Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Wake Up Call

Scott McLeod posted his presentation to the NEA as a slide show and an audio file, on his Dangerously Irrelevant blog.

Since he graciously licenses he work under creative commons, I took the liberty of using Adobe Presenter to sync the audio to the slides.

If I might sum up his message to the NEA and education in general, I would say, WAKE UP! But then again, that has been his message, my message, and the message of many others for years. I honestly think people are starting to listen, but listening is still a long way from acting.

If you want to see and hear his presentation, click on the picture above or here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Expedia and Orbitz Need to Clean Up Their Act

A marine was scheduled to travel home to be married. Unfortunately, he broke his jaw and the doctors would not allow him to travel. The wedding would have to be postponed. They were able to make all of the necessary changes with the hotel, caterer, everyone one that one end of the situation. The airline was willing to make changes, but the tickets were booked through Orbitz. They held the money and they refused to make any changes.

The mother of the marine sent out a plea for suggestions or help. It reached me via my Facebook Live Update. I contacted someone who I thought might be able to help. While they didn’t have any contacts in Orbits, they suggested they go through the military desk of the airline. After a great deal of back and forth, they were able to make the change for $200!

Lest you think this is an unusual case, Dave Farber’s case is even more infuriating. His son was set to go on his honeymoon, but his mother became terminally ill and is in a hospice. He needed to change plans. The hotel had no problem with it, nor did the airline. However, the tickets were booked through Expedia. They held the money and refused to make any changes.

If the name, Dave Farber, is not familiar to you it should be. (Just do a Google Search) If not for Dave and folks like him, the Internet would not be around and Expedia would not even be in business, but that made no difference to Expedia.

Dave runs and Internet mailing list called Interesting People (IP). The list is populated by everyday citizens like you and I, along with industry leaders, policy makers, journalists, and a wide array of movers and shakers. He posted his problem to the list and the list responded.

Here is a portion of that post. “However interactions with Expedia, which were necessary since they hold the money until the trip was taken, yielded a complete refusal to do anything. I find this. to put mildly, shocking.

I've tried to reach out to see people at Expedia but they seem not to be reachable.

I need this like a hole in the head right now. It's become an issue not of the money but of a company that seems to have no heart.”

Needless to say, I’m sure Expedia heard from a flood of people from the list, but the very first post back to the list summed up the situation nicely. The low level support people were unresponsive to the public relations nightmare they had created and offered no solution other than writing to the travel desk, which this person did. Here is a section of his letter.

“I am requesting that someone with the appropriate level of authority call Dr. Farber and facilitate the resolution of this problem. You will need to be responsive Dave's situation: it is a major stress to have a life partner in Hospice and likely to die in the near term and, at that point, need to deal with this kind of situation. If you take this kind of proactive action and resolve things to Dave's satisfaction (he is a reasonable guy), I am sure he will report that on Farber's list (as Interesting-People is known) and you'll recover some of your credibility with the readership.

Please confirm to me by email that a call has been made and that you are working to resolve Dave's problem. I am anxious to learn whether Expedia can step up to a situation of this sort and behave in a supportive fashion.”

A few hours after this letter was sent, Dave posted to the list that Expedia had contacted him and the situation was resolve. He received a message from the president of Expedia. They are providing a full refund and waiving any documentation of his wife’s condition.

We are all relieved and overjoyed that Dave’s mind can focus on more important matters, but the situation points out the lack of concern that big companies have for individuals, or at the very least, the lack of a mechanism to resolve issues of this type without having to jump through hoops or wage wars. It is obvious that there are such mechanisms that would allow for refunds with medical documentation, but not even that was offered to him until the fire storm hit the president’s desk.

Here’s a quote from his message to Dave about his conversation with an Expedia manager.

“In particular, they did not want you to have to worry about obtaining a doctor's statement of the emergency, that was waived, that neither Expedia, the airline or the hotel needed any further action from you.

I have his name and direct phone number -- contact me if the full purchase price is not back in your account within 2 - 3 business days.

I told him I would pass this info on to you.”

It also points out the power of social media and the Internet. With out it, Dave’s situation, and the marine’s plight would be unresolved. It’s heartening to know that individual can make a difference, but disheartening that it takes the mobilization of the masses and a threat to the bottom line of a company in order to get them to be responsible citizens and be responsive to these types of situations.

Compare these two examples to an experience I had last week with Southwest Air. I was doing a workshop in Delaware and booked flights through their site that arrived on Dec. 1 and returned on Dec. 4. On Dec. I tried to print out my boarding pass from the hotel, but the site told me I was trying to print it out too early, but I wasn’t. I waited a while and tried again, but got the same message. After a little investigation, I realized that Captain Klutz had struck again. I had booked the return flight for Jan. 4!

I called up customer support, I explained my mistake to the rep. She chuckled and said, “Well bless your soul. Let’s see what we can do.”

Within five minutes she had changed my reservations from Jan. 4 to Dec. 4, but because it was my mistake, I didn’t get off scott free. It cost me $16.

It's certainly not a case that my abject stupidity deserves more consideration than a service member with a broken jaw or someone with a dying wife. It simply a case on one company valuing their customers and the others valuing only the bottom line.

Southwest has always provided great service. Others in the industry need to wake up and take a lesson from their customer support operation and remember that we are all in the same boat!

The Postman Always Rings Twice

"The Postman Always Rings Twice" is a movie and an action that isn't practiced enough by enough people. I will say for the most part, when the postman delivers a package to our door, the doorbell does ring once. This is great, because it alerts us to the fact that a package is sitting outside, but for some reason other delivery services fail to ring.

