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

My latest books:


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

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EdTech Update





My autobibliography

I plan to retire from my day job next summer. Unless I am fired first, I guess.

Anyway, in looking for ways to economize as all the expert "wealth management" folks advise, I have begun transferring storage and access to my published writings off the commercial webhosting site I have been using and on to a Google Site.

The move has brought home to me just how damn much writing I've done since 1990. (A children's story in Cricket Magazine and a column in School Library Journal were my first publications at the ripe old age of 38.) Surprisingly to me, I've since written 149 additional articles, talks, book chapters, editorials, and posters since them. I submitted two articles this month to Educational Leadership and CIOReview. I'm slowing, but not stopping. You can find my autobibliography* of articles here.

I am also in the process of moving all 246 columns I have written during this time as well. It's a slow process since I find my own writing to be amusing and have to re-read a lot of the old stuff.

All except for Machines Are the Easy Part; People Are the Hard Part, you will need to actually purchase my 7 my books. (9 if you could 2nd editions.) And of course there are the 2916 Blue Skunk blog posts (2917 when I publish this one) I've written since 2005.

An old article "Why I Write for Publication" still reflects my motivation for writing. And the reasons are all pretty much work related. As retirement nears, I plan on writing to still be a part of it. I'm not much interested in writing a novel or short stories. Seems there are plenty of grumpy old guys already writing and travel writers don't seem to be in short supply. I have a few months to find a niche. 

*I think I coined this meaning!

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Unexpected consequences’s important to be mindful that relevance in learning is defined by the student, or rather, the student’s interests—not ours. The job of a teacher is not just to teach content, but to help students apply it in meaningful ways to their lives. Plum, Stephen. An Authentic Connection to Learning. Edutopia, Oct 5, 2018

I had a good conversation with my daughter this weekend while taking a long walk. Along with the grandson who is a senior this year, we talked about favorite teachers, high school experiences, and what we liked and didn't like about school. One topic was the lack of relevance in high school and first year college classes. It was something about which even my academically-gifted daughter complained at the time. My only explanation to her then was that these courses were society's way of determining whether one was willing to conform and delay gratification, making one a "safe" member of that society. Not a very satisfactory answer.

Today's students have an option to sitting through irrelevant classes. Oh, they still have to put in the seat time, but may have found ways to pursue relevant (or at least entertaining) information via their phones and computing devices. As I wrote about in "The quiet disruption", I see this as a game changer for what is taught in classrooms and how. Relevance and personalization becomes critical if the teacher is to keep the student engaged. I don't think this was an intended outcome of our 1:1 programs, but it seems to be a consequence.

A second unintended consequence my visit with my daughter's family last week brought to mind is quite different. I learned that my seventh grade grandson Miles, within the first few weeks of starting middle school, formed and found an adult sponsor for a Dungeons and Dragons after school club. It has been extremely popular. What might be the unexpected result?

In Leveraging the Lore of 'Dungeons and Dragons' to Motivate Students to Read and Write. Mind/Shift, October 8, 2018, Paul Davarsi writes:

Once kids are bitten by the [Dungeons and Dragons] bug, they spend hours pouring over the reference guides, web pages and forums, and some even turn to fantasy novels. They often don’t realize that an unintended consequence of their game play is that they become better readers and writers. ...

Students who play are intrinsically motivated to exercise a host of complex and interwoven literacy skills, which they may be more reluctant to practice without the incentive of the game. 

He also describes teachers who use fantasy role-playing games as an introduction to classic works such as Macbeth and Beowulf. Miles may inadvertently creating better readers among his classmates!

Kids are getting harder to teach through traditional methods. Blame it on technology, if you will, but for whatever the reason educators must adapt quickly or prove themselves irrelevant. 


My Freely Admitted Personal Biases - updated

Everyone has biases. They may be well-founded and good intentioned, but they are still matters of opinion with which others may differ. Recognizing and articulating our own strongly held beliefs, I believe, is a healthy thing. We are more likely to be empathetic to those poor misguided souls whose biases may not ali align with our own. Some of mine are below... 

