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EdTech Update





BFTP: Buy experiences

Recent analyses of why many shopping malls and department stores are closing their doors conclude, of course, that more people are shopping online. But one story mentioned that younger people are not as materialistic as we boomers, spending more of their income on travel, nice meals, and other "experiences." Glad they took this advice I wrote five years ago.


Johnson's Rule of Savings: The person in the nursing home with the best stories, not the most money, wins.

When asked in a recent workshop to place myself into a group that represented how I felt about money, I was a bit torn. My choices were Saver, Spender, Avoider, and Monk. The first two categories are self-explanatory and the Avoider perhaps should be called the Procrastinator. But the Monk, as I understood it, believes thinking about money is somewhat irrelevant. I was the only person in that group.

I don't much like thinking about money. It's boring. I can't tell you how much my networth is or my annual salary (very accurately anyway). Long ago I set it up so I automatically max out my 403B contributions and I don't see what goes into my state retirement fund. I make my mortgage and no-interest car loan payments every month. I pay the balance of my credit card. I like money for what it will buy, not as a means of keeping score or rating one' success in life. I just want enough money to buy everything I want - and pray my needs and wants remain fairly modest. When I croak, my plan is to neither be a burden nor a jackpot to my family.


Cartoon source

Research (and personal experience) shows that spending on experiences rather than things makes a person happier. I spend money on travel, on books, on technology toys - and on my grandchildren. Increasingly, I try to find ways to purchase experiences (or future experiences) for them as well: vacations, summer camps, swimming pool memberships, college costs, theater performances, etc. As precocious 11-year-old grandson Paul wrote recently: "Thanks for the toys, books, and food, but especially for the quality family time." He gets it.

A question that has been at the back of my mind is "When we buy computers are we buying things or are we buying experiences?" While they are virtual experiences to be sure, the ability to create, to inhabit a virtual world, and to communicate all are more about having an experience than having a device. Pretty good rationalization, huh?

But I'll make dang sure the virtual experiences don't ever replace the physcial ones.

Original post April 28, 2012


Why do people do stupid things?

Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. Robert J. Hanlson

Law 3. A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses. from  The five universal rules of human stupidity by Corrine Purtill.

Cipolla Matrix

I'm not convinced one has to pose a hazard to others to commit an act that could be called stupid. Not wearing a seat belt, bungee jumping with a badly frayed cord, posting job-endangering photos to the Internet, or drinking from the toilet are all stupid acts as far as I am concerned, but none of them necessarily harm anyone other than the person himself.

But an element of harm seems to be at the heart of most stupid acts. So if a stupid acts are harmful, why do we still commit them? Why do all of us, even those who may behave intelligently and reasonably most of the time, do really stupid things now and again. And I very much include myself.

Is stupidity a quality that can only be discerned by others or not realized by oneself until after the stupid act has been committed, and is therefore unpreventable?

I've long worried that we confuse ignorance and stupidity. (See Seven stupid mistake teachers make with technology.) So any definition and explanation of stupidity is a welcome read. I personally define stupidity as having knowledge but not using it. Yes, I know the bungee cord is frayed and may break, but I'm going to do the jump anyway, sort of scenario.

Most of the stupid acts I commit are a result of over-confidence. My high opinion of myself when applies to fixing things like plumbing, electrical outlets, and furniture, despite knowing from past experiences that my repairing something costs more in time and money than if I had hired an expert in the first place, tops my list of stupid acts. (See The quick fix: a tale of woe) Not admitting to ignorance is reason stupid acts are made.

Anytime one defies the odds, they are acting stupidly. Any time one refuses to admit their ignorance or acts despite reliable information, they acting stupidly.

To be very clear, I would not label any person as stupid. But I am happy to call out actions, even beliefs, that seem stupid to me.

It's OK to be ignorant. Ignorance, happily, is a correctable condition. But let's all try to do stupid things as seldom as possible.

Why do you think people do stupid things?


The student public library card - a win-win

Today is the day that all our high school students get notification and instruction on their new student public library card. The card works at both the MN county libraries (Dakota and Scott) in which our school district is located and gives students access to all print and digital resources and services of a regular library card.

And it is fine-free!

The program should be a powerful enhancement to our 1:1 program and will expanded next year to include getting cards for our middle school and elementary students.

This is the message going out to our families:

Dear Parents/Guardians


I’m pleased to announce that students who will be in grades 9-12 next school year at Burnsville High School and Burnsville Alternative High School will have instant access to the vast resources of two county library systems — without having to worry about overdue fines — through a new collaboration that begins May 22.

Both Dakota County and Scott County public library systems have worked with Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191 to make this happen.

Students will benefit from access to incredible resources including online one-on-one homework help, research tools, eBooks, audiobooks, movies/TV DVDs, music CDs, electronic magazines and print books.

Student cards will make public library resources a part of every student’s learning experience and leverage existing public resources to support student learning.

The card can be used online and also in library buildings. The no-fine cards will expire when students graduate.

Students have Chromebooks as personal learning devices, which gives them the ability to maximize use of the public library’s resources. We hope this encourages students to read, research and explore their interests over the summer so they return to school in the fall ready to learn.

Students will receive information about this opportunity from their language arts teachers.

For more information, email

The opportunity is voluntary. If students/families prefer to opt out, they can either not activate their accounts or send me an email at

I’m excited at the ways this will benefit your children.


Doug Johnson, Director of Technology, ISD191



To me, this is truly a win-win situation. Our students get an awareness of and access to the wonderful resources the public library provide. Research shows that the more access to reading materials, the better the chance of being a good reader. Public libraries help close the digital divide. And an increasing number of online resources offered by out public libraries means that proximity to a physical library is not required for use. And we have a greater chance of preventing the dreaded "summer slide."

It is also my hope that the result of this project is that our public libraries will build a new and larger base of library users and supporters. The fate of all libraries, not just those in schools, is being determined by how well they transition to a digital world and how well they stay relevant to today's users. Perhaps these newest users might offer constructive feedback to our public librarians to help insure this transition is successful.