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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





Whip me, beat me, make me change my password



It's a little embarrassing, but it's taken three years to change our system to allow our students to change their own passwords. Until this fall, students used their student ID numbers as their passwords - number strings that were all too discoverable by fellow students and others.

We will be undertaking a proactive educational program for all kids this fall teaching them both the how and why of good password security. We will reach, I believe, the vast majority of kids with this training, investing in them not just a skill, but an understanding of why that skill is important. At least until biometric access becomes the norm.

The question I have been struggling with is if we should also enforce a mandatory password change.  Many security gurus in the business world recommend forced, regular password changes by all employees/application users with long strings of required password "strengths" including not being able to reuse a password. I use a number of applications that require this. Joy, joy.

My biggest concern of the forced password change is that dilutes the personal responsibility we are trying to invest in our kids. "Real world ready" graduates, I believe, would see all forms of digital safety and responsibility as something that cannot be left to others to manage. It is your job to lock the door of your house, not that of a security officer or neighborhood watch.

Is my idealism putting student privacy at risk? What is your district's policy? 

U of Iowa Library School profiles 25 grads

Considering I barely made it through the program, I find it somwhat ironic that I was chosen to be one of the alums to be given a WHOLE PAGE in the latest newsletter from the University of Iowa's School of Library and Information Science. The issue explores the 50 year history of the program. 

Let me explain...

After spending two years as the world's worst HS English, Speech, and Drama teacher in a small Iowa town from 1976-78, I decided I needed a career change. I had always loved libraries, and more importantly, wondered what job could possibly be easier than that of a librarian? Order books, keep kids on task, and read a lot. Even more importantly, how much does a person really need to know to be a librarian anyway so how hard could it be to get a degree in Library Science? Getting an undergraduate degree in English Ed was primarily reading literature and then bullshitting on essay tests, and I felt that was about my academic ability level.

So I applied (not giving those reasons for my interest in the field) and was accepted into the program, where immediately that first term I discovered that my fellow classmates consisted of about 30 of the most brilliant, hardworking (obsessive?), and serious women I had ever met in my life. That first summer I barely hung on by my finger tips, especially in the cataloging class where I was the only person handwriting catalog cards. I was given a mercy C for the course if I remember. I promised the instructor to never, never accept a job as a cataloger.

But I managed to work my fulltime evening job to support myself and small family and still get through the program. I was the beneficiary of reverse discrimination, being the only white male in the school library part of the program. Two full semesters and two summer sessions later, I had my degree and was back in a small Iowa school, this time as a school librarian.

And I loved it, continuing to work as a school librarian for the next 12 years. Like the library school program, the job itself was more involved that thought.



So now you know the rest of the story.

I am deeply grateful to the U of I's SLIS and very proud to have been selected as a profiled alum, regardless of how mistakenly the decision was made.




BFTP: Why robots make the best teachers

I think we can all agree that Sierra's observations about robots being the best employees holds true for teachers as employees in general, but there are some additional, specific reasons that teachers especially ought to be more robotic. Just as a reminder from Sierra:

Why Robots Are the Best Employees by Kathy Sierra (2006)

  1. They don't challenge the status quo
  2. They don't ask those uncomfortable questions
  3. They're 100% obedient
  4. They don't need "personal" days.
  5. ... because they don't have a personal life
  6. They never make the boss look bad (e.g. stupid, incompetent, clueless, etc.)
  7. They dress and talk the way you want them to
  8. They have no strongly-held opinions
  9. They have no passion, so they have nothing to "fight" for
  10. They are always willing to do whatever it takes (insane hours, etc.)
  11. They are the ultimate team players
  12. They don't complain when you micromanage (tip: micromanaging is in fact one of the best ways to create a robot)
  13. They don't care what their workspace is like, and don't complain if they don't have the equipment they need
  14. They'll never threaten your job
  15. They make perfect scapegoats
  16. They get on well with zombies 

So why do robots especially make the best teachers?

  1. They always follow the mandated curriculum (and love the Common Core)
  2. They let nothing get in the way of good test scores
  3. They give no special treatment to individual students
  4. They have no special passions that take away time from teaching the basics
  5. The do not tolerate ambiguity - only right and wrong
  6. They never laugh, never get mad, never show excitement, never use sarcasm
  7. They are easily programmed by politicians
  8. They never break their computers, demand an IWBs, or let their kids play with their iPads
  9. They pay attention during meetings
  10. They don't need staff development
  11. Their grades and lesson plans are always in on time
  12. They work well with robot students

When robots take over the world, we can all just relax.

Original post August 6, 2012