UPS, FedEx, and other delivery services need to take a lesson from the postman. For whatever reason, they hardly ever knock or ring the doorbell when dropping a package at the door, unless a signature is required. We recently moved here and have ordered a LOT of accessories and furniture to finish outfitting our new house. We have had dozens of deliveries and the vast majority of them were simply left of the doorstep without a knock or a ring. On one case they even delivered two pieces of furniture to a vacant condo across the street from us while I was on a business trip. Fortunately a neighbor alerted my wife, but she had to drag the furniture across the street herself!

This is a major problem for a number of reasons, especially here in NH where the winter weather can get to the package, and where a new kind of Christmas shopping has emerged. Thieves have taken to following UPS and FedEx trucks. The watch them drop off the packages, wait a minute or two and then if no one comes to the door, they swoop in and do their "shopping".

This practice can easily be discouraged by simply taking an extra second or two and knocking or ringing a door bell. OK, I'll excuse the failure to knock. I don't want delivery men with bare bleeding knuckles. Nor do I want blood on my door, but some houses have knockers and I doubt that blisters would develop if they pressed the doorbell at each house.

Come on, guys. Ring that bell!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Why I Like NH Better than NJ - Reasons 3

Food... I guess I have to be honest about this one. Without a doubt, NJ has a greater selection of places to dine, but they don't have Maryann's Diner. Maryann's, in Derry, NH, is a 50's diner complete with waitresses wearing poodle skirts or jeans and bobby socks. The food is great, the portions are huge, the prices are low and service is fast, friendly, and efficient.

Jill ordered bacon and eggs and I had a western saute. It was all we could do to finish and we were both starved when we sat down. Check out the pictures. That's five, count em, five slices of bacon on Jill's plate and there was more ham on my plate than you would find in any three western omelets in NJ.

Our breakfast with bottomless coffee was $15, but that's nothing compared to the 2X2X2 early bird special of two eggs, two meats, and two small pancakes or French toast for $3.33!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Time to Change Our Focus

First it was predators, then it was cyberbullying, and now it is sexting. The news media is treating us to the fear dujour. They generate reactions that are at best, narrow in focus. It's time to end this kind of narrow focus, take a step back and look at the problem differently.

When you come right down to it, the problems we are seeing stem from kids being kids in an environment that has a lack of adult oversight and guidance. When we do try to provide guidance, they often fail to respond, because they more than know we do, or at least they think they do.

WiredSafety has always know that kids will listen to kids before they will listen to adults and that they will listen to adults if we give them the credit and respect they deserve. That's why long ago, Parry Aftab established Teenangels, groups of teens who are trained by WiredSafety and law enforcement to become experts in cybersafety. We learn from them, they learn from us, and they train others in online citizenship.

The idea of online citizenship is what it is all about. There are many different kinds of online abuse, but pretty much all of them can be prevented if we create good cybercitizens.

MTV, WiredSafety, and others have been working together to empower youth to take positive action, to take ownership for their personal behavior, and be part of the solution rather than the problem. Teens will be working with teens to stay on the right side of that thin line between appropriate and in appropriate behavior at http://www.athinline.org .

Part of that effort is offering teens an opportunity to win $10,000 by coming up with innovative digital ways of stopping online abuse, as well as offering an opportunity to work with MTV and a $75,000 budget to make their idea a reality.

Another part is giving teens a voice and a platform to talk to other teens as done on the site and on Facebook by teens such as Casi. http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=192141552130

Of course, if you are reading this from school you can't visit the Facebook link. So here is the blog entry in two screen shots. Just click on each small image to expand.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Digital Footprints, Legacies, Portfolios, Identities, and Dossiers

There has been some Tweeting recently about digital legacies, digital footprints and whether we are robbing kids of their legacies by not letting them download, save, or post work online. It got me thinking about the difference between legacies, footprints, and digital portfolios that we have been talking about for a long time, as compared with digital dossiers and digital identities as defined by Palfrey and Gasser in Born Digital.

In some ways, it’s a bit like the early days of multimedia. The terms mean different things to different people. Some of the artifacts that go into the creation of each are intentional, others unintentional, and others are out of our control.

We contribute to all of them, but so do others. If I do a vanity search for “Art Wolinsky”, I get a collection of things I have posted over the years and things others have posted about me. If I invest a few dollars do a search of public records, I get a lot of other information.

So how DO we define these different terms? I’m hardly an expert, but I like the Palfrey and Gasser terms. Our digital identities, which probably relate, rather than equate to digital footprints, are made up of those things we post to define who we are.

In my younger days, long before computers, that identity changed frequently as styles changed and I matured. Who I was yesterday was quickly forgotten, because it had little lasting documentation. Changing my hair, my clothes, and my mannerisms changed my identity.

Today, that is not anywhere as easy. Once I establish an online identity, it can be difficult to change, because who I was yesterday, is still alive and well online. Indeed, I may have intentional multiple identities, because I am one person in Facebook and another in SecondLife and so on.

Our digital dossier is out of our control. It made up of things that are stored digitally online, such as Social Security information, medical records, credit reports, etc. While they don’t outwardly contribute to my identity, they are none-the-less something we have to be aware of for privacy and security reasons.

The term digital legacy is used in many contexts, but it tends to be used more in education and relates more to portfolios, but I don’t think there is any clear line between footprints and legacy, because where we go and what we do contribute to our legacy and our identity.

