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

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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





Complexity of modern life 

I counted.

I have one in the bathroom. One in the car. One in each bedroom. Three in the kitchen - wall, microwave, coffee maker. One on each of my electronic devices. And while I use each of them, most are a royal PIA twice a year. When Daylight Savings Time begins or ends.

Resetting the digital clocks is more complicated than it should be - at least a couple. My bedside alarm clock and my car's clock both require me to pull out the manual and read instructions. (Here is another rant about clocks and their complexity.) A couple others I can push enough buttons to finally get the change I need made.

Granted, my iPad, computer, and phone all auto-correct for DST. That's a good start. But I would someday love to see the day when all devices are manual-free, completely intuitive. 

And yes, I know this falls under the first world problem category.


BFTP: Memo to old white dudes (political)

If you don't want to read anything politcal from the Blue Skunk, just skip right over this one. It's a re-post from Canadian Doug Jamison's Geezer Online with a few personal reflections added below. While this was written 5 years ago, somehow it resonates with me more today than it even did then. If you care about the world you leave your grandchildren, read on...

Don't say you weren't warned. But it is just too good not to share...

Memo to old white dudes

Hey, you've accomplished a lot. Provided for your family, made sure the kids got an education, paid your taxes, kept your nose clean, and socked away enough for a decent retirement.

You were the guys everyone depended on to get it done, without fussing and without expecting anyone to make a big deal over it.

But I am tired of hearing you growling that we ought to eliminate social programs for single moms, kids living in crime-ridden neighbourhoods, jobless teens, impoverished seniors, newly arrived refugees, and others who are struggling to make a life in difficult circumstances.

Please stop sending me those vitriolic eMail messages that continuously circulate around the internet, usually ending with "If you don't pass this on, you are part of the problem."

Please stop saying, "If we could make it, why can't they," as though 2012 is like 1972.

I happen to know, because I am one of you, that our generation enjoyed the most amazing run of good luck ever seen in modern times.

Most of us grew up with two parents, and our moms were homemakers. Our streets and playgrounds were safe. In high school, we were not surrounded by drugs, gangs, and weapons.

We were provided with access to affordable higher education. Upon graduation, most of us could choose from several jobs.

Our working years coincided with a period of enormous economic growth and prosperity. There were no wars, so our careers were not interrupted by military service, or death. It was also a period of hitherto unknown mobility, so we could live and work wherever we wanted.

We lived in a stable, relatively classless, democratic country, filled with widespread optimism about its own future.  Our [Canadian] healthcare system ensured that we would never go bankrupt due to illness or accident. If we were smart and worked hard, the opportunities were almost limitless.

Hell, who couldn't make it in that environment? As someone said to me recently, "We won the lottery!"

So, you guys need to lighten up because, frankly, you're coming across as a bunch of crybabies.

Canadians like to think of themselves as the good guys, fair-minded, civilized. But this mean streak has taken root, and seems to be thriving. Or maybe it's just that I hang out with a lot of old white guys, and the rest of society isn't talking this way.

In most societies, elders are focused on being good stewards, ensuring that future generations enjoy the best possible future. Here it seems mostly about lower taxes and making people pay for their mistakes.

Look, I know all old white men don't think this way. I also know there are no silver bullets that will solve all the problems of 21st century society, and that many folks bear much of the responsibility for their predicaments. Not staying in school, getting pregnant too young, failing to save enough for retirement are all dumb moves.

But letting those lives continue to spiral down without offering a hand up will come back to bite us in the longer run with more crime, more jails, more police, higher unemployment levels, more homeless people and panhandlers on our streets, more drugs in our schoolyards, and general erosion of our quality of life.

So, whether you're doing it for humanitarian reasons, or to ensure a decent future for your grandchildren, you need to be part of the solution. 
Mr. Jamison's last line struck a chord with me - the bit about ensuring a decent future for one's grandchildren. Grandchildren are what politics should really be about. Here are two of mine:

These, as you can probably tell, are pretty lucky boys. Clean, well-fed, healthy, and secure. They have a loving family and are getting a good education. Family values include responsibility and hard work and caring for others. Odds are they will be successful in whatever economy and society we leave for them.

But one never knows. Someday of these guys or someone they care about might need help. An illness. A job layoff. A bad business choice. I always think that in the same-sex marriage discussion that I have no horse in that race. But one day I might. Who knows? I want to make sure there is the proverbial "safety net" set and social policies in place by our government. Just in case.

I want these boys living without the aid of government assistance but knowing it is there. I'd like them to get an education at a price that doesn't wind up being like a mortage without the house at age 22. I'd like us to stop spending as a government more than we take in. I want everyone to be given incentives to work and for everyone, including the rich and not-so-rich, to pay back into society for the benefits they recieve. I think we should look hard at how spend our health dollars, especially on old goats like me. 

I was struck by this observation by conservative columnist David Brooks, in his column "Thurston Romney Howell" NY Times, September 17, 2012

...Romney knows nothing about ambition and motivation. The formula he sketches is this: People who are forced to make it on their own have drive. People who receive benefits have dependency.

But, of course, no middle-class parent acts as if this is true. Middle-class parents don’t deprive their children of benefits so they can learn to struggle on their own. They shower benefits on their children to give them more opportunities — so they can play travel sports, go on foreign trips and develop more skills.

People are motivated when they feel competent. They are motivated when they have more opportunities. Ambition is fired by possibility, not by deprivation, as a tour through the world’s poorest regions makes clear.

We all need to be a little less selfish, as the Geezer, suggests. If for no other reason. our own grandchildren will be happier and more successful in a society in which everyone is successful and happy.
And I approve of his message.

Technology skeptic - and proud

Thank you for articulating what some of us are thinking but perhaps afraid to say for fear of being labeled a stick in the mud or a fuddy-duddy. I am not necessarily opposed to a maker space, but it should serve a real purpose and not just be a fun extra. I think your questioner is right that librarians have been too eager to add whatever they can in an attempt to be relevant and it has cost us by eroding our core mission. Robin in a comment on recent post

Skeptic. Cynic. Fuddy-Duddy.  Technophobe. Reactionary.


Critical thinker. Fiscally responsible. Team player. Realist.

An early column of mine "There Isn't a Train I Wouldn't Take" and an article written a few years later "The PSLA (Probability of Large Scale Adoption) Predictors" both urged a retrained and thoughtful approach when considering adding new technologies to a school. A simple rubric from the later article looks at some criteria to consider before writing the check and developing the implementation plan:

I am not sure what I was thinking when listing Usefullness/need as just one (and not even the first) criteria in this list.  If the considered new technology, program, or method does not actually address a genuine need in the district nor does it align with the district's mission and strategic plan, why even mess with the other criteria?

As I concluded earlier "A dollar spent on a failure is one less dollar spent on something beneficial to our students. New initiatives need to based on more than good sales pitch."

It's a zero sum game, folks. Let's do our best to make each dollar count. 

Your friendly fuddy-duddy.