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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Upon becoming a mother



Fifteen years a go today I officially became a mother.  My oldest son came into the world a nine pound eight ounce wonder -  quietly looking at the world like he was ready to be here and not crying until the cold hit him...

and showing me what true love and joy are all about.

When I became a stay at home Mom when he was just 9 months old (and I was six months pregnant with his sister -- YES SIX MONTHS!)  the whole world told me I was making a mistake - giving up a six figure income for poopey diapers and a super high-energy son who rarely ever slept, but they were wrong.  I gained the world.

Giving myself to my oldest two children for four years was the best decision of my life.  We learned all kinds of things, and yes, I even had lesson plans for them -- we learned science, vocabulary, we read books, learned math concepts -- even when they were very little.  These were age appropriate things but they were things that took their minds further.

When my husband brought home a black lab puppy (aptly named Crash) who didn't know how to stay home, I thought I'd lose my mind.  We live across the street from a funeral home and the dog was so friendly, he decided he had to go to every funeral -- but with a baby on each hip - I had no hands left to get the dog - so I had many creative ways to run across the street to get Crash, including the 2 hip, leash-in-mouth wonder that made me gag into the bushes when I got the naughty puppy home.  And yet, these are still beautiful memories that I cherish.

My yard had the neighbors ooh-ing and ahh-ing because we just had to spend a good four hours a day outside so they could play and I grabbed the hoe and went after those weeds.

These were also times of extensive journaling for me.  I've always written about 30 minutes to an hour a day since I was 8, but I wrote just to keep my sanity! (Boy, I wish I'd had my Kindle back then.)  These were days of survival when my children were on opposite sleep schedules.  I did everything all the books told me to -- the only problem was that my children never read those books!  I remember going to church one Sunday and being able to count on two hands the number of hours I'd slept since the last Sunday.


Our First Night Together
And yet, still, being a Mom is the greatest calling upon my life next to being a wife.  I love my children with all I am and recall with moist eyelashes the first night I spent with my oldest son.  The nurses had forgotten to bring him to me at 1 am for nursing, so I went and got him.  I got him because not only did I need him to nurse, but I had things to tell him.

After he ate, I spent over an hour speaking to him about life.  Sharing the "plan of salvation" and how my best friend Jesus Christ had given him to me and brought him to this earth for a purpose that only he could do.

I told him how I was  a person who made lots of mistakes and his Dad was too, but that I promised him that I'd love him with all my heart and would give everything  I had for him, my life and my last breath... that I would spend the next eighteen years helping him have the best home possible, and even quietly singing the Rambling Wreck song (sans the curse word.)  I told him that after eighteen years it would be time to go to college or get a job and that we'd support him, but we wanted him to grow up and become a man.  So much for a little fella to do! And on his first night!

I tried to share with him the things important to me and told him that this was the one time I knew he'd listen to me and that somewhere in that mind of his, I hope the connections would be made that would help him see the depth of my love, his father's love, and his Father's love.

He looked at me quietly as I spoke, enraptured with this woman who he'd only heard but never seen.  Many say babies at that age cannot see at all... I disagree, he saw my very soul with his intent gaze-- a foreshadowing of how he gazes into the heart of many people now.

And now as he is in the throes of his teenage years - just hitting 6'2" and towering over me... I feed him about six meals a day and still find him making bacon sandwiches at 10 pm.  Right now he needs me to "back off" in many ways - being a "Mom" and saving the "Mother" for when he's sick or in rare moments of conversation and this is OK too.  I respect my son and have always tried to treat him like a person - one who deserves my respect and as much freedom as his age can handle. And yet in many ways this age is the hardest for reasons I will not go into as many of his friends read this blog.

(When I struggle with the moments with one of my students, I always picture their Mom  holding their child and speaking such words of hope - this student is somebody's baby.  When they tell their child's story of school, how will I fit into that story? I think of the teachers I want for my child and try to be that myself! Hey, I am my child's teacher. ;-) )

He is ever on my heart, my mind, and my prayers but I have to think back over his first 24 hours in this world when I shared these things.  Now I show him love in other ways which includes, when it is necessary, giving him more choices, stepping back, not "embarrassing" him in public with joy over his accomplishments, and letting him be the fine young man he is growing to be.  There are still times he falls short and needs a little direction, but there are times I fall short too.

I do not know what is ahead for my son, only that all of my love and hope and energy have been given into his care and growth.  He has a great Dad who is the love of my life and a little sister and little brother who also fill my life and heart with joy to overflowing (as well as forcing me to don my referee shirt every so often!)

This son, my only firstborn son, was born fifteen years a go today.  And in many ways, my friends, so was I.




Photo Credit
Holding On, by kudaker - http://www.flickr.com/photos/kudaker/586305185/


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Funday Monday: Start Your Week with a Smile (weekly)




Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily Spotlight on Education 01/31/2010




Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Double Take Away: Display Objects and Social Media Powered Research



Manipulatives will be taking an upgrade when wafer thin organic LED displays allow us to have mini computers of any size or shape.  Some researchers say that this will be as easy as carving up styrafoam blocks into the shape we wish.



This video from the Human Media Lab, SIMULATES (using a projector) what playing games might look like in this environment.

Would love it if someone would simulate what learning would look like and manipulatives as well.  Researchers say that this is 5-10 years down the road, however, the fact is, that if you aren't getting your teachers comfortable with technology today, there are some really cool things coming down the pipe that you might have trouble capitalizing upon.  The fact is: change is pretty much the only permanent fixture on the technology landscape!