I can’t help but wonder whether we are asking the wrong question. I don’t think we should be as concerned about whether we are robbing kids of their digital legacy if we don’t let them download digital media they create. I think we need to be more concerned about teaching kids about how to protect their digital identities so that the legacy they leave is one of which they are proud. Without that, what they post with or without our permission may create a legacy that will not serve them will in the future.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Moving Saga

I wrote this a week ago while sitting in the Manchester, NH airport where they have free wi-fi, on my way to a workshop in DE, but I'm posting it on Thanksgiving, because I am soooo thankful that this part of our lives is behind us.

Our daughter lives in MA, about 25 miles from our new home in NH. My wife always said that the day she told us she was pregnant, the house would be going on the market and that’s exactly what we did back in April of 2007. The process of selling our house in a down market was painful. It took two and a half years from the time we put it on the market.

Actually, we sold it within ten days, but it was contingent on removing and underground oil tank. Unfortunately, when we removed it, they found a pin hole leak. The EPA allows up to 10,000 ppm before you have to remediate. Our reading was 11,300 ppm. In the end it cost over $10,000 and we lost the buyers, because they wanted their kids in school before Sept. If you know anything about dealing with the EPA and the state, you know there was no way to make that happen, as attested to by a three in high stack of paperwork. The process can actually take over a year or two.

Fortunately, I was semi-retired and could stay on top of the process. I was on the phone constantly in an effort to expedite things, but I wasn’t a pest, and if there was a Nobel Prize for ass-kissing, I would have won it. My tactic paid off. I had established a good reporte with the remediation company and they agreed to slip me in between big jobs. The remediation process was actually completed in August, but there was still the state to deal with, and that took until October. By this time, the market had tanked.

Over the next two years we added upgrades, kept the house spotless, and reduced the price in conjunction with the changing market. I won’t detail the process except to say that we lost two more buyers, because they couldn’t secure financing, and turned down two offers that in retrospect were not as bad as they seemed at the time.

Finally we sold the house in August, during a 10 day period where we had three offers. One was way too low and the other two were lower than we wanted, but workable. The first was a cash deal that was $8,000 lower than the second, which was an FHA loan. The people were prequalified. We opted for the FHA, because they wanted to close within 30 days. In retrospect, that was a mistake. There was more than $8,000 in aggravation.

We had two and a half years to watch the market where we wanted to move and figured we would have to take a small mortgage in order to keep from feeling a financial pinch, so the race was on. We had to head up to NH, make and offer on a house and secure a mortgage. With the help of Beth Redmond, an absolutely top notch real estate agent, we were able to get everything done.

While we were in the process of getting the mortgage and making all of the arrangement for the move we were hearing nothing from our buyers, their agent or their lawyer. Calls from our lawyer, my agents, and even our title company to their lawyer were getting nowhere fast.

While our agent, Beth Redmond, was on top of everything and an absolute joy to work with, their attorney, Jeffrey Roth for Lakewood, NJ was one of those layers who is the reason for lawyer jokes. He gave absolutely no information about where they were in the process at any point in the process. The closing date came and went four times. My attorney, here secretary, both of my agents, and the title company said that they never experienced anything like his lack of consideration and response.

Part of the problem was the buyer who was doing everything himself and wasn’t able to complete things in a timely fashion. Between his refusal to let his agent do want agents are supposed to do and the lawyer’s lack of communication, it he cost them considerable money. There was four hundred dollars in penalties and a few thousand dollars in furniture that we were going to leave for them, but donated to charity, because we couldn’t establish what they wanted or if they wanted anything.

If you are living in Ocean County NJ and are thinking of selling or buying a home, stay far, far away from Jeffrey Roth, of Roth and Roth, in Lakewood. On the other hand, if you are thinking of selling a home, Debby Ficke of Diane Turton did everything I could have asked for to sell our home in a down market, and Beth Redmond is who you want to contact if you are buying a home in southern NH.

Now here’s the kicker. When we moved, as we were unpacking, I came across my Bar Mitzvah album. The first thing I came across was a stack of telegraphs. The first three were from relatives I didn’t know, but they all had the last name of Roth! It is possible that I am related to Jeffrey Roth, but I have no desire to find out, because if we are related, I would disown him, because I would not want to have anyone as inconsiderate as he in my family tree.

I'm doubly thankful that our first weeks in NH have been in stark contract to the weeks leading up to the move.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Why I Like NH Better than NJ - Reason 2

Skilled artisans and technicians can be found in NJ if you look hard enough, but mediocrity is pervasive and don't try to get component level trouble shooting for your TV.

While in NJ, we had a 9 year old large screen projection TV that once turned off, would not turn on again for 4-6 hours. I did some research and found that it was most likely a bad capacitor on one of the boards. I began calling around, but no one would come out to my house and no one would trouble shoot at the component level. The best they could do was have me haul it in and they would replace the entire circuit board for about $450.

When we arrived in NH, I asked around and was told that Tony's TV Repair in Portsmouth would come out and would trouble shoot. I called them and Mark, their tech spent about 15 minutes with me on the phone doing as much trouble shooting as he could that way. He then did his research, ordered a set of 8 capacitors and set up an appointment. He was clear that if they didn't do the job, it would then be a needle in a haystack search that would require bench work at the shop and probably not worth doing.

When he arrived we duplicated the problem, he pressed two keys on the front panel and an LCD flashed out an error code suggesting the capacitors on the signal board were the most likely problem. He replaced them and we gave it a try. While it didn't solve the problem, it did improve things considerably.

He said he could replace the capacitors on the other board, but if they were the problem we would have gotten a different error code. He felt that the problem could also be a transistor, in which case it would have to go to the shop for serious bench work. I decided to leave things as they were.

