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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: Shallow wit vs. deep intellect

The article-as-numbered-list has several features that make it inherently captivating: the headline catches our eye in a stream of content; it positions its subject within a preexisting category and classification system, like “talented animals”; it spatially organizes the information; and it promises a story that’s finite, whose length has been quantified upfront. Together, these create an easy reading experience, in which the mental heavy lifting of conceptualization, categorization, and analysis is completed well in advance of actual consumption—a bit like sipping green juice instead of munching on a bundle of kale. And there’s little that our brains crave more than effortlessly acquired data. Maria Konnikova, "A List of Reasons Why Our Brains Love ListsNew Yorker, December 2, 2013

OK, again, here was my take on numbered lists and why we like'm

Here are three reasons, every piece of writing should have a number that helps describe it:

  1. A number gives the reader hope that the writing is finite. When the title is "The 5 Reasons You Shouldn't Pick Your Nose - And the 3 Surprising Reasons You Should," the time-pressed know that once eight reasons have been given, they can move on. In order to have this impact, I'd not go above 12 in the title. Who'd read the "137 Reasons Why ..." for anything?
  2. Many numbers have an association of mystical importance. Through much of history, numbers (3, 7 and 12 especially) have connotations of power. Think of the 3 Wishes, the 7 Samurai, or the 12 Days of Christmas. Don't just use numbers - use the really good numbers. A "Top 10" list just sounds better than a "Top 9" or "Top 11" list. Why is that?
  3. A number signifies selectiveness. If I write the "7 Best Reasons You Should Read This Blog," there is an unstated but powerful implication that there are so many good reasons for the argument that I had to actually narrow the choices. Rather than try to fabricate the last couple as is usually the case.  

    "3 Reasons for Numbered Lists" Blue Skunk blog, December 21, 2011

 Or if you prefer the PPT version:


"...effortlessly acquired data," indeed. But Konnikova sums up her article by warning

... we tend to choose the ... bite-sized option, even when we know we will not be entirely satisfied by it. And that’s just fine, as long as we realize that our fast-food information diet is necessarily limited in content and nuance, and thus unlikely to contain the nutritional value of the more in-depth analysis of traditional articles that rely on paragraphs, not bullet points.

I've never made a secret of the fact that if I have any gift it is a shallow wit, not a deep intellect. And wit may well serve a writer better in a fast information culture than intellect. Bullet lists, sound bites, and bumper stickers are the snack foods of knowledge. Tasty, popular, and even addictive, but not nutritious. 

I am always happy to read an article like Konnikova's. Should we all be doing more "close reading" of challenging texts?

Original post 12-9-13


The School Librarian: Your Ultimate Digital Resource

Just published:

Johnson, Doug. The School Librarian: Your Ultimate Digital Resource, Educational Leadership, February 2019

Abstract: School librarians have expertise in using education technology—but many teachers don't realize how much a school librarian can help them understand and use tech tools for student learning. The author describes six supporting roles librarians can play in this regard: curating resources for individualized instruction, sharing expertise in locating/evaluating resources, helping students produce digital content, advising on issues of copyright and avoiding plagiarism, teaching digital citizenship, and managing school makerspaces.

As always, very proud to be published by ASCD! 


10 tips for long-legged flyers

This came during my recent trip to the Philippines:

I read lots of clickbait titles like "3 things every flyer should do before take off" and "Never drink this on a flight" and "Why you should never attempt to open an outside door while in flight" - I am usually pretty disappointed that rarely, if ever, I learn anything new. 

I am 6' 3 1/2" tall with a 34 inch inseam. Modern airline seats are designed for people whose legs have been amputated - at the waist. So finding leg room for a long flight is important. Having flown that many miles over the years, I hope have some experience that maybe helpful to we taller type travelers. So here are...

10 things tall people can do to make their flights more comfortable.

  1. Take of your shoes. Wear slip-ons. Slip them off and put them in the overhead bin. Wear heavy socks. Try not to step in any wet spots in the lavatories. You gain the thickness of your soles and heels in leg room without your shoes.
  2. Remove everything from the seat pocket in front of you. Take out the magazines and barf bag and whatever garbage the last passenger may have left and stuff it either in the seat beside you (most likely your neighbor will be shorter than you) or toss it in the overhead. Next to your shoes. You get the thickness of the catalogs back in leg room.
  3. Put your bag under your knees not under the seat. On take off your carry on must go under the seat, but after that it can go righ against your seat under your knees. More room for you feet to move around under the seat in front of you is the happy result.
  4. Sit by a window. Three advantages: Your knee sticking in the aisle while asleep won't get whacked by the drink cart. You can rest your head against the window. You get to bother your seat mate when you have to get up.
  5. Don't recline. While this seems counter-intuitive, it seems to me that when your seat goes back, your butt moves forward, thus shortening your leg room. At least in some planes.
  6. Get an exit row or book Economy Comfort. It's going to cost you, but sometimes paying a little extra for Economy Comfort (what Delta calls it) or for an exit row, may be worth the $$$. I do it on long flights when I am feeling rich. Which is not that often.
  7. Hope no one sits beside you so you can extend your legs into the next space. Ah, the days when entire rows in the back of the plane were empty and you could lay down like you were home on the couch. Today's flights are nearly always full - damn algorithms! You can increase your odds by sitting as far back in the plane as possible and choosing, online, a seat in a row that looks empty shortly before the flight. Good luck.
  8. Hope anyone sitting beside you is not real wide or real tall. Good luck with that. I always ask to be put near a crying baby when I get the chance too.
  9. Get up and stretch regularly. This doesn't help leg room, but it can alleviate some of the problems a lack of leg room can cause. Stretching is good. Stand around a little. Just don't look threatening.
  10. Repeat the mantra: I am not on a sailing ship. I am not in a covered wagon. I am not on a bus. I am not having to drive. Complaining about leg room on a flight that takes you half way around the world in less than 24 hours is truly a first world problem. Be amazed and grateful at just how little discomfort and for what a small amount of time is involved in seeing amazing things and having wonderful adventures.

Hoping to rack up my next million miles before my membership and I expire.