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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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True size of Africa

We Americans on the whole are woefully ignorant of world geography - even the best educated of us. If asked to name the provinces of Canada or identify Uganda on a map or tell which countries border Laos, I'd flunk the test.

Even so, I was surprised by how many people warned me about traveling to "Africa" (referring to it as though it were a country rather than a continent) certain I would contract Ebola immediately on landing.  

The outbreak of Ebola is in West Africa; Ethiopia is in East Africa. The center of the Ebola outbreak is closer to Paris than to Addis Abeba. Inter-country transportation is difficult.

In respect to Africa's size, compare this old Mercator projection in which Greenland and the entire African continent are roughly the same size:


to the Homolosine projection that tries to keep land mass right sized:

Kind a hard to even find Greenland in this map.

As much as I believe students should be able to find information and solve problems and construct meaning, I also believe that they need a foundational knowledge (cultural literacy?), that grounds their knowledge making. 

John Wooden once said that the two most important words in the English language are love and balance. A good education is all about balance. 






BFTP: Today's realization


The lesson of the Ngong Hills

One of my tasks at the Learning2.014 conference was to present a Learn2Talk. Rather than offer up the traditional keynotes, each Learning2 Leader was asked to prepare about five minute TEDTalk-style presentation and during the conference and then three or four of these talks were given during general sessions. The were uniformly individual, passionate, entertaining, and meaningul. Wow!

I was lucky and got to give my Learn2 Talk the first day of the event. But rather than give a speech, I told this story (a bit embellished, to be sure):

A tour guide in Nairobi told me this tale about how the Ngong (Knuckle) Hills came into being.

A giant once ravished the land. The animals of the savanna were determined to get rid of it. The big animals went in first: the elephants, the rhinos, the lions. Each in turn were soundly trounced.

That night all the ants gathered and decided each would carry a few clumps of dirt and place them on the giant while he was asleep. By the next morning the giant was buried so deeply that he never rose again. All that can be seen today are the protruding knuckles of one hand – the Ngong Hills.

Who can make the most improvements in education: The Department of Education or all teachers making small changes? (Machines are the Easy Part; People are the Hard Part.)

I've used this story as a closer for many keynotes I'd given, and it felt right using it here in east Africa, not all that far from where I first heard it. Several people from Kenya approached me afterwards, thanking me for sharing the tale.

And despite some research a few years ago, I had never discovered a written version of the tale, so I was beginning to imagine I had somehow dreamed it up. But two people at the conference - a native Kenyan and a longtime expat resident said they had heard a similar version of the story.