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Kevin Currie-Knight RSS Feed (Greenville, NC)

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NukePak Dual USB High Speed 3.1A 15W Wall Travel Charger for Apple iPad, New iPad 3 4, iPhone 5 4s 4 3 3Gs, Samsung Motorola Android Smart Phones & Tablets UL Listed (Charger Only - No Lightning or Other Cables Included)
NukePak Dual USB High Speed 3.1A 15W Wall Travel Charger for Apple iPad, New iPad 3 4, iPhone 5 4s 4 3 3Gs, Samsung Motorola Android Smart Phones & Tablets UL Listed (Charger Only - No Lightning or Other Cables Included)
Offered by Hop Clover Products
Price: $14.99
4 used & new from $14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Good Portable Charger; Great for Travel, May 8, 2014
I have used this charger several times for travel now. It is very portable, and as my wife owns an ipad and I use android devices, this charger's capacity to charge both types of devices is a real plus. It is quite portable - bigger than some wall chargers but not by much. It also has a blue neon light that lights up when the device is properly plugged into the wall to administer a charge, helpful to make sure that your devices are actually charging properly.

Beyond the MOOC Hype: A Guide to Higher Education's High-Tech Disruption
Beyond the MOOC Hype: A Guide to Higher Education's High-Tech Disruption
Price: $4.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quick, but Through and Neutral, Overview of the Pro- and Anti-MOOC Hysteria!, May 7, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
As a writer for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Jeffrey Young has had much occasion to cover debates over Massive Open Online Courses, for better or worse, acryonymed as MOOCs. This is one of the few books I've read about the "MOOC debate" that doesn't really take a position, but is solely devoted to laying out the facts and the pro- and con- positions as neutrally as possible.

The book is themed around chapters that begin with questions: what is a MOOC? where did the idea for them come from? how are MOOCs monetized? how might MOOCs change higher education? Each chapter is a journalistic attempt to answer these questions using interviews with players involved in MOOCs, the author's own experience with them, and data culled from academic studies and other sources about MOOCs. Very thorough job. I've read several books about MOOCs and online education, and I can honestly say that it was reading this one where I now feel the most prepared to really understand the pros, cons, promises, and potential shortcomings of MOOCs.

On a more personal note, I am mostly for MOOCs as a disruptive innovation, and while the author does a very fair job of representing all sides, I came away very disappointed by some of the arguments against MOOCs that the author found. They don't work for everyone, but only really self-motivated learners so.... Okay, but does a traditional lecture hall work for everyone, and is that a good argument against the use of lecture halls? Well, MOOCs have a history of low completion rates by those who enroll. First, the author suggests this isn't quite as true as one gets on first blush, and second, that is to be expected when one offers a class that is low cost to sign up for. (It is still a concern, of course, but what is bad about allowing students to sign up for a MOOC that costs little to nothing and find out that it isn't for them... as opposed to doing that by paying full college tuition for a course?) And what about equality and intimacy of the classroom experience; surely we don''t want a system where the rich get liberal arts college and the poor get MOOCs. True, but the disruptive nature of MOOCs might mean that colleges now have to really get serious about offering an education worth the inflating sticker price.... and even if that were all MOOCs ever accomplished, it might be enough.

Anyhow, I found the book to be a really good overview. And just as it provoked me to think a bit more, I suspect it will provoke anyone else who comes to it to do the same. Beyond the MOOC Hype is a fairly short, but really good, read to understand the hysteria (both pro and con) surrounding MOOCs.

BelleSha Breathable Ultra Moisturizing Hand Gloves
BelleSha Breathable Ultra Moisturizing Hand Gloves
Offered by BellaSHA
Price: $13.99

4.0 out of 5 stars My Wife's New Favorite Accessory, May 6, 2014
I got these for my wife a few weeks ago. She wears them several nights a week, and she has noticed a difference in how soft her hands are (especially after such a long, dry winter). She just puts on some lotion, pulls the gloves on, and she's done. She tried to wear them during the day, but she works on the computer a lot, and she wasn't comfortable typing with them.

