Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fantasy Football Results for the Week That Was

My son is in a Fantasy Football League (isn't everyone?) and he writes the summary of each week's standings for their League.  I was told that he had a really, really bad week last week.  Here's what he wrote, and if you are a Fantasy Footballer, you will understand it.  If not, posts will be back to normal tomorrow.

Making History by Steve Nikodym, Chandler, Arizona

History was never really my thing in school, but when it comes to sports, I'm not too bad at spewing forth large vats of utterly useless information and meaningless factoids...that being said, you should know that history was made in our league this week folks, and I wanted everyone to share in this record breaking event that will no doubt go down in the annals of fantasy football lore forever...but first, here's a pop quiz for you: Take a look at this list and guess what these sporting events all have in common, culminating in our own recent record breaker... 

High School Basketball, 1990 - Morningside 102, South Torrance 24 (At the Half!) Before South Torrance took their ball and went home, Lisa Leslie went Wilt Chamberlain and scored 100 herself...yes, in a half... 

Soccer, 2001 - Australia 31, American Samoa 0...In a World Cup, Samoa didn't qualify...wait a minute, did you know we had an AMERICAN Samoa soccer team?? Oh, that's right, obviously we don't... 

Cricket, 2007 - Sri Lanka 201, Kenya 27...I know nothing about cricket other than it can last for days, but apparently, a 174 run margin is pretty good. The next closest blowout was when South Africa defeated Scotland in a 130 run three day nail biter... 

NASCAR, 1965 - Ned Jarrett finished 14 LAPS ahead of 2nd place Buck Baker...only 15 of the 44 cars that started the race finished however, actually, that doesn't sound so much like a race, it sounds more like a modern day morning commute... 

Pro Football, 1940 - Chicago Bears 73, Washington Redskins 0...The Redskins had called the Bears "quitters" and "cry babies" earlier in the season, thus becoming the first team to provide what we now refer to as "bulletin board material"...on a side note, no one at the game that day was offended by the Redskins name, just their play... 

Horse Racing, 1973 - Secretariat won the triple crown, setting records in all three races...he won the Belmont by 31 lengths...the literally left-in-the-dust losers were all immediately shipped off to some guy named Elmer... 

Ice Hockey, 2008 - Slovakia 82, Bulgaria 0...It was 31 - 0 after the first period...eventually even the Zamboni had a hat trick... 


Fantasy Football, 2013 - Multiple Scoregasms 127, LGOP 49...Not only did LGOP contribute to his scoregasmic jackstomping by piling up a putrid league low 49 points, he also became the first team in the modern Fantasy Football era to have a starting quarterback AND a team defense each score a -1 point in a 60 minute game...UNPRECEDENTED!! This immediately prompted "Looks Good On Paper" to change his team name to WIDOPUWEGHOSARMS, which roughly translates to "Whoever I Draft Or Pick Up Will Eventually Get Hurt Or Suck And RUIN MY SEASON!!" 

Weekly Game Ball: In a VON down by the MILLER, a.k.a. Matt Foley, gave himself a motivational speech a few weeks ago and it worked...he announced he was ready to make a run at the playoffs...PLAYOFFS?!? and is doing just that, winning three in a row by scouring the weekly waiver wire and doing a little wheeling and dealing on the side...When asked if this was the key to his surprising turnaround, he replied, "Nah, I just promised my players that if they win I'll give 'em my lifetime supply of GOVERNMENT CHEESE!!" 

The WTF Happened? award: WIDOPUWEGHOSARMS...49 points, another starting WR lost for the year, and bookend -1's on the scoreboard...WTF?!?!...enough said... 

Ca$h Update: High Point Game: You know - 184 

MVP: #18 - 193 

Semi-good luck this week, play MEDIUM, and... stay hydrated my friends...

Thursday, October 24, 2013

It's Time to Flip It!

Normally, I quote relevant sections from articles that I find in other publications, but this one is worth reading all the way through.  If you have children in school, or that will be entering school soon, you really need to read this.  I hope this is an innovation that may save all the kids that just get passed through our schools, never really learning.  And the super learners won't get bored, because they will be able to challenge themselves every day.

