Search this site
Other stuff

Follow me on Twitter at:


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

Locations of visitors to this page

My latest book:

       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


Must-read K-12 IT Blog
EdTech's Must-Read K-12 IT Blogs





Deliberate Optimism

Blue Skunk readers know that I rarely endorse anything. (See my Endorsement Policy). So if I am going to mention a product on my blog, I really like it.

Debbie Silver's (and some other guys) book, Deliberate Optimism, should be be required reading for all educators. Seriously. My review:

Blind optimism is no more effective than blind pessimism when it applied to providing children a good education. Thankfully respected educators Silver, Berckmeyer and Baenen offer optimism as a tool with eyes wide-open. While acknowledging the challenges - social, political and professional - of today's teachers, the authors describe and promote concrete strategies for building, sustaining, and using optimistic behaviors to improve professional effectiveness. A great book for whole school discussion - or to simply read for personal uplift, Deliberate Optimism belongs on every teacher and administrator's bookshelf - and in their hearts.

If there is anything our profession could use a good dose of right now, it's optimism. Check out the book.

Embrace optimism.

For A discount coupon code go to:  (Good until 9/30/14). 


Norms for a Tech-Using Educator - Guest post

I challenged Blue Skunk Readers in last Monday's post to create a set of norms for educators to adopt when working with technology and technology departments. Librarian Christie Burke rose to the challenge by leaving this comment:

First, I'd like to say that this list makes me appreciate our tech team - they do most of these things VERY well, with a particular focus on "education first." Here are my thoughts about the flip side - the teacher dealing with the technology department:

  1. Education first, just as you say. :) We are all on the same team. 
  2. Be patient. A teacher has one tech issue, but the tech department supports many and may not be able to bump a given request to the front of the queue. Allow for flexibility in response time/method, especially if tech support people wear multiple hats. 
  3. Be clear in communications. Screenshots and documentation are always helpful, but "I can't explain what happened" is tougher to work with. [Be prepared to say what you were doing when the problem occurred.- Blue Skunk]
  4. Be kind. Remember that thing everyone's mom always said about catching flies with honey or vinegar? Honey really is better; please and thank-yous go a long way. Complaining behind someone's back has no place in a professional setting. 
  5. Be willing to learn. Even those who are intimidated by a new tool or platform can move further along the path as long as they don't decide that they can't. A mindset that is about resistance and fear gets in the way of what students need to do and keeps the tech team from doing their jobs fully. [This is great!- BlueSkunk]

I'm a librarian, not part of the tech team - but I do work closely with tech, as I am often the front line of support for students. They are trying to do a hard job well, like the rest of us in the building. 

My only quibble with Christie's list is her statement "I'm a librarian, not part of the tech team ..." I'd like all librarians to see themselves as the teaching/learning part of the tech equation. 

I would also like to add that teachers could do a few routine tasks before calling in tech support: 

  1. Turn it off and turn it back on. (I know, it's a cliche, but it is still true.)
  2. Empty your browser cache.
  3. Check your cables to make sure they are securely plugged in.
  4. I find that if I am stumped by a tech problem, walking away, getting a cup of coffee, and coming back often presents a solution.
  5. Put in a helpdesk ticket. Helps us track what devices and software cause the most issues and to balance the work load among techs.


Teachers and techs - we can make a great team - and we should for the sake of students.


Image source


BFTP: I will as a teacher

I Will As a Teacher

Let’s have a little competition at school and get ready for the future. I, as a teacher, will use a laptop and you will use paper and pencil. Are you ready…?

  • I can provide up-to-date information to my students
          - you have a textbook that is 5 years old.
  • I can find and change all my instructional materials, worksheets, study guides, tests, every year and place them online where students can access them easily 
          - you better hope the master is good enough for one more photocopy.
  • I will model 21st century skills - technology, information-problem solving and life-long learning
         - you will lecture about them.
  • I will provide my visual learners an accessible means of grasping concepts through multimedia resources
         - you can use simpler words and speak more slowly.
  • I give my students a world-wide audience for their creative work
          – you will share your students' work with the rest of the class. Sometimes.
  • I will give my students access to study materials and resources online 24/7
         - you hope they remember to bring home the textbook and worksheets.
  • I will honor the range of reading abilities and interest of my students by providing topical materials on a variety of reading levels and subjects
          - you will use the basal reader and the textbook.
  • I will allow my students to take their learning as far as they want
          – you will keep everyone at the same place at the same time.
  • I will communicate with my students and parents electronically
         - you can hope to catch them after class or at home in the evenings.
  • I will give parents real-time access to how their children are performing in my class
         - you send out report cards and have two parent-teacher conferences a year.
  • I will use the information gathered from computerized value-added testing to know exactly what my individual students' strengths and weakness are
         - you will use whole group instruction.
  • I will stay current on best educational practices using online databases, listservs, professional blogs, and the myriad of news sources
         - you can go to a conference once a year and read routed professional journals if they get to you.
  • I will create a personal learning network with educational leaders, experts and colleagues using e-mail and social networks
          – you will try to remember the advice of the instructor in your college methods class from 1980.
  • I will collaborate with my peers from around the world
         – you will stay behind your classroom door.
  • I will save time by drawing on the generosity and genius of others who have created and shared digital versions of lesson plans, handbooks, templates, guidelines, reading lists, and more
         - you will use the teacher's guide.
  • I will harness the power of personal devices in the classroom to provide an interactive learning experience through response systems and tools
        - you will ask students to raise their hand before they speak. 
  • The cost of a laptop per year? - $200
  • The cost of teacher training? – Expensive, but no more so than other staff development activities
  • The cost of effective schools? - Priceless

My notes show this was a take-off on a John Pederson posting, I Will for which the link no longer seems to work. I also show it  was posted on the Abilene, Kansas High School Dialogue Buzz website: 

Let’s have a little competition at school and get ready for the future. I will [as a student] use a laptop and you will use paper and pencil. Are you ready…?
  • I will access up-to-date information - you have a textbook that is 5 years old.
  • I will immediately know when I misspell a word – you have to wait until it’s graded.
  • I will learn how to care for technology by using it – you will read about it.
  • I will see math problems in 3D – you will do the odd problems.
  • I will create artwork and poetry and share it with the world – you will share yours with the class.
  • I will have 24/7 access – you have the entire class period.
  • I will access the most dynamic information – yours will be printed and photocopied.
  • I will communicate with leaders and experts using email – you will wait for Friday’s speaker.
  • I will select my learning style – you will use the teacher’s favorite learning style.
  • I will collaborate with my peers from around the world – you will collaborate with peers in your classroom.
  • I will take my learning as far as I want – you must wait for the rest of the class.
  • The cost of a laptop per year? - $250
  • The cost of teacher and student training? – Expensive
  • The cost of well educated US citizens and workforce? - Priceless

Original post January 19, 2006 and updated August 18, 2009.