Category Archives: humor

10 Things Tech Departments Hate to Do

Robert Scroggy, Age 10

Over the past year I have had the opportunity to work with a number of technology departments different schools in both public and private K-12 education, and I have found that many of them share certain shortcomings. There are certain tasks that seem to simply never get done adequately or which IT departments wish were not their responsibility. I recently had the opportunity to interview legendary IT icon Robert Scroggy to ask him about his pet peeves. You may find that they ring true for you as well.

  1. Write Documentation (especially Disaster Recovery Plans.)
    • Creating written instructions about internal systems such as database schemas, logical and physical maps of network layouts, maintaining an inventory of fixed assets, detailed steps for restarting systems and so on take time away from playing with my toys. The worst of these is the Disaster Recovery Plan which implies that all of my toys, and perhaps even me, have been blown up, burned, crushed, drowned, or hit by a bus and someone else has to recreate everything I ever did. In a week!
  2. AV Support
    • Why is it that if something has an on-off switch, blinky lights, and and may have a computer chip in it somewhere becomes my responsibility? Don’t you watch TV at home? Or at least listen to the radio? Your car is basically a computer on wheels. Do you expect me to fix it, too?
  3. AUP Surveillance
    • Bad behavior by kids using computers is not my problem. It’s a discipline problem, like passing notes in a classroom, or goofing around in the gym when you’re not supposed to be there, or putting up rabbit fingers behind the teacher’s head.
  4. Copiers and Printers
    • You can’t change an ink cartridge? Add paper? Follow diagrams written at a third grade level to clear a jam?
  5. Support stupid users
    • You deleted a file and you didn’t have a backup. How is this my fault or my job to get it back? You clicked on the flashy pop-up ad in the browser and now we have a rampant computer virus in our school. What the [blank] were you thinking? Oh, shall I replay the recording I have of the conversation when you asked me the same question 39 times before?
  6. Blackbaud RE
    • ‘Nuf said
  7. Legacy systems
    • Yep, I agree that Windows XP was awesome. In 2002! Yeah, I know every other Windows release since then has sucked, but get over it.
  8. Cable management
    • Geez this is really, really boring but I know it looks nice. Still doesn’t mean I have to like it.
  9. Throw stuff out
    • I’ve grown close to some of my toys. Throwing out that 3COM switch or 128K Mac is like throwing out my favorite teddy bear–which, by the way, I still have.
  10. Explain why I have to have the latest equipment
    • You’re not a nerd, are you?

Google Tasks Still Suck; So Do Contacts

In February of 2011 I posted Taking Google to Tasks about Tasks, which seemed to hit a nerve with my readers as it is among my most popular articles. At the time, I was hopeful of promised improvements to Tasks, but encouraged readers who were eager to try a better program to give GQueues a go. Well, here we are fifteen months later and Google Tasks are still lame, while GQueues just gets better and better. My suggestion is to simply forget about Google Tasks improving in the foreseeable future and try another program, such as the aforementioned GQueues or any one of another Google Apps integrated task managers such as Producteev or SandGlaz. There are also a number of Google-friendly task managers cum project managers that are aimed at teams.

Google Contacts Suck, Too
I recently took a deep dive into Google Contacts. While this program is not as moldy as Google Tasks, it still leaves much to be desired. Here’s what I see as the app’s shortcomings:

  • Find and Merge Duplicates, a welcome feature, misses far too many duplicates. With something like 2500 entries in my address book, it took several hours or hand editing to reduce the number of actual duplicates. A savier system would find not only exact duplicates, but ID near duplicates–allowing users to exercise their own judgment as to whether or not the entries should be merged or remain separate.
  • Find and Merge Duplicates also often replicates addresses, email addresses, phone numbers and other data instead of merging them elegantly.
  • Speaking of duplicates, I’d like the ability to create a copy of a contact for editing. For example, when I wish to add several people from the same organization, I need to re-enter address information for each person. This is silly. Let me duplicate an entry and then change person-specific information.
  • Contacts should open in a new window, rather than closing your current window. A common need may be to copy information from a contact into an email, or look up an address that is not auto-completing for some reason.
  • While you’re at it, Google, allow me to drag and drop a contact’s v-card from my address book into an email. This import/export business is far to cumbersome.
  • Search (Google strength) for a contact’s public online information, especially that for social networks such as Linked-In, Facebook, and Twitter should be available within Contacts. As it stands, one needs to use third-party applications such as Gist or Rainmaker to accomplish these tasks. Let me say that both of these products are solid and useful, but I think their functionality should be built-in to Google contacts.
  • Field Labels within contacts could be a lot more intelligent. For example, when I add a contact I often have to tweak the label for a contact to indicate whether a phone number or email address if home, work, etc.  Too often the label is simply a generic “other.” Google can do a better job of predicting what a label should be based on the entry. An entry for verizon.com is more likely to be a personal email address than that of a Verizon employee simply due to the number of customers with that service versus employees.
  • Adding a Spouse or Child should automatically prompt you to add another entry with that person’s name as the main contact, and these contacts should be linked to allow a change in one record to be populated to that of the other contact(s).
  • There’s no way to set a default format for telephone numbers. There is a nifty little utility called Phone Number & Email Address Fixer, and I got it to work for me, but come-on, Google. We shouldn’t need this!
  • Creating Group Email Lists is cumbersome. Drag and drop should be part of the UI and it is not. So as it stands, you need to select individual users from a list and then choose a list (or lists) from the groups menu, or while in a group, click on add user and then search or choose a contact from a list.
  • Sharing email lists is also a pain. Progress is being made on the enterprise-side through programs such as Sherpa Tools and Shared Contacts for Gmail, but for individual users this still remains an export/import issue with no real-time syncing.
  • Foolproof Contacts syncing remains elusive. Perhaps the problem is that everyone wants their contact list to be authoritative. As a Macintosh and iOS users, I recognize that Apple wants their Address Book and iCloud sync service to be the boss. But I want Google’s contact list to be in charge, which means I generally do not use Address Book. Yes, I know that I can sync address book to Google Contacts, but experience has taught me that when I add iCloud to the mix that things can go haywire and I end up with duplicate entries, sometimes even entire duplicates of the entire contact list. Having been burned too many times to count, I’m content to forego the elegance of Apple’s interface on the Mac, iPad, and iPhone for something I know won’t mess up.

You Bet Your Life!

April 1, 2012

LAS VEGAS, NV

(Reuters)

The Las Vegas Gaming Commission announced today that it has reached an agreement with the American Medical Association (AMA) whereby bettors will be able to wager on the outcomes of risky surgical procedures. Casinos across Nevada will be able offer bettors this new option starting July 1, 2012.