In traditional schooling, time is a constant and understanding is a variable. A fifth-grade class will spend a set number of days on prime factorization and then move on to study greatest common factors — whether or not every student is ready.  But there is another way to look at schooling — through the lens of a method called “mastery learning,” in which the student’s understanding of a subject is a constant and time is a variable; when each fifth grader masters prime factorization, for instance, he moves on to greatest common factors, each at his own pace.

Mastery learning is not a new idea. It was briefly popular in the 1920s, and was revived by Benjamin Bloom in his paper “Learning for Mastery” in 1968. It has shown dramatic success — compilations of studies can be found here and here.

One of the advantages of mastery learning is that the student, not the teacher, leads — and we know that people learn far better when they are actively involved. The teacher provides materials, tools and constant support. Students set their own goals and manage their own time.

In a traditional classroom, the teacher must aim the lecture at the middle, leaving the faster learners bored and the slower ones lost. Differentiation and personalization are big challenges. But the mastery system allows each student to learn at her own pace.

Mastery also rewards students for actual learning. A student cannot simply turn in a shoddy paper, take the D and move on. If she turns in shoddy work, she can’t move on. She has to keep trying until she demonstrates she fully understands.

Despite these advantages, mastery learning never caught on, mainly because it was a nightmare for teachers. One problem was how to do direct instruction; a teacher can’t give five different lectures in one class. The other was how to test students. Multiple versions of a test were needed so students couldn’t pass them to friends who would be taking them later.

But some teachers are now reviving mastery learning. What is making it feasible is the flipped classroom, a method I wrote about in my most recent column.

In a flipped classroom, teachers make videos of their lectures introducing new concepts and assign them as homework. That frees up precious class time to work directly with students on projects, exercises or problem sets — the stuff that students would traditionally do at home. Now instead, of struggling alone, students can do the most important work with a teacher or peers who can help.

(Incidentally, many of those who commented in response to my flipped classroom column asked: where’s the reading? The answer is: where it always was. Students still read for homework. But in a flipped classroom, they won’t do problems at home any more — they’ll watch the lectures instead.)

Thousands of teachers are experimenting with flipping their classrooms in elementary schools, law schools and everything in between. Jon Bergmann, a former chemistry teacher who used flipped learning and now teaches others about it, lists 15,000 members in the Flipped Learning Network.

But a handful of innovative teachers are venturing further, using the flipped classroom to employ mastery learning — “flipped mastery,” as Bergmann and his fellow chemistry teacher Aaron Sams call it in their book, “Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day.” Since the flipped classroom eliminates the whole-class lecture, they’ve realized, it has also eliminated the reason for students to work at a uniform pace.

Tim Kelly, who teaches math at a high school in Baumholder, Germany, which serves children of United States military families, heard about the idea when he sat next to Sams on a bus trip when they both won the Presidential Award for Mathematics and Science Teaching.  When Kelly came back from the ceremony in December, 2010, he talked excitedly about flipped mastery with his colleagues Corey Sullivan and Mike Brust.  That’s crazy,” said Sullivan; it sounded radical and chaotic. “No way should we ever do that.”

But as spring approached they decided to try it. “We had some struggles with our kids,” Sullivan said. They figured it couldn’t hurt to try something new.

They worked around the clock through spring break to design the course and create materials. “We put in 40 to 60 hours outside school just for a unit,” Sullivan said — and there were 12 units per course. They had to make all the videos; such a quick switch was only possible because they divided the work among them. (They now call themselves the Algebros. They post all their lessons and materials online; feel free to borrow.)

The fourth Algebro, Spencer Bean, who also won the Presidential Award, had stuck with the traditional way. But then his daughter went through Kelly’s flipped mastery Algebra 1 class, and he was converted. “Here I am with this award and I’m going to throw away everything I’ve been doing that I just got an award for,” he said.

Setting up a flipped mastery class is a second full-time job, and the method can also demand more teacher time before and after class to make sure every student gets personal attention. But teachers also say that it saves them time on the paperwork. Tom Driscoll, who uses flipped mastery to teach history at Putnam High School in Putnam, Conn., notes that he no longer has to write daily lesson plans.