My Freely Admitted Personal Biases

(subject to change on short notice)

About education:

  1. Ultimately, we are responsible for our own education.
  2. The solution to all the world's problems will rely on effective education.
  3. Libraries and uncensored Internet access are vital to a democratic society.
  4. A teacher's primary job is to instill a sense of importance in his subject. Skills will follow.
  5. Schools should teach children to think, not to believe.
  6. Creativity, empathy, and humor are as important to success as reading, writing, and numeracy.
  7. An effective school library program should be available to every child.
  8. Money alone won’t improve education. Chastisement alone won’t improve education.
  9. All citizens should pay for public education. Don't you want an educated person changing your drool bucket in the nursing home?
  10. Also see "All 10 fingers, all 10 toes" on my educational wishes for my grandchildren.
  11. All kids should be treated the way I want my own grandchildren to be treated.
  12. There is no place in the future for teachers. Only co-learners.
  13. Like it or not, what gets tested, gets taught.
  14. On data driven decision-making: anything that you can get someone else to believe is true.
  15. Anything fun in education is automatically suspicious.
  16. The best way to show gratitude for a professional courtesy is to pay it forward. Show a person new to the field a kindness.
  17. Standardized tests are more about discrediting public schools than improving education.
  18. Forprofit education is an oxymoron.
  19. When traveling, never eat anything you can't translate.
  20. A real teacher doesn't provide answers. Only questions so compelling the student must answer them for themselves.
  21. Creativity always starts with a problem.
  22. Some are born learners, some achieve learning, and others have learning thrust upon 'em.

About politics and religion:

  1. Both politics and religion should be viewed with profound skepticism.
  2. Legislators should not require children to take tests that they themselves can’t pass.
  3. All political extremists of both the left and right should be put in a compound surrounded by razor wire and armed guards in western North Dakota – and kept there. Ann Coulter and Al Franken should have to share a room.
  4. If life isn't fair, why should the afterlife be?
  5. The best gifts given are to those who are actually in need.
  6. Strength of opinion and depth of knowledge rise and fall in inverse proportion.

About technology:

  1. Technology is neutral.
  2. Best practices should drive educational change, not technology.
  3. Short-term fixes rarely fix anything and usually aren’t short-term.
  4. PowerPoint doesn’t bore people: people bore people.
  5. Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part.
  6. Cell phones are evil. (Exception to bias #1.)
  7. Macs are better than PCs. But both are detestable.
  8. More and better are not synonymous.
  9. My best decisions are made when I think of myself first as a child advocate, second as an educator, and lastly as a technologist.
  10. The motto of most technology departments should be: Solving problems with technology that you didn't have before there was technology.

About race and culture:

  1. Swedes are superior to Norwegians in every way. But mixed marriages can work.
  2. Everyone has a funny accent except Minnesotans.
  3. George Carlin and Bill Maher and Jon Stewart are almost always right.
  4. Unrecognizable food served in small portions artfully arranged on over-sized plates served by an obsequious waiter is not fine dining.
  5. No male over age 10 should wear bangs.

On human nature:

  1. Although I may not say it out loud, my grandchildren are better than any other children on the face of the planet.
  2. I really want most urban legends to be true.
  3. Most of us would prefer shallow wit to deep intelligence in our writers and speakers. Thank goodness.
  4. Sport stadiums should be paid for by the people who use them; community centers, parks, bike trails, libraries, and swimming pools should be paid for by everyone.
  5. Smoking and overeating should be considered poor health choices, not moral failings.
  6. Most of us should be a lot more thankful than we are.
  7. Most of us should worry a lot less than we do.
  8. Change is inevitable - except in human nature.
  9. Say something nice about your significant other to your significant other everyday.
  10. If you wait for the perfect conditions, you’ll spend your life waiting.
  11. It's easier to find something than to find it again.
  12. Rules and reasoning only work with the rational.
  13. Unless you are the bride, never be the thing people remember most about a wedding.
  14. Only English majors and film critics like tragic endings.
  15. Nice people ought to get better service.
  16. Charitable giving is the best investment you can make. Spoiling your children and grandchildren a little is the second best.
  17. The happiest people in the nursing home are the ones with the best stories, not the ones with the most money.
  18. If you can't find someone on whom to pass your stress, you're stuck with it.

Lessons learned from bicycling

Johnson's Little List of Library and Technology Laws