Search this site
Other stuff

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

Locations of visitors to this page

My latest books:


        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





Stop and take a deep breath

Our school district projects budget cuts of about three million dollars next year. That's five percent across-the-board if the cuts were to be made uniformly (which is impossible). And our district is in GOOD financial condition compared to many across the state, nation and world.

But you know, I am almost looking forward to the cuts. Echoing Tim (Assort Stuff) Stahmer's great blog post from a couple days ago, 2009-10 just might the year we can stop, take a real deep breath, evaluate our programs, reflect, and re-prioritize our budgets. (I rather enjoy doing budgets, making transparency a priority as long time readers may remember.)

This email below was shared with me by Nick Glass from TeachingBooks with whom I was visiting at the SLJ Summit. It was sent in response to a sales inquiry for his excellent product. (Used with permission, product names deleted to protect the innocent, see my product endorsement policy).

All I can tell you is that we are INUNDATED with electronic teaching resources. This past year we have implemented ________, an online writing program; _______, a comprehensive curriculum for math, language arts, and science grades K-12; the ______ program which is helps secondary and adult ELL learners learn English; ______ which is an ELL program for younger learners; _____ at the high school level; _____ at the alternative high school; and a new standards-based electronic gradebook.

We are tapped out, maxed out, and stressed out. We have all of the technology we can manage (more than we can manage actually) and we have neither the funding nor the capacity to look at any more resources in the foreseeable future.

Could this have been written by the educators in your district? While we have not implemented curricular tools and programs at the level described above, our district has been pushing things at our teachers at a rapid pace: SmartBoards, math games, a new student information system/gradebook/parent portal, streaming digital video, a "common assessments" program, expectations of teacher created webpages, etc. All this on top of a new "professional learning community" approach to self-directed, evidence-based staff development. A new "strategic road map." Higher percentages of ELL, FRP, and SpEd students. Nastier state tests and passage rates required for graduation. Whew!

Maybe applying the techno-brakes a little in 09-10 might be a good thing. A hard look at our tech and library budgets is in order. As I myself preached in 1995:

As much as I hate sounding like a Republican*, I have to say more money is not always the answer to better services to staff and students. A good budget requires planning, prioritizing, and accountability. When those things are done, better programming is the result - even without an increase in funds. (Budgeting for Mean, Lean Times.)

Can budget reductions ever have positive outcomes?

* For you whipper-snappers, back in '95 the Republican party was considered not just socially, but fiscally conservative as well.



Why one should never trust a spelling checker...

I admit it. I make errors. Public ones. Like writing this:

For those of us who were once English teachers, to funny not to share... Doug

And of course, the misspelling was brought to my attention:

I am a devout reader of your blog (not that I always agree with you), but I felt, as an English teacher, the need to point out the irony of the mistake in your first sentence...

"For those of us who were once English teachers, to funny not to share"

"too funny"

No offense intended!

So, OK. That was embarrassing. I replied:


Here are the possible reasons I made such an error:

  • I deliberately left out the second “o” because my computer is running low on them and I need to conserve.
  • I’ve always been confused about to, too, and 2 (as well as tutu – both the costume and the politician).
  • This was actually a contest to see who could find the error – AND YOU WON!
  • Like the Navajo blanket weavers, I purposely make an error in each thing I write, honoring the notion that only God is perfect.
  • I suck at proofing my own writing and need to take the time to do a better job of it.

Anywho, I will leave the error in situ as a lesson in humility. Thanks for the catch.

All the best,


While making such a dumb mistake and being called on it never exactly makes my day, it doesn't really slow me down much either. Nor should concern about your own writing being perfect prior to publication keep you from writing and publishing. Fear of errors keeps too (or to) many people from contributing to the common good.

After writing I don't know how many words in books, articles, columns and this dumb blog, you'd think I would get better at crafting a decent sentence and avoiding typos. But I still can't re-read a single thing I've written without the urge to re-write - even if just a little. And deliberate or not, I bet almost everything I've written still has grammar or spelling errors still in it.


