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





Classroom technology infrastructure: what's needed?


I've been playing around with the best way to present to the architect the information/technology infrastructure needed in our new elementary school's learning spaces, especially the classrooms. The diagram above (larger tiff file here) represents my thinking to date, but it seems less than visionary. 

Here are some questions I have... 

  1. Do we need a standard classroom floor plan because of technology? In other words, does the teacher's desk, the front of the room, the IWB, etc. need to be in the same location more or less permanently in each classroom?
  2. Do we consider equipment like document cameras, student response systems, and remote slates add-ons, or infrastructure? In other words, does the design of the classroom need to take these soon to be ubiquitous tools into consideration?
  3. Do we need an electrical grid in floor? While students and teachers may be using wireless internet access and laptop computers, to date, the batteries do not last the length of a school day. CAN WE ELIMINATE THE NEED FOR EXTENSION CORDS WITH A LITTLE FORESIGHT?
  4. Do we need computer network drops on all walls? Yes, we will be putting in wireless, but at what point in the future will wireless offer the robustness, bandwidth and security needed for things like online testing or online photo/video editing, and video streaming? How many of these drops need to be homeruns back to switches in closets? Can we somehow eliminate in-room dumb hubs?
  5. Can ALL the wires coming into the classroom be Ethernet? Can voice, data and video converge into a single set of wires? What happens if the "one" wire connection is lost? Do we need some kind of redundancy?
  6. Can we use a single amplifier and set of speakers for all sound sources - teacher voice, student voice, video, telephone, computer, etc.? Do we need both a TV set and an data projector? Where and how do we place a television receiver so channels can be selected? Do the cost of LCD projector lamps make having a TV and projector still economically wise?
  7. How sophisticated does the video output from the classroom need to be? Will a built-in camera using Skype meet most needs or will a small, separate CODEC and camera be needed?
What would the dream classroom technology look like your new school? And what will the building look like that can accommodate it?

Hardening of the opinions

sht081.jpg Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,--
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
                        Ulysses by Alfred Tennyson

Cary and I met our goal of 23 miles in two days, not three. We survived hail, rain, wind, wolves, narrow bridges, defective camp stoves, slippery trails, and a damned cold night. We carried 40-50 pound packs to the highest point of the trail. Heroic hearts, indeed.

I have almost recovered.

Aging fellows like me need a good physical challenge now and again. More so now really than when youth had its horns out and went looking for some territory to defend or some mate to impress. It is simply about proving to oneself that one yet harbors a small ember of the strength and, perhaps, promise of youth. That the muscles still serve - though they take longer to warm up. That the lungs still work - perhaps harder than ever. But perhaps the best thing to know is that the brain still functions - enough anyway to read a map, talk politics and women, and survive a day or two in the wild. That we are foolish enough to take on the trail, but smart enough not to hurt ourselves too much in the process.

Yet it's not really a hardening of the arteries, I fear, but hardening of the opinions. A malady that seems endemic among people my age (and younger). How do I keep from becoming one of the old grumps in the teachers' lounge who counters every change advanced with, "Yeah, we tried it that way twenty years ago. It didn't work then and it won't work now."

It's tougher to stay mentally flexible than physically fit. What can you do to make sure you can still touch your intellectual toes?

Or as Tennyson might put it:

To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.


Other trail photos can be found here


A break at the Jackson Creek campsite - just before the rain began. Doug Johnson, May 2008


Beaver pond near Carlson Lake. Doug Johnson, May 2008


Our hike started at the northern most point - a few yards from the Canadian border and took us to just
outside the Magney State Park. We have a ways to go. Map from SHT website.


On trail, off line

I am at two with nature. Woody Allen

Up to 200 people each year take three weeks "through hiking" the 200 mile long Superior Hiking Trail, starting at one of the trail that stretches from the Canadian border to Two Harbors, MN.

My friend Cary and I will not be among them.

But we are tackling the route in sections that fit our stamina and ability to be gone from our jobs. We're hoping to hike about 25 miles over three days this weekend. It's a start. Rather than our usual meandering annual jaunt, this year we have A PLAN. We are starting on the north end of the trail and walking south until we get to Duluth. We estimate it will take 10 years unless both get fired and have little else to do with our lives.

lostinthewild.jpgCary Griffith is an expert on being lost. I am not sure I find that a comfort. His book Lost in the Wild (a classic in the survival genre) is a fantastic read and should be in every middle and high school library on the planet, especially for reluctant male readers. If they weren't reluctant readers before they started the book, they will be afterward. (That's a joke.) Even if I wasn't Cary's friend and even I wasn't given prominence - OK, mention - in the acknowledgements, I would still recommend this compelling story.

If you would like a sample of Mr. Griffith's prose, try "Surviving Cascade," a re-telling of the manly adventures of the author, his friend Doug, and their boys - Nick, Noah and Brady. It recounts the hike our sons still lovingly refer to as "The Death March." (See, boys, didn't we tell you that you really don't need all your toes?)

Here is part of the trail's description from its official website:

The Trail is routed principally along the ridgeline overlooking Lake Superior. At its lowest point, the Trail goes along the lakeshore, which is 602 feet above sea level. At its highest point the Trail is 1750 feet above sea level and more than 1000 feet above Lake Superior. The Trail is characterized by ascents to rock outcroppings and cliffs, and descents into numerous river and creek valleys crossed by attractive and functional bridges. Panoramic overlooks of Lake Superior, the Sawtooth Mountains and inland woodlands, lakes and rivers are abundant along the length of the Trail. At many points, the Trail follows rivers and creeks, often for distances of a mile or more, show-casing waterfalls and rapids, bends and deep gorges where thousands of years of rushing water has cut into layers of ancient volcanic rock.

I can attest to the region's beauty and ruggedness. It will be an awesome hike. Oh, the last website update from May 17th indicated there was still snow in areas along the trail. I'm packing my long johns. And the LWW suggested I bring aspirin for mornings after sleeping on the ground.

Anyway the Blue Skunk will be off line for a few days. Enjoy the respite.