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Topic: Geometry with Geography
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Kirby Urner

Posts: 4,713
Registered: 12/6/04
Geometry with Geography
Posted: Apr 22, 2009 3:54 PM
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I spent most of yesterday with the combined GIS crews of
several cities and counties, already Python fans because
of ESRI (the GIS giant) and therefore open to hearing from
one of the horses (as in "horse's mouth") i.e. from me in
a 10:30 - noon time slot.[1]

As you'll see from the slides, we're continuing work on
our test pilot studies, where we take kids from
successful alternative tracks, such as Caleb Gattegno's,
and track them forward in some promising direction.

Cambridge may be thinking in terms of JavaScript, but
here in Portland it's more about Python, at least on the
server. JavaScript runs great against the DOM, which
we're happy to teach about as well, but maybe in English
class (or French class if working with Andre's group --
he's a university president and new web wrangler for
our edu-sig page, recently revamped under his direction).[2]

My purpose at GIS in Action was also to scope out how this
17 year old regional conference handles town-gown
relations. Pycon is very business oriented, given most
people making their fortunes with it haven't shared much
with universities about what they're up to. Google is
far more forthcoming, in behaving more like an academic
institution right out of the box, even though it's private
sector, what with Summer of Code and lots of open source
projects. Google App Engine is a friendly host to Python
source, but again, that needn't be open. Dr. Chuck's
upcoming book on the that engine (a collaboration) will
explain more how that works (he's mentioned in my slides
as well).

As I explained to the GIS folks, our political strategy is
to invite various states, such as Oregon, to accept a
"discrete standards" track on a par with the musty dusty
one that currently dominates thanks mostly to cronyism
(talking about calcified calculator-intensive calculus,
not what Silicon Forest is sponsoring, but other
industries apparently need a lot of these skills).

Given the public school system is for all taxpayers, not
just an elite few who love continuity, we're having
little trouble making our pitch. True, some holdout math
departments maybe think digital maths spell trouble, but
I sense we're mostly working in cahoots, as no one wants
to spend half their career doing remedial stuff, student
or teacher. So let's nip it in the bud and start over?
At least in some pilot studies, that's what we're trying
(talking about Algebra First type stuff).

Those of you following more closely will recall our
rhetoric also includes the "all schools are charter
schools" plank, meaning it's just a matter of "when" not
"what" i.e. every school needs a charter of some kind,
a mandate, an authorization from state or other entity.
They differ in terms of boilerplate, but LEP High is no
less a public school that Madison, Marshall, Cleveland
or Grant.

Our place based curriculum is not a novel concept in that
all education in these parts used to be environmental in
nature, talking 10K years of indigenous education
services, provided by tribal elders. But it pays to gussy
it up in Anglo edu-speak, which is what flies with the
legislature. Local reservations may be among the first
beneficiaries, not coincidentally given (a) the
familiarity of "place based" approaches and (b) the
natural market for supermarket and discrete / quantum math
(what you need to manage a household, plan and run a
casino, branch out into other investments over time).
Python is quite popular in the financial community, not
just in sciences and engineering.

Of course I had no problem getting this audience to join
me in wishing something better for our USA students than
mere calculators. Talk about getting left behind! The
GIS community uses hand-held devices, true, but this
highly graphical discipline is all about big databases
and large flatscreens. Not every school can afford the
latter, but PostgreSQL is free, as are the OpenGIS
products, so it's really just a matter of supplying
missing skills, not budgeting for a lot of applications.
Many schools will roll their own mashups, as a matter of
school spirit.[4]


[1] the conference is still going on as of this writing.
Here were my pictures from yesterday:


[3] Institute for Science, Engineering and Public Policy
(ISEPP) was on my Pycon nametag this year. The flooding
of Celilo Falls in 1957 is one of the key events in our
curriculum, with lots of mathematics around grid maps, the
wattage needs of Gorge dam clients (such as Google).


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