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If your house were on fire...

"If your house were on fire, what would you grab on the way out?"

I suspect the first thing that comes to many people's minds are their irreplaceable photo albums.


But consider this - if you digitize your old photos* and store them along with their more recent digital counterparts and then upload them to Flickr, SmugMug, Shutterfly, SnapFish, or GooglePhotos, you need not worry about losing the images and the memories they evoke.

Instead of rescuing your photo albums from your burning house, you could grab your kids, your pets, or even your spouse.

It's a thought.

* Since I was almost 50 years old before digital photography became an affordable norm, I have a lot of digitizing to do - of photos, of 8mm movies, and of 35mm slides. This is why I have to live a few years into retirement since I don't see getting much scanning and converting done while I am working.

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BFTP: Why 5-star hotels suck

OK, a little rant that has nothing to do with libraries or education. Just life.

When I travel, the kind hearted, well-intentioned, generous people who ask me to come speak and consult usually put me up in very, very nice hotels. You know the kind. Giant foyers. Lots o' marble. Fountains in the lobby. Valet parking. Glass elevators. 20 or so pillows on the bed.

For, I suppose, 99% of travelers, staying in these places is something of a dream - luxury at its finest. But, at the real risk of sounding like a terrible ingrate, I have to say that unless the conference is right in the hotel itself, I'd just as soon stay in something a little more downscale.

The alarm clock in my room this morning at a Crowne Plaza went off twice - first with beeping and then again 15 minutes later with a very loud radio program. Not that I wasn't already awake, but it did scare the beejezus out of me. I had not set the alarm. It would probably have taken me 15 minutes to figure out how to operate this "dream machine" that sports 21 separate buttons. Yes, 21. This is what it looks like. It is now unplugged.

Like most regular travelers, I bring my own small, easy to set alarm clock with me - or more often just use the alarm in my phone. Sometimes I ask for a wake up call, but these tend to be undependable even in the best hotels. What I never do is use the alarm clock in the room itself. I don't have the patience to learn a new programming language each place I stay.

5-star hotels have other downsides as well:

  • Expensive room service and restaurants. The cost of the room is just the tip of the expense iceberg. Most food and other services are very high priced and rarely of the quality to justify the cost. To add insult to injury, some hotels don't have in-room coffee makers so one is forced to buy the expensive stuff. $12 for a pot of room service java. What a rip-off!
  • No free Internet. Even the lowest cost hotel chains now offer free wireless. To pay between $10 and $20 a day for wireless is just plain nuts. And for someone who works a lot in hotel rooms, not having Internet is not an option.
  • Complicated alarm clocks that it takes a PHD to understand. See above. I would also add complicated thermostats, tub/shower faucets, and even lamp switches.
  • Poor configuration of rooms for working and reading. Too many fancy hotels (and granted, lots of cheap ones) don't provide good desks or desk chairs, convenient electrical outlets, or adequate lighting. I also like a comfortable reading chair, not art deco statement.
  • USA Today. No local paper.
  • No flavor of the country. When I travel internationally on my own, I love staying in small, independent hotels. A Hilton/Radisson/Hyatt in Istabul is pretty much like a Hilton/Radisson/Hyatt
    in Beijing is pretty much like a Hilton/Radisson/Hyatt in Kansas City. Ya want a Starbucks coffee? You got it. So what's even the point of traveling if the place you are staying is just like the place you left? Give me a small room, winding stairs, a creepy desk clerk, and weird stuff on the breakfast buffet. Oh wait, that DOES sound like a place I stayed right here in Minnesota once.

I think I have that out of my system. I am genuinely grateful to the nice people who install me in nice hotels. Really I am. But given the choice, save your money. Put me in a Motel 6.

Original post October 29, 2009.


This too shall pass - I don't think so


I am constantly amazed by educators who think they can ignore, outlive, avoid, or defeat any efforts in their schools to improve education using technology. In the schools where I've worked, classrooms have had at least one computer for twenty-five years or more. Yet, their daily use with kids (not just for professional productivity) seems more an anomaly than a regular, unremarkable practice.

Do some educators still believe that technology in education is a passing whimsy?

As a classroom teacher and building librarian, I shuddered when the principal, superintendent, or curriculum director would attend a conference because it always seemed they would return with the latest magic educational bullet that would "fix" education. Back in the day, it was Madeline Hunter, career education, and multi-cultural gender-fair training. Today it's Response to Intervention, cultural proficiency, Danielson's Framework, and formative assessment. Throw in a little Webb's Depth of Knowledge, SAMR, formative assessment, PBIS, data-driven decision-making, et al, and it's little wonder today's classroom teacher reacts to change much the same way I did - sit quietly at the back of the room during the in-service, arms crossed, plotting how to keep teaching in the same way but just use the new terminologies of the educational "cure du jour." And thinking "This too shall pass."

While understandable, this survival strategy may no longer be successful. Culturally, technology is not a passing fashion. Online banking, CAT scans, and CAD/CAM have been and will be with us for quite some time. While it usually trails the rest of society, education does reflect it. Like it or not, kids and families will expect all teachers to use technology to improve learning opportunities. We are educating a generation of students who have learning styles, shaped by home technology use, unlike any generation we've seen before. These are kids who demand engagement and will not learn well in any environment where passivity is the expected behavior. And finally, this is the first generation of students in which every single one of them needs a high skill and knowledge set and the dispositions that will allow that learning to be put to good use. Culture, socio-ecomic level, English language proficiency will not and cannot be an excuse for school not to teach every kid that shows up. 

So here's the deal. As an educator I have a limited amount of time and energy to devote to improving my professional practice. Why not think strategically and use it to learn those practices that won't pass, that will serve me well for the remainder of my career?