Brian Duffrin, Executive Secretary Gaming, announced the agreement at joint news conference with the AMA held at Golden Gate Casino, the oldest gambling establishment still in operation in Las Vegas. “We have chosen this historic site to to make a historic statement about the future of gaming and healthcare. We are taking next step in helping patients better understand the quality of the physicians, hospitals, and nursing homes they are choosing by bringing out of the closet something we’ve always known but never been able to full quantify: some doctors and health care establishments are simply riskier to use than others. Patients should not only be aware of these risks, but be able to financially participate in the risk.”

“We decided that business as usual was no longer in the best interest of patients or physicians,” said AMA President Peter W. Carmel, M.D.. “The AMA has always stood behind programs that promise to make patient care better and to reduce medical costs. Doctors manage risk every day. The new program in Nevada is a natural outgrowth of our overall risk management strategy.”

The Obama Administration was quick to embrace the program. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that “this program represents the kind of innovative, out-of-the box thinking that the President has called for since he came into office. This idea came from the Main Street of America – the Las Vegas Strip – not Wall Street. It will lead to more jobs for Americans, lower health care costs, reduce the deficit, and help bring our troops home safely from Afghanistan.”

Reached on the campaign trail, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said “While I personally don’t engage in gambling, I am betting that this idea may work for some of the little people who can’t afford proper insurance.”

The Nevada program will be marketed under the name “Life Bet,” and hard-hit Las Vegas casinos as dying to get their hands on it. “With unemployment at record highs, this is just the thing we need to restart the business” said casino owner Benjamin Siegelbaum. “In my family, we were always taking bets on which uncle would die first, if so-and-so would come out of surgery okay, whatever. It’s nice to take this activity out of the back rooms and dark lights.”

Patient advocates are less enthused. The AARP issued a statement condemning the action.”Betting on whether or not a doctor is going to do his or her job correctly is immoral. They should always do it right. Our members also have legitimate concerns about how their relatives might try to rig the outcome of high-risk medical procedures in order to collect on inheritance benefits. We stand firmly against this program.”

Like most contentious issues, Life Bet is likely to head to the Federal courts, and ultimately the Supreme Court, where the average age of the justices is 66 years. They will likely all be asked to recuse themselves, which may lead to a constitutional crisis.

-30-

Related video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQjDr2wg6H4

Shooting for College

REVOLUCIÓN, TEXAS (Reuters) October 10, 2011

Ladyslipper Preparatory School for Girls located near the west Texas town of Revolución is better for its conservative, white-gloved coming out parties, historic Southwestern architecture, and nerdy girls who go on to the best colleges in the country, than it is as a place for stirring up controversy. But that is about to change as it becomes the first girls high school in the nation to require all students to pass a firearms course.

Across the country states are relaxing laws that restrict the carrying of concealed weapons on college campuses. Spurred by the killing of 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007, a grass roots movement among students, Students for Concealed Carry on Campus (SCCC), lobbyists for the National Rife Association (NRA), and other gun advocates have joined with conservative state legislators to pass legislation enabling anyone with a concealed weapons permit to carry a gun on a college campus or other public spaces, a practice that heretofore was prohibited in most states.

“We’re simply asking that law-abiding adults with the proper permits be allowed to exercise their constitutional right to arm themselves,” said Jerome Glock, a student at the Minnesota University. “Colleges and universities should be havens for the free expression of a wide range of ideas and ideologies. If you don’t want to carry a gun, I’m fine with that, but I expect people to accept my decision to pack if I want to.”

Others see nothing but threats in such talk. The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus represents a counter-movement to SCCC, and is doing their best to roll-back guns on campus legislation and thwart such legislation in other states.

It was against this background that Ladyslipper Prep finds itself the unwanted butt of much attention. Head of School Etta Place describes the school’s decision to include firearms training as consistent with their focus on preparing girls for the demands of college education. “Ladyslipper is not about being politically correct. Rather, we are in the business of enabling our students to succeed at college and in life. They will be in places where their classmates, perhaps even their roommates, are carrying weapons. It would be irresponsible for us to send them there without adequate preparation.”

“Besides,” she ads, “learning how to shoot a 357 magnum or an AK-47 assault rifle is very empowering for women, and at Ladyslipper, empowerment is one of our primary goals.”

Opinion in the nearby town of Revolución are largely supportive of the move. Ladsyslipper prep alumnae Kate Bender (class of ’96) wishes that she had been provided with such an opportunity as a student. “I think it’s just great. Guns are part of the American West. I grew up watching my brothers go hunting with my dad, go to skeet ranges, and even shoot the occasional rattler that might wander into the ranch. But I was not allowed to touch a gun. ‘Not ladylike’ according to my parents. So I would rally benefited from a program such as this.”

But other locals aren’t so sure. Physician, Henry Holliday was quoted in the Revolución News as saying “I see far too many gun-related accidents in our Emergency Room. We need fewer guns on the streets, not more. I don’t know what they’re thinking at that school. Besides, I thought they were all Buddhists.”

-30-

This fictional account was inspired by recent articles in Inside Higher Education and Time. But really, can something like this really be that preposterous? The NRA is already offering gun-safety courses in schools.1 If guns come to college, why can’t they come to high schools? God help us all.

 

  1. As these articles from ABC News, The Washington Post attest.

200 and Counting

This is my 200th blog post. A modest number by standards of many other bloggers, but certainly a lot more than I expected when I wrote my first in 2008. I decided it was time for me to take a look back at the past few years and try to make some sense of it. What resulted for me was a list of posts by major topical area. Those who have liked with what I have written in the past might find this list to be helpful, too.

