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In the web and software development world there has been a saying that the “tools don’t make the developer”, meaning the tools I use to write software do not affect the outcome as much as my abilities as a programmer. Over the years we have seen more and more technology pushed into the classroom under the camouflage of making life easier for teachers and improving student’s learning. I would submit that we’ve actually done the opposite, we have created a monster that requires technology to do the simplest of tasks. Education needs to learn from the software world and understand that the tools don’t make the student.

There are basic skills that students need to have to succeed in middle school and high school and if they choose, college. A lot of the skills have to do with fundamentals, basic math, reading, and writing. With the fundamentals in place, it is not hard to expand and continue the learning process. The issue facing schools now is wanting to expose students to technology and “easier” ways of completing tasks leading to a drop in the student’s ability to do such tasks without the technology. A basic example of this is calculators in elementary school. Why is that needed? If students are not able to do basic math without the use of a calculator, they need to retake the class. Using the excuse that a student is, “just not good at math”, is a terrible way to go forward. If that particular student does not learn how to do long division now how are they ever going to master geometry or calculus?

This is not a bashing of technology, it is simply a wakeup call. When I learned to create webpages I was using the most basic of tools, Windows Notepad. I struggled with aspects of the code, but the tool never helped me and because of that, I would argue I am a better developer.

I’m hoping this topic, Technology and Education, will become a regular one on the site.

Every once in a while, Continental Airlines will publish a fare that is just too good to pass up. A few weeks ago, they announced a weekend special to Quito, Ecuador, a city which usually carries a price tag of around $1,000 to fly to, was going for $299. Knowing that Jessica was not going to be able to take off work for the trip, I called a friend and we agreed to split a hotel room in the business center of Quito.

Quito - Early Morning

The city of Quito sits at 9,350 feet and is flanked by the active volcano, Pichincha. For travelers not used to the high altitudes, this makes walking around somewhat of a chore, in fact, for the first few hours in the city, my body was adjusting.

We arrived fairly late but clearing immigration was simple and the hotel had arranged a driver to pick us up.

La Basílica

The next morning we were on our feet bright and early and walking the city. Because it was a Sunday morning in a predominantly Catholic country, the streets were mostly deserted, giving us the run of the town. We ended up visiting all of the churches and most of the sights in Centro Histórico, the historic district of the city, which helped Quito become the first UNESCO World Heritage site.

Having more time than we thought, we arranged a driver to take us to the Pululahua volcano, thought to be one of the only active calderas with inhabitants. The view was breathtaking, even in the dry season with dust flying. The area is sustained completely on subsistence farming and now eco-tourism to the hot springs that are near the village. We also toured the equator, which even though has a real touristy feel, is extremely interesting.

035-IMG_3926

We ended the day by attempting to take a ride on TeleferiQo, the aerial tramway that takes riders to around 13,400 feet on the side of Pichincha. Luck was not on our side however because we arrived at the ride area to find that it was closed for the day. That lead us to dinner where we enjoyed a good amount of Ecuadorian food and broken English conversation with our waitress.

Ecuador is a beautiful country and I highly recommend that everyone take a trip down there while they still can. The president, Rafael Correa is thought to be the Chavez of Ecuador, and this shows when coming back to the States, I was grilled for a good 30 minutes by the immigration officials on the reason for my visit.

Speaking Spanish is a plus, because as we found, not a lot of the locals speak English and those that do have a very limited understanding. Since both I and my friend have a little bit of a history with Spanish classes, we managed, but it would have been really difficult without the classes I took in high school.

So go. Find a cheap fare and enjoy the country of Ecuador. The weather is gorgeous all year round, with the wet season being what we would consider winter and spring.

As the University of Texas takes on the University of Oklahoma, I thought it prudent to point what exactly a “Sooner” is.

Sooner is the name first applied about six months after the Land Run of 1889 to people who entered the Oklahoma District (Unassigned Lands) before the designated time. The term derived from a section in the Indian Appropriation Act of March 2, 1889, which became known as the “sooner clause.” It stated that no person should be permitted to enter upon and occupy the land before the time designated in the president’s opening proclamation and that anyone who violated the provision would be denied a right to the land.

Illegal claimants were initially called “moonshiners,” because they entered the area “by the light of the moon.” Sooners or moonshiners hid out in brush or ravines, then suddenly appeared to stake a claim after the run started, giving them clear advantage over law-abiding settlers who made the run from the borders.

If you didn’t feel like reading through all of that, I’ll sum it up in a word; Cheaters. How fitting then is it for the Oklahoma mascot to be a Sooner.

This is the one day a year I can happily say:

Hook ‘Em Horns!

A Sooner Cries...

A Sooner Cries...

A few weekends ago I took a trip to Quito, Ecuador and was subjected to the displeasure of the newest addition to the TSA’s anti-terrorism toolbox; The full body scanner.

 

The full body scanners do exactly that, they scan the entire body, through the clothing to produce a near naked image for a TSA employee to ponder over before letting the traveler go about their business.

There is only one such scanner currently at IAH and it is in Terminal E.

On the day that I was flying, the traffic through Terminal E was light so everyone was being subjected to the full body scan. There was no signage anywhere explaining what the scanner was, people were just being directed into the device and told to “raise your hands in the air”.

Knowing what the machine was and what job it performed, I let the agent know that I would “opt-out” and preferred the personal screening. I assumed that this would be done like it has always been done, behind a screen out of the public eye. Nope, not this time. The pat-down was more thorough than a doctor during a physical and was performed right out in the open in front of everyone walking by.

This is unacceptable, plain and simple. It was quite obvious that they were trying to test the machine during a lull in the crowd and were using the pat down as an embarrassment tool to persuade me into going through the machine next time.

We are sacrificing our freedoms in the name of security and it’s irresponsible.

Next time, I’ll just go through Terminal C and avoid the unwanted feel-up by the TSA.