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EdTech Update





When did the ice go out and other personal information problems

Tuesday, April 15, 2008 Middle Lake Jefferson, LeSueur County, MN

Wednesday, April 16, 2008 Middle Lake Jefferson, LeSueur County, MN

I took these photos over this week. They, along with the dates of the pictures, document that April 15, 2008 was the last day that our lake had a substantial covering of ice.

Why do I bring this up?

Every year, year in and year out, the LWW and I have the same damned discussion that begins with, "Gee, when did the ice go out on the lake last year?" And neither of us remembers with any large degree of certainty. (But I am sure I am always closer to the exact date.)

But next year, thanks to this very blog entry, this small bit of personal information that has been so hard to keep track of in the past, will be accessible. I'll just search the Blue Skunk for ice. My blog has become a PIM (Personal Information Management) tool.

Miguel Guhlin and others have been promoting a new PIM tool, Diigo. Miguel's even challenged me to review a video about the resource. (Good video. Not as clear nor amusing as the Common Craft tutorials, but then Diigo seems to be a complex tool. Better production values than Common Craft. Like the lyrics but you can't dance to it. One thumb up.)

As I watch the Diigo tutorial, I started thinking about where and how I store the information I need to find again. When am I successful and when am I less so? How can I improve? I did start reading William Jones' Keeping Found Things Found, but found it pretty slow going. I will persevere. Guy writes like a college professor. Anyway looking at some of my information storage and retreival techniques..

I only use one computer for both work and personal use. Its a laptop I drag home and back - every night. I could keep everything online (e-mail, documents, bookmarks, etc.) but then I would be at the mercy of having an Internet connect all the time. While that is getting more likely, I travel enough that "likely" isn't sufficient. PIM grade: B

I have two e-mail accounts - one for work and one persona. Both download into my Entourage program on my single laptop. I have very good, very extensive filing system so it is relatively simple to find information in an email I am looking for. PIM grade: A-

I keep a combined calendar and address book on the district's Exchange server. I can mark my personal calendar dates private. Exchange/Outlook leaves a copy resident on the harddrive of my computer. I do drag a paper calendar with me to meetings where I don't take my computer and I use an old method called "manual sync!" PIM grade: B-

Electronic files are either on my laptop hard drive or on one of two web/blog spaces. While I've always used a pretty good filing system, I am finding that Spotlight and the web/blog search engines are faster than navigating through hierachtical files. I am not yet dumping everything into one big folder - or worse yet, leaving it all on my desktop. I still have two file drawer of paper "stuff" - one at work and one at home. PIM grade:Grade: B-


I have phone numbers stored in Entourage, on my cell phone, on my home phone's memory, taped to side of the fridge, on sheets stuffed in the phone directory by my desk, in my office phone's memory, in my home phone memory and even on business cards in a little holder by my phone. It's a problem of having too many phones. PIM grade: D-

My web bookmarks are scattered among two webbrowsers and a account. Would moving to Diigo add just one more place to have to look for a bookmark or replace each current means of storing them? D

My usernames and passwords for a bazillion online accounts are slowly being beaten into submission using a FileMaker Pro database that is password protected. It seems to be overkill for such a task, but I don't know another solution. They auto-fill in webbrowsers is like the auto-dial on the phone - it is deviously simple to never memorize a username and password. PIM grade: Grade D+


I have yet to find a PDA or PDA/Cellphone I like very much. Batteries discharge too quickly. My Treo was too small to be a good calendar and too bulky to be a good cellphone. Too often when I would sych, I'd wipe everything out or create duplicate entries of everything.

Like most people, I am sure I could save hours of downstream time if I took a few hours and just spent it getting organized. Who take the time? From Machines Are the Easy Part; People Are the Hard Part:


74.    Upstream cost, downstream savings.

Now and again, it seems a picture in my house hangs crooked and each time I pass one, I take a few seconds to straighten it.

Conceptually I know that if took five minutes, got a hammer, a nail, a pencil, and a level, I could put in a second nail and never have to straighten the damn picture again.

But like most people, I never seem to have the upstream time it takes to realize downstream time savings. Human nature, I suppose.

That's probably the major reason technology is so difficult to get busy educators to use. Convincing someone that learning to create a ,pdf file of an often-requested document, load it to a website, and create a link to it -  thereby saving all the time it takes to locate, print, and send the document manually -  is a tough sell.

About as tough as it is to convince me to go get the hammer.


Any PIM tips you'd be willing to share?


Rotarians come through!

This is why I like living in "small" town America...

Mankato–The Rotary Club of Mankato is providing every third grader attending Mankato Area Public Schools with a copy of Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends. This decision comes after nine months of careful research and consideration on the best way to promote literacy within the community.
“As Rotary International closes in on achieving the goal of eradicating polio, a couple of global initiatives have been identified to direct our resources at going forward…one of those is literacy,” said Co-Chair of the Literacy Committee and Mankato Rotarian member Jonathan Zierdt. “We felt that by starting in our own community where literacy has been identified as a needed focus that we could not only bring results to children in our community, but may be able to establish a program other Rotary clubs could replicate.”

“Our ultimate goal is to establish this literacy initiative as an annual event,” said Mankato Rotary Club president Bob Weiss. “624 books will be handed out and we feel this is a very effective way to promote literacy within our schools and community.”

On Wednesday, April 23, members of the Mankato Rotary Club will visit each third grade classroom to distribute books. While in the classrooms, they will read popular poems from the book and reiterate the importance of literacy to the students. Each book will also include a written note and have been signed by various Rotary members.

“We are delighted that the Mankato Rotary Club has chosen this gift as part of their literacy initiative,” said Mankato’s Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Co-Chair of the Literacy Committee and Mankato Rotarian member Cindy Amoroso. “Reading poetry, especially the fun, wacky poems of Shel Silverstein, is a natural way for readers of all levels to develop language and literacy skills and makes the reading process enjoyable and rewarding. Mankato’s third graders are fortunate to receive their own copy of a Silverstein poetry collection!”

Silverstein, who passed away in 1999 at the age of 68, published
Where the Sidewalk Ends in 1974. Since its publication, it has been translated into over 30 different languages and sold more than six million copies, making it the best selling children’s poetry book ever. His use of silly words and wacky approach captivate kids worldwide in each of the 130 poems.

Mankato Rotary is a volunteer organization of business and professional men and women who provide humanitarian service, and help build goodwill and peace in the world. For more information or to become a member, please visit

It pains me as a Kiwanian to say this, but "GOOD JOB, ROTARIANS!"

I hope you all vote for our building referendum at the end of the month too. 


How not to get a tech job

Johnson’s First Law of Effective Supervision: Hire people who don’t need to be supervised.

We are filling two open tech positions in our district. Advice to applicants based on real events of the past few days:

  1. Don't have your mother call and ask for an extension on the application deadline. This may have worked with your English teacher but it doesn't work for anyone who may be your potential supervisor.
  2. Don't tell me you can't figure out the online application process. This is a tech position for which you are applying. 

Just a couple little hints...

Any other tell-tale signs that a job application should be circular-filed?