Another advantage: less (or no) student work to grade at home. “We stopped grading papers in the sense of taking them home and having stacks and feeling guilty for not doing them,” said Bergmann. “Everything they turned in we went over in class. There’s a lot of teaching in the grading process.“ After the student takes the test or turns in a project designed to demonstrate mastery, the teacher sits with the student and goes over the work, providing immediate feedback. Bloom called this formative assessment. (There’s no reason teachers couldn’t do this in any classroom. But it’s far less feasible when 30 kids are taking the test together.)

“There’s my one-on-one time with students,” said Brian Gervase, who uses flipped mastery in his pre-calculus class at Downers Grove North High School in Downers Grove, Ill. “Let’s look over the work together and make sure you understand this particular skill.”

A typical day in a flipped mastery classroom usually starts with a brief group activity and poll: who needs extra help or is ready for a mastery check?  Then the noise begins — “a 10-ring circus,” Bergmann and Sams call it. “Kids are coming at you all day long,” said Kelly. “The first day, I got dizzy a couple of times.” Driscoll made a three-minute video version of a typical class, which you can see here.

Some teachers offer students a menu of learning activities to choose from, and another menu of ways to demonstrate mastery — that way, a student who does not test well, for example, could still show her understanding. Driscoll allows students to complete three from a list of choices, including writing an essay, giving a speech, having a debate or designing a video game.

In math, multiple-choice tests are more common. Bergmann uses Moodle software, which creates at random a different test each time from a pool of questions the teacher writes in advance (here is a tutorial on using it). A student who can’t show that she grasps the concepts must do more work and then retake the assessment.

Driscoll structures his class like a video game — it’s a post-apocalyptic 2045, and students have to study different civilizations to come up with a way for society to rebuild itself. “You have to complete certain ‘missions’ to move to the next level — some are teams, some are solo,” he said. Sound corny? “Engagement has gone through the roof,” he said. (Driscoll and his fellow Putnam social studies teacher Brian Germain have a lot of creative ideas — their Web sites are here and here.)

It is too early to have formal proof of the effectiveness of this iteration of flipped mastery, and its use is still too limited. (The Flipped Learning Network forum on mastery learning currently has 267 members.)

But teachers who use flipped mastery claim that its efficiency allows most students to do a year’s work in much less time. They build in extra units for advanced students or work with them on independent projects.

They say it’s also a better way to teach slower learners, giving them more teacher attention and personalized instruction. Kelly said that at Baumholder, the math department tries to put struggling students in the flipped mastery class. “As soon as we flipped, we noticed that students’ focus really improved,” said Kelly. “Math teachers get some really bad grades, but that doesn’t happen anymore. Maybe it takes longer, a little more practice, but they can do it. They’re not bombing.”
“Before, some kids would do the minimum amount of work possible,” said Bean. “They’d get by with a C-. Now they know they have to master it to be able to move on. The same kids stay after school to work with me on assignments.”

The truly struggling students might not get through a year’s material. But Brust notes that in a traditional class, they would be learning far less. “A kid who got a D would pass, but he was set up for failure for the rest of his career,” said Brust. “Now it may take longer, but when you’re done you have a solid foundation.”

Tina Rosenberg won a Pulitzer Prize for her book “The Haunted Land: Facing Europe’s Ghosts After Communism.” She is a former editorial writer for The Times and the author, most recently, of “Join the Club: How Peer Pressure Can Transform the World” and the World War II spy story e-book “D for Deception.” 

Hey, Baby! Want to Party?

Friends of my children have been known to brag, "Oh, My God, we got so wasted this weekend." And these are girls.  I am concerned about my grandson who will be attending one of the nation's "party schools."  Alcoholism is in his family, and I don't know if he takes that seriously enough.  In other words, drinking - often to excess - is a problem for both girls and boys of a certain age.  One of those problems is alcohol's ability to lessen inhibitions leads to sex.  We all know that because, if you are honest, we have all been there.  When does having sex become rape?  This article from today's NY times says it well.

