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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





Dirty feet and starfish

Our starfish, our precious students and even teachers, in whose lives we have made a noted, tangible difference, are the most valuable revitalizing resources we possess. S. Wham

At the heart of all good writing is .... well, heart.

And one of my favorite bloggers, Mr. Shannon Dean Wham, at the Books, Bytes & Grocery Store Feet blog puts his heart out there in most of his writing, but especially in this must-read, "Of Starfish."

I don't know about you, but April and May have always been the months that any career - industrial chemical sales, cross-country truck driving, even, accounting - have started looking pretty good compared to anything in education. Mr. Wham's post ought to help you get through...

BTW, South Carolinians, Mr. Wham is in need of a library position for next year. Speaking as a parent and grandparent, I would love to have my kids have him as their librarian. As we say in Minnesota, you could do worse...


Applied math

In the think-about-it-for-just-a-second category. In this morning's e-mail...

This was an article from the St. Petersburg Times newspaper on Sunday. The Business Section asked readers for ideas on "How Would You Fix the Economy?" I thought this was the BEST idea. I think this guy nailed it!

Dear Mr. President,
      How about Patriotic retirement?
      There's about 40 million people over 50 in the work force; pay them $1 million apiece severance with stipulations:

  • They leave their jobs. Forty million job openings - Unemployment fixed.
  • They buy NEW American cars. Forty million cars ordered - Auto Industry fixed.
  • They either buy a house or pay off their mortgage - Housing Crisis fixed.

    Sounds good on the surface. But take a deep breath and think it through...

    If I am 56, this plan would cut 10 years off my work life. That means a loss of let's say $700,000 in income and another $200,000 in employer-paid benefits - like health insurance. If I have to pay off an $80,000 mortgage and buy a $20,000 car, that would reduce my "profit" from this deal by another $100,000. Health insurance would be another, what, $100,000 over 10 years at least.  If I have to pay taxes on this million, I am down, say, another $300,000. I may not lose anything really, but I am sure not gaining much either - except a heck of a lot of leisure time.

    If I am prohibited from working, over the next 10 years...

    • My liquor bill would go up.
    • Marriage counseling would be a big expense.
    • Higher utility bills at home since I am sitting around the house (and I would probably add premium channels to the cable TV.)
    • Higher auto insurance from drunk driving arrests, higher medical bills because of handyman project injuries, greenhouse bills to keep the LWW busy .... the list of expenses goes on!

    I don't think this is much of deal. I'd rather keep on working.

    But if was forced into retirement I would have lots of time to write crank economic plans for publication in newspapers.


    Speaking of math skills, here is a sure fire way of knowing you have slipped into geezerdom...

    At the used book store yesterday, I gave the clerk a 20 dollar bill and a one dollar bill to pay for my $5.35 purchase. (Have you noticed that older used books are now selling for more than their original cover price?) Anyway, the clerk said she would have to just make change from the $20 since dealing with two bills was too complicated. She did relent after she checked (on a calculator) that my mentally calculated estimate of $15.65 in change was indeed accurate.

    My immediate reaction: "Why aren't schools teaching kids today to make change?"

    I think 50% of all criticisms leveled at schools would be eliminated if simply taught kids how make change - every year, right through college. Spoken like a true geezer.


    Fair Use Scenario: Gloria's audio recordings

    In a continuing series of scenarios that explore educational fair use issues.

    T-L Gloria has been given a technology grant by her school district. With this grant she purchased mp3 players for two groups of at-risk students. She identified a group of low level books and purchased Accelerated Reader's audio assistance for the identified books. She attempted to find these books as commercial audio books, but only found a few titles. The rest of books she plans to make MP3 versions of (with "Text to Speech") so that they can be loaded onto the players along with those purchased commercially.

    She grouped the books by publisher and has contacted each publisher to get permission to make the MP3 versions, but has been met with some discouragement by supervisors in her district because they think that making the MP3 version is breaking copyright. Gloria wants to get publisher permission but it will take some time. She plans to start making the recordings before she hears back from some of the publishers.

    1. What is the copyrighted material? Who owns it?
    2. Does the use of the work fall under fair use guidelines? Is the use transformational in nature? Can this be considered "educational" use?
    3. What is your level of comfort with Gloria's actions, assuming she destroys any recordings from publishers who do not grant permission. Are there any changes or limits you might like to see that would make you more comfortable?

    Your level of comfort with this use of copyrighted materials: High 5 4 3 2 1 Low

    You comments are most welcome.