Watching him work was a pleasure. I'm trained in computer repair and even if I knew which capacitors to replace, it would have taken me at least two to three times as long to do what he did. He traveled 25 miles in each direction and spent well more than an hour here, but since he couldn't fix it, he just charged me the travel charge, the minimum labor charge and the cost of the four capacitors. It cost $156, which considering everything, was a bargain. The set is working better and I am perfectly happy with the results.

Thanks, Mark!

I've had a similar experiences with my house, my car, and even my hair, but more about them in a future posts.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Why I Like NH Better than NJ - Reason 1

I spent the first 65 years of my life in NJ. Three weeks ago we moved to NH and after less than one month here, I'm sorry it too me so long get here. I'm going to begin writing a series of short posts on why I like NH better than NJ.

Reason 1 - Traffic... Actually different aspects of traffic will make up a number of reasons. First, but not foremost, is that drivers are courteous and drive at or near the speed limit. Of course being from NJ, and traveling mostly on the Parkway and Turnpike, I'm used to traveling with the flow of traffic at 10-15 miles above the speed limit(40-50 mph below the speed limit).

This brings me to the main reason I like NH. There is far less trafic and people actually use the passing lane to pass and move from the left lane if you come up behind them. In NJ, there are more people traveling in the passing lanes than in the right lanes, and they nest there like birds sitting on eggs. In one month, I have only had to pass ONE person on the right.

Of course the Live Free or Die motto is also carried out on the road, because seat belts are optional for those over 18, there is no helmet law for motorcycles, and anyone 15 and a 1/2 can drive with an adult over 25 without even a learner's permit.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Whatever Happened to Journalism?

For the past few weeks I have been in the throws moving from NJ to NH. Three years ago, the only qualification for getting a mortgage was a pulse and the ability to sign a document. Today, you have to give your first born and five forms of proof that he/she belongs to you. As a result, writing hasn't been high on my agenda, and it still isn't, but I do want to point you to two posts. The first is reprinted below and the second is a more comprehensive follow up to the first. If you are short on time, read this. If you want the full list of 22,jump right to this version.

Eleven More Things I’d Do if I Ran a News Organization Posted by Dan Gillmor in Techniques

Well, that was interesting. When I posted those “Eleven Things I’d Do if I Ran a News Organization,” I confess I wasn’t expecting the great response, which ranged from compliments to potshots to refinements to suggestions (and more).

The list of 11 wasn’t meant to be comprehensive. Still, I’ve been asked if those items represented everything on my hypothetical plate. Of course not. (Contrary to what some folks said about the previous list, these aren’t just aimed at newspapers; they apply to any media organization that purports to do journalism.)

Anyway, here are 11 more things, not in any particular order, that I’d insist on if I ran a news organization.

1. Nix on anonymous sources: Except in the most dire of circumstances — such as a threat to a whistleblower’s life, liberty or livelihood — we would not quote or paraphrase unnamed sources in any of our journalism. If we did, we would need persuasive evidence from the source as to why we should break this rule, and we’d explain why in our coverage. Moreover, when we did grant anonymity, we’d offer our audience the following guidance: We believe this is one of the rare times when anonymity is justified, but we urge you to exercise appropriate skepticism.

2. Blow the whistle on liars: If we granted anonmyity and learned that the source had lied to us, we would consider the confidentially agreement to have been breached by that person, and would expose his or her duplicity, and identity. Sources would know of this policy before we published. We’d further look for examples where our competitors have been tricked by sources they didn’t name, and then do our best to expose them, too.

3. Mustn’t do this: The word “must” — as in “The president must do this or that” — would be banned from editorials or other commentary from our own journalists, and we’d strongly discourage it from contributors. It is a hollow verb and only emphasizes powerlessness. If we wanted someone to do something, we’d try persuasion instead, explaining why it’s a good idea (though almost not certainly an original one with us) and what the consequences will be if the advice is ignored.

4. Point to competitors: We’d routinely point to our competitors’ work, including (and maybe especially) the best of the new entrants, e.g. bloggers who cover specific niches. When we’d covered the same topic, we’d link to them so our audience can gain more perspectives. We’d also talk about and point to competitors when they covered things we missed or ignored.

5. Pile on big stories: Beyond routinely pointing to competitors, we would make a special effort to cover and follow up on their most important work, instead of the common practice today of pretending it didn’t exist. Basic rule: The more we wish we’d done the journalism ourselves, the more prominent the exposure we’d give the other folks’ work. This would have at least two beneficial effects. First, we’d help persuade our community of an issue’s importance. Second, we’d help people understand the value of solid journalism, no matter who did it.

6. Be relentless: The more we believed an issue was of importance to our community, the more relentlessly we’d stay on top of it ourselves. If we concluded that continuing down a current policy path was a danger, we’d actively campaign to persuade people to change course. This would have meant, for example, loud and persistent warnings about the danger of the blatantly obvious housing/financial bubble that inflated during this decade.

7. Start Here”: For any person or topic we covered regularly, we would provide a “baseline” — an article (or video, etc.) where people could start if they were new to the topic, and point prominently to that “start here” piece from any new coverage. We might use a modified Wikipedia approach to keep the article current with the most important updates. The point would be context, giving some people a way to get quickly up to speed and others a way to recall the context of the issue.

8. Do Something About It: For any coverage where this made sense, we’d tell our audience members how they could act on the information we’d just given them. This would typically take the form of a “What You Can Do” box or pointer.

9. No sock puppets: We’d work in every possible way to help our audience know who’s behind the words and actions. People and institutions frequently try to influence the rest of us in ways that hide their participation in the debate, and we’d do our best to reveal who’s spending money and pulling strings. When our competitors declined to reveal such things, or failed to ask obvious questions of their sources, we’d talk about their journalistic failures in our own coverage of the issues.

