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





The Grandpa assignment

Last weekend I received this from my grandson Paul who is in first grade:


Here is the response I would like to write, but the LWW doesn't think it is such a hot idea:

Dear Grandson Paul,

When I was your age, I was a pioneer child on the prairie in the wilds of northwest Iowa. All 13 of my brothers, all 12 of my sisters, my mom and dad, two second cousins and I lived in the little log cabin that is still in the city park. There are now only me, your great-aunt Becky and great-uncle Jeff left of all my brothers and sisters. Two were carried away in a flood, four were adopted by wolves, a tornado carried away three, a band of robbers captured four, giant rattlesnakes scared away five, one went missing in a blizzard, a great golden eagle swooped down and flew off with one, and we think one just got left someplace and nobody remembers where. We are looking for some of my brothers and sisters to this day. It was a hard life when I was a little boy growing up on the prairie. Most parents always had a few extra children - just to have some spares.

We were very, very poor when I was your age. Instead of toys, we only had sticks and dirt clods to play with. The rich kids in the neighborhood had rocks too, but we didn't. Grandma made all our clothes out of tree bark and animal skins - and not very fresh ones, either. We mostly ate mush, field corn and bullheads for supper. For Christmas, sometimes we got a raisin in our stocking. And were we excited! Breakfast and lunch usually were just the berries we could find in the woods. We had to fight over them with the bears. Our TV set only had 13 channels and color was not yet invented. In fact, the entire world was in black and white except for part of the movie The Wizard of Oz.

Most of the time we just worked. It was my job to gather eggs from the pigs. Pig eggs are very hard to find and sometimes the pigs got grumpy when they were nesting. You had to be careful or you might get bitten. My sister Lefty, had that happen to her. We tied a rope from the cabin to the barn door so we could follow it during dust storms. Once we had a dust storm that lasted so long we planted potatoes in the air around the cabin. When we harvested the spuds, they were already mashed. Yummmm!

I did get to go to school every other year from ages 5 to 27. Like most children, I had to walk to school, five miles each way and both directions were uphill. My teacher was very nice, but very busy with the 837 children in our one room school. Each of us had a laptop computer, however, and when the teacher was busy with other children, we surfed the Internet. I actually got to talk to Miss Snippet (my teacher) twice while I was in school. Both times she told me I was doing a good job. Our library only had seven books and it took a long time to get one to read at home. It was harder to learn to read when I was a little boy since the letters m and r had not yet been invented. They had just discovered the number 7 when I was in 3rd grade so I had to learn my number facts twice.

But I was happy growing up since I knew one day I would be a grandpa and have a wonderful grandson like you. And that's a fact.


The Grandpa who lives on the lake 


Print encyclopedias - RIP

From the New York Times "Start Writing the Eulogies for Print Encyclopedias," March 16, 2008:

A series of announcements from publishers across the globe in the last few weeks suggests that the long migration to the Internet has picked up pace, and that ahead of other books, magazines and even newspapers, the classic multivolume encyclopedia is well on its way to becoming the first casualty in the end of print.

worldbook.jpgWhat, first no Readers Guide to Periodical Literature, and now no print encyclopedia? The world is definitely going to hell in a handbasket. (Official slogan of the 50+ club.)

I do have to say that I read this article with a twinge of sadness. As a kid, I remember spending many hours reading the two battered sets of encyclopedias in our home. (Yes, children, by lamplight.)  I particuarly liked the plastic sheets displaying human anatomy in one of the volumes, as I recall.

Will my grandson's will have the same fond memories of Worldbook Online?



Cite your sources, presenters!

79.48% of all statistics are made up on the spot. - John A. Paulos

Last week, a librarian came up to me during a break in a workshop I was giving for the Nassau (Long Island) BOCES and asked a disturbing question. I had been giving my "Technology? Skills Everyone Needs" talk, reeling off a number of statistics about the changing job market, economy, workforce skill set etc.. Sort of my version of "Did You Know"* that I've given for about 10 years. (Yes, it DOES get updated!)

Anyway, the librarian asked me why I did not cite the sources of my factoids on each of my slides. I quipped that I didn't because I made all the numbers up. But he certainly made me think. If we ask our students to cite and defend thestatistics.jpg reliability of their research sources, why should we ask any less of our workshop presenters, our "experts?"

I've resolved to so for any startling info-bits I use to persuade others that kids need to "know how to use information and technology in order to solve problems and answer question" from now on. But I need some help...

I can track down where I found most of my information, but here are a few "facts" I can't seem to find the source for:

  • 90% of what we know about the human brain has been discovered in the past 10 years.
  • Auto mechanics in 1960 needed to master the equivalent of 600 pages of technical information. Today they need to know the equivalent of 600,000 pages of information.
  • Only 2% of people are fired because of a lack of skills. The other 98% are fired for "personality conflicts."
  • Kids get a chance to answer a question in school only once every 6 hours.
  • Kids' TV watching is declining, but their "screen time" is going up.

OK, those are some of the major factoids I love, but just can't quite remember where I saw them documented. Any help out there? I am not using any numbers in my talks until I can cite the source - even if I have to make it up as well!

I'm giving the talk again on Wednesday. Hurry!

* One of the things I admire most about Fische and McLeod's "Did You Know" video is that they have a source for all their information. Way to go, guys!