One note, though: My wife has large hands (long fingers), and she was pleasantly surprised that the gloves fit her. Usually one-size-fits-all gloves are slightly too small, but these were perfect. So if you have small hands, these might be too big for you.

These aren't a "miracle" product, but they do help when paired with hand lotion. And they're thin enough that they're comfortable to wear for long periods of time.

BelleSha Moisturizing Gel Heel Socks
BelleSha Moisturizing Gel Heel Socks
Offered by BellaSHA
Price: $8.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Works but Really Snug, May 6, 2014
I got these for my wife, who has dry, cracked heels. After wearing them 3x/week for a month, she has noticed that her heels are much softer (not perfect, but definitely an improvement). She still wears them once or twice a week. The main problem, though, is that they're extremely difficult for her to put on. She has wears a size 10 1/2 shoe, and these just aren't big enough. Plus, the texture of the gel makes it even harder to pull over the heel and into place. Once she gets them on, she can only wear them for 10-15 minutes because she's afraid they are cutting off her circulation.

So, they work great, but if you have big feet or ankles, prepare for some discomfort.

School Choice and the Question of Accountability: The Milwaukee Experience
School Choice and the Question of Accountability: The Milwaukee Experience
Price: $14.04

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and Balanced Review of Milwaukee Voucher System!, April 21, 2014
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This is a very comprehensive review of Milwaukee's (then) decade-old voucher system from all angles: how is it funded, does money follow the students, does competition make private and public schools better, what is the 'shopping for schools' experience like? What the authors find is that the "market logic" that many hoped would be put to work in Milwaukee - competition making all schools better, parents putting economic pressure on schools to improve - does not generally hold. But here is where the reviewer below is wrong: the authors conclude that this is not because voucher systems can't deliver, but that the Milwaukee program is structured in a way where 'market forces' can't really work as they should.

The authors do a really thorough job doing a chapter-by-chapter review of different aspects of the voucher program. First, they look at whether there is evidence that parents can put meaningful economic pressure on failing schools. They find that they can't; simply put, schools that accept vouchers accept too few of them for the voucher money to make much difference, and that there are enough other parents willing to find space in that school for schools to really be penalized for bad performance. The parents who DO seem to have more purchasing power are those who pay tuition without vouchers (because there are generally more of them than voucher parents.)

Next, the authors interview teachers in public schools to find out if public schools feel any real pressure to change owing to parents' choice to utilize vouchers. Not surprisingly, they find that the public schools feel little pressure because of the private schools; the funding structure essentially ensures that public schools' funding remains stable regardless of how many parents use vouchers.

Does money really follow the child? Not really, again, because there are so few voucher seats at any one school that the number of parents exiting any school is more than matched by parents who want to enter (and remember, there are new parents shopping for spots every year). So, while money does follow the student in a strict sense, schools can be relatively assured that since demand radically outstrips supply, they can rely on a steady stream of money regardless of what individual students do.

Last, is it relatively easy for parents to shop around? No. The authors conducted an experiment where researchers acted as voucher parents and went to different schools, taking notes of their experience. Schools, it seemed, made it fairly difficult to get information. When we shop for cars, dealers can't wait to give us info, and there are even websites where we can comparison shop on various vectors. Not so with voucher schools. One must make visits to separate schools, and ask specifically for specific information - not the easiest thing for busy or not-terribly-educated parents.