Change

  • The Borg vs Teachers. As any science fiction fan can tell you, the Borg are relentless foes, conquerors of thousands of civilizations, a persistent nemesis that won’t take no for an answer. “Resistance is futile.” Well, the Borg never met an American teacher.
  • Guilt & Anxiety Can Be a Good Thing. How do we get teachers to change? Why not try a little guilt, with a dash of anxiety to boot?
  • How Much Change is Too Much? Addressing the capacity of a school to change will take an investment of time, money, and energy, as well as a laser-like focus on a one or two major change initiatives per year rather than a laundry list that results in little being done. “Better to go deep, than wide” is my mantra for the classroom—and for changing our schools.
  • The Problem with Acting Your Age. I find no correlation between time in service and age an willingness to change or adapt to new ideas. If the teachers in my school were to “act their age” according to what national norms are for mid-career teachers, we would not be the forward thinking, dynamic organization that we are.
  • Being Smart and Nice Can Sometimes Work Against Change. “Our collegiality train has left the station, but it has many cabooses.” I love that phrase, even as I hate that reality.
  • Is Significant School Change Hopeless? Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not a conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out. It is this hope, above all, that gives u the strength to live and to continually try new things, even in conditions that seem…hopeless.
  • What if? A Bakers Dozen. What if you laid all the sacred cows to rest?
  • What If? Another Baker’s Dozen. Another 13 crazy ideas to change schools.
  • Mind the Gap. Most of us live in “the gap.” And it is in this gap that we deal with the tension of ambiguity, the paradox of both/and. In the gap, it’s okay if you are uncertain and wavering. It’s okay to make mistakes. And it is in this gap that we need to work and play with others in community as you find your own answers, your own place.
  • Are You Patient Enough to Innovate? The timing of change and innovation is a more critical variable than the time required to innovate.
  • Patience≠Passivity. Passive patience is but one form of patience. Patience is better described as as existing on a continuum, from passive to active.
  • Listen to the Melody, Not the Notes. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was “listen to the melody, not the notes.”
  • Unlearning. As an educator I spend a great deal of time thinking about learning, when perhaps I should be thinking about unlearning as well. All of us carry around misinformation, misconceptions, biases, and unexamined assumptions. Unlearning these can be very difficult, especially when they have been held as truism for a long period of time. But sometimes before we can learn something new, we must first unlearn something else.
  • Schools: Wheels Reinvented Here… Schools can mitigate the loss [of veteran teachers] by capturing the knowledge and more importantly, the wisdom, of these veterans through the use of an array of practices broadly referred to as “knowledge management.”
  • Whatever It Is, We’re Against It. Groucho Marx’s hilarious song, “I’m Against It,” from the 1932 movie Horse Feathers aptly skewers the politics of “no” that pervades much of the United States. But before we get to carried away with finger pointing, perhaps educators need to look at our own practices when it comes to accepting and promoting change.
  • Driving Nails Without a Hammer. The Oregon Department of Education has made a very wise, and therefore controversial, decision to allow students to use computer spell check when taking the online version of the state’s writing examination. eSchool News reports that “To some critics…the decision spells the end of society as we know it.”
  • Thinking Outside of the Invisible Box. It’s hard to “think outside of the box” when you can’t see the box.
  • Why Teachers Don’t Trust Students.Me: Doesn’t that strike you as, well, a little sad? I mean, wouldn’t you like to be able to trust students? Doesn’t that lack of trust make it hard for students to trust you?  Mrs. Scroggy: I’ve been teaching a long time. I never have trusted kids and I never will. It is what it is. Kids don’t have to trust me. They just have to learn from me. End of story.
  • AP-easment. I welcome the fact that the College Board is re-examining its curricula. The revised courses will undoubtedly bring some needed changes to them and will continue to be used by thousands of high schools across the nation. But schools should not blindly adopt the revised AP Courses without first determining if they are what’s best for their students.
  • Bolting Technology on to an Old Engine. Technology has altered each academic discipline within the curriculum and to not employ it is a disservice to students.
  • One Size Fits Some: The Case for Schools Within a School. One size fits all may work for certain “As Seen on TV” items, but why do we think it should work for education? Yet nevertheless, in the name of educational reform, we keep trying to impose a singular solution on schools, or more precisely, on the faculty and students in those schools. On the one hand we preach individualized and personalized teaching approaches yet also insist on homogenized, “teacher proof” curricula and standardized assessments of outcomes. Assessments that measure what, exactly?
  • 360º Feedback. The idea behind 360º feedback, is that employees often with a range of colleagues: peers, subordinates and supervisors. This being the case, it makes sense to gather impressions from each of these constituent groups to inform the feedback process; a 360º view. The information is typically gathered through a questionnaire that is specifically geared to each employee’s position, based largely upon their job description and annual goals.
  • Should Schools Require Teachers to Have Web Sites? A debate is occurring in some schools concerning whether or not all faculty should be required to have a web site. In a few years, this question will seem as vacuous as whether or not faculty should have a syllabus, communicate their expectations to students, employ a rubric for assessment, or consider the needs of individual students.

IT

  • Boat Anchors and Email. Even the heaviest of boat anchors are meant to be hauled up and moved with the ship when it’s time to move. When an anchor becomes permanent, it becomes a mooring. When software keeps you from moving forward, it becomes a liability to learning and innovation.
  • Summer Vacation – School IT Style. Summertime is one of our busiest parts of the year as we try to cram a year’s worth of of IT upgrades and professional development for faculty and staff into ten weeks between the end of school and mid-August, when everything needs to buttoned up for the start of the next school year.
  • On Paper, We’re All Addicts. People are addicted to paper. That means that anything that is going to supplant paper has a long row to hoe, and it darn well better give us a bigger and better fix than paper. Criminalizing the use of paper won’t work (when paper is outlawed, only outlaws will have paper). Perhaps we need a 12-step program, or a paper-patch.
  • Calendar Schmalendar: Finding the Perfect Calendar Solution for Schools is Impossible. Calendaring programs made for business are incompatible with time as observed in schools.
  • Intuitive or Just Familiar? What will be the intuitive/familiar UI for computers and other devices in fifty years?
  • Obsolete Technologies. Here’s my baker’s dozen list of technologies that will by end of life by 2020.
  • Paving the Road to IT Hell. As a school technologist and IT guy, I am continually reminded of the gap between theory and practice, between what computer users should be doing and what they do do. Indeed, St. Paul could have been describing most computer users when he wrote: “I don’t understand myself. I want to do what is right but I do not do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate … It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what’s right, I inevitably do what’s wrong.” (Romans 7:15)
  • Delete this Post! Massive hard drives, cloud storage, and the dramatic decline in the cost of storage of electronic files are turning many of us into digital slobs.
  • Passéwords. The really smart people who create computer programs are encouraging really dumb behavior on the part of millions of users, because these same really smart people are too dumb to make a better solution that is readily available, cross platform, adaptable to multiple devices, cheap, reliable, open source, and, duh! secure!
  • Bull’s-eye! T professionals walk around with bull’s-eyes on their chests. Like the Odocoileus virginianus in Gary Larson’s cartoon, named “Hal,” we are marked women and men.
  • WTFM. Write The Friggin’ Manual.
  • Data Deduplication Starts at Home. All of this data deduplication happens at the back-end of the process. While this is inevitable in some cases, it seems to me that data deduplication is better begun on the front-end of the process.
  • FOSS: It’s Not (entirely) About the Money. Many reviews of open source software include phrases such as “viable alternative,” “worth considering,” or “shows promise” and similar statements of faint praise. The bar has been set by commercial products, and FOSS never seems to quite measure up. Let me suggest an alternate model, in which FOSS is the bar. In this case, reviewers might be describing commercial software with terms such as “over-engineered,” “bloated,” or “it’s your money, so waste it if you want to.”
  • Postcards from the Net. My life on the Internet is more like a postcard than a private journal, and I am okay with that.
  • To Print or Not to Print? Why is This Even a Question? Like many that are trying to reduce their carbon footprint, our school struggles with reducing its paper consumption. Paper is part of the DNA of educators and students alike. We consume over a million of pages per year with little demonstrable guilt. Our copiers and printers are humming all day, boxes of paper enter the school end leave it in the form of handouts, student assignments, and ultimately the recycle bins. The half life of a piece of paper may be a few minutes, a few months, or among some teachers a few decades.
  • Tech Advice for High School Graduates. Heading off to college this fall, or know someone who is? Here are a few tips that might help the high school grad make a successful technology transition.
  • Things That Sound Like Tech Problems But Aren’t. …holding the IT responsible for misuse of technology is like trying to hold English teachers responsible for teaching the skills that enable someone to write a nasty letter, or the paper companies for manufacturing the paper it is written on, or the post office for delivering it.
  • Opening up the Data Center. It’s time to move data centers to more prominent locations in schools so that students can get a sense of what the IT staff actually do, the equipment they work with, and what it takes to support the many computer services that schools offer today.
  • Make that Website To Go. I’d like to direct attention to the use of mobile devices by another important school constituency, parents.
  • Guest Networks. Do you put out the welcome mat for your physical guests but slap the door shut on virtual guests? If so, you are not alone. Schools are trying to figure out what is the appropriate response to requests from school visitors to connect to their wireless infrastructure.

