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A pet peeve

As serious, earth-shaking, life-or-death issues go, this problem is pretty low on the list. But it bugs me all the same.

Does the picture of the presenter in your conference program ever look like this?


But in person, look like this?


To conference presenters everywhere, please update your professional photo every ten years. We were all pretty cute 20 years ago.

Now I have a different problem. I have a high-maintenance apperance:


and a low-maintenance look for easy summer living on the lake, on bike rides, and when the airlines ban hair gel and shaving cream in carry-on luggage:


I am thinking of asking that conference organizers put a disclaimer by my photo, "This presenter may have gotten sick and tired of shaving and combing his hair and might just be appearing in his low maintenance mode. You've been warned."

With spring teasing Minnesota with its presence, my whiskers are starting to grow back...


Moving from kitchen to livingroom reading

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.  -- Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death

Thanks to Tim Stahmer at Assorted Stuff for first introducing me to the above quote. (At least I think that is where I remember seeing it.) I've read Huxley, Orwell, and Postman, but it's been awhile. I was going to comment that if I ever rename this blog, it would be called the "centrifugal bumblepuppy." But I believe someone has already taken it. Anywho...

In a recent post, I reaffirmed my description of blogs as mental junk food.  But I also like Scott Schwister's analogy that "the blogosphere is the kitchen of educational research and writing, and traditional journals and publications are the living room."

Since the posting I have had a couple readers ask what I would consider "livingroom" resources. And at about the same time, Dr. Carol Gordon, Associate Professor in the Rutgers' School of Communication, Information and Library Studies sent an excellent list of readings "that captures the current climate in American education" to an AASL listserv. Reprinted here with her kind permission

  1. Partnership for 21st century skills. "Are they really ready to work?: Employers' perspectives on the basic knowledge and applied skills of new entrants to the 21st century U.S. workforce"
  2. National Center on Education and the Economy. "Tough choices or tough times: The report of the new Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce." (Executive Summary)
  3. Educational Testing Service. "One-third of a nation: Rising dropout rates and declining opportunities."
  4. Education Development Center, Inc. "Literacy matters: What matters most in today's classrooms."
  5. Educational Testing Service. ICT Literacy Assessments.
  6. National Resource Center. “Equipping students to succeed in an information-rich technology-based society.”
  7. Educational Testing Service. “ETS research finds college students fall short in demonstrating ICT literacy: National Policy Council to create national standards”
  8. U. S. Department of Education. "Building on results: A Blueprint for strengthening the No Child Left Behind Act."
  9. Article: Reading Comprehension on the Internet: Expanding Our Understanding of Reading Comprehension to Encompass New Literacies Journal article by Julie Coiro; The Reading Teacher, Vol. 56, 2003
  10. Book:  “Reading for Understanding: Toward an R&D Program in Reading Comprehension” CE Snow,  2002 Review and Purchase:

So, Dr. Gordon's students, now you know what will be on the final exam! I need to get reading many of these. And here are a few that came across my radar over the past year or so (without the professor's bibliographic finesse, I am afraid):

  1. Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century{CD911571-0240-4714-A93B-1D0C07C7B6C1}&notoc=1 
  2. Educating the Net Generation.
  3. Ensuring the Net Generation Is Net Savvy
  4. Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-19 Year-olds
  5. Horizon Report ( 2007)
  6. How Young People View Their Lives, Futures and Politics: A PORTRAIT OF “GENERATION NEXT”"
  7. Pew Internet & the American Life Project  reports - dang near all of them.
  8. Phi Delta Kappan journal - every issue.
  9. Rogers, Michael What is the worth of words?Will it matter if people can’t read in the future?
  10. Spady, Wm The Paradigm Trap: Getting beyond No Child Left Behind will mean changing our 19th-century, closed-system mind-set. Education Week, January 10, 2007
  11. Technology in Schools: What the Research Says
  12. Tech-savvy students stuck in text-dominated schools

I have a book on order that comes highly recommended by our curriculum director that I am excited to read called Sixteen Trends, Their Profound Impact on Our Future: Implications for Students, Education, Communities, Countries, and the Whole of Society by Gary Marx.

There will be a quiz over the assigned readings on Monday. Enjoy your weekend. 

Oh, what would be on your livingroom reading list? 


The more things change

 Yesterday's post with the link to the 1993 news video clip put me in mind of probably the first article I ever wrote back in 1994 arguing for student access to the Internet. I don't  remember where or if it was published outside local association publications, but I remember it serving as the basis for testimony to the state legislature asking for "Internet" funding. Here are the ironies:

  • Twelve years later I am still asking the state legislature for  "Internet" funding.
  • Twelve years later I am still writing articles arguing for student access to the Internet (this time Web 2.0 resources).

If I was any good at what I do, should it be taking this long? Makes a person want to weep - copiously. 

