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EdTech Update





Why do you need to be likeable?

4. Communicate well and listen to others. A great tech director must be able to write, speak, listen, and present. They must also hear and embrace input from others. Wolpert-Gawron, Heather. Eight Skills to Look for in a Director of Technology, Edutopia, January 25, 2016

It’s always, always, always better to be a nice person than an ass. ass.jpg
You will make mistakes at home and on the job. So keep this in mind: People will forgive your mistakes if you are generally a nice person; they never forget them if you behave like an ass.
from Machines Are the Easy Part; People Are the Hard Part. Illustration by Brady Johnson

I am not the most popular person in my school district this week. It's the beginning of the second semester and we have gone live with a new student information system. (Hence no blog posts either.) Despite a good deal of planning and preparation, there are permissions adjustments to be made, schedules out of whack, data exchanges with other systems to configure, and lots and lots of questions to be answered. Plus everyone is now experiencing the joy of learning how to do some old familiar tasks in new unfamiliar ways. (See "Where's the light switch?")

And it is my department - and ultimately me - who is viewed as responsible for the transition and changes.

While I've gotten a couple snarky e-mails questioning my competence (I have a "sarcasm" filter on my email and rarely check it), these stressed and busy professionals throughout the district have been supportive, patient, and calm. My staff, even under pressure, have been great.

These times of transition are hard for me since I like to think I am likeable* and criticism, direct or implied, makes me wonder if I am delusional rather than likeable. This is not a trival question since likeability, I've concluded, benefits both the liker and the likee.

In 2005 I wrote a column for librarians called "A Secret Weapon - Niceness", (LMC May 2005) In it I suggested that "The power of being a nice person is rarely discussed in the literature, but it probably has a bigger impact on our effectiveness and job tenure than any technical or professional skill we might hone." and suggested 8 traits of a "nice" person that would not just make that person more popular, but actually more effective. I stand by the column now 11 years later.

A recent column tackled a similar topic. In How to Be Exceptionally Likeable: 11 Things the Most Charming People Always Do. And you can too ( December 22, 2015), Jeff Hayden reminds his readers of some great attributes to cultivate if they want to be "genuinely likeable" including admitting their failings and putting their stuff away. Read it!

My guess is that most Blue Skunk readers are in some way, shape, or form a change agent. Likeability makes changes less painful for both the perp and the victim. Cultivate your charm.

What do you find that makes those with who you work likeable?

* My favorite line of Robert Burns is "O wad some Power the giftie gie us,  To see oursels as ithers see us!" Can we ever accurately see ourselves as others see us when it comes to being likeable?


BFTP: A dozen ways to teach ethical and safe technology use

From The Classroom Teacher's Technology Survival Guide

A dozen ways to teach and promote ethical and safe technology use

Responsible teachers recognize that schools must give students the understandings and skills they need to stay safe not just in school, but outside of school where most Internet use by young people occurs. Over-filtered school networks set up a false sense of security; the real world of the Internet is quite different from the Internet at school.

Teachers who address safe and ethical Internet use proactively:

1. Articulate personal values when using technology. Talk to students about ethical online conduct and set clear limits about what is allowed and what is not allowed. Teachers need to be knowledgeable about the school’s Acceptable Use Policy and work to help their students understand it.  A district’s current acceptable use policy should include language about posting private information about both oneself and others. This private information includes home addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, and labeled photographs. Any bullying policies you might have should cover electronic bullying as well as physical bullying.

2. Stress the consideration and application of principles rather than relying on a detailed set of rules. Although sometimes more difficult to enforce in a consistent manner, a set of a few guidelines* rather than lengthy set of specific rules is more beneficial to students in the long run. By applying guidelines rather than following rules, students engage in higher level thinking processes and learn behaviors that will continue into their next classroom, their homes, and their adult lives.

3. Model ethical behaviors. All of us learn more from what others do than what they say. Verbalization of how we personally make decisions is a very powerful teaching tool, but it’s useless to lecture about safe and appropriate use when we ourselves might not follow our own rules.

4. Build student trust. If an inappropriate site is accidentally accessed, use the incident to teach some strategies about using clues in search result findings to discriminate between relevant and non-relevant sites. (“Jose, when the search results say ‘hot chicks xxx,’ that probably won’t be a source for your report on chickens.”)

5. Encourage discussion of ethical issues. “Cases,” whether from news sources or from actual school events, can provide superb discussion starters and should be used when students are actually learning computer skills. Students need practice in creating meaningful analogies between the virtual world and the physical world. How is reading another person’s e-mail without their permission like and unlike reading their physical mail?