School Policy

  • From Acceptable to Honorable.  Acceptable Use Policies are typically long lists of Thou Shalt Nots. This year, we moved to a one sentence: Students are expected to apply our Honor Code to all school activities, including those involving the use of the school’s computers, computer peripherals, and network, whether accessing them while on campus or off campus.
  • Social Networking Guidelines for School Employees. “What are YOU doing about Facebook and MySpace?” “Do you have a policy we can look at?” “Our faculty and staff are asking for guidance in this area. What do we tell them?” I don’t have the answer. But I do have some opinions, and I’d like to float them here to see what others have to say about them and then, in the best of social networking tradition, incorporate your suggestions into something that I can run by my colleagues. So here it goes with a proposed policy for faculty use of social networks.
  • Sexting and the Single Girl. Lithwick describes the conundrum facing parents, school officials, and law enforcement when teens send, receive, and sometimes distribute nude photos of one another. None of us are equipped to deal with this using conventional rules, regulations, or law. And as for the students, as Lithwik says, “We seem to forget that kids can be as tech-savvy as Bill Gates but as gullible as Bambi.”
  • Let My Cell Phone Go! Schools should take a look at their cell phone policies and probably just throw them out. Incorporate cell phones into your overall school acceptable use policy. And if you’ve not looked at your AUP in while, it’s time to dust that off, too.
  • Social Networking Guidelines for School Communications. The use of social networking by organizations to promote their goals is rapidly expanding. What was once thought of as an service for individual use is quickly being embraced as an avenue for schools to communicate with many constituent groups and individuals. The field is changing so rapidly that it is difficult to promulgate guidelines let alone policies. Nonetheless, it is important to avoid serious missteps in this new medium.
  • Student Names on Public Web Sites. What should schools do about students and their presence in the online world?
  • The Hurtin’ Lockers. The ubiquitous student lockers that one sees installed in schools around the country haven’t changed much since Fred and Barney attended Bedrock High.
  • Guidelines for Students Publications on the Web. I’ve been thinking about student publications, privacy, authentic assessment, and the web. I suspect other schools are wondering how to approach this, so I have taken a stab at creating a set of guidelines that might, at the very least, serve as a starting point for discussions about this important topic.
  • Archiving Digital Media in Schools. During my school’s next 100 years, I want to encourage the creation of a repository of materials created by and for the school—a repository that will remain accessible to future generations of community members, academics, and historians. Perhaps you feel the same way about your school. So I set to thinking about the problem, and offer these guidelines as a starting point for a conversation in your school community.
  • Parents, Social Media, and School Messaging. For decades schools were in the driver’s seat when it came to controlling the public messaging about their programs, personnel, and students. Social media has encroached on this virtual monopoly. Many schools now find themselves in a more reactive mode than they are accustomed to.
  • What Schools Should Do When They Lose Control of Social Media. Only the largest schools could afford to contract with public relations firms or devote the required staff time to perform the amount of work reputation management firms suggest. But there are some low-cost practices that schools can adopt that can help. Like your school’s emergency plan, you hope you never have to use it, but you are nonetheless glad you have it just in case.
  • Mobile Device Guidelines for Students. Your school may allow students to use computers in the classroom, but not mobile phones. If their computer is their mobile phone, which policy applies?
  • Telecommuting Guidelines for Schools. As schools begin to dabble in online education for students, they may also want to examine telecommuting policies for employees. While telecommuting is relatively common in the workplace, it has been my experience that it has been slow to catch on in schools where high-touch has more street (or hallway) cred than high-tech. Nevertheless, there are several reasons for schools to consider telecommuting. If your school is thinking about this, here are some potential guidelines.
  • Sub, Consciously. As technology become increasingly integrated into K-12 schools, and as technology systems become more complex and idiosyncratic, subs can be at a real loss when it comes to delivering tech-centric lessons plans. IT Departments are generally not eager to create accounts for people who may only be at the school for a single day, and giving access to the regular teacher’s accounts is fraught. If striking a balance between ease-of-use and security is difficult for full-time, regular employees, it is all the more so for subs.
  • Certifiable: Legal Software Destruction. One way around [onerous software licensing restrictions] is for schools to offer up a legal document called a “certificate of destruction,” in which an end user attests to irrevocably removing and destroying any school-licensed software from their personal computer and backup systems.
  • The Social Media Policy of the Future. Social media, including but not limited to services such as Facebook, Linked-In, YouTube, and Twitter are powerful learning, collaboration, and communication tools and should be judiciously employed by all faculty and staff in the pursuit of teaching excellence, professional development, the promotion of school activities and events, remaining current with educational trends, and understanding of how youth use technology in their daily lives.

Series

I don’t long blog posts, neither reading them nor writing them. So when I find myself with something longer to say, I give myself and like-minded readers a break by creating a series.

