Search this site
Other stuff

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

My latest books:

   

        Available now

       Available Now

Available now 

My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

 The Blue Skunk Page on Facebook

 

EdTech Update

 Teach.com

 

 

 


Tuesday
Nov062018

Top 10 things I've learned about long-range plans

It's that time again. Yes, boys and girls, time to write a new multi-year technology plan for the district!

OK, OK, quiet down. I know you're excited, but we have some real important work to get done here. Now, who would like to help?

Please let's not all raise our hands at the same time. I understand that everyone wants to be associated with the most important, impactful document in the district, but the meeting room just won't hold us all. Many of you will just have be content taking the survey and participating in focus groups.

Please don't cry.

I'm sure that your experience is similar to that described above when one begins writing a long-range technology plan. (Joke.) As technology and library director, it's been both my pleasure and my pain to be involved in the construction of plans for both the districts in which I've been employed and for districts which have hired me as a consultant. One of the tasks for which I am responsible this year is coordinating the construction of my district's next three-year plan. 

In preparation, I've been reflecting on what I've learned about long-range plans for libraries and technology programs over the past 25 years or so. Here are my top 10...

1. Plans should direct, not dictate. A good plan should specify general directions in which the district wants to move and not be overly prescriptive. Specifics should be a part of each year's articulation of annual objectives. (See #4 below.) Specific technologies (and educational practices) change too rapidly to write a tech plan that indicates a particular device multiple years into the future.

2. Plans need interdepartmental ownership. A good plan can be a silo buster if leaders in curriculum, PD, business, operations, etc. are involved in its construction. Actually, I often think an argument can be made that there be no separate "technology" plan, only sections of other departmental plans that address technology.

3. Plans need to input from stakeholders. Needs surveys. focus groups, listening sessions at staff and parent meetings all provide plan developers with much needed perspective of the end user of any technology initiatives. Yes, we are the "tech" experts - but not the experts in teaching, accounting, etc.

4. Plans are worthless without annual objectives and accountability. In my experience, if long-range technology plans are to have any impact, annual objectives must be written based on them. AND the annual objectives need to be used as a performance measure for the individual responsible for seeing them completed.

5. Plans should address multiple levels of technology use in schools. I've long advocated a hierarchical approach to technology planning. In Maslow and Motherboards, I identified these pieces of a technology plan. Still works for me, but your mileage may vary.

6. Plans should be short and understandable. The longer the plan, the less likely it is to be read. Period. If a long, complex plan is necessary, it needs to be accompanied by an executive summary. The plan should not assume everyone knows technology or educational acronyms or the function of a particular piece of technology.

7. Plans should reflect realistic budgets. While it is fun to dream, a plan that requires immense additional funding without considering the source of that funding is not much good. I like aspirational plans that describe the pedagogical uses of technology, but if these aspirations depend on state legislatures mysteriously appropriating categorical funding toward classroom technologies, the plan will be more frustrating than useful.

8. Plans can save a program. Budget reductions are a reality for many districts. A good technology plan can, however, help minimize the impact of budget reductions on technology implementations. If the district wide infusion of a technology is spread over 3 year, cutting funding the final year will be objectionable to those who have been patiently waiting their turn for funding. 

9. Plans should be about positive change. Larry Cuban in Questions to Ask in Making Changes in Schools and Classroom lists as his first: "What are the problems you want to solve?" Planning time is a great time to ask why we might be considering a new program or technology. Are we trying to actually solve a real problem or we jumping on a bandwagon? And is technology the best means of solving it? Good tech planning is not just deciding what the district will do, but what it will not do.

10. Add your hard learned lesson. Use the comment section below.

I have yet to create or see a perfect plan. Maybe I only need 25 more years and I'll have it figured out.

