Monthly Archives: August 2007

Some Thoughts About Our Tenure and Education’s Future

The Sunday New York Times for 6 May 2007 has a farewell column from its public editor, Byran Calame, about his tenure, Final Thoughts About My Tenure and The Times’s Future, that is interesting in its own right. I also find it interesting to apply some of his observations about the state of journalism today to the state of education. For example:

How The Times deals with two major strategic challenges will determine the quality of the news readers get in the years ahead. The challenges, which also face most other newspapers, are lagging advertising revenue and the transition to the Web.

which can be recast as

How public education deals with two major strategic challenges will determine the quality of the education students get in the years ahead. The challenges, which also face other educational institutions, are lagging revenue and the transition to the Web.

For the Times the transition to the web is a business issue: how to adapt the base mode of print journalism to survive and thrive with the increasing reliance on the Web to deliver news in a more timely fashion. For education the transition to the Web is two-fold. Most important is how to educate today’s students to be able to compete more effectively in an economy that is growing ever more dependent on knowledge-based jobs. But to do that we need to make the appropriate transition to the effective use of the Web and its associated technologies in our classrooms.

The article continues:

Generating the revenue to pay for the news staff needed to maintain The Times’s high quality is the most serious challenge. With advertising revenue from the print paper weakening in recent years, the hope was that growing revenue from advertising on the Web site would pick up the slack. Unfortunately, as The Times reported April 20, the paper has “decided to reduce its 2007 guidance for Internet revenue growth, suggesting that the transition from a print advertising model may be a long time coming.”

which can be recast as:

Generating the revenue needed to attract and maintain high quality teachers is the most serious challenge. With revenue weakening in recent years, one hope was that growing reliance n Web-based technologies would help pick up the slack. Unfortunately, experience to date suggests that the transition from the current model of delivering education to one much more strongly based on web technologies may be a long time coming.

For an example on some of the problems of technology based innovation in education see the recent Times article, Seeing No Progress, Some Schools Drop Laptops. The lesson to be drawn here is not that the technology holds no promise but that we must be deliberate in deploying it and try to avoid making claims that are too bold, as it is to easy to for those familar with a new technology to underestimate how difficult it can be to deploy it.


The transition of the newsroom’s center of gravity to the Web, crucial to the future of The Times, is making notable progress. But the steady push to completely integrate its print and online news operations to support the rapidly expanding Web site raises questions about what will constitute top-quality journalism in the online world of deadlines every minute. A pilot project under way in the business section seeks to truly integrate the print and online operations on a 24/7 basis. In a vital step forward and a distinct plus for Web readers, the pilot tests the idea of making the editor of a core news department of the print paper responsible for the coverage online as well.

This is a reminder that to adapt your business, whether it be journalism of education or something else, to a technology as different and difficult as the web will involve more than adaptation. It will require cultural change and innovation, all of which must be done while delivering the core product each and every day during that transition.

Flatline: Problems teaching reading in a flat world

I recently came across National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). It’s about reading, and the challenges we face in teaching our students how to read. In brief, progress teaching reading is Flatline.

The NAEP Long-Term Reading Assessment defines reading “levels” as follows:

Level 150 – readers can follow brief written directions, select words, phrases, or sentences to describe a simple picture, and interpret simple written clues to identify a common object.

Level 200 – readers can locate and identify facts from simple informational paragraphs, stories, and news articles.

Level 250 – readers can search for, locate, and organize the information they find in relatively lengthy passages and recognize paraphrases of what they have read.

Level 300 – readers can understand complicated literary and informational passages, including material about topics they study at school.

Level 350 – readers can extend and restructure the ideas presented in specialized and complex texts.

The average reading score of 9 year olds was:

* 212 in 1999,
* 212 in 1996,
* 211 in 1994, and
* 211 in 1992.

The 1999 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) long-term reading assessment found that:

* 93% of 9 year olds were at or above performance reading level 150,
* 64% were at or above reading level 200, and
* 16% were at or above reading level 250.

