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EdTech Update





How did we survive? - a geezer's wondering

Another 4th of July has gone by and I did not set off a single firecracker. And I remember what fun we as kids in the 50's and 60's had with our M80s, Black Cats, and pop bottle rockets. Riley, in the YouTube video below, demonstrates one of the tricks we enjoyed - the firecracker in a can:

We also enjoyed the ball-shaped caps that came in triangular packages of 10 that sold for a nickel. Meant to be thrown on the pavement to get the pop, we instead loaded these pea-sized explosives in our slingshots and used each other as targets. (We also shot each other with arrows and BB guns.) Sparklers were far too tame, but Roman candles were fun.

Not only did we play with fireworks, we all:

  • Rode in the back of pickup trucks standing up at highway speeds
  • Never owned, let alone used, a bike helmet and rode on real roads, never bike paths
  • Swam in ditches that also contained dumped barb wire, household trash, and who-knows-what kind of farm chemicals (and ate the fish we caught from them as well)
  • Drove tractors beginning about age 9
  • Played with BB guns, bows and arrows, and slingshots.
  • Never wore seat belts in cars and would nap in the ledge beneath the rear window
  • Swung from ropes in the haymows of the barns
  • Freely used all the power tools in the machine shed
  • Rode horses bareback and without bits
  • Ate Twinkies and drank sugared sodas
  • Spend the majority of our summer days unsupervised by any adult
  • Got kicked off the school bus and walked home in sub zero weather
  • Read books from the adult section of the public library

The funny thing is that I don't remember anyone personally who died or was even seriously injured as a result of our unsafe pastimes. It wasn't just the tough or lucky who survived - even on the primative prairies of Iowa.

I am certainly glad my grandsons have enjoyed a safer childhood than I experienced. But I am not sure they have as much fun as I did back in the day. Perhaps in 50 years, they will wonder how the children of their generation survived, not being encased in Kevlar suits with air filters each time they left their homes.


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