Why can’t we get sensible gun control laws passed?

24 Feb

Reason #1: Because the NRA gave lunatic members of the U.S. Congress over $60 million dollars to prefer guns to people.

Reason #2: Seriously? Reason #1 wasn’t good enough? Let’s face it, no matter how many guns you own, how much money you give to the NRA, or that the NRA gives to you, you are just as likely, if shot, as anyone else to die from that wound. NRA donations and AR-15 ownership does not automatically make one grow a kevlar skin.

But money isn’t the only reason sensible gun control laws remain elusive and people keep getting shot. There is also timing. For example, Sandy Hook, where 20 first graders died as the result of another mass shooting in 2012, is also a fairly wealthy community but it wasn’t enough to convince the Republican Congress to pass federal gun control. After all, that is what the president, an effective, charismatic, intelligent Democrat wanted and Republicans hate anything Democrats want. Think I’m being too negative? Remember Merrick Garland? Maybe he can change your mind. 

So what gives me some hope that this mass shooting may yield some actual gun control is timing, timing and better messaging. The current president is nothing like Barack Obama – he is difficult, irresponsible, loud-mouthed, changes his mind faster than he changes his underwear and is a Republican. That doesn’t prevent the Republican members of Congress from standing by him but they do so at their own peril.

So if the president speaks in favor of gun control, maybe the Republican majority will finally approve of it. And if he speaks against it (he’s done both recently) we deploy the better messaging – “You say now is not the time to talk about gun control? Maybe you love your guns more than you love your kids.”

It may not happen right away, but I’m willing to wait. After all, gun rights advocates are a lot like tantrum-throwing toddlers. And while they’re too big for a time-out in the corner, they can be voted out of office this coming November, which is exactly what I plan to do.

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A Buyback Program We Could All Love

24 Feb

A big argument against new gun control laws is that too many people own too many guns.

It is true that an awful lot of Americans own guns. According to a November 2017 article in the New York Times, American has four percent of the population and 42 percent of all guns.

And the fact is, guns – assault weapons and handguns – are designed to do one thing – kill people. True, an assault weapon or a handgun just lying around has a much lower chance of killing anyone but it’s not like there is any other use for it. A hunting rifle, for instance, can still hunt deer, bear and other critters. For which gardens and meat eaters are grateful. But an assault weapon or a handgun cannot do anything else but rip apart bodies. Hate to get all uppity, but I’m not a big fan of my meat being shredded before it’s cooked.

So, what to do with the guns already out there? Put millions of dollars into a gun buy back program and buy them back. Sure, you say, maybe Santa Claus can manage that program.

I know, it seems pretty unrealistic. Hell, we can’t even get Congress to pass sensible gun controls for weapons not yet purchased and you want to take precious American funds to buy back weapons? Well, read on to see my ideas for using those purchased guns. Gun owners will come flocking when they see what their handgun gets made into.

Statues: People could sell their guns, which could get melted down and made it new Confederate War hero statues. There! Now the folks who love guns can gaze at the new statue of Robert E. Lee and know it was all worth it. The rest of us can go to school and work without worrying about getting shot and scoff at the admirers of the racist past.

Furniture: Handgun lamp stand anyone?

Okay, I’m out of ideas. How about just sell your AR-15 because you’re not a dick? After all, only three percent of all homicides are considered justifiable. (See the following FBI report.) That means even if someone did break into your house, you have only a three percent chance of killing the intruder and a 97% chance of dying by his weapon.

 

 

 

Teachers do a great job teaching. That has nothing to do with aim.

24 Feb

A couple of years ago I was carpooling with someone from work. We had a lot in common – both mothers of a single child, both a bit overworked, and we each drove small, gas-efficient cars.

But there was one big difference – our politics. Once we discovered this difference we decided to simply not talk about it and focus instead on our sons’ various challenges at school.

But one morning we got into it a bit. We had just dropped off my carpool partner’s son off at school and were driving to work. Our sons are for the most part just lovely, but they’ve also had their moments with teachers. For example, my son told a teacher off when he was four and was referred for counseling when he was six.

NOTE: (He’s 15 now, on high honor roll and the student council. For those of you pulling your hair out at Timmy’s behavior in nursery school, there is great hope.)

Anyway, that morning my carpool partner was finishing a story about how one of her son’s teachers seemed to be particularly spiteful toward him when we switched to the topic of guns. I don’t remember the specifics but the conversation veered toward arming teachers. As you can imagine, we had different opinions about this. My carpool partner asked why I disagreed with her and was against teachers having guns.