In 1999, the average reading score of:

* White students age 9 was 221,
* Black students age 9 was 186, and
* Hispanic students age 9 was 193.

The ability to read and understand complicated information is important to success in college and, increasingly in the workplace. An analysis of the NAEP long-term trend reading assessments reveals that only half of all White 17 year olds, less than one-quarter of Latino 17 year olds, and less than one-fifth of African American 17 year olds can read at this level.

By age 17, only about 1 in seventeen 17 year olds can read and gain information from specialized text, for example the science section in the local newspaper. This includes:

* 1 in 12 White 17 year olds,
* 1 in 50 Latino 17 year olds, and
* 1 in 100 African American 17 year olds.

* (Campbell, p46, Figure 2.10)

NAEP National Assessment Reading Achievement Levels

When reading text appropriate for fourth-graders at the:
Basic level (up to 208) – readers should demonstrate an understanding of the overall meaning of what they read.

Proficient level (209-238) – readers should demonstrate an overall understanding of the text, providing inferential as well as literal information.

Advanced level (239-268) – readers should be able to generalize about topics in the reading selection and demonstrate an awareness of how authors compose and use literary devices.

Reading Scores

In the National Assessment of Educational Programs (NAEP) 2000 national assessment of fourth-graders’ reading ability:

* 37% were below the reading achievement Basic level,
* 31% were within the Basic level,
* 24% were within the Proficient level, and
* 8% were within the Advanced level

It’s clear we are not doing a good job teaching our youngsters how to read — progress is in the “flat line” state. In not doing so we are making it harder for them to survive in the “flat world” in which they will have to compete.

Live documents

Why are living Web documents such as wiki’s, blog entries, blog comments, and such **so** much more interesting than PDF’s, Microsoft Word, etc.

The former are dynamic, the latter static. Document formats are evolving.

Documents are more interesting if you can interact with them. The more you can, the more compelling they become.

links for 2007-08-31

Vista set for 2008 servicing? Ubuntu is serving you now.

I noticed several articles on the web today about Microsoft’s first service pack for Vista. It’s due sometime in 2008. See for example Vista set for 2008 servicing.

2008! Vista was released earlier this year, and the first major update is months away.

Things are much simpler in Ubuntu-land. You get service that — like the battery bunny in the commercials we know so well — just goes, and goes, and … goes.

Ubuntu 6.06, “Dapper Drake,” came out in June 2006.

Ubuntu 6.10, “Edgy Eft,” followed in October 2006.

The current stable Ubuntu release is 7.04, “Feisty Fawn.” It was served up in April 2007.

I’ve seen several articles lately about the next release, 7.10, “Gutsy Gibbon due out in October 2007 (just a few weeks from now.)

And I know that in April 2008 we’ll see another major Ubuntu release, about the same time as the first major update to Vista.

I don’t know what the Ubuntu folks plan to call it, though I know it will be two words each starting with “H.”

I’m hoping it is “Ho-ho, Hippopotamus.”

How do you access, read, write, or mount a USB flash drive in Ubuntu 7.04?

Update: 30 August 2012

It’s been five years since I first wrote on this topic. As it happens, it remains one of my most popular posts, which suggests that lots of folks are still having problems using flash drives on Ubuntu, and possibly other Linux distributions as well. [1]

A lot has changed in the last five years, so here’s an update on how I currently access flash drives on my Ubuntu 12.04 desktop.

When you first put a flash drive into the computer all you will see is the light on the flash drive come on, if it has one.

If you do

$ ls /media

you won’t see any sign of the drive.

So what you do next is to open File Manager. It’s right there near the top of the main menu. It should show the flash drive. All the drives I have come with a built-in id, and File Manager will display it near the top of its page. Look for text that begins with /media/.

For example, I just plugged in a drive while writing this. It has the id 054A-FDA0.