Last point on this -- this is a perfect example of how youtube is being used by a scholarly organization, in this case the Human Media Lab at Queen's University in Ontario, Canada.  They are simulating things, sharing things, and tossing ideas out there like frisbees waiting to see which of those ideas take root and inspire others.  A sort of virally-engaging scholarly research.  Their process and videos are fascinating. I'm a subscriber on youtube now!

This lab has professors who tweet and a youtube channel. Be careful because something is strange with their RSS and you have to click the RSS button on their blog to subscribe, and you can see the tweets of their professor, however, finding his actual Twitter account seems to be nearly impossible - I"ve been looking for Dr. Roel Vertegaal and just cannot seem to find him.



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Friday, January 29, 2010

Beware of the Brown Pandas and Revigated Water



The problem in China's Qinling Mountains is that there are too many brown pandas.  Seven to be exact, in the last twenty five years.  According to Dr. Tiejun Wang, on the Nature News website on January 18th, it is because of inbreeding. (Hat tip to Physorg.com one of my favorite reads on the Kindle.)

You see, brown is a recessive gene for pandas, known for the deceivingly cuddly looking black and white color.  And yet, brown and white pandas are turning up. The probability of this happening in a diverse population are extremely limited, and so seven brown and white pandas seem to be enough to cause a stir.

Now, this is not  a blog post about genetics, although this will make a GREAT lesson for those science teachers out there who teach genetics.  Rather, this is a lesson about inbreeding.

Inbreeding, or the marrying into one's own family, causes infertility and genetic defects, the most well known of which,the inbreeding in the House of Hapsburg caused an eventual dying out of the line. The last of the line, Charles II of Spain could not chew his food and was impotent, but even worse, some of the worst persecutions of the spanish inquisition occurred during his reign.  Charles II, you see, was a brown panda.  A product of inbreeding.

And this my friends, is why we must surely celebrate, encourage, and demand diversity in our thinking.  Diversity of background.  Diversity of experience.  Diversity of geography.  These are the things in our reader that help our minds become robust.

We must read people with whom we disagree.  Sometimes we must read people whom we think rude. We must have friends of many types including people who sometimes ruffle our feather.  What I suggest to you is not easy because we have to intentionally change ourselves sometimes.

I'm coming off a personal six month hiatus during which I didn't travel, primarily so that I could be there to keep things stable and well-orchestrated at home for my oldest son's entrance into high school.  But also, during this time, I've been reading new things and NOT reading some things I've been reading for a long time.

One thing about the edublogosphere that sometimes has had me worried is this echo.  This genetic imprint of common ideas that show the inevitable link up of certain people and their thought patterns.  Now, we all have our influencers and mentors - I'm not saying that is bad.  However, I am saying this:  just because someone we know and respect and that supposedly "everyone" things is the best educator on the planet says something doesn't mean it is the gospel truth.

Let me give you an example.  Trendiness is really a danger.  I'm not a trendy person and buy clothes with the intent that I"ll probably wear them for the next 20 years.  Some of my scarves and business suits I've had for twenty years at least - the classic, wool cut that lasts through time.

Let's see what trendy got these people in the 1920's.  Radioactivity was all "the rage" and the inventors of the Revigator Water jar claimed the device would:

"restore the lost element of water "radio-activity,"

and also that it would

" the radiation could treat or cure ailments ranging from arthritis and flatulence to senility and poisoning."

Surely, a person reading could see that such claims were preposterous?  But, ah, no, the company sold several hundred thousand of these ceramic jugs in the 1920's and 30's.  But it wasn't the radioactivity that would kill you - when Michael Epstein and his students at Mount Saint Mary's University in Maryland looked at it, they found that the arsenic (especially if you used it to store juice) and the radon, lead, and other dangerous substances that would come into the water from the hodge podge of items put into the clay lined pots would poison you.  Truthfully, this trend killed.

 So, on January 15th, when I talked with superintendants, IT Directors, and teachers in White Plains, New York, one of the themes was making sure that we use good common sense.  I think that sitting back and watching things happen and then applying all of my knowledge of teaching people about technology to what I will use in my classroom is important.

Don't you dare ignore the grey matter between your ears!  Sometimes we will look at the things that everyone is "abuzz" about, but most often, we start using these things about four years before the masses.  I guess in some ways we're pre-trendy and some would say that that has dangers as well. (My student who just graduated had an athropology professor who said 'Twitter is the latest thing' and leaned over to a friend and said, 'that is so tenth grade' (when she had me. ;-0))

The point here is to watch the claims that others give.  Just as a container for water couldn't possibly take care of your flatulence and arthritis, also it is pretty preposterous to think that you could put a piece of software in the room of a bad teacher and suddenly have the Nirvana of educational excellence. It doesn't make sense. It doesn't add up.

So, my challenge to you as you sort through things and deal with increasing budget cuts, and yet know with a passion that global collaboration and effective use of technology are two things that you need to incorporate into your school, I give you two pieces of advice:

1- Beware of Brown Pandas (Inbreeding)


Read different sources.  Talk to different sources. Find 1:1 programs that worked and others that didn't.  Don't allow your thinking to become inbread.