Why Minnesota Students Need Access to the Internet
Doug Johnson, 1994

In its current incarnation, the “Information Superhighway” is hard to use and expensive to bring into classrooms. It contains materials which no teacher or parent in her right mind wants children to read - a condition which is pretty much fine with the current propeller-heads, researchers, and business folk who use the Internet and are not overjoyed at the prospect of children traipsing over what had been their private cyberspace.

Yet over the past two years, several public school districts around the state, Mankato among them, have invested a great deal of scarce human and financial resources in computer networks and Internet access. As both an educator and parent of a third-grader, I am offering 3 reasons why it is imperative to overcome the obstacles just mentioned, and give our children Internet access - now.

1.    Our children will need to be able use the Internet to compete in business and college.
Fortune Magazine recently wrote, "the Internet is the biggest and earliest manifestation of the way business is going to be conducted from now on. " Commercial accounts are now the fastest growing segment of the network. Dayton-Hudson’s use of computer networks to track inventory and consumer demand has resulted in increased profits. Just as businesses that do not effectively use networks will not survive in tomorrow’s economy, our children who can’t telecommunicate  will not survive in tomorrow’s businesses.

Tom Peters writes, “Every $2 million firm, in service or manufacturing, has international potential ” and suggests that major companies not doing at least 25% of their business overseas are avoiding today’s realities. In our local area Taylor Corporation, Hubbard Milling, and Clear With Computers all do an international business. School Internet activities including keypals and joint problem solving between international classrooms will give our students early and varied experiences working with people who have far different cultures and beliefs - the same folks they’ll be working with in an international economy.

A Bloomington teacher has been actively working to get computers to schools in Russia. He feels that the best means of maintaining peaceful relations with that politically unstable giant is by establishing on-going dialogs between his students and their Russian counterparts via the Internet.

Universities have long used the Internet, and access for students is now a given at most of them. My daughter at the University of Minnesota was given an account as a freshman. She has used the Internet to access scholarly journals, research library catalogs and extensive databases, many of which are available only on-line.

School districts with ambitious networking plans like Duluth, St. Louis Park, and Apple Valley will be producing high school graduates capable of doing  sophisticated electronic research. When my daughter started college 3 years ago, she needed word processing skills to effectively compete academically. When my son gets there, he will also need to be able to locate and process Internet information to keep up.

2.     The Internet is an important resource which can improve current teaching practices.
Al Rogers, a pioneer of early telecomputing projects, observes that children enjoy writing more and are more careful when they write for electronic publication3. Like all technologies, the Internet can be a wonderful resource for helping teachers create activities which include the purposeful use of current information.

Business community surveys have shown a demand for future workers -from executives to mail clerks - who are able to apply knowledge to new situations and become creative problem solvers. “Basic” skills now include the ability to find, evaluate, and use information - and information increasingly moves over wires.

Our schools must give students practice solving the kinds of problems they’ll find at work using the kinds of resources they’ll have as adults. Try to remember the last time you used a textbook or lecture to get problem-solving information. Students need practice using real-life tools like the Internet.

Schools also owe it to their children to give them guidance in the self-censorship of materials, the evaluation of resources, and the ethical use of telecommunications. The Internet is a vast, unregulated set of resources. There are some materials there which are not appropriate for children and information which is inaccurate. But just as we would not teach bicycle safety by denying our children bicycles, neither should we teach responsible use of technology by denying children access to it. The world, I am afraid, is becoming an ever more difficult and confusing place in which to travel. Youth need an ethical compass and practice using it.

3. Our children will need to be able to use the Internet as informed, responsible citizens.
Regardless of whether one regards the government as the problem or the solution, access to it and the information it generates is vital if a citizen is to fully participate in the democratic process.

Government at all levels is moving toward doing business electronically. In cities around the country one can apply for a building permit or buy a dog license electronically. Mankato and Blue Earth County have Internet connections. The Minnesota House has its own “gopher.” Gubernatorial candidates have e-mail addresses. Recent Supreme Court decisions, presidential press releases, and federal legislation are all on the Internet. The president can be reached via the Internet (, as can Rush Limbaugh ( The Internet is politically neutral.

The private news sector as well is increasingly communicating on-line. This Minneapolis Star-Tribune has announced that its electronic edition will offer over three times the depth of coverage of its print edition. Internet users find their most timely information in electronic journals. Want a back issue of a magazine? No need to travel to a research library since full-text magazine articles are on the Internet. Increasingly, information will be available only in electronic format.

Minnesota’s citizens need good information in order to have a say in how their society is run. For our children, that will be impossible without electronic information skills and access.

In his book Savage Inequalities, Jonathan Kozol warns that our society has two kinds of schools: those for the governors, and those for the governed4 . Resource-poor schools have less chance of developing critical thinkers, creative problem solvers, and self-governing citizens. The Internet is a vital educational resource if we are to graduate well-paid button programmers rather than minimum-wage button pushers. As an educator, as a citizen, and especially as a parent, I am working to see that our schools use technologies like the Internet to give Mankato’s children a chance to be among the governors.

Will I be writing the same damn arguments in 2016?