Last, the authors give some recommendations, but their recommendations are largely based on survey data given to Milwaukee (and Cleveland, another voucher city) residents. Questions like whether voucher schools should be compelled to make certain data freely available, and who should be charged with collecting it and enforcing the rule. My complaint here is the the authors don't so much make recommendations of their own based on their research, but want to refrain from being normative. But normative is exactly what they should be. It is a shame to get to the end of such a good study and not hear the AUTHORS' conclusions. I will let you read the book to hear the recommendations the authors come up with. (For my part, one that seemed obvious but was never addressed was (a) that the voucher programs need to be bigger, as the only way parents can exercise financial pressure is for demand not to radically outstrip supply via artificial laws mandating that it does. (b) the authors mention a strange feature of the voucher plan whereby all parents receive the same amount, and if a school's operating costs come in under the voucher amount, they must give any surplus back to the state. The authors note, correctly, that this leaves NO incentive (like exists in most markets) for schools to run more efficiently and compete on price. This rule needs to go, in my opinion.)

Anyway, this book is a fascinating read by two very balanced scholars. This book adds to the school choice debates by providing some really thorough data and insights about the benefits and shortcomings of the nation's longest-running voucher program.

The Solution Revolution: How Business, Government, and Social Enterprises Are Teaming Up to Solve Society's Toughest Problems
The Solution Revolution: How Business, Government, and Social Enterprises Are Teaming Up to Solve Society's Toughest Problems
by William D. Eggers
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $21.61
141 used & new from $0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Toward Inventive, Decentralized Solutions to Real Problems!, April 7, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Governments are not the only ones (or often the best ones) to solve social problems. In these pages, there is (well, at least anecdotal) proof. What business writers Eggers and MacMillan call "The Solution Revolution" is essentially a movement whereby nonprofits and for-profits are finding creative and sustainable ways to solve some of the world's most pressing social problems, from Recyclebank's methods of getting more people to recycle, to Rideshare and Zipcar's aid in solving congestion caused by motor transportation, to several companies' successful attempts to offer good, low cost, education to Africa's poor.

I will warn right now that this book is both somewhat unstructured and more of a rapid-fire profile of socially-conscious enterprises than an instructional book on "the solution revolution." The book organized around the "six principal features" of the "solution revolution: wavemakers (the players), disruptive technologies (they use to create innovation), business models that scale, impact currencies (currencies other than money, like social impact or reputation, used to motivate innovation), public value exchanges (innovative marketplaces), and solution ecosystems (that allow collaborators and competitors to converge on pressing social problems). But the execution is not there. Basically each chapter introduces the particular principal feature, talks about a few organizations and how they illustrate that feature, and then meander onto other organizations that may or may not illustrate that feature... all with VERY little explanation of how they leveraged that feature to create good results.

With that, my big criticism of the book, aside, we can talk about the good aspects. In relaying the stories of successful businesses and organizations succeeding at alleviating some of the world's pressing problems, Eggers and MacMillan permit and enable readers to imagine yet untapped possibilities. From companies who are offering low cost education to the world's poor (or just those in the "developed" world who can't afford higher ed's high price tag!) to companies finding ways to decrease government response time to natural disasters, the enterprising reader comes away with a heightened sense of optimism. These guys sure are good at telling the stories!

But, alas, this book is more inspirational (and in that sense, one could justly accuse a bit of Polyanna-ism) than instructive... unless one reads between the line and gleans the instruction solely from the book's examples. The book's sole "instructional" chapter - "How to Create Your Own Solution Revolution" - does little more than tells potential entrepreneurs to think "outside the box" and governments to be creative with how they tackle problems (think competitions for private solutions and crowdsourcing).

Be all this as it may, as long as you are reading this less as a how-to and more as an inspirational tale of how innovation can change lives, I highly recommend it.

How to Make Money Selling Drugs
How to Make Money Selling Drugs
Price: $3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A Stern Social Commentary Masquerading as a Career Guide!, March 31, 2014
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How to Make Money Selling Drugs is ostensibly a "career guide" for those who want to learn how to make money in the drug trade. Whether for lack of other meaningful options or just a desire to "get rich without really working," this film, featuring interviews from some successful drug dealers, law enforcement and others, is designed to look like a way to explain to outsiders how to get into the business.

