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Tuesday
Mar032015

Reading is good for you

Image source

I own a t-shirt decorated with the Edward Gorey cartoon shown above. It is black and I wear it to the YMCA* as part of my exercise togs. It engenders more comments than either of the other two black t-shirts I wear - one with a University of Iowa Hawkeyes logo and the other with a New Orleans's aquarium poison frogs design.

"What do you read?" is the most common question asked (and always by other old farts like me) and discussion ensues. I always found this curious. Why does a shirt about men reading deserve comment? Men do read. A lot of them. Me included.

Reading has always been so much a part of my life that I've never really stopped to think about the benefits. Like fresh air, clean water, and good health, an engaging book has always just been present. Lucky me. In Why we all need books: The benefits of reading for pleasure, Baroness Gail Rebuck, reports (and if you can't believe a baroness, just who can you believe?) that: 

Adults who spend just 30 minutes a week reading are 20 per cent more likely to be satisfied with their lives.

Amongst the many benefits experienced by regular readers were higher self-esteem and greater self-acceptance.

... reading, although paradoxically a solitary activity, actually helps us feel less isolated.

One in four readers say that a book has helped them realise that other people have shared their life experiences.

Readers also find it easier to make decisions and are 10 per cent more capable of planning and prioritising. ...

With just 30 minutes of reading a week, two thirds of readers report a better understanding of other people’s feelings.

Readers were also found to have a stronger and more engaged awareness of social issues and of cultural diversity than non-readers.

Regular readers reported 57 per cent greater cultural awareness and 21 per cent more general knowledge.

...  readers reported higher levels of creativity than non-readers

...readers were more comfortable with strangers, reporting not only that they find it easier to start conversations but also find greater enjoyment in these interactions.

I would like every child who graduates from our school district to be a reader. Not just a proficient reader. Not just a student who has passed a reading test. But as a person who reads - for pleasure, for enlightenment, for greater satisfaction with life.

I am not sure public schools are producing readers, at least not in the sense of people who voluntarily read on a regular basis because it satisfies them.

If there is anything we as educators should be ashamed of and should cause us to lose sleep at night, it is because in the pursuit of getting kids to pass a reading test, we are killing the joy of reading.

All children should be given the opportunity to learn to love to read.

* OK, it doesn't look it, but I do hit the weight machines 2-3 times a week. Just trying to slow the deterioration...

 

 

Sunday
Mar012015

BFTP: Is the problem on the desk or in the chair?

How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?  Arthur Conan Doyle

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song? Sesame Street - Joe Raposo and Jon Stone

A good technician is a basically a good detective. When a problem with any technology pops up, most of us run through a little mental flowchart, eliminating possible causes until we are left with the real reason for the trouble. (It is only on very rare occasion that I consider myself a technician -  I'm not that bright.)

The first question most of us ask is: Is the problem in the chair or on the desk?

It's human nature: If you are a user, you assume the technology is at fault (on the desk); if you are a tech, you assume the user (in the chair) is the problem.

I am guessing that in reality, tech problems can be divided pretty much 50-50 chair-desk.

User error (chair) can again be divided between "the dog ate my homework" excuses and lack of knowledge. Unfortunately, many of us tend to assign some sort of deliberateness to problems when we hear "I didn't get the e-mail telling me the report was due." As the Church Lady would have said, "How convieeee -nient!" While deep in our heart of hearts we may truly believe this is the case, such assumptions are unprofessional and accusations are never productive. Remember Hanlon's Razor: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

Technology problems (desk) are really much easier and more fun to explicate. If the problem seems to be happening to lots and lots of people on a regular basis, we look at the system. Chances are a simple search of the help forums for the product or service will turn out others who have experienced the problem and in a high percentage of the time, present a fix.

If the problem seems to happen rarely or only to a small percentage of people, then we look to see how these individuals differ from the masses. If the e-mail went to 100 people and did not get to one person, logic tells us that the there is something about the configuration of that  individual's computer or software or e-mail setting that is causing the problem.

Or the problem is in the chair.

It's tough, but everyone will be happier if we who provide support eliminate any problem with the desk before we start pointing fingers at the chair. Even when the problems happen to our most incompetent, most unlovable users. Like tech directors.

This old post resonated with me this week after spending an hour with several others trying to figure out just why some QR Codes that linked to student produced videos worked and some did not. Some worked with some devices; and some did not. Some worked with some QR Code reader apps; and some did not. Some worked on our wireless network; and some did not. After an hour of logic, deduction, and the process of elimination we finally concluded it was invisible gremlins at work.

From an original post February 7, 2010

Saturday
Feb282015

SETDA's EdTech Update

In the left column of the Blue Skunk Blog, you can now find a small banner that reads "Ed Tech Update" It's a widget that looks like this:

I don't know a lot about this project, but I do know SETDA is a reputable organization, and if they are sponsoring the site, it should be pretty good. Here is the dope I got about it:

EdTech Update, brought to you by SETDA (The State Educational Technology Directors Association), is now up and running, but will officially launch on February 26th. You can check out the site here: http://www.edtechupdate.com/

The site and newsletter will feature content from thought leaders like Steve Anderson, Scott McLeod, EdFly, Christensen Institute, Digital Learning Now, and many others.
Despite not being single out by name (I guess I am an "and many others"), this site is worth a look. The biggest challenge most of us face with our PLNs is finding a means to filter the content so we only need spend time with what is relevant, original, and smart.