2 - Beware of the Revigated Water (the Trendy)


Often if "everybody's doing it" then somebody is doing the wrong thing.  Part of the need to customize our classrooms is that each area and school is different. I talked to Craig Mantin who has a different way of having each fifth grade connect. In one fifth grade classroom where the wiring was horrible, they used SmartPhones. In another with better wiring, they had NetBooks - each is piloting the program and they are measuring and looking at the best way to do this.  All of the parents are happy and the kids are happy also.





My computers are about to have their fourth birthday - I will have a four year old computer lab very soon!  So many things keep breaking on me! Many of you have 1:1 laptop programs or 1:1 iTouch or Kindles in your library.  If I sit around whining because I don't have what you have, then, I'm not taking care of business right here.  Do what you can with what you have and that is enough!  And trendy isn't ALWAYS right (nor is it always wrong, mind you!)

Meanwhile, know that although technology becomes obsolete, so do textbooks!  Don't let the passage of time dull your sense of mission that teaching students how to connect globally is more important than ever!


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Daily Spotlight on Education 01/29/2010




Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Super Social Safety: Digiteens Share the Best (and Worst) in Social Sites for Kids



My ninth graders set out to evaluate the best social sites for kids 12 and under and present their recommendations and sometimes shocking findings in a presentation recorded as part of the K12 Online Conference 2009 and Digiteen: A Flat Classroom Project.

When they asked to evaluate sites that were available for kids 12 and under, we thought that was a safe range - these are 14 and 15 year old students!  Little did we know that there would be some sites that we had to immediately pull access to and block (of course after taking screenshots.)

While I DO NOT recommend having your students do this quite this way (talk about a wake up call) - it does bring up the point:

Who is verifying the age appropriateness of the sites that claim to be age appropriate?

I applaud my students for their maturity for bringing these items to light that needed attention and the supportive parents who believed in what they were doing enough to let us continue! They worked hard and while they didn't cover everything, these 14 and 15 year olds did an excellent job with the time they had in presenting a very professional video.

Many thanks to Anne Collier for participating and sharing her views and research at the end of this video and for interacting with the students.  I appreciate her advice as we "dug up" some things we didn't quite intend to find.
Update on 1/31/2010: I've posted a copy of the script for your review. Some have had challenges with the video.

I rated this film TV-14 and of all the movies I've worked with in the past several years, I would have to put this in the top 3.  These are the things we should be talking about! Watch and let me know what you think. (Again, remember, this is an action project that they proposed and we approved - this wasn't some unstructured, unsupervised assignment - if an issue arose, I was right there with them and time was very limited.)




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That's really interesting: How someone playing around found a major nanotechnology discovery



Fascinating Outlier-ish article "Dry Printing of Nanotube patterns to any surface could revolutionize microelectronics."

Don't let the name fool you. IN this article we see an overview of the paper of a graduate student at Rice University, Cary Pint, who has been given time and access to "play" in a nanotechnology lab.  The end of the article says:

"Pint said an afternoon of "experimenting with creative ideas" as a first-year graduate student turned into a project that held his interest through his time at Rice. "I realized early on it may be useful to transfer carbon nanotubes to other surfaces," he said.

"I started playing around with water vapor to clean up the amorphous carbons on the nanotubes. When I pulled out a sample, I noticed the nanotubes actually stuck to the tweezers.

"I thought to myself, 'That's really interesting ...'""

Yes, that is really interesting. Sometimes I think we are all so all-fired serious all the time that we don't take time to play. What started off as seeming play in virtual worlds has turned into a very serious and increasingly useful tool for teaching my students immersively on ReactionGrid.

All testing and no play not only makes Jack a dull boy, it makes him quit school and perhaps derive the world of the innovations that happen when we take time to play!

Whatever the outcome of the defense of this paper, I find the whole observation of this process very interesting.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

See you in Arkansas, I hope.



Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Don't Write Me Off: The Resurrection and Retrieval of Data



Well, don't write off the mag tape just yet.  IBM and Fujifilm just announced a record in Magnetic Tape Density which will continue to make it one of the most efficient ways to archive that old data.

We've got data.  Oodles and oodles of data.  What are we going to do with it all?

"These new technologies are estimated to enable cartridge capacities that could hold up to 35 trillion bytes (terabytes) of uncompressed data**. This is about 44 times*** the capacity of today's IBM LTO Generation 4 cartridge. A capacity of 35 terabytes of data is sufficient to store the text of 35 million books, which would require 248 miles (399 km) of bookshelves"

Interestingly, we've started to reach a problem with becoming digital pack-rats. 

When storage is cheap and the digital artifact created is expensive in terms of the time and energy required to produce it and the legacy that it just won't be made again quite like that -- archiving things makes sense. 

Lately I've noticed companies like PhotoBucket and Ning quietly deleting "older" videos and artifacts and when my students who are graduating, go to email those beautiful efolios to their scholarship committees, we're finding videos that won't load!

For me, I want a permanent solution so my students may permanently build a lovely efolio for their life -- right now, we're moving to Weebly, however, it is still built upon the many links they've used for projects like Flat Classroom and NetGenEd.  Additionally, I use those old videos to instruct and teach my current students based upon past work. I'm literally losing the fodder for my courses.

