Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Car that runs on water .... GREAT... or is it really?

by Ed Latham

I stumbled across a bunch of videos lately when I was searching for alternative fuels. I would offer links, but if you simply go to You Tube and enter in "Cars that run on water" or "h20 cars" you will see a bunch of videos. In one of the videos from Reutors, a Japanese model has 1 hour of run time at 80KM (50 mph) on one liter of water (roughly 1/3 gallon) which would equate to 150 miles per gallon. On the surface this sounds great! Many of the videos suggest that the water does not even need to be cleaned. Water is everywhere right?

Those of you over 40 years old, could you please think back to your teen years and quote me the price of bottled water? Unless your family was in the rich upper class, you did not even see bottled water on standard supermarket shelves. In fact, the industry only started bottling water in plastic bottles in 1968 and that really started things off. Buying bottled water instead of drinking tap water really only took off in the late 80s and early 90s. Effectively, we might say that buying bottled water 20 years ago was a joke or novelty.

Look around you now. Go to any park in any city and you will find a good chunk of people toting around some water. Go to any professional conference and bottles of crystal clear water are usually present. Certainly, bottled water is increasing it's importance in much of American culture. After all, both Coke and Pepsi companies report that sales of bottled water continue to reach record levels through 2006.

How about our gas consumption? Before the gas crisis of the early 70s many people considered gas to be inexpensive and plentiful. In 1973 when things exploded, oil was up to a whooping $12/barrel and our country felt like it was being strangled. I know inflation has a role in comparing prices from one time period to another, but look at the price now for oil. Just do a quick search on internet for today's price. At the pump we can see the direct cost for us to drive around, and currently that is running around $4 US / gallon. People are complaining everywhere in America about the prices while Europeans sit back and sort of chuckle thinking it is about time for us to pay for our consumption rates. I do not mean to slip into a US consumption bashing (later article maybe) but I did want to highlight that people are starting to feel some anxiety about gas prices. Do we feel the same about water?

Lets do the math that no one thinks about. A 16 oz bottle of water sells for approximately $1 US on average. 16oz is 1/8th of a gallon. Some simple math gets us to $8 a gallon for water!!!! Something must be wrong with my math ... let me double check ... hmmmm. Nope, everything checks out. We pay $8 a gallon to drink water and no one complains at all, but almost everyone complains about $4 a gallon for the ability to drive around?

I would like to note that bottled water prices in the last 5 years or so have started a growth pattern that is far from a linear growth. This implies that we will be paying tons more for water if current trends continue. And we want to take this resource and put it into our cars?

Some would argue that water is everywhere and it is free to scoop up. Try that at your local town water reservoir and tell me how much the fine was. Couldn't we collect rain? Well, people could currently cut down on their water taxes in many cities by collecting rain, but how often does that happen. Even if we did, is your region experiencing droughts more and more each 5 year increment?

I love the idea of a cheap renewable fuel source. I worry about water, the key to our survival, being one of those sources. With the voracious appetite of the Amearican consumers and an apparent lack of concern where the products come from, I can envision us driving ourselves into some scary situations.

I don't think we talk much about water in this country. I would like to hear other's thoughts about water. Is it something we need to be aware of? How many were aware of the political tensions between Canada and American in the last few years of the issue to access fresh water? Are we aware of how others around the world view water as a resource? I would love to hear from different parts of the world about their culture's views on water. After all this typing, I think I need to go get a drink.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Death of Carlin

by Ed Latham

George Carlin was a comedian that people seemed to love or hate. He died recently and I have been reflecting on all of the educational things I have learned through his humor. I admit that I love his humor because of his creative way of looking at our language. In so many ways, Carlin was able to teach me more about English than my formal education. Sure, the formal education provided me the grammar, syntax and format, but Carlin got me thinking about the social usage and implications of the language we all try to use.

George often used language in his presentations that has been considered uncouth, rude, obnoxious, and just plain vulgar. If you can put up with his style of presentation, he has many valid educational elements that are great to share with students. I am not proposing you have students listen to Carlin in class (oh boy would the notes from home fly). For those masterful teachers out there, the ability to adapt the questions and philosophies and rational into classroom discussions can help create incredible discussions. For example, one of Carlin's most famous skits involved "The Seven Words" that you can not say. Sure the words he lists are disturbing and unacceptable to many, but he raises the issues of who controls speech, why do is it done, what are the effects. If you can look by the irony that a land that has Freedom Of Speech has censored words, the conversations students can generate is valuable!

Carlin challenged many thoughts and publicly aimed at causing dissonance in order to get people thinking and reflecting. How much dissonance is caused in our classes? Would it help or hinder student though or discussions? How do teachers add "challenging thoughts" without fear of pressure from parents, peers, or administration? In his humor, Carlin established an attitude that everything can and should be challenged. I have personally found questioning everything to be a very rewarding experience that has taught me many things I might otherwise not have learned. Unfortunately, challenging things can get you in some difficult situations as well, but everything is a learning opportunity, right?

If you are looking for points of view to create conversations in your classes, I would encourage you to look into his humor. My encouragement does have some warnings. If you are easily upset by conflicting points of view, you may not appreciate Carlin. If you are easily upset by inappropriate language, you may not appreciate Carlin. If you are not comfortable with things that challenge what you know or believe, you may not appreciate Carlin. If you celebrate the fact that we are all creatures capable of creativity, emotions, and perspectives you may really enjoy George Carlin.

Are there comedians that you feel have something to offer education? I do not ask specifically about comedians that you can present in class, rather I question if you have any comedians content you feel has educational importance? Comedy is a reflection of life usually warped by an exaggeration. If we want students to learn about life, discussions and studies about our humor may be transformational. How do you use professional humor in your class?

Digital Storytelling, Flip & iMovie

Today and tomorrow, we will be investigating the uses of the Flip Video Camera, iLife apps, web 2.0 tools, and digital storytelling at Gardiner.

Essential Question: How can we tell stories using digital media?

Digital Storytelling Workshop

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Effective Practices for Leading Middle Schools - No Matter What Your Job

by Martha Thibodeau

Chris Toy, former principal in Freeport and now an Educational Consultant, presented at the Middle Level Education Institute on June 22nd. His topic - the title of this post - intrigued me since I don't "belong" to any one school or faculty, but I can and do have an impact in the schools that I serve.

We did an activity that used synectics. Hundreds of pictures were strewn about the floor and we had to choose one that spoke to us in general and about leadership. We then got into a triad and shared our thoughts, and had a chance to speak about every picture. Then we had to look at all three pictures and come up with some thoughts on how they were alike or how they were different, or how they had a common thread. We then had to look at how this would transfer into our work lives with a partner. The last part was reflection:

What did I learn or realize again about good leadership during this activity?

I realized that the prompts that were given have to be open-ended, engaging, and provide an opportunity for learning for the participants. I realized again that choice is a great motivator. When I selected that picture, I had some ownership over making it make sense to my colleagues.

Here are some excerpts from others in the group: Good leadership has many facets. Good leadership means different things to different people. The path will be difficult at times, but the building momentum will be worth it in the end. As a leader you can't do everything your self. Allow choices to make a lesson your own. There are different types of leaders. Great leaders don't remain stagnant they are willing to change as needed.

Chris did a great job of modeling facilitation techniques.