When High School Means a Build-It-Yourself Education

Jon Bullock was the principal of Redmond High School, in Redmond, Oregon, when he sat down at his kitchen table with colleagues eight years ago to hatch the beginning of an idea for what would become Redmond Proficiency Academy (RPA).

Jon Bullock, Executive Director of RPA

Bullock was a product of public schools and a strong believer in them. They had worked for him, he told me recently, rattling off the names of four of his early public school teachers in his small lumber mill hometown of Roseburg, Oregon.  He described how those teachers changed his life and propelled him toward the dreams of college and a professional career.

But, Bullock continued, with obvious discomfort at saying it, despite his belief in public schools and admiration for the people who pour their efforts into them, he had come to believe they are not designed for all children. In 10 years of public school teaching and administration, he explained, he had seen a model of education in which swaths of students were not thriving.

Not thriving is a broad term. Applied to the 800 RPA students, it covers many definitions. There are very smart, talented kids who are not “enriched” by a traditional school environment. Some students are under-challenged or just bored; others are at high risk of dropping out. And there are others who just need a personal pace, to slow down and take more time to show their learning, or to accelerate to stay engaged.

The main building of RPA, a former office building in downtown Redmond, Oregon. Other school buildings are nearby places of business converted to classroom space. (Deborah Fallows)

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Bullock and his kitchen-table colleagues wanted to build a program that was loose enough to encourage each student to work in their own way to best suit their own learning. This means that students have great liberty to choose the classes they want, even to show up at class or not, to find a groove of learning they’re comfortable with, and to have their success be measured in terms of proficiency or mastery for the content and skills.

Bullock is now the Executive Director of RPA, and he often speaks about the school on his weekly podcasts.

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RPA believes that when students take responsibility and “ownership” of the process and content of their education, they are more likely to  succeed.

T-shirt with RPA word cloud

Of course there are requirements to meet before students can graduate. And there is a steep learning curve, just like there is for college students, when they discover that not attending class can have consequences.

There are also safety nets built into the system, including January and June terms, which offer a chance to make up uncompleted work, but also offer the opportunity to pursue some of the many electives the school offers. These range from wilderness preparedness and “remote first aid,” to the science of breadmaking.

Class prep for a wilderness and remote first-aid course

The magic underlying this kind of education—and this should come as no surprise as it is pretty much the magic in all education—is the teachers. The word I heard a lot around RPA to describe the teachers is passion. Bullock looks for teachers with passion for their subjects or even more broadly for their lives, and who can translate that passion into a love of learning for their students.

So how does this work? Teachers at RPA have a tremendous amount of flexibility to design their courses. For example, an ex-policeman teaches history through the lens of his passion, which is the evolution of mobs and gangs in the U.S.; his class is called “mobology.”

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We got a further taste of RPA’s culture when we went to a show that was “of and by students” at RPA and other local schools. It was held in the historic Tower Theatre in downtown Bend, Oregon, just down the road from Redmond. The show was billed as a production “where TEDx meets teens.” Two of the performers, one a teacher and one a student, gave us a sense of what passionate teaching looks like and how passion translates to students.

Flyer for the “Limitless” program put on by RPA students and teachers, and other local talent, at the restored Tower Theatre in Bend. (Facebook)

One of the RPA teachers, Brandy Berlin, a humanities teacher and professional yoga instructor, engaged the entire theater audience in a mini yoga session, to demonstrate how she engages her class.  She says that she uses yoga as part of the students’ “social and emotional education,” something she says they desperately need. She asks them to sweat, breathe, laugh, and even cry. The audience, from students to grandparents, seemed understandably reluctant at first, but by the end of her demo was breathing as one, eyes closed, sitting with perfect posture in theatre seats, and I would say, transported in the moment.

Later, Wyatt Carrell, a Bend High School student with natural stage presence, showed masterful magic skills in making things disappear, appear, move, and change, and talked about his lifelong love of magic. He left the audience with no doubt that he had become a happy, skilled, and successful young man already. Here is a video of his performance at TEDxBend earlier this year:

The hardest part for me to understand about RPA is the final step, measuring a student’s proficiency.  What does it mean to “measure proficiency?” Without tests, how do you tell if a student has mastered material, especially in a class like English or history?

