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My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

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EdTech Update





BFTP: Spring cleaning - should it only be stuff?

OK, it's not exactly spring as I repost this from about 5 years ago. But I personally like it enough to share it again, despite its chronolological problems. I "downsized" my household possessions dramatically about 3 years ago and have not regretted tossing much. As the post below asks, however, am I as willing to toss outdated ideas as I am to toss outdated clothes?


With temperatures in the low 60s this weekend and no pressing writing deadlines, it was the perfect time do do a little spring cleaning. 

When I think of spring cleaning, it's not washing windows or dusting knickknacks. I love tossing stuff out. On Saturday I tackled my home office and pitched old professional books, innumerable cables - mostly ethernet and phone, and old tax records, properly shredded, of course. Sunday was cleaning the garage of unused tools, no longer needed furniture, and, well, just junk.

There is an old rule of thumb that says if you haven't worn an item of clothing in two years, you may as well give it to Goodwill, because odds are that you will never wear it again. My guess is that rule holds true for a lot of other things as well including tools, furniture, and sports equipment. (I haven't used satellite service in five years, but the old dish was still taking up space.) It's the rare book I'll not give away - and I realize that of the 10% I keep, I'll still only re-read 10% of those. I tossed my print dictionary this weekend - gasp - since it's been at least three or four years since I cracked its spine.

So here's my question: am I as ruthless about discarding my old beliefs, values, assumptions, and goals as I am about scrapping broken toys, obsolete electronics, and unworn sweatshirts?

It's very easy to recognize the antiquated practices of others. (Really, she still lectures all the time?) Outdated views are fair game. (He still believes standardized tests are the best way to determine student abilities?) And the reluctance to adopt to new realities is soooo obvious in others. (He still has kids put their personal devices in a bucket by the door instead of using them as a part of instruction?)

On a more personal note, I hope over the past few years, some old ideas I've held about race, culture, sexuality, politics, and finance I've, if not thrown away, at least modified to be more humanistic, more empathetic. I am sure there is still plenty of de-cluttering I can do in each of these areas.

There's an old saying from scripture that reads "Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" which makes me wonder if people can truly recognize the beliefs that should be part of one's professional and personal spring cleaning each year.

If we could, wouldn't we change?

How do you know what to keep and what to discard from your professional practice and world view?

Original post 3/31/2014


10 things I am tired of reading about

Newspapers, magazines, NPR, newsapps, newsletters - it feels like I am seeing the same-old, same-old stories repeated with absolutely no new content. These include:
  1. How and how much to save for retirement
  2. How to lose weight
  3. How to prevent dementia
  4. Trump's misdeeds and congressional ineptitude (actually politics in general)
  5. Climate change
  6. How to eat healthy and how much to exercise
  7. How to protect one's online privacy
  8. How to prevent dementia by exercising (Or did I mention that one already?)
  9. How to save money when shopping
  10. How not to get scammed

I supposed editors feel the need to go with those areas of great interest, but, please, how about at least a little twist on the topic?

Beginning to think I need to rename the blog "Old Fart Ramblings." The stress of retirement is getting to me.

Image source


What happened to "information literacy"?


In A Reminder That "Fake News" is an Information Literacy Problem - Not a Technology Problem, author Leetaru writes in Forbes (July 7, 2019):

Societies must teach their children from a young age how to perform research, understand sourcing, triangulate information, triage contested narratives and recognize the importance of where information comes from, not just what it says.

In short, we must teach all of our citizens how to be researchers and scientists when it comes to consuming information.

Most importantly, we must emphasize verification and validation over virality and velocity.

He also opines:

In the early days of the Web societies taught their citizenry not to believe everything they read online, to treat every statement as suspect and not to act upon or share information without verifying it. Today those same societies place enormous pressure on their citizens to believe everything they see on the Web at face value and to share it as widely as they can as quickly as they can, rejecting any contradictory information they might stumble across in the process.

The old adage “Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet” has become “Believe everything on the Web and share it widely.”

Hello? How can it be that in 2019, over 20 years after many of us started getting information from online sources, are we still calling out the need for "information literacy"? Have we, in fact, regressed in its teaching as the quote above suggests? 

In 2001 I wrote in the article, Survival Skills for the Information Jungle. An excerpt:

Information jungle survival skill 3: Learn to tell the good berries from the bad berries.

Joey Rogers, Executive Director of the Urban Library Council, observes that libraries should have two large signs in them. The first hanging over the stacks that reads “Carefully selected by trained professionals” and the other hanging over the Internet terminals that reads “Whatever.”

Even very young students can and should be learning to tell the bad information berries from the good ones. Since junior high students often make websites that often look better than those of college professors, we teach students to look: 

  • For the same information from multiple sources.
  • At the age of the page.
  • At the credentials of the author.
  • For unstated bias by the page author or sponsor.

Check Kathy Schrock's extensive guide here:


As students use research to solve problems about controversial social and ethical issues, the ability to evaluate and defend one’s choice of information source becomes very important.

I suggested the following activity:

Your students have been researching current diseases and they come into the classroom with information from these sources. Could you help them determine which could be considered the most reliable? Might you as a teacher have a different opinion than some parents about the validity of information from some sources?

  • Center for Disease Control
  • Newsweek
  • The bestseller The Hot Zone
  • Flyers from an insurance company or HMO
  • Personal webpage
  • Chat room conversation
  • Rush Limbaugh’s radio talk showNational Public Radio’s “Science Friday” 
I am sure that over the past 20 years, there have been many, many teachers and librarians who have helped their students and patrons develop better information literacy skills. Kathy Schrock, Mike Eisenberg, Joyce Valenza, and other library leaders have tirelessly advocated for applying critical thinking to resource evaluation and use.
Perhaps we who support information literacy, suffer the same struggles as those who support good nutrition. Will people ever begin to choose brocolli over French fries? Reseach journals over the Twitter feed?