  • Copyrights and Wrongs, 1 and 2
  • Speculations. Educational technologists are often asked what their vision is for technology in 5, 10, or twenty years. Like amateur Nostradamuses, we speculate and dream dreams of what we’d like to see happen in our schools. Far too often our dreams exceed our grasp.
    • Speculations: Food Services. You might ask what the connection is between school food services and technology, and you would be right to do so. Aside from providing the kitchen staff with computers and (perhaps) point-of-sale systems, IT departments generally have little to do with this part of a school’s operation. Yet a little research reveals how technology is being used in all sectors of the food service industry to cut costs and improve services, nutrition, and food quality.
    • Speculations: School Maintenance. Maintenance departments are becoming more sophisticated and automated, with a concomitant change in the skills required by maintenance workers. Rather than pushing a broom, the maintenance worker of the future may be sitting in a room controlling dozens of robotic floor cleaners, reconfiguring rooms at the touch of a button, and interacting other computer controlled systems.
    • Speculations: School Book Stores. Are the days of the K-12 student book store numbered? In a word: Yep!
  • The Goldilock’s Number
    • The Goldilocks Number: Tech Department Staffing. The term “rightsizing” is often used as a euphemism for lay-offs, staff reductions to achieve the optimal number of employees for a department, a division, or an entire organization. But if the goal is really to find the optimal size for any given group, then rightsizing (in theory) could also lead to staffing increases.
    • The Goldilocks Number: Support Staff Competence and Automated Systems.…two variables affect the optimum number of staff: the experience, technical acumen, human relations, and works skills of the support staff and the amount and kind of automated systems available to them.
    • The Goldilocks Number: Core Competencies of Users. The level of competency or how “tech savvy” faculty, staff, students, and parents are will impact both the quantity and type of technical support a school requires.
    • The Goldilocks Number: Service Expectations. Educators often work to help their students acquire skills and habits of mind such as resilience, curiosity, problem solving, and how to “think on one’s feet.” In a perfect world, teachers would models these same things when faced with a malfunctioning computer, projector or other device in the classroom. This is not always the case…
    • The Goldilocks Number: Systems Complexity. A typical school uses several different computer systems including email, student information systems, classroom management systems, wired and wireless network routers and switches, security, payroll and related HR systems, calendaring and scheduling, web sites, blogs, and wikis–to name a few! The impact on support staff is simple: the more complex the systems, the higher the demand on the support staff.
    • The Goldilocks Number: Academic and Operational Goals. The more ambitious the academic and operation goals of the school, and the more that a school edges towards the early markets end of the Technology Adoption Life Cycle, the greater the demand on the support staff.
    • The Goldilocks Number: Seasonality. A school’s calendar, its summer professional development programs, and summer infrastructure upgrades can impact support staffing.
    • The Goldilocks Number: Funding. One of my college profs used to tell me: “If you want to see the movie, you gotta buy a ticket.” In other words, nothing in life is free. How do you right size your technology budget? Here are several suggestions for schools looking to get a handle on technology costs.
  • Constraints that Inhibit Innovation. The school year is just one of several constraints that should be examined if schools are going to truly become 21st century learning and teaching institutions. Eight other constraints that need to be examined include: academic departments, grading and assessment systems, grade levels, AP courses, teacher-proof curricula, one-size-fits-all school models, teacher education programs, teacher licensure departments, and teacher unions, and school architectural models.
    • Academic Departments. The time is right for us abolish academic departments and think more broadly about learning, teaching, and the challenges that face our children and their future.
    • Grading and Assessment Systems. it’s time for letter grades, numerical grades, and their variations to go. You can’t derive common meaning from a subjective, ill-defined, and emotion laden system so why pretend that you can?
    • Grade Levels. This post asks us to think about years again, but in this case it has to do with the belief that chronological age is the best means of organizing students for instruction. Is it?
    • Teacher-Proof Curricula. It’s a wonder to me why this model [of teacher-proof curricula] has not been applied elsewhere… Why don’t doctors practice “doctor-proof” healing? Or lawyers create “attorney-proof” contracts? Or presidents deal in “politics-proof” health care, financial, and environmental reform?
    • One-Size-Fits-All School Models. We do not need a new model of education for the 21st century. We needs hundreds, thousands of new models of education for the 21st century. Each school, each classroom, each teacher, and each student has to create their own model of 21st century learning and teaching. The marketplace of ideas will separate wheat from chaff.
    • Teacher Education Programs, Teacher Licensure Departments, and Teacher Unions. Make no mistake, teacher education, licensure boards, and unions have done much to improve the state of teaching and learning in the United States and the world. I am a better person because of my association with them and, I hope, that in some small manner I was able to give back to them as well. But make no mistake as well that such organizations have hindered real educational reform. They have not done this out of malice. Rather it is due to their nature as mature organizations that have come to that point where they can no longer see the world except through their own lenses—lenses which like the aging human eye can form cataracts or lose their ability to see ahead due to macular degeneration. As bureaucracies they protect and covet power, when the healthier response to the accumulation of power is to give it away.
    • School Architectural Models. Fitting 21st century learning and teaching into 19th century architecture based on assumptions about children and teaching makes about as much sense as using a horse and buggy to fly to the moon.
    • Textbooks and Textbook Publishers. The term “textbook case” is used to describe events that are typical or classic example of something. I submit that textbooks are a textbook case of what’s wrong with American education.
  • School Bored: What is Boredom? In what may possibly be the least surprising research finding I have yet to read, investigators report that students are bored.
    • School Bored: Is Boredom Bad? Boredom is (1) a part of the human condition, (2) a useful feedback mechanism for individuals to be aware of and to learn to harness, and (3) is ultimately alleviated only when individuals decide to re-engage. Children need to learn how to entertain themselves with nothing more than their imagination and their surroundings.
    • School Bored: Increasing Student Engagement. Want to increase student engagement and decrease boredom? Use methods of instruction that allow them to work with their peers.
  • Know IT Alls: The Threat. Imagine that there’s someone you know, someone you see perhaps every day, someone you pass in the hallway, perhaps even have lunch with, who has access to secret information about you. This information includes things such as how much money you make, your insurance policies, the names of your spouse and children. They can access your social security number, the password to your email account, your personnel evaluations, even what you look at while on the Internet.
  • Clothes-Minded – Part 1. I recently was thinking about the inconsistencies in my life when I espouse support for economic justice, the rights of workers, and environmental sustainability and at the same time pay little heed to where I purchase things I use everyday, year after year, and will continue to do so until I die: clothing. And it was soon thereafter that I was thinking about how I was modeling the kind of behavior I wish to instill in the students at my school, who each day wear required uniforms.
    • Clothes-Minded – Part 2. Are there sources for green, socially-responsible apparel? The answer is “yes.” But you do have to look for them.

The Future of Education

  • The 21st Century School Technologist. What does a 21st century school look like, and how will its adults be organized? How can we leverage 21st century technology and practices to lower operational costs while still fulfilling our academic mission? Will there still job titles like Technology Directors, Academic Technology Coordinators, Help Desk Personnel, Database Managers and Network Managers?
  • Search vs File. More than once when working with a student I have found that they need to launch another application to perform a task. They look in their Mac’s dock. If it’s not there, forget about navigating to the Applications folder. Go to Spotlight, search, launch.
  • The 21st Century School Day & Calendar. 21st century learning asks us to re-imagine schools and learning in order to better prepare children for their future, not out past. Why aren’t then we thinking about something as simple as how students schedule their time, or rather, how we structure their time for them? For the vast majority of students the future will not be one built on agrarian calendars. Their professional development will be on-going, not something crammed into summer months or hurried meetings. They may work from home, or they may work in an office. They may work swing shifts or “bankers hours.” They may work four day weeks, or seven days on and three days off. But you can bet that, unless they are educators caught in today’s system, they won’t have a schedule such as the one they had for twelve years of their lives as students.
  • Cursive! Roiled Again! The question has to do with the place of teaching cursive writing in today’s elementary schools. Like many things in education the answer is not clear cut, the water is muddy and roiled.
  • Far Cited. Students don’t need to know if the year of publication is followed by a period or a comma. If book titles are in italics or underlined, or any of the hundreds of other details that constitute a properly formatted citation. This is the kind of mind-numbing detail that computers excel at, and can turn students off to research.
  • An Open Letter to E-Reader Companies. As a free service to publishers everywhere, I am releasing this short “requirements document” for Steve’s Next Generation E-Text and E-Reader.
  • Where Should Technology be Taught? Where should technology skills be taught? In specialized technology courses, within subject-matter courses, or in a combination of the two? The answer to these questions say a lot about how a school approaches curriculum, where they are in the technology adoption lifecycle, and its professional development programs and priorities.
  • Apple 2, Education 1. If schools think that having an iPad program will be sufficient to meet any 1-1 goals they may hold for themselves, they are sadly mistaken. Instead, they represent the vanguard of a new 2-1 movement, in which students will have two devices: a touch-screen device that has wonderful e-reading capabilities, Internet connectivity, and a wide array of tools, AND a laptop computer.
  • Who You Callin’ a Co? What if we took the “co-” out of “co-curricular”?

