Eraser law, ‘Dear Teen Me,’ Khan Academy, integrated math, Show Me, Shone Farm

Schools Education

Lorna Sheridan/Index-Tribune Education Editor


There is possible hope for teens who have terrible judgment about posting things online. Gov. Jerry Brown just signed legislation requiring web companies, starting in 2015, to remove online activity if a California minor requests it. This new “eraser” law applies to scandalous posts as well as ones that are just embarrassing. “Kids so often self-reveal before they self-reflect,” said James Steyer, founder of Common Sense Media, about the law. What a true statement.

A dad who writes for The Atlantic magazine recently tried to do his 13-year-old daughter’s homework for a week. The results are funny and depressing. He found an emphasis on memorization, not critical thinking, a lot of busywork and little coordination between teachers. I gather that homework loads swing in cycles and our unfortunate children are the top of the pendulum right now. The complete article is in The Atlantic or here: tinyurl.com/mnzknsz.

The Atlantic ran another fascinating article this month titled: “The Case Against High-School Sports.” Author Amanda Ripley contends that Americans waste far more energy and money on high school sports than almost any other country … to our detriment on the world stage. She writes about one Texas town that suspended football for the year and saw 80 percent of (all) students pass their classes, up from 50 percent the previous fall and 160 people at parent-teacher night, compared with six the year before. The article is controversial but a great conversation starter to have with your older children. tinyurl.com/ltpdqsa.

There is a 30th reunion scheduled for Sonoma Valley High’s class of 1983 on Sunday, Oct. 12. I read the email and thought, wow, they are old, before realizing that is the year that I graduated from high school, too. The organizers are working hard to track everyone down. Email svhs1983@hotmail.com for more information. The party is at the Moose Lodge on Broadway, 5 p.m. to midnight. The cost is $75 a person. I look forward to running a group photograph.

St. Francis School is holding its fall fundraiser “A Taste of Sonoma” on Saturday, Oct. 12, at 5 p.m. at the school’s Fr. Roberts Hall. This 20th annual fundraising event features food from some of the Valley’s best restaurants as well as a silent and live auction. Visit the school website at saintfrancissolano.org to buy tickets.  The Presentation School is also holding its fall fundraiser in the school’s activity center on Saturday, Oct. 12, at 5 p.m. “Imagine An Evening In Hawaii” features live music, dancing, dinner by Ramekins and silent and live auctions. Tickets can be purchased at presentationschool.com.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan appeared on the Colbert Report earlier this month, defending the abandonment of No Child Left Behind, the need to get from print to digital as quickly as possible and importance of universal preschool for all. He was funny and gave a great nod to the fact that the best ideas for innovation in education don’t come from D.C., but from teachers. I am sure you can catch it on YouTube if you missed it.

The next Barn Sale benefiting Sonoma’s schools will take place on Saturday, Oct. 5, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Field of Greens at 1777 W. Watmaugh Road. Come shop and/or bring donations of household items, books, new and used furniture and lamps, and visit the bake sale. One-hundred percent of the proceeds benefit Sonoma Valley public schools through the Barn Sale Teacher Grant program. Call Holly Bennett at 484-4747 for more information.

How terrific that the content on the Khan Academy website will soon be available in Spanish. The site is translating its 100,000 practice problems and video lessons. On any video, click on “Options > Translated subtitles.” The site is using the collaborative translation tool Crowdin (crowdin.net) to translate all its text into every conceivable language: the homepage, the exercises, the class reports, the video descriptions, the articles and tutorials – everything but the video subtitles. Crowdin is a web service that provides a platform for translation. Visitors to the site are invited to help with the translations.

Similar to Khan Academy, the free ShowMe iPad app lets anyone create lessons using an online whiteboard. There are now millions of ShowMes, across topics in math, science, languages, English and grammar, social sciences, music, art and sports. showme.com/learn.

Researchers have found that students who are taught integrated mathematics, combining several mathematic topics, such as algebra, geometry and statistics, into single courses, do much better on standardized tests than students who take one course at a time. The U.S. is one of the few countries that still clings to rigid year-long courses: algebra I, geometry, algebra II, then pre-calculus and calculus.The researchers expect that these findings may challenge some long-standing views on mathematics education in the U.S. (tinyurl.com/l6m67j7). I don’t know any local schools that truly teach integrated math. Do you?

If your child is at a school that has or is considering 1-1 tablet computers, you will be interested to read the New York Times’ recent piece titled, “No Child Left Untableted.” It is a thoughtful look at the pros and cons of technology use in the classroom and the role of teachers in successful implementation. The author states, “To get the most out of educational technology, teachers must combine those traditional classroom skills with new ones. And their repertoires will have to expand as the tablet’s powers grow.” You can read it here: tinyurl.com/punwxtd.

If you are interested in delving deep into information about a particular college (how many students were taken off the wait list last year, admissions criteria, test scores of accepted applicants, etc.) then you should search out the “Common Data Set” for that college. It is everything you might want to know in one place, updated annually. Schools do not make it easy to find though. Search for the university name and “common data set” in quotes. As an example, here is the Common Data Set for U.S. Davis: sariweb.ucdavis.edu/commondataset/cds20102011.pdf.

I don’t know much about these pop-up dinners that everyone is talking about but the next one is Saturday, Oct. 19, from 5 to 11 p.m. and it costs $35 a person. The dinner will be held in a “secret” Sonoma Wine Country location to be announced that morning. Guests are asked to dress in white and they bring their own table decor, food and beverage. Table, chairs and live entertainment are provided. The Girl and the Fig will offer catered dinner baskets, along with wine pairings, for those who prefer not to cook. A portion of the proceeds go to Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance. Register here: eventbrite.com/event/7521361595.

Santa Rosa Junior College’s Shone Farm invites the public to its Fall Festival on Saturday, Oct. 12. This is a free, family-friendly event complete with children’s games and petting zoo. Also featured this year will be sawmill and equestrian drill team demonstrations, wine and olive oil tasting, and apple pressing and tasting. Visitors can enjoy barbecue made from Shone ingredients, prepared by students of the SRJC Culinary Program. Shone Farm, a 365-acre farm in the Russian River valley near Forestville, has been used as a field laboratory and teaching environment for SRJC Agriculture and Natural Resources students for more than four decades. Students learn animal health, livestock management, sustainable agriculture, horticulture, viticulture, winemaking, natural resource management and conservation at this practical field laboratory. The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (shonefarm.com).

On Saturday, Oct. 19, Dunbar Elementary School’s fourth- and fifth-graders will be holding a car wash at school from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to raise money for field trips and classroom materials including the Voyages of Discovery sailing trip. The school hopes to raise more than $1,500.

I am always looking for tips of students, teachers and graduates to profile. Send them to me at lornasheridan@gmail.com.