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EdTech Update





BFTP: Being techno-frugal

So now I know - it has been about 5 years that I have somehow survived without a landline telephone or cable television. One advantage of keeping a blog - it helps you remember when things happened! Post below was published January 29, 2012.

Most people can't be easily lumped into either the "spendthrift" or "cheapskate" categories. We seek a cost/benefit ratio that makes some degree of sense - at least to us. And most of us are so tight we squeak about some expenditures and pour money down rat holes when it comes to others.

While I don't mind spending money on travel, grandchildren, personal technologies, or college tuition, I will not pay more than $10 for a bottle of wine or more than $100 for a pair of shoes. I buy generic cans of green beans and tomato soup or none at all, and my car is, well, not a Lexus. I'd rather go to an Olive Garden or Dennys than a fancy restaurant any day. Lights left on in unoccupied rooms drive me nuts. But what I really hate paying for are services that I don't use.

Yesterday morning in a fit of frugality, I cancelled our home telephone landline and cable television. In 2008 this bundled package of telephone, cable, and Internet cost $90 a month, but MediaCom's most recent "loyalty package" for the same services is $130 a month, going up to $150 a month the next year, with the two-year contract mandatory. Internet by itself costs about $45 a month. 

The thing is everyone in my family has a cell phones that works just fine. We watch less than two hours a television a week and what we do watch (The Daily Show) can be viewed online. I was spending about $1200 (120 bottles of wine!) a year on services I just didn't use.

Maybe it is the winter doldrums, but I seemed to encounter non-sensical "values" all week. I've already blogged about Apple's "inexpensive" e-textbooks. I took a poor Barnes & Noble education representative to task on Friday about how their Nooks (like Amazon's Kindles) won't read each other's e-book formats (Would I buy a DVD player at Target that only plays movies I buy from Target?) and how the cost of e-books has been steadily rising instead of falling. I denied another request to add text messaging to the school's cellphone accounts. I'm a little surprised that three spirits didn't interrupt my sleep last night. 

Maybe it's that I'm working both on my book's budget chapter and on our district's technology budget right now, so I'm just thinking about funding a lot. 

Frugality has gotten a lot of attention when it comes to personal expenditures in these tough economic times. Why hasn't frugality been a topic in library and technology circles as well?

End of rant.


Directing our anger

I just followed a fellow through security at the Minneapolis airport. He looked to be in his mid-50s, but seems to have never flown before. Despite being in the TSA-Pre approved line, he struggled removing his wallet, phone, and keys from his pants pockets. He had trouble putting his bag on the belt. He was admonished for reaching into the scanner before his bag was completely through. The process that takes experienced air travelers about 30 seconds seemed to take him five minutes. And I was forced to wait.

I may have some virtues, but patience is not one of them. My thoughts toward the gentlemen ahead of me were not kind. But then my anger changed direction and I started asking myself why I could not be automatically compassionate instead of peeved and frustrated. There are plenty of things I would do in ways that would drive others insane. Yet I would expect understanding.

The philosophers tell us that about the only thing in the world we can control is our reaction to things we cannot control. Political news today is a great test of one's ability to do this. If nothing else, this election has given me a lot of practice working very diligently to see if I can understand the POV of those who wish to cut health care, funding for the arts, and the provision of food those who are homebound, yet spend millions to provide a billionaire and his family security for weekend trips and his family overseas business trips. It's tough.

Patience, empathy, the drive for self-improvement - are all critical for both educators and technicians. But perhaps if we are aware of the importance of those assets, there may be hope for us yet.


Does "tech skills for all" really mean all in your district?

Last month our district's Instructional Technology Coordinator planned a report that was given at a school board meeting on "coding." It went very well since students from multiple grade levels demonstrated both their skills and their enthusiasm for grade-appropriate coding activities and their teachers spoke to why the activities were both enjoyable and important for the students.

It was remarkable.

Wait, you say, I could (or have) prepared such reports myself. Our school teaches coding to students as well. I would bet nearly every school could find some students who code, so what makes this event remarkable?

What makes me proud is that every K-8 student in our district could have presented at that meeting. Thanks to the diligence and dedication of our Digital Learning Specialists at the elementary level and our exploratory classes at the middle school, all kids get to experience and practice coding in our school - not just those lucky enough to have a techno-savvy teacher.

All of our students also learn digital citizenship, experience makerspaces, access e-books through MyOnReader, and learn how to create Google Sheets, Docs, and Slides. And other techie stuff too.

Fifteen years ago I angered a lot of my fellow library professionals by writing a piece for School Library journal called Real Flexibility. The piece defended, gasp, fixed library programs - those in which all students went to the school library on a regular basis and were taught a library and technology skills curriculum by the library media specialist.

As technology skills grow in even greater importance to our students' academic, vocational, and social future, I will continue to stand by the need for every child to be taught such skills by a trained specialist - library media specialist or digital learning specialist or whatever you might call them. Too many classroom teacher can not or will not teach tech skills.

When your promotional material reads "technology skills for all students" does it really mean all - or just all those with teachers who enjoy technology?