10. Assess risks honestly: Journalists constantly use anecdotal evidence in ways that frighten the public into believing this or that problem is larger than it actually is. As a result, people have almost no idea what are statistically more risky behaviors or situations. And lawmakers, responding to media-fed public fears, often pass laws that do much more aggregate harm than good. We would make it a habit a) not to extrapolate a wider threat from weird or tragic anecdotes; b) to frequently discuss the major risks we face and compare them statistically to the minor ones; and c) debunk the most egregious examples of horrible stories that spark unnecessary fear or even panic.

11. No op-eds from major politicians or executives. OK, this is a minor item. But these folks almost never actually write what appears under their bylines. We’re being just as dishonest as they are by using this stuff. If they want to pitch a policy, they should post it on their own web pages, and we’ll be happy to point to it.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Snapshot of Social Learning

I checked into my Facebook page and began skimming the posts from friends and colleagues. There's a good mix of social and professional posts. Some I glance over, some make me laugh, some make me cry, and some make me think and learn.

Kevin Jarrett posted a link from Jersey.com that talked about how schools are handling the President's address to the nation's students on Tuesday and the partition reactions that are in the news. The article was right on target. After reading it, I commented to Kevin that it was a great article, and went on to check the other entries on the page.

A few entries down, I came upon a post from Leigh Zeitz that pointed to a new animation site and his first three frame animation. Someone had commented that the page wouldn't load for them, but I had no problem. After visiting, I thought it was pretty cool. I created my own animation that was a commentary on the school speech insanity.
After publishing it, I went back to Leigh's post, commented about it, and created a link to my first attempt.

The President's Speech by awolinsky

At that point, I decided to write this blog entry, because I realized that the ongoing thread and social networking that had just taken place was a great snapshot of one kind of learning that takes place on the social web.

On Tuesday, while the President addresses the students, Ferdi Serim and I will be working with to teachers and folks from the Delaware DoE. Part of what we will be doing is figuring out how the social web can improve learning and their jobs.

This is the kind of learning opportunities we MUST provide for our student, yet the CoSN Leadership and Web 2.0 Leadership survey shows that even though 70% of administrators recognize the value of Web 2.0, for the most part, these tools are NOT being offered.

We are cheating our kids!!! We must facilitate this kind of collaboration and social learning.

I just went back to post a link to this blog entry and saw that Donna Baumbach had also learned from Leigh and posted an animation she will use in an upcoming workshop.

FAME GoAnimate by AuntyTech

If you know anything about social networks, you know that friends overlap. Kevin's post sent out ripples. Leigh's post sent out ripples. As the ripples reached others, their comments send out ripples to others. The interaction see on the page is just the visible learning ripples. The ripples that you don't see are reaching others and spreading the knowledge. We MUST provide this kind of learning for our students!

It's Saturday night. I can't help but wonder how far the ripples started by Kevin and Leigh will have traveled by Tuesday!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

50% of the World is Below Average Intelligence

When I start losing faith in the human race, I remember something that was told to me by Jim Moran Sr. when I first started teaching. He told me that to keep things in perspective I should remember that by definition, 50% of the world is below average intelligence.

It’s hard to imagine that anyone in this country who has a TV and/or Internet connection doesn’t know about Megan Meier, the teen who committed suicide after being cyberbullied by an adult neighbor.

That being said, Elizabeth Thrasher, age 40, has either been living under a rock or had her common sense surgically removed at birth. She lives in the SAME COUNTY where the Megan Meier’s case made world-wide headlines and is now stands as the first person charged under that law that was created as a result of that case.

She is accused of posting the email address, cell phone number, and the picture of a 17 year-old with whom she was arguing on the Casual Encounters of Craigslist and suggesting the 17 year-old was looking for a sexual encounter.

This will be the first test of the new cyberbullying law and we will be hearing a lot more about it in the days and weeks to come. Regardless of the outcome, Elizabeth Thrashers will face the court of public opinion and suffer consequences there long before her formal court date.

I could go on for pages, but I’ll just let Forrest Gump say it for me. “Stupid is as stupid does!” Here's the story. http://tinyurl.com/pu23pe

Monday, August 10, 2009

Glenn Beck is a Weasel!

I always thought that Glenn Beck was a nut, but now I have to add weasel to the description. Watch this video before reading the rest of this post. If the embedded video doesn't show, here's the direct link.

Let's start with this direct quote from the mouth of the weasel. (Emphasis mine) "I go in and say I'm turning in my clunker... The DEALER goes into cars.gov and THEY hit submit transaction."

How many of you caught the fact that he is on a page that can only be accessed by THE CAR DEALER. I went to the site and clicked on EVERY link there, but NEVER got to that page or that message, because consumers can't get there. As far as I can see, a dealer has to go to a page hidden from the public and login with a username and password. He appears to be on a page that the dealer submits when he is filing to get his money from the government and the message is keeping the used car dealer honest.

Does ANYONE have a problem with the government keeping tabs on used car dealers???

The consumer privacy policy that is posted at the site is standard fare and FAR LESS invasive than any social network or major commercial site. This kind of yellow journalism is problematic, to say the least. Lies and deception are the tactics of a weasel and to have a Fox news anchor there to add credibility to his lies is a sad commentary on the state of our news journalists.

