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EdTech Update





Balance and healthy eating

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I have friends who are vegetarians. Not that there is anything wrong with that, as Seinfeld might say.

Being raised on a farm, meat - quite a lot of meat - has been a mainstay of my diet all my life. My dad liked to say that if God hadn't have wanted for people to eat animals, He wouldn't have made them out of meat. My brother says PETA stands for People Eating Tasty Animals.

So now that about half my readership is thoroughly aggravated with my flippancy about dietary choices, I will reveal that I have become a 2/3rd vegetarian. I try to limit my meat intake to only one meal a day. This is not attempt to save the planet or advance any political cause. It's not really about eating healthier (still love my cheese and eggs and ice cream). It's only about trying to lose a little weight. Simple as that.

So I don't need to be a dietary purist. I can limit, not eliminate, foods. It doesn't really feel like a sacrifice especially when good restaurants serve vegetable platters like this one from the Mediterranean Cruise Cafe where I ate with my buddy Cary last week:

So does this have anything to do with education? I think so.

So often we get into an all-or-nothing, either-or, no-exceptions mindset. (No meat, no exceptions.) The tech department will only support PCs (or Macs). Everyone has to use Microsoft Office. One reading method is right for every teacher and every student. All students must take advanced math classes. Every child should learn to code.

Where is the balance?

An article I wrote that appeared in Teacher-Librarian magazine in June 2008 - "Change from the Radical Center of Educaiton." - is still one of my personal favorites. In it, I advocate for a balanced approach to change in schools; attitudes which would result in less conflict and more progress. In summary:

As a radical centrist in education, I subscribe to the following principles:

  1. Adopt an “and” not “or” mindset.
  2. Look for truth and value in all beliefs and practices.
  3. Respect the perspective of the individual. 
  4. Recognize one size does not fit all (kids or teachers).
  5. Attend to attitudes.
  6. Understand that the elephant can only be eaten one bite at a time.
  7. Make sure everyone is moving forward, not just the early adopters.
  8. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”
  9. Believe measurement is good, but that not everything can be measured.
  10. Know and keep your core values.

A 2/3rd educational reformer? Apostasy to many. But change might actually happen in the long run.

I've lost 15 pounds on my semi-vegetarian diet.


BFTP: Outsourcing Mom

This is a response to Dr. Doug Green's guest post "Should we get rid of technology directors?" on the Dangerously Irrelevant blog. Read it first and come back. I can wait.

From the desk of Superintendent Robert Crabtree, Left Overshoe Public Schools

Dear Dr. Green,

Thank you so much for your timely questions about the necessity of technology directors in schools. In an era of budget cutting, higher accountability and more budget cutting, taking a hard look at all positions in public schools to see which can be eliminated through outsourcing or decentralizing responsibilities is critical if we are to do fiscal due diligence. 

Personally, I am doing everything I can to eliminate my technology director. He is also doing everything he can to eliminate his own position and doing a pretty good job of it - some of it even on purpose.

In fact, outsourcing efforts here at school have worked so well for us (food service, maintenance, insurance, payroll, online education, bus service, and data services), I am extending the concept to my personal life as well. I am preparing a proposal that I will be presenting at the next family board meeting that will result in significant personal cost reductions - the primary savings coming from eliminating the household position "wife/mom." Most duties currently performed by this position will be either outsourced or re-assigned*. The plan calls for:

  • Requiring each of the children to cook his and her own meals, do his and her own shopping, do his or her own laundry and maintain assigned portions of the house and yard.
  • Providing homework assistance  through on-line tutoring services.
  • Supervising and transporting children will be outsourced to a nanny who, because of immigration status, is willing to work for less than minimum wage.
  • Contracting moral guidance to a counseling service on an as-needed basis, with Oprah and Dr. Phil providing free day-to-day advice.
  • Eliminating tuck in and good night kisses because they have not been empirically proven to impact mental health.
  • Negotiating conjugal services with a local independent contractor.

On reflection, the position of "mom" has simply kept our children from accepting responsibility for tasks that should rightfully be theirs. Junior is already four years old and is not yet tying his own shoes and heaven knows when Susie will learn to sew her own clothes with all the moddly-coddling her mother gives her. Had my wife not been opening the door each time he whines, I am convinced the dog would by now have learned to use the door knob and let himself out.

Again, Dr. Green, I appreciate the insight you've provided into eliminating redundant positions in schools. I'll let you know how my plans work out - both at school and at home.


Dr. Robert "Crabby" Crabtree, Superintendent
Left Overshoe Public Schools
Left Overshoe MN

* Mom will receive training so that she can be "repurposed" in society.


Original post May 25, 2010


The cost of awards

Over 20 years ago, I was given this plaque that still hangs on my office wall:

The inscription reads:



Presented to

Douglas A Johnson



Minnesota Educational Media Organization

My friend and colleague Jane Prestebak (who received the same award that same year) and I joke about how those plaques bought MEMO thousands of hours of free labor from us over the next two decades. Very clever, MEMO. Guilt-induced labor is still labor.

So yesterday I received this at ISTE in Philadelphia:

So my suspicious nature asks if this is just a cheap ploy by ISTE to get a bunch more work out of me? Yes, ISTE, I will volunteer. You already got four years of board membership. Assistance writing ISTE Standards. Presentations at conferences. Articles in Leading & Learning. Leadership in the SIGMS group. You know I am easy - and a bit dim so I can be manipulated.

All kidding aside, I am honored and humbled to be given this award. I am in august company! Check the list of award winners over the past 20 years and you will recognize a lot of heavy hitters in education.

So thank you. I feel my professional work has been an award in and of itself. Each time someone thanks me for something I've presented or written is an award in and of itself. But this nice. It will make my mother proud and our district public relations director happy.

Photos from the luncheon:

Chicago school library director and friend Lisa Perez was kind enough to sit by me. Here is she is thinking back on getting her own Making IT Happen award a couple years ago.

A full house in a large banquet hall. Live band. Only an open bar could have made it better. Hint, hint.

Lovely tables. Vegetarian entree and cheesecake for dessert. No icecaps were melted creating this meal.

This was a very good day for Minnesotans. My library friend Laurie Conzemius won the award as well. (I think MN and PA were tied in award winners, two for two, but who was keeping track?) Library media specialists sort of ruled the event, getting lots of mentions and praise from none other than ISTE President Kecia Ray. Wow!

Anyway, ISTE, thank you. Let me know if you have a job for me.