Blog posts

Directions for the next tech plan, September 15, 2010
Men plan, god laughs. April 30, 2012
Strategic planning for libraries Dec 3, 2008
The real tech plan, May 10, 2006

Articles
Using Planning and Reporting to Build Program Support, Book Report May 1992
What Gets Measured Gets Done, 2007
Maslow and Motherboards: Taking a Hierachical View of Technology Planning MultiMedia Schools, January/ February 2003.

Saturday
Nov032018

Revisiting the 99 things meme

I've been looking for this for awhile and finally stumbled across this post the other day. What experiences have you had? Check the Blue Skunk version following the original. Enjoy 

THE 99 THINGS MEME (original)

Things you’ve already done: bold
Things you want to do: italicize
Things you haven’t done and don’t want to - leave in plain font

1. Started your own blog.
2. Slept under the stars.

3. Played in a band.
4. Visited Hawaii.
5. Watched a meteor shower.

6. Given more than you can afford to charity. (OK, I feel guilty about this one...)
7. Been to Disneyland/world.
8. Climbed a mountain.
9. Held a praying mantis.
10. Sang a solo.
11. Bungee jumped. (This looks terrifying. See also skydiving.)
12. Visited Paris.
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea.
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch.
15. Adopted a child.
16. Had food poisoning. 
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty.
18. Grown your own vegetables.
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France.
20. Slept on an overnight train.
21. Had a pillow fight.
22. Hitch hiked.
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill.
24. Built a snow fort.
25. Held a lamb.
26. Gone skinny dipping.

27. Run a marathon.
28. Ridden a gondola in Venice.
29. Seen a total eclipse.
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset.

31. Hit a home run.
32. Been on a cruise.
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person.

34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors. (at least the countries they came from)
35. Seen an Amish community.
36. Taught yourself a new language.
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied.
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person.
39. Gone rock climbing.
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David in person.
41. Sung Karaoke.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt.
43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant.

44. Visited Africa.
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight.

46. Been transported in an ambulance.
47. Had your portrait painted. (characture must count)
48. Gone deep sea fishing.
49. Seen the Sistine chapel in person.
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling.
52. Kissed in the rain.
53. Played in the mud.
54. Gone to a drive-in theater.

55. Been in a movie.
56. Visited the Great Wall of China.
57. Started a business.
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia.
60. Served at a soup kitchen.
61. Sold Girl Scout cookies.
62. Gone whale watching.
63. Gotten flowers for no reason.
64. Donated blood.
65. Gone sky diving.
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp.
67. Bounced a check.
68. Flown in a helicopter.
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy.
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial.
71. Eaten Caviar.
72. Pieced a quilt.
73. Stood in Times Square.
74. Toured the Everglades.
75. Been fired from a job.
76. Seen the Changing of the Guard in London.
77. Broken a bone.
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle.
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person.
80. Published a book.

81. Visited the Vatican.
82. Bought a brand new car.
83. Walked in Jerusalem.
84. Had your picture in the newspaper.
85. Read the entire Bible.
86. Visited the White House.
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating.
 (Fish are animals, right?)
88. Had chickenpox.
89. Saved someone’s life.
90. Sat on a jury.
91. Met someone famous.
92. Joined a book club.
93. Lost a loved one.
94. Had a baby.
95. Seen the Alamo in person.
96. Swum in the Great Salt Lake.

97. Been involved in a law suit.
98. Owned a cell phone.
99. Been stung by a bee.

Been there done that, got the t-shirt: 65
Wish I had: 11

No desire: 23

Oh come on, this list is for little old librarians... We of the adventerous soul can do better...