All of his warnings about not going to the site were not because he was concerned with your computer or privacy, but because you would never get to see what he was showing! How do they sleep at night?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Five Quarts of Jelly in a Two Quart Jar

I'm doing workshops for third and fourth grade teachers on using iMovie in the classroom. It's part of a three day summer Loti Math Institute. I have a forty minute workshop each day in which I have to give them Flip cameras and teach them the basics of the Flip, iPhoto, and iMovie, and how to best integrate it, with the outcome of a math lesson that incorporates video.

Realistically, I have at the best, an hour and a half to accomplish everything. The good news is that the teachers have been previously trained in the Loti method and know that everything starts with curriculum.

I just finished day one and it looks like we are on track. We talked about how to use video as part of an overall plan to develop a skill set. Broke out the Flips, took a few videos and I showed them how we will bring them into iPhoto. That put us where I hoped we would be at the end of the first day.

Tomorrow we are going to try to make some simple video that can be used to engage the students and begin discussion. Their homework assignment is to go home and shoot some footage that they can use as a way of showing a connection between math and every day life.

They are a good group and I have high expectations. Not only do I expect that they will have simple lessons ready to go by the end of day three, I'm hoping we have time to share a few of them. Wish me luck.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Remembering Another No Hitter

After hearing about Mark Buehrle's no hitter, I fired up iTunes and listened to my favorite folk singer, Chuck Brodsky, sing his song about an even more amazing no hitter thrown in 1970. If you don't know the back story to Doc Ellis' no hitter, you have to listen to Chuck sing, "Doc Ellis No No".

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Personal Jib-Jab

There isn't much I can add to the visual imagery created by my nephew at JibJab.com. His sister's wedding provided the pictures of me, my brother, my father, my brother-in-law, and my son. Wedding videos will never be the same again.
Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

Friday, July 3, 2009

I'll be Attending NECC All Summer Long!

My three days at NECC were typical. My brain is about to explode and the sessions are a blur, because I'm forgetting faster then I can remember. My calves are tied in knots so tight that the Gordian Knot is a loose shoe string in comparison. There were friends I didn't get to see and sessions I couldn't attend without breaking the laws of physics, but I loved every minute of it!

There wasn't enough time to even attempt a quarter of what I would have liked to accomplish, but thanks to ISTE Vision TV I can continue to attend NECC all summer long and attend sessions and keynotes I missed. It's like NECC On Demand!

ISTE cameras were capturing highlight, sessions, spotlight sessions, and keynotes. They are all online. The amount of educational brainpower and creativity that ISTE has made available, is like a national education treasure.

(FWIW) There have been many people and many organizations who have been trying to drive change in schools, but this video collection is one of the most signficant contributions I've seen in my 30 years of teaching. Many of the spotlight sessions featured folks who have been preaching change for the past decade or more. We are at the point where people are actually listening and ISTE has made it possible for everyone to reap the benefits of their experience.

Over the summer, I hope to watch many of the presentations that I attended in person and many others that I missed. As I watch them I'll be embed the video here and provide my two cents to help spread the word.

Friday, June 26, 2009

An OBD Code Reader is Half the Battle

OK, the check engine light just went on in your car. What now? Well most people head to your mechanic. Of course that means money. One thing you can do to keep the cost down is to do the diagnosis yourself. To do that you need an OBD Code Reader. This little gadget plug into an interface under the dashboard and reads the computer diagnostic codes associated with your problem.

About four years ago, I priced one at about $300. Now they are down to under $40. When the light went on in my Miata last week, I picked on up. After locating the interface, I plugged it in and followed the simple directions to get the code. The numbers indicated that I had an EVAP Emission Sys Leak Detection Pump Ctrl Circ Hi.

Huh!!! It sure sounded serious, but it also sounded like something that would be covered under my warranty. Before I made an appointment, I decided to do some research to find out more about the description. So I typed in EVAP Emission Sys Leak and was taken to a page at OBD-codes.com which gave me the information I sought. It told me that the most likely culprit was a loose gas cap!

While the ODB code reader was a fantastic buy, ODB-Code.com was the icing on the cake. Putting the technical jargon into plain English was priceless.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Land Shark Attack

Our house has been on the market for some time, but the market for resale has been terrible. When the bottom dropped out, there was a huge building boom in our town. Builders scrambling to stay afloat were giving unbelievable deals.

Things are starting to turn around. Our listing was set to expire on 7/21. Debbie Ficke of Diane Turton Realty has been our agent, and we have been very pleased with everything she has done. After discussing it a bit, we decided that rather than simply extending, we would let the listing expire, stay with Debby, and create a new listing.

While there are advantages to allowing a lapse rather than extending, there is also a disadvantage. An expiring real estate listing had the same effect on agents as chum has on sharks.

Our day began at 9:10 with me being roused from bed by the sound of Westminster chimes. It was a real estate agent we had interviewed before wanting to know if we were still interested in selling. If we hadn't relisted it, waking me up in not the best sales tactic.

Then it started! By 11 AM, I had changed the message. It now said, "I'm sorry. No one is here to take your call. If this is a real estate agent, you are the 3,843rd caller, and I'm sorry to say we have already relisted..."

It is now 7:17 PM and the calls are still coming. Of course I exaggerated the number just a bit, but we did have about a dozen or more calls and two personal visits.

If we don't sell within the next 90 days, we will probably take the house off the market at least until April, but if we decide to go with a different agent, I know the one question that I will ask of everyone who calls. "How many people did you bring to see our house when it was on the market originally." Unless they tell me they brought us prospective buyers before, that are going to have to explain how listing with them would change that track record.

