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I’ve been playing around with mirroring content on my iPad2 to my classroom LCD projector (with an Apple TV connected).

But now I’m becoming greedy.  I also want my MacBook Air to mirror its desktop content as well.  Why didn’t Apple support AirPlay for Mac OS X when it was released last summer?  That would simply be too convenient to connect a computer to a projector, eliminating the need for 25+ feet of plenum-rated cables running through our classroom ceilings.

Coming this summer, it looks as if I might get my wish.  Mac’s next OS upgrade – OS X Mountain Lion – will feature AirPlay support.

Now that this dream will become a reality, I am still not completely satisfied.  Why can’t we get LCD Projectors with AirPlay support?

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In the latest issue of Newsweek, Jonathan Alter discusses education reform in an article entitled “Obama’s No Brainer on Education.”

While making a few sound points (teachers should focus on student learning over job security, assessment can be effective and beneficial, etc), Alter suggests an oversimplified solution on how to fix education in the U.S. – education should be run like a business.  Furthermore, Alter suggests that Obama adopt this concept in his campaign.

Let’s not kid ourselves – education is not a business.  We cannot comfortably indoctrinate a business model onto our educational system if we believe that all children have a right to learn.  Period.

If we can suggest that education can be run like a business, then why stop there?  Why not run schools like we run the military?  Or like our health care system – oh wait, that’s a bad example.

While outcomes do matter in each scenario (schools, businesses, military, etc), the means in which they are achieved are vastly different.  In the real world, businesses fail and wars are lost.  The engine of competition that drives these entities is in opposition to the fundamental ideals upon which universal education is based.

I still believe that teaching is more than just a job.  It’s a calling.  It’s a belief that there is power in learning.  It’s a hope in our future.  In order to retain these sentiment in thousands of educators, we cannot simply treat a school as warehouse or office space.

When Obama revisits educational reform, it would help him to keep in mind the ideals of public education – and not those of the business world.  Education deserves to be evaluated and reformed in its own light.

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In the recent issue of Edutopia (Nov/Dec 2007, Vol. 3, # 8), Mitch Martin describes about how a good teacher must be bad at something to be good at teaching (Mr. Martin’s Oopses, page 10). I must admit – I’ve been thinking about this article a lot lately in both teaching and beyond.

Martin describes his attempts at learning how to play guitar, in how he had juggle practicing with his family and job – all the while feeling the exact frustrations and distractions that his students experience in his classroom.

After reading that passage, I instantly remembered back to my student teaching seminar, when the professor asked us “how can you relate to students who don’t care about getting good grades?” Coming from a small liberal arts college in the Midwest, most of us in the room were highly concerned with our grades. Getting grades was easy – empathizing with our students was hard.

After many years, I think that Martin offers at least a possible solution – put yourself in your students’ shoes. Translation: try something new where you might have to struggle a bit to succeed. Martin believes that “the best teachers are the ones who have struggled and succeeded.” I am reminded of a wise colleague of mine (now retired) who always told me that any good idea always starts with a LOT of fumbling and error.

So I challenge you all to make this your New Year’s resolution. Try something new – something in which you may have to struggle a bit in order to succeed. Not only will it enrich your life, but you’ll be able to better empathize with your students and it will make you a better teacher.

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