Just to set the scene, about five minutes earlier, she had just finished telling me the latest abomination her son’s earth science teacher had committed against him. So, I said the obvious –

“Think about it,” I said. “Would you want your son’s teacher’s packing heat?”

She thought about that for a few seconds.

“Good point,” she said.

And now you know my politics. Like many of the teachers who appear on my Facebook feed, I do not want teachers packing heat, not my son’s or anyone else’s children’s, nieces’, nephews’, or grandchildren’s teachers. And there are so, so, so many reasons why this is a bad idea, from noting that teachers don’t want it, that they’re not qualified and that such a development would make schools feel like prisons. Even people who are well trained and highly qualified slip up at times, such as in 1981 when former President Ronald Reagan was shot in front of a bunch of armed secret service officers. Call me crazy, but I don’t think educators, who are blamed for not fixing all of society’s ills, should also be responsible for taking down school shooters.

 

Happy Holidays!

13 Dec

Hi Everyone!

Well, it’s been quite a year – politically and emotionally.

First, the good news – Ian started high school this year and he loves it. He’s involved in a number of clubs including Interact, the Travel Club, the Art Club, and Circles of Strength. He is also on the indoor track team and plans to be on the track team in the spring. He loves his teachers and his grades are terrific. We really couldn’t ask for more from him, well, except to pick up his room without Martha nagging.

Tom left middle school teaching last year and this year started as a writing tutor for Corning Community College (CCC). He is working about 25 hours a week and using the additional time to tackle the growing list of projects around the house, which given its age (more than 100 years old) are desperately needed. He loves the new schedule and the shorter commute.

And Martha is still the instructional technologist at CCC, but she’s also taken on a few other roles including being the school’s coordinator of its international endeavors. It’s new and exciting and she loves being more involved with the students.

Finally, there are the pets. April the dog at nearly eight years old is still just as lovely and energetic as usual. And Figgy the cat at 10 is slowing down a little bit, but he still loves going outside for our walks and catching the occasional mole. And we still have a lot of fish (15 altogether) and they provide hours of entertainment.

On a more somber note, Martha’s dad, William A. Gold, died late last year in December. He was 95 and had suffered a mild heart attack about six weeks before passing (the day after the election) but it was still hard to bear and we all miss him very, very much.

Personally, it’s been a pretty good year – we just wish the politics of the country were different. Truth be told, we’re horrified at what Trump and the Republican congress is doing. And while this year’s election was an improvement, we realize we have a long way to go. To propel things in the correct direction, Martha has joined the local Democratic committee. We’re hoping it pays off in 2018, especially in our own congressional race. If it doesn’t, next year’s letter will come with big black lines drawn through most of it.

Onward to 2018! Looking forward to more time with great friends and family.

Love,

Martha, Tom and Ian

New article in elearning industry!

9 Sep

Hi Folks!

Check out my latest article in elearning industry! You can link directly to it right here.

Ah, what is elearningindustry.com? It’s a great resource for anyone involved with online instructional design as well as plain old instructional design. It includes articles about blended elearning, corporate elearning, even elearning for kids. Check out the list!

elearning

A goodly number of practitioners, like me, contribute articles to bolster our profile. And since prepackaged or half-hearted content does terrible things to a reputation, the articles are pretty useful.

Best of all, it’s free.

 

Looks do make a difference

22 Aug

I’ve been thinking a lot about appearance lately. No, it hasn’t led me to purchase a new wardrobe or start wearing makeup (sorry!) but it has made me think a lot about the way I put together my course pages. As a result, I’ve made some small changes to my course pages. One of those changes was to the font.

I started thinking seriously about fonts as a graduate student in education. As I was getting my degree in elementary education, the conversation was limited to fonts that fell into the sans serif category where the lower-case “a” did not have a “hat” on top, thus making it more recognizable for beginning readers. To my knowledge, only two fonts fit this description, Comic Sans and Classroom. These fonts are great for young, beginning readers and elementary teachers should definitely use them. Once I started teaching high school, however, even though my first job was in special education and my students’ reading levels were not much higher than those in my third grade classroom, I used Arial.

Why? Because using Comic Sans in a class of 15-18-year-olds is like breaking out the floaties in an adult swim class. Those topless a’s, careful curves and ever-so-slightly rounded but perfectly consistent lines, like the arm floaties, scream, “I think you’re incompetent and I am patronizing you!” The real reason teachers use such childish tools to teach remedial skills is because they’re too stupid to consider their audience and use equally useful but more adult tools, such as Arial font or, in the case of swim class, kick boards instead of floaties.