On a completely un-related note, my buddy Ian Jukes is still suffering from a foot infection. In my last email to him, I suggested that he simply lose the foot and attach a wheel or inline skate or even a little skateboard. I listed several advantages:

  • easier to make close connections at airports with new speed
  • add a few LED lights and do a big “Starlight Express” number as a finale to his keynotes
  • big down hills = no need for taxis
  • twice the life from one pair of socks
  • add a generator to recharge the laptop and cell phone

I am sure there are other benefits as well. But I also realize that he is probably more attached to his foot than I am. This is my Heely-envy coming out. When will they make these things for my size weight person?

Could this be Ian's big finish to his future keynotes?



Do not remove under penalty of law

  • Tom Hoffman left this comment in response to Fair use scenario - Mr. Jones and YouTube: The thing is, some of this stuff isn't really ethics. I don't even know what it is. How do you categorize whether or not you ought to honor arbitrary terms of service statements on websites. Or, looking at it another way, I can't imagine what the "ethical" argument for not allowing you to save a local copy of a video you're viewing in a flash player.
  • Francey Harris asks whether the terms and conditions of a database or Fair Use guidelines take precedence when making a decision.
  • Several commenters state that they are very nervous about cracking copy protection schemes (criminal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act) in order to use other's work within Fair Use provisions.

Ah, it seems that the use of intellectual property in schools may still be complex and worrisome even with new fair use guidelines with many interrelated moral decisions that need to be made. And, of course, there is another entire body of ethical choices around the personal, non-educational use of IP.

Increasingly I see the wisdom of the statement, "Applying fair use reasoning is about reaching a level of comfort, not memorizing a specific set of rules." from Temple University's 10 Common Misunderstandings About Fair Use. I suspect that if there are three people in a room, there will be three levels of comfort regarding how or if copyrighted materials should be used.

Perhaps one reason this topic is so confusing is that there is not "one right answer" to any of these choices we are making about IP, but only "individual right answers." Is it time to revisit our old friend Larry Kohlberg and his Stages of Moral Development from our Ed Pysch 101 classes?

From "Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development" (at

Level 1. Preconventional Morality

  • Stage 1 - Obedience and Punishment  The earliest stage of moral development is especially common in young children, but adults are capable of expressing this type of reasoning. At this stage, children see rules as fixed and absolute. Obeying the rules is important because it is a means to avoid punishment.
  • Stage 2 - Individualism and Exchange  At this stage of moral development, children account for individual points of view and judge actions based on how they serve individual needs. In the Heinz dilemma, children argued that the best course of action was whichever best-served Heinz’s needs. Reciprocity is possible, but only if it serves one's own interests.

Level 2. Conventional Morality

  • Stage 3 - Interpersonal Relationships  Often referred to as the "good boy-good girl" orientation, this stage of moral development is focused on living up to social expectations and roles. There is an emphasis on conformity, being "nice," and consideration of how choices influence relationships.
  • Stage 4 - Maintaining Social Order At this stage of moral development, people begin to consider society as a whole when making judgments. The focus is on maintaining law and order by following the rules, doing one’s duty, and respecting authority.

Level 3. Postconventional Morality

  • Stage 5 - Social Contract and Individual Rights At this stage, people begin to account for the differing values, opinions, and beliefs of other people. Rules of law are important for maintaining a society, but members of the society should agree upon these standards.
  • Stage 6 - Universal Principles Kolhberg’s final level of moral reasoning is based upon universal ethical principles and abstract reasoning. At this stage, people follow these internalized principles of justice, even if they conflict with laws and rules.

Do we get a variety of answers about IP use because each of us may be at a different level of moral development?

It's interesting that the arguments that Lessig is making in his book Remix and that Richard Stallman and others in the Free Software movement fall squarely into Stage 6: Universal Principles - that society's ability to use and build on IP property should be given precedence over unlimited control of the IP by its owners.

At what stage do your responses to questions of intellectual property use fall? Does it still make you nervous to rip the "Do not remove" tag from your new mattress?