But as the film goes on, you get the real message of social commentary: the reason the drug war is so lucrative is because that, far from decreasing the demand for drugs, the drug war increases demand and creates a system where everyone can strike it rich. Dealers benefit from drugs being kept illegal because they are more lucrative that way; police officers and police departments can make money both through confiscation of drug dealers' property but generous federal aid based on number of drug convictions; prisons can get rich over the boom to their business created by drug prohibition (which as we've said, does nothing to stop demand), etc.

This film was truly outstanding, though much of its message (and even some of the same interviewees) are reflected in an equally outstanding critique of the drug war, "The House I Live In." How to Make Money gains the edge, I think, because of its creativity of approach. Both films are must see's, though.

Colgate Total Advanced Pro-Shield Mouthwash, Wintermint Rush, 16.9 Fluid Ounce
Colgate Total Advanced Pro-Shield Mouthwash, Wintermint Rush, 16.9 Fluid Ounce
Offered by Quidsi Retail LLC
Price: $5.34
3 used & new from $5.34

3.0 out of 5 stars A Very Strong Minty Mouthwash (Not Typical for Most Alcohol-Free Moutwashs)., March 21, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
It is hard to get excited about mouthwash, but for me, it is especially hard to get excited about alcohol-free mouthwash. I tend to prefer antiseptic to antibacterial mouthwash (this one being the latter), but I was asked to try it.

Part of the reason I am skeptical of non-alcoholic mouthwashs, frankly, is that the taste on many of them just isn't very strong. I want a strong mint, and most non-alcohiolic mouthwash I've tried is rather wimpy. This Colgate Total Advanced Pro-Shield Wintermint, though, is surprisingly bold in flavor. I could feel the mint in my mouth for about an hour after I used it (something I usually only get from Listerine or Act antiseptic mouthwash).

As far as really cleaning my teeth, I'm afraid I am going to stick with the alcohol-infused antiseptic mouthwash, mostly because my problem is not bad breath, but wanting to prevent gingivitis and the like. But if you want a good antibacterial (to head off bad breath and kill bacteria without drying your mouth out with alcohol, I would recommend the Colgate, particularly if you like a bold flavor!

One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life
One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life
by Mitch Horowitz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.44
64 used & new from $7.41

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars From Phinneas Quimby to The Secret!, March 21, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Before reading One Simple Idea, I had no real idea about the long and deep history of the positive thought movement. This is a very readable book (informative, but not scholarly in tone) about a chain of thinkers devoted to the idea that thoughts can have a material effect on the brain. Familiar with Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People? Rhonda Byrne's Oprah-fueled success The Secret? Here are the origins.

Really, it starts with a New England "spiritual teacher" named Phinneas Quimby, who was convinced that thoughts can help heal physical (and of course mental) disease. Once he began seeing patients and developing a following, it didn't take long for others to expand on or come to the same thoughts, particularly those like Mary Baker Eddy and the Christian Science movement (about whom the author recounts a very public controversy about how much intellectual debt she and the movement owed to Quimby. Followers of Christian Science sometimes left, establishing their own variation on the positive thinking movement, and within several decades, a movement was born. Prentice Mulford, Norman Vincent Peale, Dale Carnegie, Benny Hinn? They were all figures arising from this history (and the author profiles the thought and lives of all of these).

But the book is not just as historical profile of a movement, but a reflection on how the movement has affected larger culture. One chapter ruminates on how the positive thinking movement made a deep influence on Stokely Carmichael and the "black power" movement. Another chapter discusses the positive thinking elements of the Reagan revolution and presidency (and its influence on politics at large during the tumultuous 80's.)