THE BLUE SKUNK 99 THINGS MEME

Things you’ve already done: bold
Things you won't admit to having done: underline
Things you want to do: italicize
Things you haven’t done and don’t want to - leave in plain font

1. Started your own blog. Received a cease and desist letter from a publisher
2. Slept under the stars. Slept in your car in a road ditch.
3. Played in a band. Paid your own tuition.
4. Visited Hawaii. Visited any country with a average per capita income of less than $2500.
5. Watched a meteor shower. Watched a tornado from your porch.
6. Given more than you can afford to charity. Given a donation instead of gifts to family, friends or coworkers.
7. Been to Disneyland/World. Done the behind the scenes tour of the Magic Kingdom.
8. Climbed a mountain. Hiked at over 13,000 feet. Without oxygen. Smoking on breaks.
9. Held a praying mantis. Held a python longer than you are tall.
10. Sang a solo. Hiked where there were bear warnings.
11. Bungee jumped. Skiied a black diamond run.
12. Visited Paris. Visited Mandalay.
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea. Been stranded on an island overnight.
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch. Wrote and illustrated a children's story.
15. Adopted a child. Adopted a pet from an animal shelter.
16. Had food poisoning. Had Montezuma's revenge.
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty. Spent the night in a real monastary.
18. Grown your own vegetables. Run your own still.
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France. Seen aboriginal art on Uluru.
20. Slept on an overnight train. Sat beside people with live chickens in a cage on a train.
21. Had a pillow fight. Had a fist fight.
22. Hitch hiked. Hopped a train.
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill. Took a day off without giving an excuse.
24. Built a snow fort. Used a bb gun to shoot your friends - for fun.
25. Held a lamb. Emptied a rat trap.
26. Gone skinny dipping. Spent a day on a nude beach.
27. Run a marathon. Bicycled across a state.
28. Ridden a gondola in Venice. Ridden a hot air balloon over the Masi Mara.
29. Seen a total eclipse. Seen a volcano erupt.
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset. Watched a sunrise from the Greek island beach you just slept on.
31. Hit a home run. Hit a home run on a first date.
32. Been on a cruise. Been on a white water rafting trip.
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person. Hked to the Hanakapi'ai Falls on the Nai Paii coast.
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors. Learned that one of your ancestors was a criminal.
35. Seen an Amish community. Visited a Peruvian village in the Andes.
36. Taught yourself a new language. Taught yourself a computer program.
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied. Been stranded away from home with no money at all.
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person. Seen the world's largest reclining Budda in person.
39. Gone rock climbing. Climbed the Great Pyramid of Giza without getting caught.
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David in person. Seen the mosaics on Mount Nebo in Jordan.
41. Sung Karaoke. Did a folk dance.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt. Walked up to a bison - on purpose.
43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant. Eaten something you couldn't translate in a restaurant.
44. Visited Africa. Worked in Africa.
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight. Gone snowshoeing by moonlight.
46. Been transported in an ambulance. Been carried on a strecher.
47. Had your portrait painted. Bought an original piece of art.
48. Gone deep sea fishing. Gone wreck diving.
49. Seen the Sistine chapel in person. Seen a Celtic cross in the Irish countryside.
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Been to the catacombs in Paris.
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling. Seen a big shark while scuba diving.
52. Kissed in the rain. Made love in a public place.
53. Played in the mud. Taken a mind-alteringl substance.
54. Gone to a drive-in theater. Visited Simon's Cabaret in Phuket, Thailand.
55. Been in a movie. Directed a play.
56. Visited the Great Wall of China. Ridden a bicycle in Xian and gotten lost.
57. Started a business. Smuggled something through customs.
58. Taken a martial arts class. Built an entire building.
59. Visited Russia. Read all of War and Peace.
60. Served at a soup kitchen. Eaten in a soup kitchen.
61. Sold Girl Scout cookies. Bought a fake Rolex.
62. Gone whale watching. Gone Fairy Penguin watching on Philip Island.
63. Gotten flowers for no reason. Gotten a smile from a beautiful woman for no reason.
64. Donated blood. Sold blood because you needed the money.
65. Gone sky diving. Flown in an experimental aircraft.
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp. Visited the Holocaust Museum in Berlin.
67. Bounced a check. Pawned something.
68. Flown in a helicopter. Flown in an ultralight.
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy. Taught your grandson a game.
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial. Toured Gettysburg.
71. Eaten Caviar. Eaten a sheep's eye.
72. Pieced a quilt. Installed a new toilet.
73. Stood in Times Square. Stood in Tianamen Square.
74. Toured the Everglades. Visited cannibals in the Borneo jungle.
75. Been fired from a job. Been deliberately fired from a job.
76. Seen the Changing of the Guard in London. Taken the Jack the Ripper tour of London at night.
77. Broken a bone. Been stung by fire coral.
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle. Driven on an ice-covered lake.
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
80. Published a book. Been asked to write a forward to a book.
81. Visited the Vatican. Seen the Living Goddess in Katmandu.
82. Bought a brand new car. Drove a car with over 200,000 miles on it.
83. Walked in Jerusalem. Walked through Amsterdam's red light district.
84. Had your picture in the newspaper. Had your name in the police report of your home town paper.
85. Read the entire Bible. Read Richard Burton's translation of the Arabian Nights.
86. Visited the White House. Attended a party at the president of Singapore's mansion.
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating. Eaten food from a street vendor in Kuala Lumpor.
88. Had chickenpox. Had a concussion.
89. Saved someone’s life. Saved your own life.
90. Sat on a jury. Testified in court.
91. Met someone famous. Had something named after you.
92. Joined a book club. Wandered away from the tour group.
93. Lost a loved one. Looked for one of your children who was lost.
94. Had a baby. Helped deliver a baby.
95. Seen the Alamo in person. Seen the ruins at Coba and Uxmal.
96. Swum in the Great Salt Lake. Floated in the Dead Sea.
97. Been involved in a law suit. Been hit with a rod by the Saudi religious police.
98. Owned a cell phone. Gone for a whole day without a cell phone.
99. Been stung by a bee. Been bitten by a monkey.