I remember, the first agent we had. We listed with her for 6 months and during that time, she didn't personally show the house once, whereas Debby has shown it a number of times. It seems like many of the people circling to get our listing, spend an inordinate amount of time doing just that. Getting a lot of listings is great for the agent, because the law of averages says that they will profit when others sell, but it's not great for all of the sellers, who are not getting action.

Wish us luck!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

From Wave to Opera

Google Wave looks like it will test the limits of existing technology, but they aren't the only creative programmers around. The Opera web browser has been around for a long time, but they have a new alpha product called Opera Unite that is also unlike anything that is out there now.

Opera Unite will turn any personal computer into a server and allow you to share applications with your friends without a third party in between. It sounds cool and it is, but right now any school IT director reading about it just sprouted about a thousand new gray hairs.

I haven't played with it yet, but I'm getting ready to do that right now.

Thanks to Bernie Dodge for passing this one along.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Google Wave - Another Look

On Monday, I referred to Google Wave as Facebook meets email, meets IM, meets Flickr, meets blogging, meets Google docs, meets wikis, meets Twitter, meet Survey Monkey, meets... I'll admit that's a bit of an exaggeration, but the potential is there for that kind of future. It was the geek in me that was reacting to the developer presentation. The idea of Google making it open source and provided all of the developers with the tools they would need to create applications that would live on the wave... I began to think Wave in terms of the apps that are on iPhone. Oh, there I go again. I'm looking way too far out and at too many things.

I may be up there in the clouds in my view of Wave, but CNET did a beautiful job of bringing Wave down to the ground in terms of presenting it in its simplest iteration and reminding us that it's still experimental.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The World is Moving Too Fast for Education!

File this one under the old joke, "The faster I go the behinder I get." We are still struggling to get schools into the Web 2.0 world and now Google comes along with Wave, a new, amazing, collaborative, OPEN SOURCE product that adds a mountain of promise for the world and ocean of challenges for education.

Later this year Google Wave will be going live. It is like Facebook meets email, meets IM, meets Flickr, meets blogging, meets Google docs, meets wikis, meets Twitter, meet Survey Monkey, meets.... (Are you getting the idea?)


Do you have technophobes in your district? We all know that there is little chance of getting them to change. How about showing this demo at a faculty meeting and telling the staff you want students to begin using it. The fun will start as their eyes begin to glaze over. Then the heads will go down, there will be gnashing of teeth, crying, and wailing. They won't change, but they will run from the meeting, pulling out their hair, and screaming about filing for retirement.

But wait! They will be back as soon as they realize that with filtering and blocking, it's not going to happen.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tomorrow is Here Today!

A few days ago, I watched a sneak preview of WolframAlpha and my brain is still spinning. Now some would say that my mind is already fried, but WA will challenge even the most balanced individual.

It could well be the most significant piece of technology to appear in the last decade. If the project succeeds, it has implications for education that dwarf anything that has yet come along.

Today, regardless of what search engine you use, your query will result in a long list of web sites that may contain the information you seek. Wouldn't it be nice if you could type in a query and then have the computer figure out what you mean and provide you with an answer? Well in a sense, that's what WA does.

Stephen Wolfram the creator of Mathmatica has used his symbolic language along with something a New Kind of Science to create the world's first Computational Knowledge Engine. Based on the idea that all thing in nature can be reduced to calculations, WA actually computes answers to your query.

I won't even attempt to detail this amazing piece of technology with my woefully inadequate understanding. All I will do is ask you to watch the demonstration conducted on 4/28 at Harvard's Berkman Center. The video is an hour and three quarters long, but you'll have a good feel for WA in the first fifteen minutes. After you watch the video, here's a link to more information.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I Don't Twitter!

I've been around computers since 1979. I've built computers, web sites, and online communities, but I never got into Twitter. I wasn't sure why for a while and even felt a bit guilty about not Twittering.

Then, last year just around this time, I read Joe Kessil's blog that took a look at Twitter based on personality types and it made perfect sense.

Today, Leigh Zeits pointed me to this video that sealed the deal and had me rolling on the floor.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

My Cluster Map and My Ego

Last year about this time, I added a Cluster Map to my blog. I didn't do it as ego trip, but as a demonstration in workshop I was doing, but things have changed a bit. Since adding it, I've become attached to it. I get a kick out of watching new dots pop up in exotic and out of the way places.

Yesterday I receive an email that was a blow to my ego. It seems that once a year, the Cluster Map fairy comes along and sweeps up all the dots on your Cluster Map and takes them to Cluster Map heaven.

But they are not gone forever. I can visit them through the statistics on my account page and they won't leave me with a barren landscape, because my current map will stay as it is until the next time it updates. It updates when the number of hits since the last update reaches 10% of the numbers currently on the map.

So my ego is intact for a while, and I'll say, "Hi and bye." to my clusters before they slip off on their journey with the Cluster Map fairy. RIP little Cluster buddies...

Friday, February 20, 2009

Facebooks TOS - Nothing Nefarious

So what's the big deal? Terms of service are written in legalese and we hardly ever pay attention to them until someone point out something that sounds nefarious. The changes that Facebook made were no big deal when you really understand them. Without them, they can't do what they do. Let me explain.

If I send a message to my friends, Facebook can't send it to them unless I grant them a license to do so. So I grant them nonexclusive rights to everything I put up. (Note to self... Don't write the great American novel on Facebook.)

So why do I have to grant them this right forever? Simple! If I leave Facebook and my friends stay. The message stays on their page. If they don't have rights forever, every time someone leaves, everything they ever did anywhere with anyone would have to be deleted.

What Facebook and just about everyone else does is that they write in legalese and people don't understand the language or intent. Why don't the write in plain English. Simple again. LAWYERS! Nuff said?