The last chapter - "But Does It work?" - is more of a philosophical rumination on whether these ideas are any good. The author (who has a personal connection with the positive thinking movement) is skeptical of some of the ethics of a movement that, in effect, places blame on people for their individual failures or lack of success (because if thinking it achieves it, a lack of achieving it means you just didn't want hard enough). For my tastes, one thing missing from this book was a bit of the history of skepticism toward the movement; occasionally, characters are introduced who are skeptics, but not very often. I think more of this would have offered a bit more of a counter-narrative to fit with the overall narrative. Also, probably because many of the characters espoused very similar beliefs and had very similar career paths (a boom for a few years and then a sharp fall-out in popularity), the book did get a bit repetitive.

All in all, though, this book gave me a lot of info into the history of the positive thinking movement that I just didn't know. It introduced an intriguing cast of characters and did so in a very readable and relatable way.

In Schools We Trust: Creating Communities of Learning in an era of Testing and Standardization
In Schools We Trust: Creating Communities of Learning in an era of Testing and Standardization
Offered by Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Price: $16.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In Defense of Trusting Communities Via Small Schools!, March 20, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Deborah Meier is one thoughtful educator. I first encountered this book in graduate school (in a class on Education Leadership) and, to my surprise, ended up coming back to it again and again. At first, I wasn't terribly blown away by Meier's arguments and the nuances in them, but the book did grow on me.

Meier's concern is that the "stakeholders" (my word, not hers) in schools do not trust and form relationships with each other enough. Students don't come to know and trust teachers, teachers and parents don't come to know and trust the other, and teachers often do not come to know and seek feedback from other teachers. Meier's suggestion (and I agree) is that this is largely because we quite often seek large solutions to problems: learning standards that apply uniformly state-wide, power centralized into higher and higher up political channels, and creating more standardized approaches.

Maybe what is needed is actually a bit of flexibility and a return of schools to (what social theorist Kirpatrick Sale argues) a "human scale." For teachers to attend and respond to parents (rather than seeing them as just one more nuisance and thing to worry about), maybe schools need to be of a smaller size that allows families and teachers to be a bit more flexible. For students to trust teachers, maybe teachers need a bit more authority to make decisions so that students can see their teacher as someone other than a rule-follower that has no real discretion or authority. (It is hard and maybe superfluous to trust who you know doesn't have authority to make decisions.)

Utopian? Well, Meier deals with some of those objections. If we create small schools that have discretion and authority over their own budgets and methods, doesn't the success of any school depend on the people? Well, yes, but a small school approach is probably more likely to attract good people and bring out the good work in people than a system where everything is mapped out by the state and teachers just follow orders. (Don't we all do better work when we have a bit of discretion on how to do it?) What about accountability? Meier's answer: accountability is as or more effective when it is down to the consumer than up to state bureaucrats. Et cetera.

Alongside all this, Meier goes into explanations of how small schools can and may be better able to deal with sensitive issues of race, class, and ethnic differences among students and "stakeholders," as well as one of the best non-technical discussions of why standardized tests don't quite measure what we think they do. (Long and short: norm-referenced tests are kind of circular and convoluted in the way they design and select questions for the test, and criterion-referenced tests leave open very thorny questions of how we decide what emphasis to put on what knowledge and "what every fourth grader should know." And either way, the tests are almost unavoidably designed with cultural bias and questions that could lead legitimately to more than one feasible answer.)

There are a few things I wish Meier would have addressed. First, Meier doesn't address the seemingly obvious concern many would have that small schools that all do things a bit differently may have a difficult time with the idea of equality. (Doesn't it sort of mean that we return to days where the schooling I can get is dependent on where I live?) Second, given Meier's love of decentralization (a love I share) and her allowance for some sort of school choice, she doesn't really address much about why she thinks school choice should be confined to public schools and warns against "privatization"? (She says something about this in a very brief final chapter, but it needs more unpacking, especially given governments' seeming penchant for centralizing school systems over time.) And there are a few others.

But this is a book I would certainly recommend to educational leaders and scholars, largely because Meier is so good at articulating her concerns and her vision for how we could design school systems differently.

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