Thursday, June 26, 2014

Friday Fragments

Ever the optimist, I’m glad to see the Republican and Democratic versions of the proposed next Higher Education Act both include restoring Pell to year-round availability.  If we want to decrease time to completion, making summer available should be a no-brainer.

The previous interlude of summer Pell was brief, and announced at the last minute; colleges didn’t really have time to ramp up programs to take advantage of it.  A longer-term commitment to a twelve-month calendar would provide a tremendous spur to innovation.

That may sound like special pleading, but on the ground, it’s real.  We’re trying to develop accelerated degree programs, but the lack of Pell in the summer presents a real issue.  It raises an obvious issue of equity, on one level, but it’s also a pragmatic issue.  Two-thirds of our students are Pell-eligible.  Take them out, and many classes would be too small to run even for folks who pay cash on the barrel.  The numbers only get viable if Pell-eligible students can attend.

It’s entirely possible that neither party’s version will pass, and a good idea will die of inertia.  But given that both sides see merit in year-round Pell, here’s hoping that at least that much makes it through.


This week some faculty did a nifty presentation on technology they’d like to have in classrooms.  One popular one involved having Apple tv (or Chromecast, or something similar) connected to a flat-screen tv in the front of the class, so a professor or student could magnify something for the whole class to see.  Professors could even do “live remote” sessions from wherever, making field trips much more manageable for students with mobility issues.

Someone brought up the very real possibility of hacking, though.  If all it takes to put something on the screen is a device and a willingness to broadcast, then a student could easily prank a class by throwing inappropriate stuff up there.

Has anyone out there found a reliable, low-maintenance way to get the benefit of setups like that, without either opening up the system to hacking or relying on each professor to have do go through time-consuming manual logins every single time?


The Boy and The Girl finally wrapped up their school years this week.  The Girl is moving up from elementary to middle school, so she had a “graduation” ceremony along with her class.

I have to hand it to the organizers; they really know how to tug at heartstrings.  They had a slideshow of candids, but the candids started with kindergarten and went all the way up.  There, up on the screen, was the five-year-old version of The Girl.  Seeing the kids move from kindergarten through fourth grade so quickly really brought home just how much they’ve grown.

I was okay, though.  There were a few “awww”s, but all was cool.

Then the music teacher came out.

He had the kids sing “Time of Your Life,” by Green Day.  Still, I maintained.  The Wife was dabbing at her face, but I was still fine.

I knew the new music teacher was good, but I wasn’t prepared for his next move.

He played a cover of “In My Life,” by a woman singer who really stretched it out.  He and the kids did a series of silent dance moves in time to the music, reacting to the lyrics.  Sweet, but I was still okay.

During the piano bridge, though, he motioned them to squat down.  They did, and came up with handwritten signs that they flashed to the parents.  Every sign was a variation on “I love you, Mom and Dad,” usually with something customized to the kid who held it.  TG used the nickname that only we call her.  “I’ll be your (nickname) for life.”

I’m not made of stone, people.

The Boy was with us in the audience.  He mentioned later that he was fine when TW was crying, because she cries at emotional moments.  But when he saw me dabbing my eyes, he had some trouble too.

As the bridge ended and the singer came back, the kids flipped the signs.  The signs on the left side of the stage said “I,” the ones in the middle had a heart, and the ones on the right said “U.”  The parents were reduced to quivering masses of jello.

The Girl is excited for her next school.  She’ll have her own locker, which means a lot at this age.  She’s more than ready.  She’s already looking forward to it.

We are, too.  But we’ll miss the little girl who blazed her way through elementary school.  She doesn’t know what the fuss was about yet.  She’ll find out when it’s time.

Congratulations, TG.  The fifth grade won’t know what hit it.