Reading Tutor of the Future and Other Scary Thoughts…

Right now, I’m certain someone is working on one of those read aloud book-apps, like the Alice in Wondeland App, but instead of just reading what you need read, it eventually prompts you to read to it.  The speech to text  technology already exists, sort of,  (my phone misunderstands me every time I try)…so somebody is working on a comparative software that will assess the accuracy of a persons reading capability, maybe even coach inflection and articulation.   By the way, if you invent it after reading this, how about some recognition, maybe a Dr.  Pepper or something.
So, taking that a bit further, I was thinking that soon such a device, perhaps an interactive video, (a la the old Hypercard wonder “Animal Pathfinders“, which, by the way, I can’t believe hasn’t been reincarnated on the web with full interactivity- and again, if you do this that is a second Dr. Pepper)-  would read and “listen”, and asses reading skill, but also listen for social markers.  For example, I often will read “Huckleberry Finn” (the kids version) to my class – not just because it is great, but because almost every year a student will divulge their own abusive situations to me when we are reading about Huck’s dad.  I’m certain this saved the life of one of my students, who was moved to another state away from her abusive step-father and enabling mother.  I imagine an interactive listener reporting, when it asks about if student relates to a particular character or happening with some frequency by the way of moving through a book, that when a student says “yes- I want to escape like Huck” – that it sends a message to the teacher, a marker that indicates an anamoly to be followed up on.

     Should we do this?  No,  We shouldn’t.  Further loss of human interaction as a child learns literature – the early experience will be deprived of the subtle implicit and explicit sharing of emotion and imprinting of value hierarchies and nuance.   Non-scripted questions, or reactions that fall outside of programmed algorithms will create a void of interaction, essentially teaching sociopathy. It hearkens situations much like the rules for administering standardized tests now- where teacher is replaced with monitor, who must not help, but is a mute, insane pausarius.  The supplemental tool of a “listening book” under the auspices of the teacher could be a useful tool, but some Koch brother clone will see it as a grand money  making scheme to replace teachers with, sure as Walmart sucks.

Then I thought of a story, which I will tell you another time.

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The Glow of the Fire

against_the_windThose kept warm by the glow of synaptic fires

from behind dilated Pupils

know the worth of the light

of consciousness

walk in the face of the blasting wind

of ignorance

that comes in little pay, or politics,

or any of the social morays

and other eels of society

and strive anyway

to pass on the flame.


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Proposed Education Change

Dear Legislators,

First of all, thank you for your service.  There is no doubt sacrifice on your part to do what is right for the people you represent and toward that idea of a more perfect union.

It is for this purpose I ask you to change the structure of education in New Mexico.  Over a decade ago, we replaced a State Board of Education because of the gridlock of representatives arguing over their constituents’ best interests, and who may have missed the broader view of education in New Mexico, for a streamlined “Secretary of Education,”  whose implementation of policy has not yielded the promised results across the state.  Graduation rates are down, test results are down, class sizes are bigger, higher education enrollment is down, teachers are leaving the state, so the state is creating waivers for teachers to teach other subjects, and many other people are leaving the state, too.   Feedback about the negative effects of the implementation and policy have been met with threats to the democratically elected school boards rather than discourse, in Las Cruces, Deming, and in Albuquerque.  There is no indication that the “Secretary of Education” approach has improved education in New Mexico.  There is also a strong possibility that this model will represent constant political swing, as different governors are elected, rather than a more stable foundation of policy.

We need a revised democratically elected State School Board System, whose backgrounds are k-12 education, which represent different geographical areas of the state, which keeps in check the currently unchecked position of Secretary of Education, which has the power to advise, veto, repeal, and override the Secretary of Education.

Please consider legislation to improve the accountability in our government.  Thank you,

Jeff Tuttle …








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At the first of everything…


Unknown“Everywhere I go, I’m the first. It’s a strange feeling.  Step outside the rover? First guy to be there.  Climb that hill? First guy to do that. Four and a half billion years, nobody here, and now… me.”

As part of a lazy post-Christmas, Kristin and I watched The Martian this morning.  Which is a very optimistic work, and I like it, very much for that.  To channel my dad, at the beginning of a new year, we are all that explorer.  Each of us is unique in our own circumstance.  Our eyes offer their own unique perspective for this, a brand new moment in all of the universe.  This is the first time of this moment, even though we wrap ourselves in the illusion of routine and cycles, nonetheless, this is the first of it all.  We are the luckiest bits of matter, envy of all the matter in the universe, if it could do such a thing as envy.   We get to smithy into the fabric of the universe the sensation, for better and worse, and the wonder of it all.   Four and a half billion years, and nobody has ever been, or ever will be… me, or you, and these moments we have.  Happy New Year.  It is indeed all new, and it is ours to discover.

