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All banner artwork by Brady Johnson, college student and (semi-) starving artist.

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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





Find your teachers and tell them: guest post by Kelly Silwani

Kelly Silwani, a past president of the Ohio Educational Library Media Association, shared a lovely response to my blog post "Kind act of the year award" about finding and recognizing teachers who have made a difference in our lives.  I asked her if she would be willing to expand her comment into a guest blog post and she was kind enough to do so. Find the touching reminisce below...


My grandmother, Mabel Motts, is in the middle row, far right with the polka dotted dress.  Miss Thomas is right below her with the white blouse with the bow.

I’ll let you in on a little secret . . . I have a ritual that I perform every year on the first day of school. Before I turn on the lights in the library, I stop inside the entrance and say, “I made it grandma.” My grandmother is no longer with us, and passed away before I got my first job as a teacher-librarian, but she was very influential in my life, helping me to become the person, the teacher, the librarian, I am now.

Maybe it was melancholy or nostalgia, I’m not sure, but whatever it was, I spent a lot of time this last summer reflecting on the people in my life, who were great examples of what it meant to be a great teacher. One in particular, Miss Thomas, was my second grade teacher. The more I thought about her, remembered what she did for me, the more I wanted to tell her how important she was, but I had no clue where to find her and Google was no help. As the summer went by, she was in my thoughts almost every single day. I had to find her and tell her. She needed to know her support for my love of reading, her kindness, and her faith in us as students, put me on the path to becoming a school librarian. As fate would have it, I happen to be a member of a Facebook group that supports alumni from the school district I attended. I decided to take a chance and reached out to the group. In July, I posted a question and asked if anyone remembered her or knew how to contact her. Within a few hours, and through the magic of the internet, someone sent me a private message with her contact information.

When Miss Thomas and I spoke by phone a few days later, I made sure right away to let her know how much she influenced the woman and teacher I am now. She commented how wonderful it was to hear what I had to say, because she always wondered if she ever really made a difference in the lives of any of her students. I assured her she influenced so many of us and offered to add her to the alumni Facebook group so she could see for herself all the wonderful comments her former students made about her, and read for herself how she influenced them. Our talked turned to my grandmother because I knew Miss Thomas and my grandmother had taught at the same school. She said she believed her first year of teaching was the last year my grandmother taught.

Shortly after that phone conversation, I visited Miss Thomas at her home. She shared sweet stories about my brother, cousin, and me. She talked about her path to becoming a teacher and her life now. I shared with her my journey, stories about my husband and kids, my love of reading and teaching and what it meant to me to be able to share all of that with her. She pulled out a photo album to show me. Back in the day, the school would take a picture of each class with their teacher and a separate photo of all the staff members in the school. As I turned the page of the album, there in the first staff photo was my grandmother. All at once so many emotions poured into me . . . love, loss, missing her, wishing she was still here to share my life and who I’ve become . . .so many things I just can’t put into words. I had seen so many pictures of my grandmother but never, ever one of her as a teacher. In that moment I was connected to my grandmother across time . . .teacher to teacher. By reaching out to my 2nd grade teacher to share her impact on me, I was given a gift. A gift I would have never known had I not dared to find her.

This year, as I walked into the library on the first day of school I said something a little bit different. I said, “I made it grandma. I made it Miss Thomas. Thank you both for being in my life.”

Please find your teachers. Please tell them how they helped you or saved you or inspired you. They need to hear it. In my case, not only did my teacher help me and inspire me when I was a kid . . .but again, as a kid all grown up.

Kelly Silwani @silwani4scifi

My second grade class. I’m in the bottom row, second from the right.


My autobibliography

I plan to retire from my day job next summer. Unless I am fired first, I guess.

Anyway, in looking for ways to economize as all the expert "wealth management" folks advise, I have begun transferring storage and access to my published writings off the commercial webhosting site I have been using and on to a Google Site.

The move has brought home to me just how damn much writing I've done since 1990. (A children's story in Cricket Magazine and a column in School Library Journal were my first publications at the ripe old age of 38.) Surprisingly to me, I've since written 149 additional articles, talks, book chapters, editorials, and posters since them. I submitted two articles this month to Educational Leadership and CIOReview. I'm slowing, but not stopping. You can find my autobibliography* of articles here.

I am also in the process of moving all 246 columns I have written during this time as well. It's a slow process since I find my own writing to be amusing and have to re-read a lot of the old stuff.

All except for Machines Are the Easy Part; People Are the Hard Part, you will need to actually purchase my 7 my books. (9 if you could 2nd editions.) And of course there are the 2916 Blue Skunk blog posts (2917 when I publish this one) I've written since 2005.

An old article "Why I Write for Publication" still reflects my motivation for writing. And the reasons are all pretty much work related. As retirement nears, I plan on writing to still be a part of it. I'm not much interested in writing a novel or short stories. Seems there are plenty of grumpy old guys already writing and travel writers don't seem to be in short supply. I have a few months to find a niche. 

*I think I coined this meaning!

Image source



Unexpected consequences’s important to be mindful that relevance in learning is defined by the student, or rather, the student’s interests—not ours. The job of a teacher is not just to teach content, but to help students apply it in meaningful ways to their lives. Plum, Stephen. An Authentic Connection to Learning. Edutopia, Oct 5, 2018

I had a good conversation with my daughter this weekend while taking a long walk. Along with the grandson who is a senior this year, we talked about favorite teachers, high school experiences, and what we liked and didn't like about school. One topic was the lack of relevance in high school and first year college classes. It was something about which even my academically-gifted daughter complained at the time. My only explanation to her then was that these courses were society's way of determining whether one was willing to conform and delay gratification, making one a "safe" member of that society. Not a very satisfactory answer.

Today's students have an option to sitting through irrelevant classes. Oh, they still have to put in the seat time, but may have found ways to pursue relevant (or at least entertaining) information via their phones and computing devices. As I wrote about in "The quiet disruption", I see this as a game changer for what is taught in classrooms and how. Relevance and personalization becomes critical if the teacher is to keep the student engaged. I don't think this was an intended outcome of our 1:1 programs, but it seems to be a consequence.

A second unintended consequence my visit with my daughter's family last week brought to mind is quite different. I learned that my seventh grade grandson Miles, within the first few weeks of starting middle school, formed and found an adult sponsor for a Dungeons and Dragons after school club. It has been extremely popular. What might be the unexpected result?

In Leveraging the Lore of 'Dungeons and Dragons' to Motivate Students to Read and Write. Mind/Shift, October 8, 2018, Paul Davarsi writes:

Once kids are bitten by the [Dungeons and Dragons] bug, they spend hours pouring over the reference guides, web pages and forums, and some even turn to fantasy novels. They often don’t realize that an unintended consequence of their game play is that they become better readers and writers. ...

Students who play are intrinsically motivated to exercise a host of complex and interwoven literacy skills, which they may be more reluctant to practice without the incentive of the game. 

He also describes teachers who use fantasy role-playing games as an introduction to classic works such as Macbeth and Beowulf. Miles may inadvertently creating better readers among his classmates!

Kids are getting harder to teach through traditional methods. Blame it on technology, if you will, but for whatever the reason educators must adapt quickly or prove themselves irrelevant.