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EdTech Update





BFTP: Walk. Just walk.

All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.
                                                          Friedrich Nietzsche

Walking is man's best medicine.

And they discovered something very interesting: when it comes to walking, most of the ant's thinking and decision-making is not in its brain at all. It's distributed. It's in its legs.
                                                  Kevin Kelly

Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time.
                                                                        Steven Wright

I've been either walking or jogging for 45-60 minutes at least four to five times a week for 35 years. It's no great sacrifice - just a long cherished habit - one of the few that I have that are actually healthy. When once asked for "secrets of success," my number one secret was to "take a walk."

Walking seems to have come into its own lately. For example: 23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?

These are some ways I make the most of my walking time. YMMV.

1. Walk during the day. I have the opportunity to walk at lunch time. I've often wondered if my time might be better spent socializing with teachers in the district in a lunchroom, but I've decided that my time spent alone with my own thoughts is as or more beneficial. A mid-day break clears the mind and loosens up problems somehow.

2. Walk alone. On occasion I walk with others and enjoy the experience, but 99% of the time I walk by myself, at my own pace and where I want to go. It's hard to think when you are either talking or listening to somebody else. My sense is that the world would greatly improved were everyone to spend 30 minutes a day simply reflecting.

3. Walk outdoors, preferably in a natural setting. Treadmills don't do it for me. Avoiding traffic and exhaust fumes isn't much fun either. Look for a park or nature area to take your walk. (I wear a blaze orange vest when walking through a city nature area that allows bow hunting of deer during the fall.)

4. Walk in every weather. A warm coat, hat (with earflaps) and gloves are all you need here in Minnesota to walk all winter long. Oh, I add ice grips to my shoes in the winter too. A rain jacket in the office works the rest of the year.

5. Walk, don't stroll. I don't speed walk. I don't walk with weights. I don't stop every five minutes to do jumping jacks. My regular walk looks odd enough as it is. But I do walk purposely fast enough to get the heart rate and breathing going a little faster. Throw in a few hills if you have them. Walk like you mean it.

6. Walk without a sound track. I can't concentrate when listening to music and I can't focus at all if there is a narrative playing. It's nice to hear the birds, the wind, and the horns of vehicles bearing down you anyway. And just how do people keep those damn ear buds in?

7. Walk a variety of routes. I have four circuits, each of about three to four miles mapped out from my office. (If you are used to walking a circuit in a certain direction, try reversing course sometime - it's a whole new world.) If I have a meeting I can walk to and back from, I do.

8. Walk on the weekends and walk on vacation. Make your days off work as pleasurable as possible by walking. Weekends are a good time to head to a park to walk - or snowshoe, cross-country ski or bicycle for a little variety. Books of walking tours are available for most cities and walking (or hiking) vactions are the best. You'll never want to see a country from the windows of a tour bus again once you've seen it while walking or biking.

9. Walk for your mental health as much as your physical health. No matter how busy, no matter how uninspired, no matter how lousy the weather*, I always am glad when I get back that I walked. My problems are often solved, new ideas hatched, and my mood improved. Or maybe I should say, walk for your family's and co-workers' sakes.

10. Walk how you want to walk. Ignore any of this advice. Just walk.

Note: Since posting this 5 years ago, I have started using MapMyWalk to track how far and how long I walk. I find it motivational. I have also joined MeetUp walking group excursions a few times a month. I find going with groups like this make it more likeky that I will walk faster and farther than I would normally.

 Original post January 1, 2012


Career guidance for grandson Paul

"I personally think there's going to be a greater demand in 10 years for liberal arts majors than there were for programming majors and maybe even engineering," he said. "When the data is all being spit out for you for you, options are being spit out for you, you need a different perspective in order to have a different view of the data." In particular, experts in philosophy or foreign languages will ultimately command the most interest from employers in the next decade, Cuban said. Mark Cuban Says This Will Be the No.1 Job Skill in 10 Years Money, February 20, 2017

Dear Paul,

As a high school sophomore, I'm glad you are actively looking at colleges and considering your future career options. A dual major of Chinese and engineering sounds like real winner to me. Anytime you have skills and expertise in two possibly overlapping areas, your value to an organization increases dramatically.

Over the next few years, I expect you will consider and re-consider a number of vocational choices. And these choices will not necessarily be easy to make. Mark Cuban and many other "experts" are speculating on what AI and robotics and other technologies, along with globalization, will mean for future jobs and careers.