Intellectual Property Policy

  • Lessig is More. Colleague Matt Montagne sent me a link to a great NPR interview with one of the most reasoned voices on the topic copyright that I have had the pleasure to meet: Lawrence Lessig, Stanford University Law Professor and founder of Creative Commons. (My blog is licensed under Creative Commons). Anyone interested in copyright  should listen [...]
  • Should You Trademark Your School? Perhaps the most important intellectual property a school owns is it identity. This is particularly true of independent schools, whose reputation is arguably their single most important asset. If reputation is important, it follows that your school’s name, logo, and other symbols be used with care and protected with the same zeal as one protects other important assets such as your school’s students, employees, buildings, and computer network. [But] with rare exceptions… all school-created content should be given away with the same zeal that one uses to protect property.

Reviews

  • Web Literacy for Educators by Alan November. Alan November is a welcome fixture at educational conference around the world. I’ve heard him speak several times myself, and I’ve always come away with something new, so it was with great anticipation that I started his latest book, Web Literacy for Educators.
  • Teen Girls and Technology by Lesley Farmer. I am always on the lookout for new insights into educating young women in the STEM areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Thus I was excited to learn about Lesley’s Farmer’s new book Teen Girls and Technology: What’s the Problem, What’s the Solution?
  • The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine. In my opinion this book not only makes sense but lays out a compelling case for understanding the physical, chemical, and neurological differences between the brains of women and men that serves to enrich our understanding of human behavior.
  • Disrupting Class by Clayton M. Christensen, Michael B. Horn, and Curtis W. Johnson. By far the best education book I read this summer – and perhaps the best in the past five years – is Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns.
  • The Global Achievment Gap by Tony Wagner. Wagner had me hooked in the Preface, when he states “One of my biggest concerns is that most high school educators do not feel any urgency fir change…. The result is that course curricula and teaching practices have remained pretty much the same for fifty years or more.” Amen to that, brother Tony. In fact, it seems that far too many educators eschew any sense of urgency or, alas, even excitement, joy, or energy in their teaching. Change? Fuggadaboutit!
  • Safe Practices for Life Online by Doug Fodeman and Marje Monroe. Safe Practices for Life Online: A Guide for Middle and High School Students by Doug Fodeman and Marje Monroe lays out ides and lesson starters teachers can use to help students make wise decisions in choosing screen names and passwords, responding to cyberbullies, safeguarding personal information, and avoiding online scams. They explain how cookies work, how phishing scams can appear to be legitimate, the pros and cons of instant messaging, social networking, urban legends, information literacy, and hoax web sites. I suspect that many teachers reading this book will come away with practical knowledge that they, too, can put to work in protecting their own online interactions.
  • Generation Text by Michael Osit. As educational technologists, we are often asked by parents about social networking, IMing, Internet pornography, and related issues. Many parents are unsure of what to do, or even where to start. Generation Text: Raising Well-Adjusted Kinds in an Age of Instant Everything is a good place for parents to start, and one that I can and will recommend to parents.
  • Raising a Digital Child by Mike Ribble. In the not-so-distant past, parents could rely upon their own experience as children and teens, and the guidance of their adult mentors, to help them navigate the challenges of childhood and adolescence. But parents today often lack experience in social networking, collaborative web technologies, text messaging, blogs, wikis, and other elements of the technology landscape so familiar to their children. Without context and the practical experience that comes from the mistakes, parents have little experience to inform their intuition and therefore be able to act as competent, wise coaches for their children. Lacking such experience, parents may be clueless about what their children are doing, think that everything on the Internet is harmful or dangerous, or abdicate all responsibility for digital education to the schools. There are obvious shortcomings to each of these approaches.
  • Transforming Schools with Technology. Transforming Schools with Technology makes a nice companion-piece to Christensen’s bestselling Disrupting Class. Where Christensen talks about the need for schools to embrace technology to keep from being swept aside as irrelevance institutions, Zucker cheerily believes that “…schools have already reached a tipping point in using technology to reform age-old ways of operating, the pace of change has been so fast that the modifications schools are making are not yet widely known or understood.”
  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. In the absence of a discussion that is at least as prolonged as Dweck’s hundreds of examples, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success is just another feel good, cognitive psychology test for the masses that, like Professor Harold Hill’s town band in The Music Man, depends more one’s imagination than on hard work.
  • The Human Side of School Change. Evans had me from the Introduction, where he states: “…the futility of school change is legendary. Perhaps no American institution has been reformed more often, with less apparent effect, than the school.” Harsh words perhaps, but resonant in me.
  • Sony Reader Touch. If you are in the market for an e-reader, keep looking.
  • Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky. “Communications tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring. The invention of a tool doesn’t create change; it has to have been around long enough that most of society is using it. It’s when a technology becomes normal, then ubiquitous, and finally so pervasive as to be invisible, that the really profound changes happen, and for young people today, our new social tools have passed normal and are heading to ubiquitous, and invisible is coming.” – Clay Shirky
  • Why The Kindle is No Longer on My Amazon Wish List. When the Kindle was first released two years ago, my first reaction was that of a typical geek. I wanted one. But I wasn’t about the plop down $400, so I put it on my Amazon wish list and waited. Two Christmases came and went without a Kindle, and while the price has declined and the feature set of the Kindle has gotten better, I recently decided to drop it from my Amazon list altogether.
  • Seven Secrets of the Savvy School Leader. Popular psychologist, author, and school leadership consultant Robert Evans is back with a distillation of some his best thinking from The Human Side of School Change and more recent articles to offer up seven “secrets” that effective school leaders have mastered.
  • A Response to Diana Senechal. Instead of illuminating the discussion, Senechal comes across as a frightened apologist. She wants, she says, thoughtful reform and by implication disparages all of us who embrace many of the goals of 21st century learning as thoughtless reforms, reeds blowing in the wind of the latest innovation.
  • Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. I am fascinated by the topic of change… I am pleased to be able to recommend another book in this area: Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.
  • Architecture for Achievement by Victoria Bergsagel, Tim Best, et al. Architecture for Achievement represents a great place for someone interested in contemporary school design to start their reading. The book represents a bias that I happen to agree with: smaller schools, with flexible learning spaces that provide for collaborative, project-based learning.
  • The Third Teacher. Created through a collaborative project between the architectural firm OWP/P Architects, the German company VS Furniture, and Bruce Mau Design, the book is a stylistic feast of avant-garde design elements itself, with contributions from a range of authorities, including Sir Ken Robinson, David Orr, Raffi, Howard Gardner, and others. Examples that illustrate what they hold to be good design come from all over the world, making this a rich reference for educators from all geographies.
  • Schools for the Future. Edited by Rotraut Walden, Schools for the Future is comprised of eight chapters, four of which are authored by Walden. A truly international book in scope, the other contributors represent perspectives from Japan (Kaname Yanagisawa), Germany (Walden and Simone Borrelbach), and the United States (Henry Sanoff and the late Jeffrey A. Lackney).
  • The Language of School Design. The authors deplore traditional school architecture, which they refer to as “cells and bells,” and apt turn of the phrase that describes the schools of my childhood. Over the course of the 28 chapters and appendices, the authors take progressive learning theories and best practices in design, along with dozens of examples from schools around the world, to show us another way.
  • Bullying Beyond the School Yard. Sameer Hinduja and Justin W. Patchin have written a balanced, sensible book about cyberbullying that every educator concerned with this issue should read. Beyond the Schoolyard: Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying. If your own source of information about cyberbullying has been what you read in the newspaper or see on television, it is doubly important to read something that is based on research, the law, and common sense.
  • The New Science of Teaching and Learning. With the goal of bringing best practices of brain science into teaching practices, Tokuhama-Espinosa has set a high bar for herself, acknowledging that “some of the best practices in classroom settings have yet to be confirmed by science.” Comfort, to be sure, to those who define teaching as more art then science, but damn frustrating to those trying to “move the science of teaching (pedagogy) from being a ’soft’ to a ‘hard’ science…based on empirical evidence.”
  • WIRED to Fail: Digital Magazine Meets Analog Dollars & Sense. Should I get a paper edition of WIRED for $20.00 per year and continue to use routing slips to share it with my colleagues, or pay $27.88 more per year the magazine for the iPad version? What does the extra money actually get me?
  • The Architecture of Learning. As Washburn says, “You have probably had teachers who planned lessons but failed to design instruction.” His book [The Architecture of Learning] was written to help teachers become instructional designers, not simply curriculum writers; to understand the “now what.” This means assisting teachers in applying an understanding of how students learn (based on brain research) to design lessons built upon learning theory, thereby helping all students achieve mastery of skills and content.
  • The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home, Revised Edition. Like the weather, email is something we complain about, but don’t do anything to make it better. Read this book. Get others to read it. Practice what it advises and your email life and those of your correspondents will be better.
  • LastPass Password Manager. Almost a years ago, I blogged about the sorry state of passwords (Passéwords). Not much has changed since then. Passwords are still a pain in the kiester. But I have found a web service that I like quite a bit and is helping me to use stronger passwords without the hassle of having to rely on my memory for all of them.
  • Evidence-Based Design of Elementary and Secondary Schools. Peter C. Lippman, an accomplished architect, consultant, and specialist in school design, has written an impressive book for those interested in designing schools of the future. Evidence-Based Design of Elementary and Secondary Schools: A Responsive Approach to Creating Learning Environments is “written for the design professional, the educator, and the researcher interested in understanding how learning environments can be programmed, planned, and designed.”
  • Educational Environments 4. Educational Environments 4 has a place on my bookshelf, but it is surrounded by more substantial titles.