BTW - If think Facebooks desire to have rights anywhere in the world is extreme, read some other Terms of Service out there. They have rights anywhere in the UNIVERSE!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Gray Squirrel Chronicles - Plan C

The rope was a flop and my funnel failed. So it's time to call in the pros. Yesterday, after it looked as if my Rube Goldberg solution wasn't going to cut it, I called the Popcorn Park Zoo in Lacey Township. They are a wonderful animal shelter that services the area. It's a great place to take the kids! They even have a camel that has been successfully predicting Superbowl winners!

I've been supporting them with small donations for a number of years now. So I called them up and asked if they would be kind enough to lend me a humane trap. They told me they would put me in touch with Mark, their animal control officer. In less than an hour, Mark called and asked if he could drop it off the following day.

Can you imagine that? They are going to come to my rescue and they asked if I minded waiting a little. Heck, I would have stood on my head waiting. I can't say enough good things about the folks at Popcorn Park!

Mark arrived at high noon; very appropriate for the show down at the Wolinsky fireplace. Here's the video of what transpired.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Gray Squirrel Chronicles

The day before yesterday, I heard a sound that I had heard only once before and it didn't make me happy. I immediately recognized it as a squirrel who had managed to get through the screen on our chimney. He was now sitting just above the flue scratching in a vain effort to get out.

Next came the fun part, namely trying to get him out humanely. Plan A was a long shot, but it was the easiest to do. I climbed up on the roof and dropped a rope down the chimney in the hope that the squirrel would climb out on his own. Twenty-four hours later he had neither scaled the heights nor hung himself. It was time for Plan B.

The efforts started about 10 AM today with no success. Rather than write about an effort that I know is going to be a long adventure, I decided to film the efforts some of the efforts. Here's the unsuccessful Plan B. (Plan C coming later)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Open Source and Education

I just read an article in Datamation by Matt Hartley in which he takes the educational community to task for not being quicker to adapt Open Source software. I tried to leave the following comment to it, but kept getting a message to "Enter a properly formatted email address." I was able to find a feedback form and left the comment there, but I don't know what will come of it, so I have to vent here.

Take a few minutes to read Matt's article and then you can read my thoughts below.


Matt, you may know Linux, but you have a lot to learn about the educational system in this nation and more specifically, the state of technology education. I've been working with educational technology and professional development since 1980. The reality is that the state of technology literacy of teachers in this country is abysmal. Technology integration and professional development is woefully underfunded and ignored.

Change in education is slow. It only took 25 years to move the overhead projector from the bowling alley to the classroom. Windows came out in 1985 and teachers still don't have a clue about it's workings, let alone how to use technology effectively with as a teaching a learning tool.

Yes, Linux is free. Yes, Linux is secure. Yes Open Office handles Windows documents. Yes, yes, yes, but until someone figures out how to come up with the money and time to bring teachers up to speed with the technology they have been using for the past 20 years, the answer will be no, no, no.

Linux might be the best OS to ever be built, but "build it and they will come", just doesn't work.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

So who pays for this?

Two weeks ago, I was giving a workshop for the some of the folks in the Delaware Department of Education. It was just one workshop in a series of workshops over the next two months. Since I agreed on a flat rate without charging for travel or food, I decided to stay at the Days Inn - Dover. It was located near Dover Downs, near loads of shopping, plenty of restaurants and only ten minutes from where I would be giving the workshop.

The stay was unexpectedly pleasant. The room was clean and comfortable. The staff was friendly and professional, there was free wireless Internet, more in room amenities that some four star hotels, and a free full breakfast that included Belgium waffles, all for $63!

Now I'm back to give another workshop. Having had a good experience before, I opted for the same hotel. As before, I booked online through CheapTickets.com, but when I arrived, they have some difficulty finding my reservation. After some digging, they found it, but it appeared that I had made the reservation for the wrong day. They had me down for the following day.

I said that I thought I had double checked the date, but it wouldn't be the first time I booked for the wrong dates. Heck, I've even managed to book myself into two different hotels for the same stay. The clerk double checked and read through the reservation, indicating that I had booked online through Orbits and paid with my MasterCard. The first thing that struck me as odd, was that I never use my MasterCard. When she read the last four digits, I realized that indeed I had NOT used my MasterCard, because the card number was not mine. Nor was the address on the reservation mine. Obviously, something was amiss.

The clerk was very accommodating and apologetic. She switched the days, but was not able to do anything about the card. She suggested that I call Orbitz when I got into the room and straighten things out.

I wasn't overly concerned about the situation, because I had a room and since she didn't take my card, I knew there was no way I could be charged for an extra night.

When I got into the room, I pulled out the paperwork I had printed out and packed away before I left home. It showed that I had made the reservation for the correct day and used my Visa. It was then it struck me that she had said I made the reservations through Orbitz, but unless CheapTickets.com is associated with Orbitz, that too was wrong.

So here I sit in a motel room, comfortable and warm, secure in the knowledge that all of my documents are in order, but puzzled about who will pay for what. Will I be charged on my Visa? Will someone else be charged on their MasterCard? Will someone else who booked with Orbitz with my exact same name arrive tomorrow looking for the room I took today? Will he get a room? Will we both be charged? Will the motel get their money? Did CheapTickets.com goof? Did the Days Inn reservation system goof?

I don't know who pays for what, but I'll let you know if I find out anything more, but until then, I'm still pleased with the service and the professionalism of the Days Inn staff and will see what happens when I come back for the third time next month. For now, I think I'll walk across the street to the Olive Garden for some soup, salad, and bread sticks.