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EdTech Update





Why do people do stupid things?

Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. Robert J. Hanlson

Law 3. A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses. from  The five universal rules of human stupidity by Corrine Purtill.

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I'm not convinced one has to pose a hazard to others to commit an act that could be called stupid. Not wearing a seat belt, bungee jumping with a badly frayed cord, posting job-endangering photos to the Internet, or drinking from the toilet are all stupid acts as far as I am concerned, but none of them necessarily harm anyone other than the person himself.

But an element of harm seems to be at the heart of most stupid acts. So if a stupid acts are harmful, why do we still commit them? Why do all of us, even those who may behave intelligently and reasonably most of the time, do really stupid things now and again. And I very much include myself.

Is stupidity a quality that can only be discerned by others or not realized by oneself until after the stupid act has been committed, and is therefore unpreventable?

I've long worried that we confuse ignorance and stupidity. (See Seven stupid mistake teachers make with technology.) So any definition and explanation of stupidity is a welcome read. I personally define stupidity as having knowledge but not using it. Yes, I know the bungee cord is frayed and may break, but I'm going to do the jump anyway, sort of scenario.

Most of the stupid acts I commit are a result of over-confidence. My high opinion of myself when applies to fixing things like plumbing, electrical outlets, and furniture, despite knowing from past experiences that my repairing something costs more in time and money than if I had hired an expert in the first place, tops my list of stupid acts. (See The quick fix: a tale of woe) Not admitting to ignorance is reason stupid acts are made.

Anytime one defies the odds, they are acting stupidly. Any time one refuses to admit their ignorance or acts despite reliable information, they acting stupidly.

To be very clear, I would not label any person as stupid. But I am happy to call out actions, even beliefs, that seem stupid to me.

It's OK to be ignorant. Ignorance, happily, is a correctable condition. But let's all try to do stupid things as seldom as possible.

Why do you think people do stupid things?


The student public library card - a win-win

Today is the day that all our high school students get notification and instruction on their new student public library card. The card works at both the MN county libraries (Dakota and Scott) in which our school district is located and gives students access to all print and digital resources and services of a regular library card.

And it is fine-free!

The program should be a powerful enhancement to our 1:1 program and will expanded next year to include getting cards for our middle school and elementary students.

This is the message going out to our families:

Dear Parents/Guardians


I’m pleased to announce that students who will be in grades 9-12 next school year at Burnsville High School and Burnsville Alternative High School will have instant access to the vast resources of two county library systems — without having to worry about overdue fines — through a new collaboration that begins May 22.

Both Dakota County and Scott County public library systems have worked with Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191 to make this happen.

Students will benefit from access to incredible resources including online one-on-one homework help, research tools, eBooks, audiobooks, movies/TV DVDs, music CDs, electronic magazines and print books.

Student cards will make public library resources a part of every student’s learning experience and leverage existing public resources to support student learning.

The card can be used online and also in library buildings. The no-fine cards will expire when students graduate.

Students have Chromebooks as personal learning devices, which gives them the ability to maximize use of the public library’s resources. We hope this encourages students to read, research and explore their interests over the summer so they return to school in the fall ready to learn.

Students will receive information about this opportunity from their language arts teachers.

For more information, email

The opportunity is voluntary. If students/families prefer to opt out, they can either not activate their accounts or send me an email at

I’m excited at the ways this will benefit your children.


Doug Johnson, Director of Technology, ISD191



To me, this is truly a win-win situation. Our students get an awareness of and access to the wonderful resources the public library provide. Research shows that the more access to reading materials, the better the chance of being a good reader. Public libraries help close the digital divide. And an increasing number of online resources offered by out public libraries means that proximity to a physical library is not required for use. And we have a greater chance of preventing the dreaded "summer slide."

It is also my hope that the result of this project is that our public libraries will build a new and larger base of library users and supporters. The fate of all libraries, not just those in schools, is being determined by how well they transition to a digital world and how well they stay relevant to today's users. Perhaps these newest users might offer constructive feedback to our public librarians to help insure this transition is successful.


BFTP: Autonomous education

Since writing this in 2012, the term "agency" has become popular with many an eductional guru. This post used automony in much the same way, I believe. Once again, ahead of the curve.

After my first two years of teaching - 6 classes a day with 5 preps plus sponsoring the yearbook, newspaper, class plays, and speech contest, I wanted a job that required absolutely NO thinking.

And I got one.

During graduate school, I worked at the University of Iowa hospitals in the Central Sterilizing department. (We sterilized equipment, not living beings.) Each afternoon at three, I would put on a scrub greens, a hair covering, and plastic gloves and begin to make Three Gown Packs to be used during surgical procedures.

The process was simple. Lay a cloth wrapper (inspected for holes) on a stainless steel table, place three surgical gowns, a paper towel, and a bowl on the cloth, wrap it, tape it, label it with a wax pencil, and place it on a metal cart that would be pushed into the autoclave for sterilizing. Repeat. And repeat. And repeat. For eight hours. Until eleven at night. 


After two weeks I was bored out of my skull and, like the rest of the college students working there, spent many of my breaks smoking pot in the parking ramp. The evenings went faster with a buzz. I still wonder how many people we may have killed - having perhaps missed packing a bowl - while working under the influence.

That job taught me that no matter how stressful, a job with autonomy beats one that has no freedom of thought or action hands-down.

Daniel Pink in Drive, speaks to the importance of autonomy in job satisfaction. And in a recent post in his blog, he recommends the book, 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans*. The wisest Americans (those over 65) say this about job satisfaction:

  1. Choose a career for the intrinsic rewards, not the financial ones.
  2. Don’t give up on looking for a job that makes you happy.
  3. Make the most of a bad job.
  4. Emotional intelligence trumps every other kind.
  5. Everyone needs autonomy.

My sense is that a lack of autonomy is a very real reason a lot of kids either tune out or drop out of school. Not given choices, not given the chance to be creative, and not given the opportunity to work socially, school becomes as mindless as a soul-deadening job. 

That's why libraries and technology programs that honor students' individual interests and abilities by giving them access to materials of personal interest are so very, very important. The one-right answer, the one-right activity, the one-right course of study mentality is worth all our efforts to resist by offering autonomous educational experiences.

* I am not much of an advice book reader (although I've written one), but I would recommend 30 Lessons for Living. It's very down-to-earth with no startling insights or off-the-wall recommendations. Just very thoughtful reflections from those who have lived a lot of years. One comment that is still running through my mind after reading it days ago is "You will never be happier than your most unhappy child." Think about it.

Original post April 18, 2012