Search this site
Other stuff

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

Locations of visitors to this page

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 Fan Page on Facebook

EdTech Update





Two steps forward, one step back

I found the results of this morning's presidential contest disappointing but not particularly surprising.

Throughout this campaign I noticed Trump lawn signs outnumbered Clinton signs by a rather large margin. Scott (Dilbert) Adams, a very smart guy, predicted a Trump victory months ago and stood by his prediction though all Trump's supposed gaffs, analyzing the race through the lens of a "master persuader." And the conservative media was as adamant in the prediction of a Donald win as was the liberal media of a Hillary sweep. Why would one biased viewpoint be any more accurate than another? Predicted large voter turnouts usually mean the most passionate about issues are voting in bigger numbers and this time the passion was anger and dissatisfaction held by the white middle class. (Read DJ Vance's Hillbilly Elegy). I would not have bet money on the outcome but I am not shocked.

Is there a message about societal change and human nature that can be applied to education change from this election?

For some of us, social change cannot come fast enough. In the past eight years we have seen an African American man get elected and serve most capably as our president; we have begun a path to provide socialized medicine for all citizens; we have shifted our energy policies from cheap oil and gas to renewables; and we have recognized the rights of our GLBT citizens. And that, my friends, objectively is a lot of social change - all of which I applaud.

But with so much change there was bound to be push back. From your cousin Bud or Aunt Tilda. Maybe your 90-year-old dad or the guy down the street who wears camo and hunts deer. People who feel they've had no voice in the change process and are worried that their values are not being honored, their fears are going unaddressed.

I've always argued that incremental change in schools is better than radical change. It causes less stress and actually lasts. Do we risk major push back, even reversals, if we cram too much change through our educational systems? The cousin Buds are out there in our teaching ranks and among our parents and community.

Change cannot come fast enough, I realize, for those who are undeserved by current educational practices. But without planned, careful, scaled implementation of such change, that next superintendent or tech director or other change agent just might take the school a huge step back. You want a Donald Trump as your next school board president?

Image source


There is no mythical "again"

The key word in the Trump lexicon is ‘again.’ If you’re a 32-year-old Hispanic lawyer or a 27-year-old African-American architect or a 40-year-old white professional woman or a gay couple in Charlotte, North Carolina, you may not think things are perfect now, but there is no mythical ‘again’ you are trying to get back to. Ron Brownstein, of The Atlantic (via David Leonhardt, New York Times)


from What if the curves were going the other way? Seth Godin

A return to the "good old days" seems to be a motivating force for many American voters this (thankfully soon over) election.

Personally, I would rather be living today than in any other time in history. I phone my mother who is 84 each week and one topic of conversation lately has been how she has had to have a tooth pulled. One tooth. We both remember my grandparents' teeth in a glass by the side of the bed. Not a tooth in their heads.

How times have changed  - and for the better.

I would argue that despite our challenges, things are getting increasingly better in public education as well. Yes, not enough of our kids are achieving at a high enough level. Yes, we need to modernize our curricula to meeting current work and societal demands. Yes, we need to use better methods for keeping our kids more engaged in school.

But I would say that we are doing a better job, with more kids, in better facilities, with better teachers than anytime in my 40 year career in education.

I don't want to "make education great again." It never was.

I want to make education ever better.

I voted for a better future, not a return to any mythical past. I hope you did too.



De-clutter at work

74. Upstream cost, downstream savings.

Now and again it strikes me that a picture in my house is hanging crooked, and each time I notice this I take a few seconds to straighten that picture out.

Conceptually I know that if I took five minutes, got a hammer, a nail, a pencil, and a level, I could attach a second nail and never have to straighten the damn picture again.

But like most people, I never seem to have the upstream time it takes to realize downstream time savings. Human nature, I suppose.

That is probably the major reason technology is so difficult to get busy educators to use. Convincing someone that learning to create a pdf file of an often-requested document, load it to a website, and create a link to it - thereby saving all the time it takes to locate, print, and send the document manually over and over again - is a tough sell.

About as tough as it is to convince me to go get the hammer. from Machines are the Easy Part; People are the Hard Part (free download)


The short video above does a fine job of showing why decluttering at home is a wise thing. I am personally adopting an increasingly minimalist lifestyle and enjoying it. Clothes, tools, books, dishes, etc. have all been pared down to essentials.

And while I am doing better at work (thanks in part due to moving to a new office this summer) in declutter physical materials, I still have a ways to go in sifting through digital clutter - in my email, on my harddrive, and in my GoogleDocs. But I have been adopting a few strategies that seem promising

If somebody else has a copy, don't save it yourself. I have long used this as a strategy for paper documents. If you really, really need that set of medical insurance guidelines, I'll bet dollars to doughnuts the HR department has one you can look at. If you rarely, if ever look at a school document (or can find it online), don't save a personal copy. That software or equipment manual - I'll bet it can be found online when needed.

Date all folders. E-rate folder? School board presentation folder? Tech minutes folder? Curriculum folder? Do these folders have hundreds of documents saved from over the past 10 years? De-clutter by organizing these documents by year - and then asking the hard question "Will really ever need that set of minutes from 2007?

Create an archive. Or if you don't want to take the time to create yearly folders, just create one labeled "Junk I probably will never need again (but am too nervous to throw away)" and make good use of it.

Use the last 30 minutes of the day to organize. By the time the end of the day rolls around I am usually pretty brain dead. (Some in my organization would suggest that the onset of mental morbidity starts much earlier.) Use it to go through email and file folders. Just for grins and giggles, start with Z and work backward through the alphabet.

Zero desktop. Zero dowload folder. If it's not worth the time to file, it's not worth saving.

Or simply give up. Save it all in one big folder and search. However I still have that "folder mindset in a tagging world." And now it is just a keyword world.

Oh, don't save this.