Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Take off aborted!

Yesterday I was on a plane in the midst of take-off when the pilot slammed on the brakes. Not hit the brakes. Slammed them and hard! Being a very frequent flyer, I'd estimate that we were two-thirds of our way hurtling down the runway toward the magic point when the Bernoulli effect takes wings.

It didn't seem a lot different than being a passenger in a car and the driver hits the brakes for an unexpected yellow or red light. I looked up from my newspaper to see a very startled flight attendant, strapped in backwards and facing me. Later, I would learn that she was new on the job. I'm not sure if she will decide to report for work again.

After we stopped, the pilot, who I happened to know, announced that they aborted the take-off because of the wind shear. Wind shear, as we would come to learn, in this case was a severe cross-wind during the acceleration that makes the take-off unsafe and nearly impossible. He told us that it "would not have been good for the plane or any of us."

And then we taxied back to the terminal to wait out the severe storm. About 45 minutes later, we took off without fanfare in a normal fashion.

I think there is a lesson to learn here for those of us in the educational technology field. The take-off wasn't really aborted. It was simply stopped until the negative factors were reduced or eliminated.

I have advised countless groups who want to begin or expand a technology initiative in schools. However, somewhere along the way, wind shear occurs. In the midst of ramping up or accelerating the project, a significant factor changes the perceived safety of the initiative. And it comes to a screeching halt.

If the story ends there, the kids and teachers lose and I'm stranded at the airport. However, just like the pilot toward his destination, education leaders should monitor and adjust toward their goal either by finding a way to work around it, with it, or waiting out the challenge altogether.

Someday, I will be thankful that they did because the student who benefits may just be my pilot.


Friday, May 30, 2008

Backwards Design the Summer

We are the point of the school year when projects become plentiful and overpowering while performances and playoffs become prevalent. Overall, I'm pooped. We're all pooped.

I sat down with my oldest son and helped him map out all of the things he has to do in the next few weeks. Then we sorted the sticky notes (yes, Dr. Educational Technology took the low-tech/no-tech approach) by due date.

Not surprisingly, it seemed more manageable to him when it was broken into small pieces. He was finally able to see through the overwhelming calendar of tasks. He could finally see the end.

I mentioned this process to a fellow educator and she immediately said, "Oh, backwards design." I knew the term but had forgotten it even though I use the strategy.

That got me thinking. Each summer I work with my boys to establish a list of educational projects and opportunities with varying levels of commitment and difficulty. From typing skills to iMovie projects each one has a monetary award that I set.

Last year, I saved a lot of money. They were excited at the beginning but didn't follow through; it got overwhelming. I'd rather pay out, so I need a new approach.

Enter backwards design. In two weeks I'll sit down with them and go through the same process as last year except that we will establish their goals and then apply a backwards design strategy.

I think this will work when they can see both the end goal and the steps to take each day to get there. Backwards designing their summer is a process and a path they can enjoy all the way to the bank.

Friday, May 09, 2008


I'm back. I've returned to where I came from. Some people have their 'crib;' I have my grid.

For the past three days I've lived and worked with a school 'off of the grid,' deep inside the rural counties of Florida. Rural life appeals to me a lot. I hope someday that I retire to a calm and serene ranch filled with nature's goodness. The community people that I met sure seemed to enjoy their lifestyle.

I missed my grid while I was there. The creature comforts of connectedness blatantly absent. Cell phone service? Very limited. Internet access? Sort of. VPN for e-mail? Nope. Television? Six channels, two of them in Spanish. And the kicker... no Starbucks. Perhaps that is the lack of a kicker.

When I got back to a big city with cell phone access I was greeted by a plethora of text, Tweet and e-mail messages and voice mails. Apparently people still expected me to be on their grid. 

As I sat waiting for my plane and sipping my grande, single-pump, hazelnut latte, I thought about how good it felt to be back. But I also thought about how nice a few days of gridlock felt.

I'm looking forward to a rural lifestyle someday. I just hope it has a Starbucks.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Gives Us Chocolate Cake

4:00 am - For some unknown reason a loud and annoying beep rings next to my head. Surely this is a joke. Is my alarm going off as a joke I wonder fuzzily?

4:06 am - I gather enough wits to realize that it is not a joke. It is April Fool's Day.

4:14 am - Working quietly, so as not to wake the dog, I find the eggs, oil, and cake mix. While combining them in a bowl, I realize that fishing small parts of shell at an early hour is not easy. I wonder why fishermen get up early.

4:23 am - Chocolate cake goes into the oven. I consider enjoying the batter; I remember it has raw eggs. In honor of the start of the baseball season yesterday, I proclaim batter up to the spatula.

4:52 am - Cake is almost done. I'm racing the oven timer to finish this post. While it may seem odd that I'm up so early to bake a cake today, it is not. It is a ritual. Long before I had children, I heard a comedy routine from Bill Cosby and in it, his kids sang and danced because "Dad is Great! Gives Us Chocolate Cake!" I knew right then that I was going to do that for my kids. Eventually, this became an annual breakfast offering at my house.

4:59 am - Waiting for the cake to cool before frosting. Feeling like a great Dad. In just an hour my boys will be up, smell the cake, and will remember April Fool's Days across the years. Then, in Cosby fashion, they will sing and dance. I love that part!


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Example of including a photo

In June, I took a baseball trip with my Dad and son to visit seven baseball parks across America in just eight days. Home teams included (in order) Pittsburgh, NY Mets, Boston, NY Yankees, Cleveland, Detroit and Toronto. We also saw the Baseball and Football Hall of Fames. This photo is from Jacobs Field in Cleveland.

Sample Audio File

Here is my son's first podcast...actually, it is mine too!

Podcasting is a hot trend

Podcasting wasn't even in the public lexicon a year ago and now it is on fire. At the National Education Computing Conference (NECC) in Philadelphia at the end of June it was THE talk of the conference. Then two weeks ago I created my first audio file to upload as a podcast. Actually, my seven year old did the audio talent. He talked about what I do at work. The audio file was compiled as part of the ADE Institute in San Jose last week (mid-July). My next step is to upload the audio file into an audio blog so that others can listen.