I talked with George Hegarty, a humanities teacher with over 15 years of experience in a variety of high schools before he came to RPA  three years ago. In explaining how a young student might reach proficiency and what that says about a student’s ability to learn, he emailed this example:

Students who struggle with their ability to construct thesis-based arguments about a novel, poem, or play in an English class have taken walks with their teachers and shared their ideas and analyses of the texts while the teacher took notes. The teacher, then, sits down with the students and helps them see the structured nature of their thinking, and helps them convert the notes into an outline for a paper.

This process highlights that education follows a growth trajectory rather than a “one and done” pass or fail mentality, and we have found that it encourages … students to immerse themselves in particular subject areas rather than simply “survive” Humanities classes.

I commented that this kind of teaching sounded like it involved more individual attention than could be done in traditional public schools. He replied, with a small chuckle, if it would be possible to say it took about 10,000 percent more individual attention.

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During our travels around the country with American Futures, I have by now seen many different kinds of schools with many different visions and styles. From rural high schools in the desert and the farmland, to public boarding schools focused on high end humanities or sciences; skill-tracked schools from which students graduate with job-ready skills in high-end trades like nursing or mechanics; and schools where one-by-one kids are plucked out of traditional programs and nurtured along paths from certain failure to college track. Yet, just when I thought I had about seen it all, I ran into yet another model, the RPA.

Burglar Alarm and Home Security System, A Necessity in Every Home

The world today is very much different from it was many years ago. People are already divided into several classes, depending on their way of life and how much money they are making. And this is one main reason why there are many crimes spreading in any part of the world.

Robbery, burglaries, you name it and it’s all over the newspapers. No one is exempted from these crimes, and the least possible thing that many people can do is to protect themselves, their families. This is probably the time for you to have a home security system; and the burglar alarm is the most common device for this job.

You may have second thoughts about getting a home security system; well you don’t need to think twice. The time to act is now, especially with all the crimes going about in almost any community. You don’t want to put your family’s life at stake.

A very good way to protect your homes and your families is through a home security system. Once you have this alarm, burglars and/or robbers will hesitate to enter your homes.

Compared to burglar alarms a few years back, home security systems nowadays are highly advanced and more sophisticated. These gadgets are especially designed to protect your homes from any harm or threats.

Ever wondered how burglar alarms work? Well, it usually has control units and interconnected sensors. That is why it can detect burglary, fire, or any intrusion in your home’s premises. Oftentimes, alarm systems range from the noisemakers to the more complex ones. Once the system detects intrusion, the home security system will send a signal either to the local police or to the monitoring company. In case of fire, the system will signal the home occupants and the fire department.

Security should never be compromised, and that is the central concept for which these home security systems evolve. Sometimes, chains, padlocks, or even fences just aren’t enough, because even burglars nowadays use sophisticated gadgets to break into your homes.

Your home will be completely safe from any untoward incidents because it is monitored by the company. So make sure that you get a home security system that will effectively protect your home and family anytime of the day, whether you’re at home or not.

Burglar alarms and home security systems are very useful, and it comes with a cost. However, the cost is nothing compared to the protection it can give to you and your family, as well as your home.

Burglars and robbers love the dark night. And if your alarm works effectively, these burglars and robbers will be scared even to set foot on your yard unless they want to be caught red handed.

If you installed a burglar alarm and you have a dependable home security system, there is nothing to worry about and you can sleep comfortably. The would-be burglars or robbers will just pass by your house and will look for other places to commit their crimes.

Some crimes go unpunished, and you don’t want to fall victim to these burglars or robbers. Protect your home and family through burglar alarms and home security system. It is a necessity, and not a luxury. Fight crime, you must be aware of your options in protecting your family.

PlayStation 3 System Revealed: The New Generation of Interactive Entertainment

The birth of the seventh generation of video game consoles marks the changes that would be made on the gaming industry. Large game console manufacturing companies continue to discover new innovations that could be integrated into their new game consoles. Thus, interactive entertainment is now on its all time high, producing video game consoles that will definitely change the way we play video games—a mileage that would not be forgotten since the Magnavox Odyssey and Atari game console eras.

And Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc. (SCEI) is on its way to create such unforgettable mileage on the video game console industry.

SCEI, the subsidiary of Sony Corporation that handles the research, development, manufacturing, and sales of software and hardware for the corporation’s PlayStation game console series, launched another game console, which will most likely to be matched up with Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Nintendo’s Wii – PlayStation 3. It was unveiled during the E3 Conference in Tokyo on May 16, 2005 and expected to be a success just like its two predecessors, the PlayStation 1 and 2.