6. Accept the fact students will make mistakes. Coach John Wooden famously said, “If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything.” Learning is about making errors and figuring out how not to repeat them. A middle school student who shares her password with a friend who then destroys files has made a recoverable mistake -- one that she might remember before sharing personal data as an adult.

7. Allow students personal use of the Internet. If Internet computers are not being used for curricular purposes, students can research topics of personal interest (that are not inherently dangerous or pornographic). The best reason for allowing that is that students are far less likely to risk loss of Internet privileges if that means losing access to sites they enjoy.

8. Reinforce ethical behaviors and react to the misuse of technology. Technology use behaviors are treated no differently than other behaviors -- good or bad -- and the consequences of such behaviors are equal. Try not to overreact to incidents of technological misuse. If a student were caught reading Playboy in paper form, it’s doubtful we’d suspend all his reading privileges.

9. Create environments that help students avoid temptations. Computer screens that are easily monitored and the requirement that users log in and out of network systems help remove the opportunities for technology misuse. Your presence is a far more effective means of assuring good behavior than filtering software.

10. Assess children’s understanding of ethical concepts. Do not give technology-use privileges until a student has demonstrated that he or she knows and can apply school policies. Test appropriate use prior to students gaining online access.

11. Educate our students and ourselves. Aware teachers are using online curricula from organizations like iLearn, BlogSafety, NetFamilyNews, and Responsible Netizen to inform themselves and their children. These ready-made curricula are simple to integrate when teaching Internet safety units.

12. Educate your parents about ethical technology use. Through school newsletters, talks at parent organization meetings, and through school orientation programs, you can inform and enlist the aid of parents in teaching and enforcing good technology practices.

Will doing those things guarantee that a student will never get in trouble or danger online? Of course not. But schools never have been able to guarantee students’ physical safety either. What schools must be able to demonstrate is that they have shown due diligence -- that they have taken serious steps to prevent harm from occurring. That means a formal plan -- one that includes the above actions and documentation of the plan -- is necessary. And installing Internet filters alone does not constitute due diligence.

Ethical instruction needs to be on going. A single lesson, a single unit, or a single curriculum strand will not suffice. Teachers should integrate ethical instruction into every activity that uses technology.

* Johnson’s 3 P’s of Technology Ethics:

  1. Privacy - I will protect my privacy and respect the privacy of others.
  2. Property - I will protect my property and respect the property of others.
  3. a(P)propriate Use - I will use technology in constructive ways and in ways which do not break the rules of my family, church, school, or government.

Image source:

Original post December 26, 2010


Why your library's digital resources go unused and a golden opportunity

While digital resources are a growing part of many if not most school library collections, the amount of use they get is often disappointing. At least in the districts in which I have worked. Most products have a some sort of usage meter so it's pretty easy to determine how often they are accessed.

Why does this seem to be the case even after almost 30 years of availability? (Anyone else remember the Groliers on a stand alone workstation in the late '80s?) A few reasons come to mind...

  1. Out of sight, out of mind. Unlike print materials that are easily visible to anyone walking into the library, the digital resources are hidden - too often deep with the library's website, which is hidden deep within the school website.
  2. Difficult to promote. Those lively new picture books or high interest non-fiction titles are easy to showcase in displays. While it's possible to show digital materials on library monitors, it simply feels like more work.
  3. Low comfort level by staff. Many adults still do know about nor feel comfortable using digital resources. How many teachers in your school still require "at least one print reference" in their research assignments? Digital = dubious quality still in many an educator's mind.
  4. Inadequate access to technology. You don't need a device to use print. But e-books and databases require both hardware and an Internet connection (and often a password). If your school is student device poor and you have a high percentage of kids without home Internet access, this is a big, big deal.
  5. Free, popular digital options. Hey, why go to all the trouble of logging into World Book or Britannica when Wikipedia just sort of pops up in Google Search? Why log in to Discovery Streaming when there's YouTube? Yes, we information professionals know why, but do your staff and students care?
  6. Slow change in assessments. Your state still require kids know how to use guide words in a print dictionary? 'Nuff, said.
  7. Generic, not targeted. Good print collections are built around curricular needs. Is this currently the case when you are selecting digital materials as well?

Our district's library media specialists met last week and we talked a lot about how to purposely build our collection of electronic resources to meet specific course needs. We may not be able to do a lot about the first six challenges in the list above, but we can make a conscientious effort to target the curation of all our resources, print and digital, to meet content standards and course requirements.

The growing use of our learning management system, Schoology, makes this an opportune time to work with teachers to select content-specific digital resources. The LMS, after all, it more or less a container, and containers need content.

Feels like a golden opportunity to build relevance and relationships.