Daily Spotlight on Education 01/27/2010




Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Wikis: The Graphene of Information



Front of Scotch Tape packaging circa 1994Image via Wikipedia
Graphene: The Game Changer for Electronics
Graphene is a 2-d form of graphite and was only first discovered in 2004

"when physicists from the University of Manchester and Institute for Microelectronics Technology in Chernogolovka Russia found a way to isolate individual graphen planes by peeling them off from graphite with Scotch tape." (definition quoted from Wikipedia see original paper at Electronic Fields in Atomically Thin Carbon Films.)

Does anyone else find this horribly interesting?  According to PhysOrg.com, the five years since this discovery have been lightning fast:

"Graphene has the potential to enable terahertz computing, at processor speeds 100 to 1,000 times faster than . For a material that was first isolated only five years ago, is getting off to a fast start."

So, what started as some scientists using Scotch Tape and Graphite in the UK and Russia is now turning heads all over the world as we look at processing speeds that we simply cannot comprehend.

That, my friends, is a perfect analogy for the process of change.

I would like to argue that we are also sitting on some of the greatest innovations in education, however, unlike graphene, we've not done a very good job at recognizing it.

Wikis: The Graphene of Information
For the first time in history, we can do group project-based work with INDIVIDUAL accountability and INDIVIDUAL grading.  No more "A student does all the work and F students throws pencils at the ceiling while getting an A for being on the right person's team" kind of stuff.  This tool named from the founder taking a shuttle in a Hawaiian airport ("wiki wiki" means quickly in Hawaiian) has unrecognized potential.

But this is what is sad. Most wikis aren't collaborative.  They just aren't.  Teacher posts and shares.  Students post on "their page."

When Justin Reich, a leading researcher in this field, came to Camilla, he and my students and I all discussed this at length.  Most people don't "get" collaborative. Because truly, I'd isolate the life cycle of a wiki something like this:

Life Cycle of Effective Wiki Editing

1) Content Generation
Putting things on the page.  You have to write something to have something to edit. Additionally,

2) Contextualization
Truly, if my students are doing well, they will contextualize AS they write. This means to hyperlink IN CONTEXT.  None of this: For more on this click here kind of nonsense that drives ME NUTS.

If you state it, prove it.  If you cite it, link it.  If it is something a fifth grader wouldn't understand, link it to a definition.  These are the things I teach and emphasize.

3) Concise-ification (aka Editing) and Collaboration
When students are asked to add to a page, that is what they do: they add to a page.  They don't edit.  They, in some ways, are afraid to touch the sanctity of another student's words, even if they are WRONG. They'd rather restate than rephrase.  They'd rather be disjointed than cohesive.  This, simply must stop.

This is where some of the most powerful teaching happens.  They must learn to do this and do this well so that they can become effective editors and contributors to the massive group-edited tomes that are in the future of mankind. This kind of editing cannot be taught on paper. Additionally, the "techno-personal" skills required to communicate and let this happen without the wiki-war that you do not want to happen is a skill. Leaving messages on the discussion tab, soothing hurt feelings, overcoming language barriers.  Again, these are things that cannot be taught.

Additionally, there is the coordination of understanding what is missing and organizing who will "attack" those portions.  This is also something that needs to be coached.  Someone has to step up to leadership and I always tell every student I teach that they must "own" the leadership and expect others will too. This doesn't mean dogmatic, autocratic dictation but it does mean, putting your suggestions out there and NEVER waiting for another person to handle something.


4) Maintenance and/or Rebirth
Now, for long standing wikis, they will often go through this process being reborn and re-hashed out all of the time. And to be a good wiki, it takes editors to watch and be a part of that.  Often, in schools we archive these projects and start over again from scratch so that we can see the process happen again, while using the best practices of wikis that have been used and created before.  To take a student into editing the work of another means that I'm intentionally ignoring phase 1 and indeed sometimes I want to do that.

However, as with our Flat Classroom projects, we want to do the entire process and push towards collaboration on the wikis. This is tough, it is a challenge and it is hard to do.  Students tend to want to edit for 5 minutes and then quit and hand it off to another student and "wait" for them to "do their part." 

This is not sychronous project work and we have to get it through their heads. I tell my students I expect 50 minutes of heavy work, content generation, and editing and that "wait" cannot be in their vocabulary as they may try to shift to some sort of mindless Internet surf.

We've got to move to collaborative and as far as I have seen many wikis, we are falling sadly short of this into some sort of pseudo easy way to publish a website sort of thing.  That is sort of like using a Lamborghini to go mud bogging - falling short of the potential for what it really could do and the intent of the vehicle.

Some innovations in Wiki Assessment Needed
Perhaps the biggest complaint I hear from teachers are the assessment and monitoring tools.  If they don't use an RSS reader, it is tough (the NOtify me tabs from wikispaces help) and truthfully a lot could be done to give teachers an "assessment console" for their wiki -- assimilating the types of edits, quality of edits, kinds of edits that were made to help teachers isolate what is happening on the wiki.  You cannot ever assess just on edits because they will just do the "add the comma, take it away 20 times trick" and trust me, I've seen some pretty good ones.

Thus far, this isn't something that interests wiki vendors and is something we truly need to help mainstream teachers be able to assess more easily and fairly.

I'm not saying that there aren't a ton of TRULY collaborative example, however, don't judge a wiki until you look at the collaborative portions of a wiki (not every page is designed to be collaborative) and hit the edits tab - you'll see very quickly if there is truly collaboration or just wiki-dressing happening.

Not all that glitters is gold and not all that is wiki-pretty is actually collaborative work by a group of students.

