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





Maslow for employees

... the thing that really enables individuals to engage with their job and the company they work for – a sense that their contribution is IMPORTANT. This feeling of significance, especially within a large company is absolutely vital if a member of staff is going to feel any real affinity and advocacy towards their paymasters. If you make your staff feel as though they are integral to the company’s values and goals then that’s when you have reached the high engagement holy grail.  How Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Influences Employee Engagement Steve Smith, HRZone, April 17, 2014

In Keep Your Building Technicians by Keeping Them Happy (School Library Journal, May 2000), I suggested 7 ways that may help keep good technical workers working for and with you. Had I been thinking, I could have arranged them on a hierarchy as Smith did in the chart and article above. (That was brilliant.)

Were I writing the article above today, I would add an 8th means of keeping techs - 8. Add increasing levels of responsibility to each person's job on a planned and regular basis. My young'ns working for me need to show on a resume that they have the skills needed for better jobs in the future. Yes, I want to grow people as well as run a good tech department.

Good technical support people are no easier to find today that they work in 2000 or in 2014 - perhaps even more difficult know how demands for their services have increased as more businesses use technology in more sophisticate ways than ever before. In addition to good technical skills, our best staff also have empathy, communication and other human relation skills, including the very important ability to help others without making them feel stupid or incompetent. See also The DJ Factor.  I take credit for only one piece of a great technology department - the ability to recognize and keep a great staff. Period. Remember:

Top salaries won't keep to staff. Top working environments that honor the upper levels of Maslow's Employee Hierarchy of needs might.


Hiking on the brain; hiking for the brain

Recent studies about the effects of hiking and nature have been directed at understanding just how this recreational activity affects both the physiological and mental aspects of our brains. One of the main reasons for this glut of research is because we’re spending so much less time outdoors, overall. The average American child now spends half as much time outside as compared to only 20 years ago. HALF. Only 6% of children will play outside on their own in a typical week. Conversely, kids are now spending almost 8 hours per day watching television, playing video games, or using a computer, tablet, or phone for recreational purposes. That number actually jumps up to 10 hours if you count doing two things at once! Overall, Americans now spend 93% of their time inside a building or vehicle. What hiking does to the brain is pretty amazing., April 11, 2016

... the Eagle Mountain Elementary in Fort Worth, Texas, has been giving kindergarten and first-grade students two 15-minute recess breaks every morning and two 15-minute breaks every afternoon to go play outside. At first teachers were worried about losing the classroom time and being able to cover all the material they needed with what was left, but now that the experiment has been going on for about five months, teachers say the kids are actually learning more because they’re better able to focus in class and pay attention without fidgeting.  Texas school triples recess time and sees immediate positive results in kids. Scary Mommy, Jan 9, 2016.

In just a couple weeks, I am driving to Arizona where my 10 and 15-year-old grandsons and I will do a three day hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. And hopefully back out again. I'm not worried about Paul and Miles making it, but Grandpa's not getting any younger.

On each of their vacations with me, the boys have been subjected to some sort of physical challenge - climbing Harney Peak in the Black Hills of South Dakota, bicycling the tunnels of Wisconsin's Sparta-Elroy trail, or hiking the Temperance River on Minnesota's North Shore. The boys are both in Scouting and luckily have parents who enjoy camping and nature as well. My hope is that the love of being outside will become ingrained. (As a farm kid, I didn't have any problem getting enough "outdoor" time.)

While I have long enjoyed the physical pleasures of walking and being outdoors, I am reading an increasing amount about how important being outside and exercise is for both kids and adults. The link between good physical health and good mental health is pretty well established. If more doctors  prescribes Nikes, they'd need to prescribe fewer anti-depressants, blood pressure drugs, and who knows what else.

We shouldn't be surprised in the least when educational researchers finally discover that recess improves reading scores more than all the basal readers put together?


BFTP: Beware the straight-A student

When visiting my daughter this past weekend, she reminded me that while she was in high school that I would give her five dollars for each A on her report card, but ten dollars for every B.* And she knew why.

I'd encountered people who, after an unbroken string of A's in high school, suddenly got a B or C in college and fell apart. Knowing how to handle academic stumbling blocks - that teacher who just can't be satisfied, that concept beyond one's comprehension, that unreasonable assignment - is as critical to one's education as knowing the quadratic equation or how to honor parallel construction in one's writing.

My plan didn't work with my daughter. She still wound up with something close to 4.0 GPA and still handled her college and grad classes just fine. So much for that theory.

But here is another concern I have about stratight-A students: Are they demonstrating, not intelligence, but the ability to conform, to mindessly follow instructions, to support the established order? Do truly orginal thinkers and creative problem-solvers get high grades in school?

So here's the consequence: what happens when our straight-A students become educational leaders - principals, directors, even superintendents? 500 years ago Machiavelli wrote:  

"... it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new."

The underlining is mine. Why would anyone want to change a system that has so handsomely rewarded the deserving - oneself?

Perhaps we need need to put the folks who were C and D students, the drop-outs, the poor test takers, pains-in-the-butt, the artists and rabblerousers in charge of the schools for a while.  Maybe we'd see some change.

Or perhaps we should start giving A's for something other than good test performance. What a concept.

Beware the straight-A student leader.

 *Yes, this is a part of my nomination for the title Worst Parent Ever.

See also The Good Girls/Good Boys Club post

Original post April 28, 2011