Leave File Manager running, while you access the drive

If you again do

$ ls /media

you should see the drive. For example, I just did and found the file /media/054A-FDA0.

You can now do things like

$ cp /media/054A-FDA0/work.tar .

and so on.

It is good form to close the drive when you are done using it. This is not really needed if you are just reading the drive, but is important if you have written data to it. You want to know all the data has been written.

There are two ways to what in Linux is called “unmounting” the flash drive.

One is

umount /media/054A-FDA0

Note the command is “umount” and not “unmount”. This is one case where Unix terseness, in this case saving a single letter, did more harm than good.

Another is to go back to File Manager, find the symbol for the drive in the left column, and right click your mouse on it. You will get a list of options, one of which is Eject Removable Medium. Then pick that, and remove the drive

Either will work. You make the call.

By the way, whenever you are typing a command that includes the flash drive id, as soon as you have typed the first letter or so, you should hit the Tab key. The shell will then complete the rest of the name for you.

(This is true whenever you are entering a file name. It’s one of the very nice features of Linux: thoughtful people have worked hard to make your work easier.)


1. This post has been among my five most popular for several years now. The only one consistently more popular has been A Brief History of Pperating Systems, based on a couple of days of writing while I was at IBM. Steve Mills, then and now head of IBM’s Software Group, felt that his salesmen didn’t know enough about this topic, and asked that someone put something together. The request landed on my desk, and not having anyone else I could kick it down the road to, I had to do it myself. [2]

2. One of the sagest observations I have ever heard came from Ralph Griswold in a conversation almost forty years ago:

I wish I had done it myself. In the long run I always do.

======== End of update of 30 August 2012 ========

======== The text below was originally posted on 30 August 2007 ========

If you want to access a USB flash drive in Ubuntu then just plug it into a working USB slot on your machine. On your desktop you should then see a window with a title of the form “label – File Browser,” where “label” is the label the manufacturer used when the drive was formatted.

You should also see an icon containing the drive label near the top of the window and also within a list of devices on the left side of the window. Or, If you want to access the drive from a command line in a terminal window, you can type

$ ls /media

and you should see an entry with the drive’s label. For example, I’m using a Kingston DataTraveler I 2GB Flash Drive (USB2.0 Portable) Model DTI/2GB – Retail that I recently purchased from newegg. It has the label “KINGSTON,” so I can list the files on it with

$ ls /media/KINGSTON

If you just want to read files from the drive then you can just pull the drive from the slot when you are done. If you want to write files to the drive you need to unmount the drive when you are done. You can do this either by right-clicking on the drive’s icon in the list on the left side of the window and selecting “Unmount,” or you can use the command line; for example,

$ sudo umount /media/KINGSTON

This is of course very straightforward, and I expect you’re asking, “Why blog about this? Duh!”

Thing is, nothing happened the first time I tried this by just plugging the drive into a USB slot. After a little investigation, I decided to see what happened if I just plugged the drive into a USB slot on one of my other Ubuntu machines, and found that it worked.

Which is why I just inserted the word “working” into the first sentence of this post.

Which means I can give you an answer to another question about Ubuntu:

Question: How do you tell if a USB port is working on your Ubuntu machine?

Answer: Plug a USB flash drive into a USB slot. If nothing happens the slot is broken or isn’t connected.

In my case, it’s more likely — since I built this machine –that I didn’t properly connect the wires from the front USB slots to the motherboard.

Back to the drawing mother board…

links for 2007-08-30

links for 2007-08-29

  • Pages

  • August 2007
    M T W T F S S
    « Jul   Sep »
  • RSS The Wayward Word Press

  • Recent Comments

    dave porter on On being the maintainer, sole…
    daveshields on On being the maintainer, sole…
    Paul Tallett on On being the maintainer, sole…
    mrrdev on On being the maintainer, sole…
    KT on On being the maintainer, sole…
  • Archives

  • Blog Stats

  • Top Posts

  • Top Rated

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Top Rated