Bottom Line: We need to recognize the potential of wikis in our society and schools (read Wikinomics if you don't agree) and also realize that what we're doing now probably doesn't measure up any more than the original graphite on the Scotch tape allowed anything cool to happen in that form.  This is the birth of a tool, and right now, the baby isn't even walking yet.


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Daily Spotlight on Education 01/26/2010



  • This is a fascinating list for science teachers of the coolest experiments on youtube.

    tags: education, learning, science

  • Would you like to be a virtual participant for the Flat Classroom mini-workshop at ASB Unplugged in Mumbai India FEbruary 25-27 - well, here is information on this - please join us!

    We invite you now to register via our online form at https://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?formkey=dFNOVUNPcW1PV01hQjcwMnExeHBkU1E6MA
    Also, more details are available on the workshop wiki at http://asbunplugged2010.flatclassroomproject.org/
    We invite you also to join the Flat Classroom Conference Ning at http://flatclassroomconference.ning.com/

    Please let me know if you have any questions. We are really looking forward to making this virtual piece work. Our recent workshop in Hong King last September had a very successful virtual following, including full team members and expert advisors.

    tags: education, flatclassroom

  • Book study on Mobile learning including a free download of the book Mobile Learning: Transforming the Delivery of Education and Training. This is being run by the Special interest Group for Mobile Learning by Mark van 't Hooft a long time supporter and volunteer for the Flat Classroom Project. He is a very smart and hard working man with great insight and wisdom. I'm in for as much as I'm in town. Join in! It is FREE!

    tags: education, mobilelearning, mobile

  • Perspectives on Common Standards
    When: Tuesday, Jan. 26, 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
    Click here to receive an e-mail reminder for this live event.
    Sponsored by:
    Click Here

    As a major push by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association for common academic standards gains steam, challenges and questions abound: Is their approach a wise one? Will implementation details energize or deflect the momentum? Using the latest data and journalism in Quality Counts 2010, our guests will provide insight and perspective on this timely issue. Join us for an in-depth discussion of the pros and cons of the new effort to establish common standards and assessments across states.

    Sign up for this free chat now. We'll start accepting questions 30 minutes before the chat starts.

    Guests:

    Alfie Kohn, author of What Does It Mean To Be Well Educated? and other education books

    Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers

    This chat will be moderated by Mark W. Bomster, assistant managing editor, Education Week.

    Chat on Tuesday, January 26th - looks to be a good one.

    tags: education, learning

  • For US teachers - here is a page with free president printable masks to celebrate President's day.

    tags: education, teaching, holidays


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Being a First Rate "You"



Written 1/15/2010 in White Plains airport and beyond
So, I’m having trouble remembering my Boingo password in the Westchester County Airport and I’m writing this in Microsoft Word. I know I’ll have to strip out the code and make sure it is “sanitized” so it doesn’t knock down my feed, but that is certainly OK.


I’ve been enjoying the Kindle because I can read anywhere and adore the New York Time news blog,Tech Crunch, and PhysOrg.com.They have made my day better.


Meanwhile, I’m here painfully early trying to catch a flight so I can get home before 10 pm tonight and I’m listening to Tom, the loud-talker beside me, making sure the contractors pour the pad for his new house before he returns from his trip with his wife. In some ways I’m glad that I can’t get on the Internet because that means that the 2300+ emails that have accumulated can be ignored guilt-free for another bit of time.

This sort of represents me right now.

Often, I feel like I have an invisible cottony cloud of quiet that I set around myself when I travel. Time to think. Even with the hubbub around me and Tom’s REALLY LOUD conversation, no one here knows me, and no one is asking me to do anything except move over so they and their wife can sit together. Oh, and the girl across me leaned over to ask if I was on the Internet (I’m not) so it looks like maybe their network is down. THEIR network is down. Sort of like hearing that someone else you don’t know had a wreck down the street. Not a good thing, I’m sorry for the stress, but in this case it is a relief to know I don’t have to fix it and I can lean back into my cottony cloud for just another guilt free moment.

Hard Brownies
This brings me to a point. We all have to reach some sort of equilibrium or stasis with this technology that completely surrounds us. There is no end to the “urgent” emails (that aren’t really urgent) that are coming our way, issues, approvals, someone who wants something from us. These items aren’t spam, but sometimes they can be like that sort of hard brownie that the snack bar is selling right next to me.

That hard brownie is a brownie, and it is sweet, and it would somehow maybe satisfy some of that sweet tooth, but is it worth it the calories? See, now, I don’t measure food any more in calories, I measure it in miles.

I know that when I run a 5K that I burn around 480 calories. So, when I look at something, I figure that around 180 calories is a mile for me. (give or take) So, if I see that that brownie is 400 calories, I know that it is around 2 miles more or less for me. That is a 2 mile brownie. So, then I ask myself… is that brownie “worth the miles?” Is it worth it? This sort of thinking has me losing weight but also I really ENJOY what I choose to eat now. I don’t mindlessly eat MESS because I know the cost in terms of my own sweat equity. I know the miles.

Is it Worth the Miles?
Since starting running the end of July, my thinking has transformed. I’ve started looking at even my activities in this sort of thinking. You know, I could mindlessly hang out on Twitter, but in many ways that is like a hard brownie to me. Having 3 kids with one in elementary, one in Middle School, and one in High School – I don’t have a lot of time. I have to spend my time focusing on the most important things. So, if I am going to do something – is it worth the cost? Is it worth the time I will spend and not get back. Is it worth the miles? The minutes? The moments I could have had?