Sustainability

  • How Using Less May Lead to More Trash in Our BackyardConsuming less may lead to more trash in American landfills.
  • Cleanliness is Scents-Less. What does “clean” smell like to you?
  • Economics, Consumption, and Sustainability. Our capitalist economy is built on the assumption of constantly expanding markets, creating demand where there was none before, tapping into unserved markets (China, anyone?), getting kid version of adult products and adult versions of kid products. Does anyone really think this model is infinitely sustainable?
  • Greening Your School. Several years ago, NAIS president Patrick Bassett described a wonderful “multidimensional definition of school sustainability,” including finances, curriculum, demographics, global networking, and the environment. Yet for many people the meaning of the term “sustainability” is still restricted to environmental sustainability in general, and global climate change in particular. Another useful construct for thinking about your school is to consider three aspects to green initiatives: greening your school’s operations, its curriculum, and its culture.
  • Green Purchasing Guidelines for Schools. A large part of greening a school is “voting with your money.” That is, you make decisions about what the school purchases with an eye towards purchasing the most environmentally sustainable products. The following list, containing information gleaned from dozens of web sites and my school’s own green business audit, might provide a starting point.
  • The Consumption Assumption. Our job in preparing students is to help them become resilient, adaptable learners who can deal with whatever is thrown at them.
  • Straight Talk With Kids About Climate Change. As adults, our brains can hold both the hope and passion for positively impacting the earth and reality that our best efforts will not totally prevent climate change without lapsing into despair. But what about the brains of children? Can we ask our students to think and care deeply about the environment–or other intractable social issues–and help them maintain a positive perspective?
  • Platinum is the New Black. Whether you are building from the ground up, or renovating existing buildings, the fact-of-the-matter is that you will likely have to live with what you do for many, many years.

Google

  • 10 Suggestions for Google Apps. We’ve been using Gmail and Google Apps for several months now in my school, and I must say that I am very pleased with the results so far. But this is not to suggest that there’s no place for Google to improve. After all, most of their products are perpetually beta releases.
  • 10 More Suggestions for Google Apps. In a previous post, I laid out ten ideas for making Google docs better. Here are ten more.
  • UC Google. Google Voice is currently a very nice system for the individual user. Like other Google services that are now being targeted at the enterprise, we will see Google Voice evolve towards that direction as well. Further, higher education will lead the way, with businesses and K-12 education following. Want to get ahead of the curve? Think creatively about integrating Google Voice into your K-12 school now.
  • Taking Google to Task about Tasks. Eighteen months ago I lamented the sorry state of Google Tasks (10 More Suggestions for Google Apps). Little progress has been made since then, and Tasks continue to be the poor stepchild of the Google applications suite. But in a recent post, Google claims to be set to rectify some of the shortcomings of tasks.

