go / No-Contract, Sprint powered network. Our other choice will be to sign-up for the latest iPhone, using one of AT&T’s comparable, two year contracted, “subsidized” plans. (I will be create two scenarios with as close to the same performance and usage opportunities as possible. In both cases you could chose a less inclusive, cheaper set of options, for instant have a limited number of calling minutes.)

1st, lets total the Android purchase along with two years of service on Virgin Mobil:

LG Optimus “V”, is the new Android handset we will purchase.

Available for: $149 - free and clear of any contract obligation at select local Radio Shacks.

The month to month charge (No contract) for Virgin Mobiles Unlimited EVERYTHING, or “Beyond Talk” plan is: $60 - per month.
(“Tethering”, or sharing your data with another device while on the go, is natively built in to this version of Android, “2.2”)

You must pay the first month up front. So this will bring your total amount at time of purchase (No “Signing”, since there is no contract!) to:
$209.00 - This includes your first 30 days of Unlimted / “Beyond Talk” services. Therefor, the addition of $1380.00 for the 23 next months of $60 charges thereafter, will bring a two year total out of pocket to:
$1,589.00 - For a full 2 years of service. Of course at any time you were free to switch carriers with no penalty, and you owned the Android Smart Phone free and clear from day one.

2nd, lets now total the ever popular (well marketed) iPhone / AT&T avenue:

iPhone 4 16GB model will sell for $199 with your 2 year contract. The phone would normally sell for around $570.00, if bought outside of AT&T network, as an “UNlocked” phone. (iPhone 4, is unfortunately still a 3G device, despite the confusion for some given the “4” in the model name. Therefore the Android model above is also a 3G Android handset.)

Now let’s breakdown the comparable AT&T voice, text and data plan:
AT&T doesn't currently offer one price for UNlimited everything, so we will come as close as we can.

Unlimited Calling or “Nation Unlimited” plan, as AT&T refers to it, is:
$69.99 - per month, with a 2yr contract

Now you must add a data plan, since after all this is a “smart phone”, and the Apples to apples comparative AT&T plan to Virgins Unlimited, is known as their, “Data PRO, 2GB, for iPhone, with Tethering” - nothing cryptic about that mouthful of a plan title. It goes for:
$45.00 - per month, with a 2yr contract

Now the only thing still missing from AT&T’s offering is the beloved Texting. This “Messaging unlimited” plans go for:
$20.00 - per month, with a 2yr contract

So your total amount due at time of “Signing”, is eventually:

However, you may opt to have the $135.99 in 1st month voice and data fees simple billed to you. Now you add together the additional $3,127.77 in charges for the remainder of your 24 month contract and you reach the grand total of:
$3,462.76 = full 2 years of service.

That is a difference of:

Let’s make a concession here, if we must. And lets assume the iPhone 4 is a slightly better phone. It does after all retail without a contract for $570.00. So lets take that extra $371 which is subsidized by AT&T; since you were willing to commit to these terms for the next two years; and let's credit this amount towards the difference. $1,873.76 - $371.00 = $1,502.76

3rd, lets consider the cost of an iPad = $499.00 (Base model):
What do you know? You have now devised a plan to save enough money to purchase an iPad! ...Or an Android tablet - You make the choice! At least you will enjoy and get something in return for this leftover money; and won’t simply be throwing this money at AT&T for the sake of their enjoyment and profit margins.

You sure don’t want to EVER choose the 3G iPad version, that will simply mean more monthly money going to AT&T for an additional data plan. You are MUCH better off, simply “Tethering” your "Base Model" iPad to your iPhone of Android handset when on the road and using it’s existing data plan. Or just use its built in WiFi of course when at home, office, school, airport or the coffee shop.

But what to do with the left over $1,003.76 ?

How about a new laptop for the kids? Or Two or three (or even 4!) of the new iPod Touches for them to play around with, since they were probably the ones begging you to buy the new iPhone 4 in the first place so they could tinker with all the games and apps.

Or fine, How about a top of the line HDTV, pocket camcorder; since the LG Optimus “V”, Android device, doesn't shoot as high of quality videos. You’ll still have plenty of money left over, since few cameras these days, “Pro-sumer” or otherwise, top the $1,000 dollar price range.

Other HUGE Advantages of making this transition:
Being on the Android platform means NEVER having to hook your phone up to your computer, to back it up, or download apps, or sync songs, or restore your contacts. The iPhone was made as a “Companion device”, this is very out-dated thinking. The Android device was made to fully exploit “The Cloud”, a.k.a. the Internet, for all app purchases, data backups and downloads.

Apple intentionally limits it's users choices:
Being forced to depend solely on the “Apple Ecosystem” lends itself to all sort of limitation and frustrations for a consumer. For instance when choosing to buy your favorite song; and then finding out after purchasing it, you don’t have the freedom to move it or play it on other MP3 devices, except those made by Apple.

The same is true for all media purchased on any Apple device. So much for later moving your favorite iTunes movies or songs to a more reasonably priced MP3 or Video player or perhaps a centralized Home Media Server, which will also be gaining popularity as digital media continues to make its way to our living rooms on a variety of set-top playback devices, such as Game Consoles, Roku Netflix Devices, Blu-Ray player, and Smart TVs!

Android, due to the nature of it’s open platform, will continue to provide the most advanced, innovative and highest performing handsets and smart phones. So getting vested towards it’s learning curve and application store will be time well spent. And the Android Market Place has as robust of a selection of application as the Apple iPhone community enjoys. However a much larger percentage of the application for Android are offered at no charge.

Unlike Apple, Google keeps NONE of the proceeds from application sales! Depending strictly on residual advertising. Therefor, 90% of the profits from each sale go directly to the developer, with the remaining 10% offered to the Carrier hosting the phones data. This sales model will continue to healthily inspire the loyalty of Developers and the support of Carries well into the future.

On the flip side:
Apples model will only prove to be good on the short term for Apple share holders. As they keep 30% of each sales for themselves; and give the remaining 70% strictly to the developer. This "closed" ecosystem, and more limited 3rd party profit, is an approach which has NEVER served Apple well in the long term. Ultimately hindering their progress when their innovative history should have put them on top of their game. Instead their greed has always proven to stifle their opportunities in markets they should have remained dominant in. i.e. the Personal computer market.

Keep, and better utilize, your current cell phone number:

If you can see the beauty of saving $1,874 in just 24 months, then perhaps you can also see the crazy advantages of using your “Google Voice” phone number (or Porting your current cell phone number to Google Voice) And using it as your primary contact.

With the use of a free service known as “Google Voice”, and the integration of your new Android / Google Smart Phone, you can do all sort of advanced and useful things with just your phone number You never could before. These features also make switching to a new phone in the future Painless and Transparent to any caller.

With Google Voice, you may have your number forwarded to other numbers of your choice or dumped directly to voicemail, depending on the date and time and who's calling. Google Voice's own, Web-accessible voicemail, with its automatic (and sometimes unintentionally hilarious) transcription, makes even the iPhone's visual-voicemail feature look like a last-decade product

Side Note:
The Android community tends to gravitate towards exploiting the freedom of this platform by publishing all the simple steps needing to “Rooting” or hacking your device, so as to explore even more uses than the developers or manufacture of the devices ever intended. This allows many handsets to last years beyond their original intention, by continually updating them (If the manufacture doesn’t choose to do it first,) to the latest OS version and apps.