So, in many ways paring down has happened. I’ve eliminated a lot of the hard brownies in my life like the wasted time, low-value activities. As Brian Tracy says in his wonderful book, Focal Point,

“Today, you are paid for accomplishments, not activities. You are paid for outcomes rather than for inputs, or the number of hours you work. Your rewards are determined by the quality and quantity of the results you achieve in your area of responsibility. This change in the paradigm of work opens up unlimited opportunities for creative people who recognize it and capitalize on it.” (Kindle location 120)

So, he suggests to relentlessly apply Pareto’s principal that 20% of your tasks contribute to 80% or more of what you do and to spend more time on that 20%. I’ve been relentlessly trying to determine that 20%. Relentlessly trying to pare down – I’m trying to cut out the hard brownies. The imitation, not as genuine, not as important things that take up space and waste my sweat equity.

Certainly, there is no perfection in my method of planning, but I’m back to:

Keep a master list in Toodledo of FCP project items and IT Support items – at any moment, I can print this list out.

I keep a context sensitive list in my Franklin planner that is a weekly list (see Getting Things Done by David Allen to understand this) and

The NIGHT before I plan my day and isolate my top 3 projects that I need to work on. I also plan the other items in my day. During the day, I track the use of my time and how it is spent – relentlessly focusing on the most important things. I’ve created my own daily page in Excel, loosely based upon what I am using of David Allen’s GTD model, the Franklin Covey planning system, and the Printable CEO Series from David Seah.

Because, truthfully, when I look back on my life, when I had my most organized times was when I did it myself and took the time to customize my system for the things that are important.

Focus
When I was younger I had the luxury of at least thinking I had a long life stretching in front of me. Since I turned forty, I realize that no one is making any more time for me to live here. I’ve got to focus. Focus on what is important and leverage myself as much as possible.

So, now I’m going to try to get on stand by for the early flight to Atlanta so I can get home to my family. And that, my friends, is really it.

Give me the Creme Brulee
What are the most important things – the succulent, sweet smelling aromas of a life well lived that you want to include more of? I don’t know about you, but I’m ditching the hard brownie for the crème brulee. I’m spending that tiny wedge of time between classes grading papers and the moments when I set the timer for a task for the class on grading so that I don’t have to grade while my family is watching that new Terminator movie. (Which is so cool, BTW. My family had to re-watch it because I missed it with grading, but it was so good they didn’t mind.)

I’m taking time to use my new really cool bread machine so that when my husband comes home, he is greeted by the wafting aroma of freshly made bread, a fully set table, with a meal upon it and elegant candles burning!

I’m squeezing in time to write meaningful blog posts instead of just pumping out hundreds like Lucille Ball’s conveyer belt of chocolate that got away from her! Taking time to re-read How to Stop Worrying and Start Living and Focal Point are helping me focus and keep the most important things central to my life.

I loved when I read in Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living how American Cowboy, Gene Autry, started his career by trying to “lose” his Texas drawl and pretend that he was a city slicker from New York while everyone laughed behind his back. It was when he embraced who he is that he found himself and became a superstar.

Carnegie goes on to say when Bob Hope stopped trying to imitate other comedians and started making wise cracks, he became Bob Hope.

Be a First Rate "You"
There is this great story about how composer great Irving Berlin met George Gershwin, a young upstart, and offered to hire him while at the same time telling him not to take the job.

“Don’t take the job, Berlin advised. “If you do, you may develop into a second-rate Berlin. But if you insist on being yourself, some day, you’ll become a first rate Gershwin.” (loc 2925, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.)

So, I am not Dale Carnegie, Brian Tracy, David Warlick, or Joyce Valenza (one of my beloved amazing speaker/friends) and if I’m primed and ready to try to be one of them, then I’ll be a pretty second rate Vicki Davis. My job is to be a first rate Vicki Davis and I’ll tell you that is your job – to be a first rate ____. (Insert your name here.)

So, I’ve just come back from waiting for 45 minutes at the Delta Counter to try to go “standby” at 3pm – there is plenty of room on the flight, they told me. Only, Delta doesn’t have “stand by” any more, but instead, if I want to go on an earlier flight (and free up a space on my flight, by the way), I’ll have to pay $50 to change the flight and get to Atlanta earlier. Yes, I am annoyed and I think that Delta is making a mistake for a thousand business reasons, but, I’m going to stay here. Yes, I guess I could charge this to my client, but the truth is, no matter what time I fly out, I’ll be home at 10:00 pm tonight.

So, I’ve also become ridiculous about waste. In this case there are two things I could waste:

1) I could waste my attitude. 
I could let myself get upset that they didn’t help me and then, that Delta’s policy is ignorant. But you know what, the person behind the desk – it is not his fault.

2) I could waste my client’s money, or mine. 
I could have paid the $50 and gotten myself to Atlanta 2 hours earlier but why would I do that? Money is scarce and wasting it just doesn’t make sense.

**UPDATE: OK, I’m continuing the blog post from above 10,000 feet. Turns out being nice to the guy behind the counter was a good decision. I heard myself paged after I sat down. I gave him the grace of not being unkind when he was following company policy. He gave me the grace of putting me on the plane. The world needs more of this kindness and grace – and these things don’t often happen, but they happen in a much higher proportion to those who mete out grace and kindness themselves. “Whatever measure you use will be measured back to you!”


