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EssayTagger is a web-based tool to help teachers grade essays faster.
But it is not an auto-grader.

This blog will cover EssayTagger's latest feature updates as well as musings on
education, policy, innovation, and preserving teachers' sanity.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Betting on the future, pt 1: Career guidance is more valuable than Huck Finn

In this two-part post I'll argue for why it isn't sufficient to just prepare kids for college. We also must guide them toward careers that have some hope of surviving and thriving in the 21st-century.

When my seniors wrapped up their college application essays I figured it would be a good time to talk to them about the realities of 21st-century careers. Which careers will survive? Which will die out in the next 10-15 years? Not the typical lesson plan for an English teacher, but most English teachers don't have nine years of experience in high-tech startups.

To get their thought processes started I argued that pharmacists won't survive. Awkwardly, a number of my students were planning on pursuing pharmacy in college. They were not pleased.

Betting on the future, pt2: Why pharmacists are doomed

In part 2 we explore why pharmacists are doomed in the 21st-century and in doing so get some clues for how to predict if a career is likely to survive the coming decades.

Previous: Part 1: Career guidance is more valuable than Huck Finn

Pharmacists are doomed. Well, at least in the United States. Rather than take my word for it, take a look at an article that was just published by Slate's primary technology writer, Farhad Manjoo: "Will robots steal your job?"

In it Manjoo argues that "Pharmacists will be some of the first highly skilled professionals who'll lose their jobs to machines." What I thought would be 5-10 years down the line already seems to be here; the pharmacists that he interviewed said "that the computers keep getting better, and that today's best robotic pharmacists are faster and less prone to error than the best human pharmacists." Whatever technology hurdles there are--hardware pill picking robots; reliable, exhaustive drug interaction databases--seem to have already been solved.

What is it about pharmacy or any other profession that makes it vulnerable? Manjoo articulates the factors quite well:

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Musings on Education: Technology vs Innovation

Educators are struggling to integrate technology into their classrooms, but we're losing sight of something much more important: Innovation.

The words "Technology" and "Innovation" are inextricably interrelated to the point where people tend to think of the two as being synonymous. I know I do. I mean if someone really asked us to articulate the difference between the two, we could come up with something reasonable. But, whatever--it's just a matter of semantics, right? Or so I thought.

I've just realized--and I mean "just" as in ten minutes ago--that if you really take the time to think about "Technology" vs "Innovation", there are huge, fundamental differences between the two terms. Fine, but why should you care? Here's my modest claim:

Understanding the difference between "Technology" and "Innovation" is what will save America.

Intrigued now?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

BitmapButton: A custom-skinnable ActionScript button

Source code for a simple, skinnable ActionScript button class that includes a really handy arbitrary data field.

Now that I'm a whole 20 days into learning how to code in Flash's ActionScript language, I'm getting pretty dang good.

Yesterday I needed to create a button for the Flash grading app, but I didn't want to use the default fl.controls.Button class that resembles standard HTML form buttons.

I wanted to be able to skin the button with my own Bitmaps that I would generate in Flash. I figured that the easiest way to do this would be to build my own custom button class. So I did:

Musings on Education: Last year's seniors begin college!

It's odd to refer to my seniors as being from "last year," considering that it was only three months ago! But most of them are now in their first couple of weeks of college and a number of them have been kind enough to tell me how my class helped them get ready--which was my #1 goal for their Senior English experience.

This is me beaming with pride--in myself as a teacher, but really for my students. As I told them in the last week of class, their lives, their successes, are my legacy. Whatever small role I played in leading them toward success is my contribution to this planet, what makes my life and my time here worthwhile.
"omg so i'm apologizing right now because i always complained when we had to do all that stuff with creating a thesis but today it actually paid off in my com class! my professor was so impressed with my example thesis! haha so i take back all those dirty looks!"
-Brianna W.
And, by the way, Brianna was the student who would tweet about how boring (or occasionally interesting?! Maybe?) my classes were!