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Watching Mary Poppins

Tonight as we watch Mary Poppins these lines poppin to my head:
mpMr. Banks:
The children must be molded, shaped and taught
That life’s a looming battle to be faced and fought

If they must go on outings
These outings ought to be
Fraught with purpose, yes and practicality!
These silly words like superca…
Superca… superca…

I will go again to the school board again, this time to ask them to change their policy about field trips.  I think as it currently stands I may not be allowed this year to take our student council to our state capital in Santa Fe.  Every year we go, representatives and senators come out to greet us, and we are alway the guest of Senator McSorley, who generously greets the students and briefs them on the goings on.  Two years ago, Justice Daniels greeted us with his Winnie-the-Pooh tie on, and said his daughter went to Monte Vista.  It is refreshing for the politicians to have grade school visitors, I’ve been told time and again.  I also think it is politically savvy to keep the path well worn between public education and the public.  But mostly I’m an impractical person who believes that just getting the students out is reason enough to get them out.   I think it is necessary to teach the joy of life as a staple of the school day, it is the only place some students have an opportunity to learn it.   The work of life needs to be infused with joy.  Or, as Bert would have it:

You’ve got to grind, grind, grind
At that grindstone
Though child’ood slips like sand through a sieve
And all too soon they’ve up grown
And then they’ve flown
And it’s too late for you to give
Just that spoonful of sugar
To ‘elp the medicine go down
The medicine go down, the medicine go down.

So much misdirection comes from this idea that learning is a means to an end.  That we must drive and test our children, like we adults know what its all for, when I think that really children balance that notion with the means as the ends; that this is the moment we have now, and we don’t know where it goes to, but maybe we can go and fly a kite anyway, and balance work with the enjoyment of the moment and each other.


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The rats and other interesting additions…

I have a student blog, which is only accessible to parents, the posts from which accidentally end up here, in case you were wondering.  The posts are very enjoyable, but without context you may wonder…

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A Public Relations War on Public Education


The hole in the ceiling tile in the office, (on the first floor!)

In the summer of 1991 a group of teachers, myself included, designed and installed our own computer network. Because of our work, Monte Vista Elementary was the first school, public or private, to be networked in the state of New Mexico. Our idea was that computers and the internet offered a real democratic opportunity, and we wanted to make available to our students a “producer” model of using computers as a tool for information, design, creation, and authentic authorship, rather than a “consumer” model of sitting at a screen and pushing buttons.

We have been very proud of our school, unique even at the physical level, on both the state and national registry of historic buildings- noted for contributing to the historic culture of the area. Our school has also been an academic leader, always on the top of the list for transfer requests, and our children come out ahead in the state and national measures.

Yesterday’s (October 21st) rainfall, caused leaks in three places, two all the way through to the first floor, such as the one in the front office, where the ceiling tile gave way. Our “producer” culture, and our status, is at risk of changing. Because this year, for so many years in a row now, instead of putting money towards repairing schools like Monte Vista, the state will continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on testing.

Last year, the state monopolized our library and computer lab for two months, for the exclusive use of testing our children, which moved them in and out in front of the machines much like dairy cattle get hooked up for milking, a real hoop-jumping, bureaucratic, consumer model of computer technology.

Our intelligent, informed community, which opted out of testing last year, is going to be punished. Monte Vista and other public schools that had lower than 95% compliance rates of those taking the test, will be scored down at least one letter grade. Our staff may be made to attend professional development hours on how to improve our test scores, and fill out hundreds of forms to track our progress on how we are going to improve, even though the test scores themselves may be, as usual, above state and national norms.

It’s no secret that education in New Mexico needs to improve, but when you systematically downgrade even the best schools, you not only discourage the teachers there, but also prospective employers are scared away, which helps explain the October 21st Journal headline that “NM jobless rate bucks US trend, rising to 6.8%”. Our success at advertising our state as the worst place to raise a family has made it so.

Newspapers, radio and television stations are already covering the news that our schools tested badly. For a school like Monte Vista, where transfers are critical, bad press may destroy a bit of history, and what has been (and continues to be) a great school in the heart of Albuquerque. The thing we ask of our community is: as the press reports the punitive downgrade of our school, we ask that you remember who we are as a community. We stand by your choice to opt out, we value independent thought: such civil disobedience might improve things. We ask that you stand by us in the face of the coming of meaningless punishments, and help keep our school thriving by news of what we really do. Actively speak up for our schools, help us push back against this manufactured failure.  Together we can bear out this destructive and neglectful trend until our democracy can come up with better ways to improve our public schools.

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