Life Liposuction: Getting Rid of the Fat
So, I guess in some ways I’ve got a bit of liposuction going on. I’m pulling the fat out of my calendar. The wasted moments of worry from the times where things are just totally out of my control. And the wasted money spent into thin air for things I don’t really need, but might like to have.

But in addition to that liposuction, there is definitely an enrichment of my own life that is happening as I focus on what is really important. Last year, I missed some ballgames because I needed to blog – this year, my husband or I have been at every one of our children’s ballgames – all 4-5 days a week of them! It is important! As much as I love blogging and (hopefully) encouraging you, it is a stale brownie compared to the savory aroma of the apple pie of sitting at my son’s game and seeing him improve from 2 rebounds one game to more than 10 last week!

That was a moment I couldn’t pay for and it, my friend, was my moment. His moment was my moment and my moment was mouth wateringly pleasurable in a way that food does not satisfy. It leaves enough decadent memories implanted upon my neurons to help me re-savor the taste as I recline in my nursing home bed.

The stale brownie won’t leave an imprint. Why should it? Nothing special about it.

5 Questions to Ask Yourself So You Can Be a First Rate "You"
So, today, I have a challenge for you. Ask yourself these questions:

1) What are the stale brownies in your life? 
The things that are only vague imitations of the truly rich experiences and tasks that you should be focused on. Get rid of at least one of this off your list today – I mean, permanently get rid of it. Delegate it. Hand it over to someone else – or just GET RID OF IT.

2) What are the succulent, decadent experiences in your life? 
Take a moment to write down 5 things you would do if today were the last day of your life. Do at least one of them today – put it into your calendar. RIGHT NOW. Plan to do the other four some time within the next month.

Live life like you’re dying and don’t have much time to waste on nonessential things. Live life like you’ll live forever without the morbidity that comes from contemplating one’s death – let not rigor mortis set upon these bones until the blood no longer flows and breath no longer fills these lungs!

3) Intentionally practice Grace today. 
Grace is not giving someone what they deserve! It is giving kindness when another deserves irritation or not yelling out when someone cuts you off. Write yourself a note in your planner and put 3 boxes by it – intentionally MAKE yourself be kind to others, particularly those who aren’t kind to you. She how you feel.

Heartbreak in Atlanta
I’ll never forget one time in Atlanta how a woman cut me off horribly. I just chose to let it go, but later on as I pulled beside her in traffic I saw that she was crying. Heartwrenching, end of your life, sobbing like her soul was being ripped from her chest! If I had been unkind, honked, or even made unkind motions to her – what would I have done to her? We all have bad days my friend!

Justice does not mean Just-us
The problem with our innate human desire for justice is that we often pronounce it just-us – we want things to be right for us and our family and friends and could care less about the lives of others. However, those who consider others and love them and mete out grace are those who go about this world spreading flowers where others only shoot barbs.

4) Make yourself smile.

When you smile, you feel better – you just do. Give yourself a mood boosting, energy filling shot in the arm and smile. Smiling doesn’t mean everything is OK – it does however mean that you are looking upon the world through eyes that look up rather than down.

5) Take a look at your system of organizing.

Today, just take a look at your system of organizing yourself. What is working? What is not? For now, just think about it. I’ll share some more soon about what I’ve done here that has helped me so much.

OK, so now, to finish this blog post, I had to set my clock for 4:30 am so I could tweak it.

I’ve still got to rip it out of Word and post it on my blog – but this is the final point.

MAKE TIME FOR THE THINGS THAT ARE IMPORTANT TO YOU! 

This is your life, my friend, no one can live it but you! It is YOUR life – live like it! You are not a robot! Take a hold and work to do the best you can in your current circumstances. This is not about clearing your schedule, firing your kids, and locking yourself in your office to be alone and focus on yourself – but about squeezing in the moments and making the most of what you HAVE!

OK, gotta run – heading to the school for a 7:15 am meeting about the Flat Classroom Conference. Always something! Thank goodness – there is always something, would hate for it to get boring!


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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Daily Spotlight on Education 01/24/2010




Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Savoring Recipe Searches: Capturing and Clipping the Succulent



So, I've really not played with Bing too much - Google is so tightly integrated with much of what I do. However, if you're like me and you are a busy Mom and spend Saturdays planning the meals for the upcoming weeks, you may also find a reason to head over to Bing for their new Recipe search. As I read my daily updates from TechCrunch (Kindle Edition,) and saw Bam! Bing Now Cooks Up Recipes, I shot up from my milk and cereal past my just stirred and still spinning coffee and ran to the computer.

As a HUGE fan of Allrecipes.com (one of the best recipe sites on the web - everything highly rated there is just incredibly good!)  - when I saw that Bing's search for recipes come up, I was ecstatic!

After reading the The Good Mood Diet: Feel Great While You Lose Weight, I've been working hard to incorporate fish into our meals at least five times a week, the problem is that my southern cookbooks don't have many good baked recipes for fish in there. I love to cook and when I do, it had better be delicious!