April Fools

  • Exxon-Mobile Claims Distribution Rights to Sun. An American oil company announced today that it has acquired the exclusive distribution rights to sunshine. Speaking before an sitting-room only audience at the OPEC Conference being held in Dubai Exxon-Mobile Chairman and CEO Rex W. Tillerson surprised the audience of oil-producing countries by telling them “you can go pedal your oil to Shell or some other loser company. The future is solar, and we control it!”
  • Obama Calls Global Warming a “Clear and Present Danger” President Barack Obama declared that global warming represents “a clear and present danger to the United States and the world,” and is marshaling all of the powers granted to him by the U.S. Constitution to meet that threat and put the country on a “wartime footing” in order to do it.
  • Left, Right, Right, Left. A new study released by the American Automobile Association in conjunction with the Pew Center reveals that the number and position of bumper stickers on cars reveals more about voter attitudes than meets the eye.

Left, Right, Right, Left

April 1, 2011

WASHINGTON (Reuters)

A new study released by the American Automobile Association in conjunction with the Pew Center reveals that the number and position of bumper stickers on cars reveals more about voter attitudes than meets the eye. The study, which was commissioned by the American Voter Project, is based on observations and interviews of more than 20,000 drivers in twelve states taken at rest stops on interstate highways during the months of January and February, 2011.

“Our findings were surprising and counter-intuitive,” said Ferbus Zweiker, the study’s Chief Investigator. “We went into this project expecting that people who placed bumper stickers on their cars would consist of more engaged voters, that is that the higher the number of stickers, the more engaged and knowledgeable  they would be.” But such was not the case. “Our study revealed that in the case of voter engagement and knowledge of issues, a slightly inverse relationship existed. In other words, someone whose vehicle was plastered with slogans and logos was more likely to possess less knowledge of current events, the names of political leaders, the location of countries, or American history than those with no or few car adornment.”

Even more surprising were the finding about where people placed bumper stickers on their cars.

“Fifty-none percent of people who self-identified as liberal, progressive, or Democrat has bumper stickers placed on the right side of their bumper,” said Zweiker. “While a slightly lower number, fifty-six percent of conservative, tea-party, or Republican had bumper stickers on the left side of their car. These placements run counter to the prevailing wisdom of the so-called “left-right” divide in Western political systems.”

Asked about  drivers who identify themselves as non-affiliated or independent, Zweiker indicated that this population was largely “sticker-free.” “It takes a certain personality-type to put a dollar sticker on the bumper of a thirty-thousand dollar car,” Zweiker said. Asked if he had any bumper stickers on his own car, Zweiker replied: “I take public transportation.”

Parody: Backin’ Up’s Not Hard to Do

And now for something completely different…

Several months ago we feted our outgoing head of school, and as part of that members of her administrative team paid tribute to her in different ways. Much to her surprise and those of the hundered faculty and staff gathered in her yard, chose to sing her a song. As the (then) director of technology, I wanted to provide her with one last piece of advice, and I chose the rather boring topic of file back-ups. I wrote some verses to the tune of Neil Sedaka’s Breaking Up is Hard to Do.

Don’t let your data down doo be doo down down
Don’t let your data down doo be doo down down
Don’t let your data down doo be doo down down
backin’ up’s not hard to do

Don’t put your files in jeopardy
Without a little redundancy
If you do you’ll end up blue
‘Cause backin up’s not hard to do

Remember every bit and byte
You typed and moused all through the night
Think of all that you’ve been through
Backin’ up’s not hard to do

They say that backin’ up ‘s not hard to do
Now you know, you know that it’s true
Don’t let your data dead end
Instead of crackin’ up you should be backin’ up your disk up again

I beg of you, don’t say goodbye
Give your backup just one more try
Come on baby, your files need you
‘Cause backin’ up’s not hard to do

With apologies to Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield, and to anyone who get the tune stuck in their head.


Whatever It Is, We’re Against It

Groucho Marx’s hilarious song, “I’m Against It,” from the 1932 movie Horse Feathers aptly captures the politics of “no” that pervades much of the United States. But before we get to carried away with finger pointing at intractable politicians, perhaps we educators need to look at our own practices when it comes to accepting and promoting change.

As K-12 schools across the country reconvene this month and next, will this mark a year of business as usual or something significantly different? Will we rely on the same lesson plans that they have used year after year, or will we challenge ourselves and our colleagues to do better? Will we assume that the students in our classes are like all of those we have taught before, or will we adapt to the students rather than asking them to adapt to us? Will we put into practice the concepts we’ve been reading and learning about regarding brain research and teaching practices, cross-disciplinary and project-based curricula, the benefits of technology-mediated learning, and the potential of portfolio-based assessment?

Challenges may come our way regarding such sacred cows as AP courses, letter grades, daily schedules, the definition of curriculum, and student tracking based on predicted performance. How will we respond? Will we echo the refrains of Groucho’s song and dismiss such conversations out of hand, or will we thoughtfully and openly engage in them?

We’ll find out soon enough.

Obama Calls Global Warming a “Clear and Present Danger”

April 1, 2010

WASHINGTON (Reuters)

President Barack Obama declared that global warming represents “a clear and present danger to the United States and the world,” and is marshaling all of the powers granted to him by the U.S. Constitution to meet that threat and vowed to put the country on a “wartime footing” in order to do it.

Speaking before a hastily arranged joint session of Congress, the President presented research from NASA, the EPA, the United Nations, and other research and academic institutions to make the case for drastic changes in U.S. energy and economic policy before an audience comprised mostly skeptical Republican legislators and enthusiastic Democrats and hand-pikced supporter  in the gallery.

“The United States is imperiled,” the President declared. “And that peril is so monumental, so clear, and so catastrophic that our lives, and indeed the lives of every person on our planet, hangs in the balance. To not act decisively is morally reprehensible. I am, therefore, issuing a number of Executive Orders and will be asking Congress to pass legislation that will arrest Earth’s decline in general, and the role that the United States has played and continues to play in its decline specifically.”

The President went on to describe several Executive Orders he will release in the coming days, including the cessation of all military activities. He will further order military commanders around the globe to engage with local government authorities to “assess and redress pressing environmental issues in the region.” Domestically, he has ordered the Defense Department to immediately clean up all properties now or formerly under militaqry control which are “polluted with toxic chemicals or contain unexploded ordnance” and to return as “much area as practicable to native vegetation, food production, or the generation of alternative energy.”

A White House press release described other steps the administration is taking, including the cessation of all unnecessary air travel by government employees, a phase-out of gasoline engines in government-owned vehicles, a moratorium on granting new mineral and logging rights in government-owned property, an immediate upgrade to the nation’s electrical grid, and re-tooling defense contractors to create alternative energy devices such as windmills and solar cells.

The reaction from Republicans was swift and critical. “What the f***!” exclaimed Senator John McClain. “He can’t do that! The American people don’t want this, and we won’t stand for it. Tomorrow, I will introduce a Bill of Impeachment against the President. He’s clearly demented. My heart goes out to Michelle and his little girls, but he must be stopped for the good of us all.” McClain’s former running mate, former Alaska governor, former beauty queen, and former celebrity talk show host Sarah Palin simply said “We shoot people who say stuff like ‘global warming’ where I come from.” The Secret Service is determining if Ms. Palin’s statement represents an actual threat against the President.

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