While I am certainly no expert in this area, it's safe to generalize about a number of things:

  • Jobs that require routine cognitive and physical work will be filled by machines. Even countries with cheap labor markets are automating factories and services. Learning to program or manage these machines is the better option. Better yet, learn to manage the programmers. Or imagine new and better ways to automate, program, or manage!
  • Learn to communicate effectively in lots of ways. While writing and speaking will continue to be essential skills, know how to communicate visually as well - through graphics, video, and design. Good ideas without the means to "sell" them won't get noticed.
  • A track record of successful problem-solving will be more important than the college you attend. The reputation of a good university might help you get your first job, but from then on, it will be your resume that gets you the rest. Your resume will need to consist of projects completed, problems solved, new initiatives led, not just dates of employment. Keep track!
  • Be prepared to continue learning - and take responsibility for that learning. Heaven knows that a very small percentage of what I was taught in my graduate library program is still applicable now over 30 years later. New technologies have completely re-constructed the profession. The rate of change will be even greater for you and your capacity for re-training yourself will be more critical than ever. As will be your personal, not your employers', responsibility for that happening.
  • Seek what gives you personal self-worth and value. Find work you look forward to doing every day. Have the courage to change vocations when you no longer care about what you are doing. I don't think you will ever regret placing purpose above salary. Your mom and dad a great examples of how making a difference in the world is as mportant than making a salary. 
  • Don't skimp on the arts. We learn about the hearts and souls of humanity through literature, music, dance, theater, fine arts, etc. Understanding what motivates and moves others is as or more important than understanding their cognitive processes. I've always appreciated your love of literature and music.
  • Give yourself time to play. Find work that allows you time off from work. Hobbies, exercise, travel, time with family, even the occasional binge of TV watching is needed. Sucess is not in how many hours you spend on the job, but how much you get accomplished while on the job. Seriously. If my grandparenting has taught you anything, I hope it just how much a little adventure makes the world.

I worry, Paul, about the state of the world you are inheriting. But I am convinced that you and your brother will find ways to lead wonderful, productive, loving lives despite the swirl of economics and environment and changing technologies. Make up your own rules.


Grandpa Johnson


Moving from anger to empathy

Last week was not a happy week for the tech department. Our new monster firewall that was to increase our bandwidth from something less than 1 gig to about 10 gig decided after two weeks of performing flawlessly to simply stop working one evening. The crippled Internet access meant that staff and students could not get to resources during the school day and that kids could not use their Chromebooks from home since Internet access through them is authenticated through our content filter that sits inside our firewall.

My valiant techs spent the weekend trying to find and cure the cause of the firewall failure, finally resorting to reinstalling our old firewall in order to re-establish at least some connectivity. All last week, we brought down the network for a few minutes late in the afternoon and again for a couple hours late in the evening working with the firewall company's engineers and programmers to test possible fixes. Each notice to staff and students about the pending outages was accompanied by faint glimmers of hope that this time the fix would take.

It was not until last Friday that we were fully up and running again. I have yet to get a comprehensible explanation for the failure, and more importantly, a plan to keep the failure from recurring. But I am sure I will. If I don't I will be happy to let anyone who asks know the brand of firewall we made the mistake of buying.

Over my 25 years as a tech director, I have had to manage a number systems failures, but none quite as long lasting or far reaching as this one. As technology has moved from a curiosity to a mission-critical tool in schools, the impact of the loss of functionality has grown exponentially. And this latest firewall problem demonstrated that the impact is not only on staff members during school hours but on students 24/7 as well.

But here is what I find remarkable. At the beginning of the week, the emails and phone calls I received were quite rightly critical and often angry. Hey, people couldn't get things done they needed to do. Who could blame them for being unhappy? But by the end of the week, when an announcement was sent out that the last attempt to repair the technology failed and another would be made that afternoon and/or evening, I began to receive email of sympathy and thanks for those in my department who were working so diligently.

I ask myself why the change? I believe it is because my staff has the reputation of good customer service, genuine care for the people it serves, and a true sense of educational mission. Our educational community believed we were doing our damnedest to get things going again.

It's quite nice being on the receiving end of empathy and I am happy my staff's past actions made that the outcome.

And that the firewall is functioning again. At least for the time being.