Nothing Liberating About Being Wasted 
By Koren Zailckas 
Koren Zailckas is the author of "Smashed, Story of a Drunken Girlhood,'' and, most recently, the novel "Mother, Mother.'' She also visits colleges as an alcohol education lecturer 
Alcohol is the No. 1 date-rape drug. That’s not victim-blaming, or anti-women (let the record show a large portion of male victims have been drinking at the time of their sexual assaults too). It’s simply a fact. The vast majority of campus rapes happen when the rapist, the victim or both are drunk. 

And so alcohol education is essential for students of every gender. 
Even when willing partners are sober, communication about sex can be fuzzy. We don’t sit down and make a Venn diagram of what we want and don’t want. Once heavy drinking enters the picture, all nuance disappears. Smashed people converse without any give and take and precious little listening, shouting toward each other as if on separate mountaintops in a heavy fog. 

In my time as a 19-year-old binge drinker, it was impossible to even be aware of anyone else around me, let alone gauge what they wanted from me in an intimate context. Blacked out, browned out, burned out, I couldn’t make even my most primal needs known. It was hard enough to slur “must sleep” or “I’m going to get sick,” let alone “I’m a virgin” or “I’m just not that into you” or even just, “No!” 
Date rape is wrong no matter if the victim is sober or passed out. But it’s important to remember that it can occur when someone schemes to have sex with a near-corpse or when two drunken people drift into a situation that one of them does not want.  
Binge drinking, whether we’re male, female, straight, gay or one of many shades of gray, dulls our senses and slows reaction times, making it harder to identify our comfort zones until we’re frightfully outside of them. 
But date rape, devastating as it was, was only one horrible consequence of my college habits. I felt degraded by not knowing how to feel comfortable in a crowd without a drink in my hand, not knowing how to meet new people without a proffered shot, not knowing how to express romantic interest without slurring sweet nothings in some poor boy’s ear. 

Some may talk about the freedom to drink as heavily as the guys. But in my experience, getting blind drunk was the opposite of liberating. By the time I quit drinking at 24, I felt emotionally like I was 14, the same age at which I’d had my first drink.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Less Testosterone in the Board Room, Please

Several days ago, I wrote that what we need is more women in government, and apparently, in business, too.  In an op-ed piece in the new York Times, Nicholas Kristof criticizes Twitter for not having any-ANY-women on its Board of Directors.  Here's what he had to say:

"Twitter is on schedule to go public as a company next month, a sparkling symbol of innovation, technology — and stale, old thinking reflected in a board of seven white men.

Twitter users are reportedly more likely to be female, so it’s bizarre to have no women on the board. But the main reason to add women — not just on Twitter’s board, but in politics, business and the news media — isn’t just equity. This shouldn’t be seen as a favor to women but as a step that would be good for all of us.

In business, there’s abundant evidence that inclusion of women in senior positions is linked to better results. Catalyst, a research organization, found that the companies with the most women board directors earned a 26 percent higher return on invested capital than the companies with the least women.

In the recent government shutdown debacle, some of the first efforts at hammering out a deal to end the crisis came from a group of women in the Senate who were disheartened by the political paralysis. Time magazine’s headline online was: “Women Are the Only Adults Left in Washington.”

In the midst of the 2008 economic cataclysm, there was introspection about whether the overwhelmingly male leadership in finance led to a macho culture of excessive risk-taking. A British study found that trading behavior reflected testosterone levels in employees’ saliva: The more testosterone, the more risky the trades."

So, my DH is probably right again.  He always says that if it makes sense financially, companies will do it - whatever "it" is.  Maybe we will seen more women leading Fortune 500 companies and then running for office.  I know I will be tempted to vote for any female candidate after this recent political season.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A-Snorkeling We Will Go!

Finally made a decision about our next trip.  We are going with Bill and Verda to Belize in March.  Belize has a lot to recommend it: they speak English, the second longest barrier reef in the world is there, the weather is mild (we're avoiding the hurricane months), and the main dish in Belize is my favorite - rice and beans!  The primary reason we chose to go to Belize, however, is the cost of the trip. We can fly round trip from Phoenix for under $400 each. That amount would barely purchase one ticket to Europe.  It's such a shame that airline travel has become prohibitively expensive for a lot of people.  My son and his wife were planning a trip to London for Christmas, but have switched destinations to Mexico because of the airfare.  Oh well, London's loss, Mexico's gain.