Now even I don't really want to do all of these things. But I've done a heck of a lot of them. Remember - it's not the people in the nursing home with the most money but with the best stories who win. Since the nursing home is looming every closer, I suppose I better get busy!

Thursday
Nov012018

Head for the (career) edge

  

David Leonhardt in a recent NYT Op-ed colum Do not double-major writes:

But the reality is that many students who double-major aren’t doing it out of intellectual curiosity. The number of double majors has soared in recent years mostly because students see it as a way to add one more credential to their résumé. What’s even better than one major? Two majors!

Except that it’s not. Most students would learn more by creatively mastering a single major — and leaving themselves time to take classes in multiple other fields. “Double majoring,” as Jacqueline Sanchez, a Wellesley College student, wrote in a recent op-ed for her campus paper, “ultimately prevents students from exploring many different disciplines.”

Unfortunately, double majoring is just one part of a credentials arms race among teenagers and college students. This arms race exacerbates inequality, because it can make upper-middle-class students seem more accomplished than working-class and poor students. And the arms race is also unpleasant and counterproductive for many of the well-off students. They’re loading up on extracurricular activities, Advanced Placement courses and college majors, rather than exploring, going deep into one or two areas and learning what they really enjoy.

David, I'd like to suggest another way of looking at the "double major" - it may be vital for anyone wanting to stand out in a competitive job environment.

Much to me my delight, my brilliant grandson Paul is considering majoring in both engineering and Chinese. He and I both think that this will set him apart and make him a more valuable asset to any engineering firm that does business with China and its fast growing economic influence.

Way back in the early 1990s, William Bridges wrote an influencial book called Surviving Corporate Transition. In it he recommended:

Head for the edge. “The people who work along the interface between the organization and its external environment are the sources of all the information that is needed to survive in this rapidly changing world.”

Expertise in two areas that may overlap on a daily basis is a real asset in many enviroments. A good reason for a double-major.

Of course, there are certainly poor reasons for double majoring, as Mr. Leonhardt points out. But I hope Paul stays with his plan of "double expertise."