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EdTech Update





Smaller the keyboard, the smaller the thoughts


I am not a fan of texting.

I dislke Twitter.

Typing on on-screen keyboards  I avoid whenever possible.

While I don't think I have overly large fingers, they are not tiny either. (Some would say I am all thumbs.) I like full sized keyboards. Yet as the years have passed, our devices and how we input text have shrunk.

Separate typewriter-sized keyboards attached to desktop computers are less common than smaller integrated laptop keyboards. On-screen tablet keyboards are usually smaller and are a whole different tactile experiences. Portable external tablet keyboards don't do much for me - still small. And smartphones? I need my reading glasses to read a text let alone find the right letters (or emojis) in composing a response.

I am sure I am not the only who has found composing on ever smaller screens increasingly difficult. At least for extended periods of time. Has this led, then, to an overall reduction in the length of our communications and therefor its depth? Have shruken keyboards shrunk the nuance and substance of our thinking?

Books, journal/magazine articles, and newspapers once informed us. Now? Tweets, Facebook memes, and texts. As I have decried before, these forms of communication are like trying to have a converstation using only bumper sticker slogans. (See links below.)

I don't forsee this trend reversing. Text and ideas will continue to get smaller. Name-calling, either-or thinking, over simplification, stereotying will all become even more influential. As David Carr observed:

Calm, focused, undistracted, the linear mind is being pushed aside by a new kind of mind that wants and needs to take in and dole out information in short, disjointed, often overlapping bursts – the faster, the better. The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, 2011

Or maybe I am just an old fart worrying about nothing. 

Other related posts...


BFTP: Wisdom or groupthink from collaboration?

“Ten men in a room trying to come up with their favorite ice cream are going to agree on vanilla,” [movie director Darren Aronofsky] said in The New Yorker. “I’m the rocky road guy.” Timothy Egan, Creativity vs Quants

One of my tech integrations specialists and I are having a friendly debate over the value of collaboration. I see collaboration as a means to an end - just one arrow in a quiver of tools one might use to achieve an outcome. (Been beating this drum for awhile. See 1 and 2..)

Tracy sees it as an inherent good. Even if the end product of collaboration is no better or worse than independent action, the process of working together itself has value. I will admit that developing good working relationships built on mutual respect is a wonderful thing. 

But I still wonder if collaboration is the answer to every problem or plan. I've found three conditions to effective collaborative efforts, ones that keep us all from going over the cliff while holding hands and singing Kumbaya...


  1. Multiple POV are represented in the team. The best groups are ones in which each member can make a unique contribution, has specialized knowledge, and may have a different goal (agenda?). If I remember, Surowiecki says it's not the size of the crowd as much as the diversity of the crowd that leads to wisdom.
  2. Guidance not consensus is the goal. Groups who cannot deliver a decision that is not agreed to by all parties will always take the safest approach, the one least likely to create significant change. Individuals take risks; groups maintain the status quo. While input and an understanding why a decision is made is critical, 100% agreement on a course of action or plan is not. In fact, it may be the worst choice made. Unless you always want vanilla.
  3. Expedience is not essential. Most of us in managerial positions make multiple choices every day. Were I to call just my department leadership team (all four) together to get agreement on each decision I need to make, none of us would get much done. When we do meet (and when members of my department work jointly with other departments), it's about big projects, rules and policies, and basic philosophies (that can then be used to inform specific decisions).


Good leaders and managers build consensus. They make decisions based on multiple frames of reference. They take time when necessary in making good choices.

But ultimately their course of action is one for which they take individual responsibility and they sometimes make choices that are not uniformly popular. And sometimes I am wrong rather than safe.

It's the only way organizations get jamoca almond fudge.

Original post 3/26/14


Why free college is a bad idea

It may be apocrypha, but I remember hearing a story about the Seeing Eye program's early years. As this version went, early recipients of the dogs received them for free. It was discovered that some of the animals were not being well-treated. The organization then began to charge a nominal sum ($100) for the dogs to all who received one. The mistreatment stopped.

I think of that story whenever I hear about people getting something for nothing. And that includes a college education.

Anyone who wants an education past high school should be encouraged to pursue it. Whether at a state, private, or for-profit institution, additional learning is good for the economy, the country, and for an individual's personal development. Anyone of any age should be able to take classes, do guided self-study, or become an apprentice. Period.

But should it be free? A couple presidential candidates are proposing forgiveness of current student loan debts and making college free for all. While a far better way to spend tax dollars than a new submarine or subsidizing a multi-billion dollar corporation, I would not support such a program.

Back in the dark ages when I was an undergraduate at the University of Northern Colorado, I distinctly remember a few students with whom I hung out in the smoking lounge whose parents were paying their college expenses. And often when a course became to difficult or an assignment too time-consuming, those student would simply drop the class. 

I worked my way through college. The total aid I received was a $500 National Defense Loan which meant I worked 42+ hours a week while usually taking 12 credit hours of classes. Trust me, after spending my hard-earned money on a course, there was no way in hell I would drop it and waste that money.

Given the cost of today's higher education, I don't know if I could do this now. But I would like to think I am financially literate enough not accrue debt the equivalent of a mortgage on a house. I am sure I would still work. I am sure I would pick a school with lower tuition costs. I would live frugally. I would be aware of every penny of my own money paid to the school. I would not expect others to pay for my schooling.

We place less value on those things we are simply given than those things we ourselves earn. That is why I am not helping pay for my grandson's college while he is attending. I have pledged to help him with car expenses, had given him money for savings, will probably give him generous birthday and Christmas gifts or cash, and will see if I can help him with any debt he accrues while in college, but he will need to pay his own way. I want him to value his education.

Might learning to pay one's own way might be the best educational experience of college?