PlayStation 3 features two different system configurations, as detailed in their previous press release after its unveiling during the E3 Conference – the basic and the premium. The basic system configuration of PlayStation 3 has four robust features. It holds a memory of twenty gigabytes, which could be upgraded. A Blu-ray drive is also included in the basic edition. With a Blu-ray drive and disc as its major media format, you will not find it difficult to store digital media. It can save data six times more than the current generations of digital video discs (DVDs). In addition, a High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) port is also available with the basic system configuration of PlayStation 3.

On the other hand, the premium version of PlayStation 3 comes with an internal sixty gigabytes of hard drive, multiple flash memory card readers, and wireless Internet connectivity. It also features controllers connected via Bluetooth, HDMI port, and Blu-ray drive.

For those who have been attached with the previous versions of PlayStation, Sony promised that PS3 is compatible with them. PlayStation 3 can support all media formats of the previous PlayStation game consoles. Plus, PS3 has slots for the memory stick duo, SD, and that for compact flash memory.

PlayStation 3 has distinctive specs. The game console features a cell processor, which runs 3.2GHz for an excellent overall performance. It also sports immense multimedia features namely, digital photo, digital audio and digital video. Sonny propagated the panoramic video feature for the current version of PlayStation. Thus, expect that you will enjoy the refined audio-video digital technology incorporated in PlayStation 3.

The game interface of PlayStation 3 has the ability to save various user profiles, explore images, play music files of varying media format, and watch movies saved from the game console’s hard drive or removable memory. It is also compatible with a USB mouse and keyboard and has the capability of multitasking—that is, you can listen to your favorite music tracks while at the same time looking at saved images or browsing the Internet. In addition, the cross media bar of PS3 supports different file formats.
PlayStation 3 is the video game console that you should watch out for. It will definitely change the way you play your favorite video games—and probably will define interactive entertainment in the 21st century.

Basics of a Wireless Burglar Alarm System

Safety and convenience – these two factors are the major reasons behind every family’s choice on having a wireless burglar alarm system in their home. Compared to the standard burglar alarm system which is connected using different wires, the wireless alarm utilizes radio waves. Having so, this lessens the many scattered and displayed wires inside your home.

More convenience as well as savings is brought by the wireless alarm since you do not need to hire an electrician, also, the equipments can easily be attached on a wall area of your choice as long as you properly adhere to the manual guide included in every package.

It will be handier that upon installation of your wireless burglar alarm system, you have adept knowledge of the equipment’s composition.

Humans have brain. The brain is considered the control center of the entire body. When some of humanity’s geniuses invented equipments, they formulated brains for it. The control panel is the brain of a wireless burglar alarm system. Just like human’s brain which sends messages to and receives stimulation from all parts of the body. The control panel is responsible in disseminating signals to the system’s sensors which then creates an “alarm” sound.

The keypad serves as the heart of your wireless burglar alarm system wherein it is responsible for letting your system function or destabilize. The remote keys are alternative to keypads. Remote keys are normally used in long distance for the system to effectively function.

Other parts of the wireless burglar alarm system which you should get familiar with are the magnetic contacts, contact sensors, cameras and monitoring devices.

The magnetic contact is a switch which determines the space between the switch and the magnet. Whenever the space between the switch and the magnet goes beyond its normal measurement and the system has been turned on, an alarm sound is evident. The space heightens when an individual attempts to open a door or a window.

Some wireless burglar alarm system has built-in contact sensors. Motions or excessive heat is being detected by this type of sensors. Contact sensors are commonly used where there are fewer chances for individuals to be present in a certain area in the home or in an establishment. Another supplementary device in the system is the “monitoring service” which detects signals from the control panel. When a burglar enters your home and the system has detected it, an alarm will then manifest. The monitoring service will be the one responsible for calling emergency institutions such as 911, a police station or even the hospital. Thus you are guaranteed that during urgent situations immediate help will come its way.

Cameras can also be available with this type of alarm system for additional surveillance which may lead to greater protection. The transmission of video information from the cameras will go through a wireless signal which will identify people coming in and out of your place. Thus you will have an easier time to distinguish who your visitors are from the culprits.

There should be no second thoughts when safety is the subject matter. You cannot sacrifice your own as well as your family’s protection over anything else. With sufficient knowledge about the security equipments you have at home, such as the wireless burglar alarm system, you are providing utmost protection that you and your family deserves.