Something as simple as font makes a big difference. And while it’s important to avoid patronizing students, it’s also important to keep course design as clear and appealing as possible. I try to make my course pages readable, clear and appealing. I’ve been trying to keep most things, especially fonts, very consistent (I use Trebuchet predominantly in the course pages) and change font size rather than the actual font for organizing purposes, such as to make specific areas stand out. I also work hard to keep bolding consistent and at a minimum. Finally, I almost never use all caps. Yes, it is shouting in print.

For as much care as I put into my course pages, I am consistently surprised at the number of teachers who do not seem to care about appearance. Or focus a lot on appearance, but in ways that break a lot of the design rules I’ve learned. One instructor, for example, loves using green, red, and yellow … font. Granted, she uses the colors consistently as a way of “color coding” different components of her classes, but I still find the yellow and green as unreadable as ever. I did manage to convince her to stop using “hyperlink” blue in her syllabi, but only to switch to green. And not green with black outlines, but simply green, bright, bright green. Now students take the energy they used to use clicking on the unlinked blue script and expend it on trying to read the lime green text.

As a lowly instructional designer, I must defer to faculty’s wishes. However, in my own web page I can do what I want! As a result, I stick to boring, but readable black text. Also, I’ve changed this website a bit, added a main page, rearranged some of the secondary pages and relinked to actual published examples of my work rather than my saved Word versions. I’d love to know what you think of my changes and will take all serious suggestions, seriously!

Videos! – not. How to Handle the Fickle Availability of Free Material on the Internet

4 Jan

Since September 4th, I’ve had the following video up on this blog.

But don’t bother looking as it not longer works. It was removed for copyright violation (at least that was the reason the pop up message gave when I clicked on it yesterday). Not that I’m upset, I’m too busy still feeling grateful that I can even access such material. After all, I remember a time when video was available in only two places – the TV and the movies. Getting mad at the fact that a free, readily available resource is no longer available on YouTube (it’s probably up Fox, Hulu and a number of other sites) is like throwing a fit because your uncle gave you a check for Christmas instead of cash, thus requiring the effort to make a trip to the bank to make it spendable.

I marvel at the availability of professionally produced videos – and that’s a problem. I’m inclined to take as much as I can and horde it. Educators have the same desire and it’s no wonder. The vast availability of streaming videos has made hundreds of previously bland, text-heavy online course pages become dynamic with colorful links to TED Talks, university lectures, nursing simulations, YouTube videos, etc. Ho-hum black and white pages with blocks of imposing tiny type are cleared to make room for gorgeous squares of videos. Text that once caused the scroll of death for course pages is re-dispensed in dynamic, easily digested moving pictures. And videos mean less time spent planning lessons. Instead of creating additional activities or lectures to cover content, a teacher can merely preview a video for relevancy and appropriateness and link (or embed if you’re a bit more tech-savvy) straight into the page.

It’s great until the video is suddenly and inexplicably no longer available. Gone. And with it, your activity, lesson, or course. I remember a series of lectures disappearing from our online business program when the university that produced them moved them to a new web site, breaking every last link. One minute our pages were richly populated with hours of lectures by esteemed financial, marketing and commerce authorities, the next they were white pages with columns of blank, black screens and a few lines of unrelated text.

And unreliable availability of content isn’t limited to videos. I have seen journal articles, web sites, simulations, and many other online resources disappear, with and without accompanying explanations or redirects. What is an educator, trainer, or instructional designer to do when using online resources becomes as risky as building property on permafrost in Alaska?

Personally, I opt to keep using them as they’re rich and dynamic resources. However, I won’t be the one providing the resources. My solution prevents the risk of precious videos/articles/websites disappearing, saves the instructor hours of work and is a far better teaching method. Instead of the instructor or teacher providing the content to teach a concept, simply teach the concept and assign students the task of finding the resources that best explain or exemplify the content. For example, in a beginning statistics class, an instructor wants students to fully understand the difference between mean (average), median and mode and show real life examples of each concept. By assessing the relevancy and accuracy of the chosen resources to the taught concept, the instructor can evaluate how well the students grasped the lesson. Instead of giving a test, the instructor measures student understanding by assessing the quality of examples students bring in.

And should the amazing video on median home prices in Phoenix, AZ suddenly disappear, it’s the student’s problem, not the instructor’s.