Search this site
Other stuff

Follow me on Twitter at:


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

Locations of visitors to this page

My latest book:


        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





"Machines are the easy part" now a free download

machineslulu.jpgI suppose we could call this an Earth Day tribute. My son's and my little book, Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free (paperless, non-polluting, environmentally friendly) download from Lulu.

You can also buy a print copy, but I haven't seen it yet, so no guarantees. Watch the shipping charges - the default setting is very expensive.

The book was a joint project for Brady and me during his senior year of high school four years ago. It was a genuine labor of love. I don't always understand my shy, talented son, but I appreciate him.

I've sold or given away about 1,000 copies since the book came out. Being the astute businessman that I am, I sold the book that cost me $14 a copy to publish for $12. So I figured every time I gave one away, I was saving $2. 

Brady was smart - getting paid for his art work up front.

A few notes about publishing on Lulu:

  1. The text was easy to format and submit to Lulu. I still can't quite figure out how to do a cover I like. Creating a cover just seems harder than it needs to be.
  2. Lulu allows you to place a Creative Commons license on the work. The site says "Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0". It's really 3.0.
  3. I've already spotted a few typos in the Lulu edition that weren't there in the earlier print version. Yes, folks, I do know when to use "its" and when to use "it's." I just can't seem to see the mistakes in my own work. What is up with that? (Now I am still confused about "lie" and "lay" and substitute other words whenever possible.)
  4. I really like how you can set your own price, give electronic copies away, and revise the work as needed. No cost for publishing either.

Anyway, Brady and I hope you enjoy our effort. I think we need to start another book once he graduates from college this summer!

Happy Earth Day. 


Artichoke and the hard questions

Artichoke in New Zealand has a terrific post about "Things you seldom hear discussed at an (e) learning conference."

First, he suggests a TED video by long time educational technology skeptic Clifford Stoll. For many years, Stoll has had the courage to ask what sort of message we send to children when we plunk them down in front of a piece of machinery rather than spending personal time with them.

“ love these high-tech devices and play happily with them for hours. But just because children do something willingly doesn’t mean that it engages their minds. Indeed most software for children turns lessons into games. The popular arithmetic Math Blaster simulates an arcade shoot-’em-down, complete with enemy flying saucers. Such instant gratification keeps kids clicking icons while discouraging any sense of studiousness or sustained mental effort. Plop a kid down before such a program and the message is, “You have to learn math tables, so play with this computer.” Teach the same lesson with flash cards, and a different message comes through: “You’re important to me, and this subject is so useful that I’ll spend an hour teaching you arithmetic.” (Stoll, Clifford, “Invest in Humanware.” New York Times, May 19, 1996.)

I have always enjoyed reading the hard-eyed look at educational technology by critics like Stoll, like like Jane (Failure to Connect) Healy, like Larry(Over Sold and Underused) Cuban, and especially like the Fools Gold and Tech Tonic reports by the Alliance for Childhood.

Even better than the Stoll link, Artichoke begins a response to the late Neil Postman's Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change in which he succinctly summarized the concerns Postman often addressed in his longer works:

  1. ... all technological change is a trade-off. ...  culture always pays a price for technology.
  2. ...the advantages and disadvantages of new technologies are never distributed evenly among the population. 
  3. ...Embedded in every technology there is a powerful idea, sometimes two or three powerful ideas. These ideas are often hidden from our view because they are of a somewhat abstract nature. But this should not be taken to mean that they do not have practical consequences. 
  4. ...consequences of technological change are always vast, often unpredictable and largely irreversible 
  5. ...When a technology become mythic, it is always dangerous because it is then accepted as it is, and is therefore not easily susceptible to modification or control.

OK, this is a teaser. Read and comment over on Artichoke. He raises some outstanding questions about technology in education based on the Postman's ideas.

Oh, for the antithesis of Postman, check this out by Ray Kurzweil - "Expect Exponential Progress":

Yet as powerful as information technology is today, we will make another billionfold increase in capability (for the same cost) over the next 25 years. That's because information technology builds on itself – we are continually using the latest tools to create the next so they grow in capability at an exponential rate. This doesn't just mean snazzier cellphones. It means that change will rock every aspect of our world. The exponential growth in computing speed will unlock a solution to global warming and solve myriad other worldly conundrums.

Thanks to its exponential power, only technology possesses the scale to address the major challenges – such as energy and the environment, disease and poverty – confronting society.

Technology - bane or boon to our world? How educators use (or don't use) technology with students will be the determining factor.


ED in '08 - what's this about?

Does anyone know anything about this event? The notice came in yesterday's email. With Newt Gingrich as a keynote speaker, it kinda makes a person wonder what the politcal agenda is of the "Strong American Schools" people. Of course, I should be following my own advice about listening to people with different views!

The other speakers look really interesting.




Dear Education Blogger,

Strong American Schools is excited to announce the ED in '08 Blogger Summit.

Conference details are as follows:

May 14th - 15th  
Palomar Hotel, Washington DC
Registration Is Free!

An opening reception is scheduled on the evening of Wednesday, May 14th.  Cocktails and hors d'oeuvres will be served before the screening of a new documentary film on education, Two Million Minutes.  A Q&A session with the filmmakers is set to follow.

Then join us for an all-day conference on May 15th.  Nowhere else will you have an opportunity to meet and network with fellow education bloggers, participate in panels, attend workshops, and help tackle tough questions on the state of education in America.

Highlights include a speech from keynote speaker Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the announcement of the winner of the ED in '08 Blog Award.

Space is limited, so be sure to REGISTER NOW!

About Strong American Schools

Strong American Schools, a project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, is a nonpartisan campaign supported by The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation promoting sound education policies for all Americans.  SAS does not support or oppose any candidate for public office and does not take positions on legislation.

Anybody else going to this? Has this event been held before and if so was it any good?