So, I picked up some cod fish on sale at the store and needed a good recipe to fix for my husband, who got called away to oversee inventory at the plant from 6am to 6 pm today.  If I'm going to serve Kip fish, it had better be good, or he's going to Dairy Queen. ;-)

So, now, I'm wanting to get these recipes in a way I can use it (like on my Kindle .)  So, I'm a HUGE Diigo fan, but also have been wanting to use Instapaper on the Kindle (which is said to be the "killer app" for the Kindle before they even release the app store.)  Instapaper has a great post on how to set this up.

So, I followed the instructions to set up my Kindle for wireless delivery of Instapaper.  I put the "read later" bookmarklet on my firefox web browser.  But here is the deal, AMAZON CHARGES FOR THIS.  So, I only want to send those items that I want to actually cook that week to go to my Kindle. I'm using this just for recipes that will actually make it onto the Davis table.

So, I go to Amazon, click on my account, and then on Manage Your Kindle about halfway down the page to add the instapaper email to your address.  Now, if you're like me and use use instapaper for other things but don't want all those going to your Kindle - I actually have two user ID's and the one for recipes is set up to send automatically to my Kindle and the other one is not (but will go to my iTouch if I need an article from my non-recipe ID.)

Now, a couple notes on Bing recipe search.  A couple of recipes DON'T show the whole recipe in Search - see this for Barbequed Salmon.


Also, the only sites serving up recipes right now are myrecipes and Epicurious.  This means that I still have to run over to Allrecipes to get some, although the Instapaper feature still lets me capture those and pull to my Kindle. 

(Cool tip - when you find a recipe you like on your Kindle - clip it and it sends it to your clippings - then when you sync those clippings to your computer, you can just copy and paste the receipe into word or whatever you use for your personal cookbook - you've got it!)

So, this is a start and is just the tailored search feature that a specific market (i.e. those of us who love cooking good food) enjoys.  Just expand the partners and pull the content into one place.  Surely these recipe sites will NOT want this to happen since recipes are what they share, but perhaps some sort of revenue sharing proposition can be worked out to truly make recipe searches powerful and our tables more delicious with less time spent browsing our many cookbooks.


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Friday, January 22, 2010

Daily Spotlight on Education 01/22/2010



  • From Joel -

    I'm a business teacher and member of Minnesota Business Educators, Inc. I've put together a little website with some of my lesson plans for high school web site design courses, and I'd like to offer this to other business teachers. The lesson plans are totally free. I'm wondering if you might be interested in adding a link to my website, http://highschoolwebdesign.com, on your Cool Cat Teacher blog.

    The site contains a complete, twelve week course in high school web site design, including projects with step-by-step instructions and rubrics.

    Thanks so much and have a great day!

    Joel Roggenkamp
    Business Teacher
    Author, http://highschoolwebdesign.com

    tags: education, lessonplan, websitedesign, technology


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Would you take a moment to help my friend Marie?




You may think this is silly, but I just got a call from a parent of one of my dear students. She is trying to win an online contest and is frustrated because all of the other contestants have friends who are bloggers and tweeters.  She remembered that she had a friend (me) that is a blogger/ Tweeter and that she shouldn't be frustrated that I'd ask my friends to vote.

So, if you could do me a favor and go to this blog and help my friend Marie win the contest by voting for #9, I would really appreciate it!  Would you consider passing it along?

Sometimes, when something like this happens and people can see that it is good to build a network online, it creates tremendous inroads with those who may not live and breathe technology.

I'd count it as a personal favor.  Thank you, my friends.

21st Century Influencer: A Plethora of Slides



I promised my new friends from the BOCES keynote last week in White Plains, New York that I'd post these slides. I hate to say "you had to be there" but many of these slides won't make a lot of sense if you weren't there.  Early on is my introduction to the projects.  Then, I have backchannel netiquette rules.  Then starting at around slides 65/66 I have the beginning core of my presentation.

I use the Garr Reynolds Presentation Zen method which means LOTS of slides and fast click times (often I'll do 10-18 per minute.)

After the Influencer material are the 7 steps to Flatten your Classroom and then some other notes on trends for influencing.  I'll be in Arkansas at TICAL talking about many of these things on February 17th and then at MACUL in Michigan on March 11th with several spotlight sessions as well of course, co-leading the Flat Classroom mini-conference strand at ASB Unplugged in Mumbai the end of February.




I've been thinking about it a lot.  Really, I have the best of both worlds -- I can spend time with my students and helping them.  I can be here for my children (they need me.)  AND I can get out every once in a while to share what we're doing, what I'm learning personally, and the vision for what it means to be a part of transformational change TODAY - not last year, five years a go, ten years a go.  It is sort of like a scuba diver who dives every day in the most amazing reefs around the world and takes an opportunity every so often to share with people the state of the reefs.  He knows because he saw it right then.

It is truly an exciting time for those in the classroom and those in schools to also share and speak. It takes a lot of hard work, studying, and self discipline, but it is a fresh way to live and enjoy life!  This is not to say that there are not just amazing people who do the speakers circuit full time - THERE ARE. 

We each have our mission and purpose - I just think that we now have the ability to have practicioners included in the mix and that is a good thing for education because it gives balance between reality and academia and I hope more of you can get out there and do it too! (Though some will cringe when I say that as this is a competitive field.  Competition is a good thing!)

Am working on an "official" website for me, but for now, people just have to do the old fashioned way of emailing me about coming to spend time with them.

Gotta run!  To those in White Plains -- remember the only person you have 100% control over?  Change starts there!  Also remember that change is often unique to the school or district as you include those in your group in plans and enacting change.
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