Wednesday, November 2, 2016

"Hear Me Out"

I've read several books in my life that have had a strong impact.  I've always said that The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara was my favorite. It's a great piece of historical fiction focused on the main characters during the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863, Civil War.  Characters:  Robert E. Lee, James Longstreet, Lewis Armistead, Winfield Scott Hancock, and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.)  The novel not only inspired the film Gettysburg in 1993, it also inspired Shaara's son, Jeff, to write a prequel and sequel, making up a darn good trilogy.   Most recently, I finished The Nightingale, but Kristin Hannah - another piece of historical fiction set in France during World War 2  - the French resistance, families, and the brutal impact of war.  This is my new favorite.

Then comes non-fiction - one book I truly enjoyed is The World Is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman.  Friedman is an editorial writer for the NY Times.  I know that many conservatives dislike Friedman, but I find his point-of-view, mostly based on tedious research, to be solid, accurate, and thought-provoking.

Friedman released this editorial today in the New York Times which, in my opinion, paints a very accurate picture of the current sleazy election we are witnessing.

Please read it and let me know what you think....

Monday, October 31, 2016

OK, I Get It, But.....

As the craziest and ugliest Presidential race enters its final week, I think I finally get it.  While driving today, I heard an interview with Paypal Founder, Peter Thiel.  Thiel claims that Donald Trump will "save our politics."  Hearing this while driving nearly caused me to crash (seriously.)  But, being [what I consider to be] an educated individual, I wanted to hear Thiel's logic.  I wanted to give attention to his point of view as I would want people to understand mine.

Thiel is not a Trump supporter so to speak.  He does not think that Trump's antics or his degradation of women and minorities is acceptable.  What he does see is a person who is going up against the establishment, as Thiel feels nothing gets done in Washington via the life-long politicians.

I do understand where Thiel is coming from.  I do understand that Trump and even Bernie Sanders started a movement that is needed.  However, I don't necessarily agree with everything Thiel says, as I don't feel it can be summed up that simply.  Our country is huge and it's challenges are even larger.  The self-interests, lobbyists, and other factors have steered us far off course.  Remember, during one of the debates, Trump criticized Clinton for being a 30 year politician and not accomplishing a thing.  Most notably, he said she was a terrible Senator.  Her response summed up what many of us feel - she was a Democratic Senator in office during a Republican President and a Republican controlled Congress.  Given what President Obama has endured over the past eight years, I tend to agree with Clinton's statements.  Moreover, when Senator Ted Cruz and others, just last week, stated they would not affirm any Supreme Court Justice nominated by Clinton (if she wins), the polarization was never more clear.

I grew up thinking that we all wanted to make this world a better place, to learn from our past challenges and mistakes, not repeat them, and work together for the common good.  I feel this way, day in and day out, as an educator.  I have seen how many people have lost focus - it is happening everywhere.  Our elected leaders need to consider what is best for their constituents, not themselves.   They need to do the job they were elected to do.  While Peter Thiel has a justified point of view, I think it's safe to say that plenty of coercion and corruption takes place in the private sector just as much as it does in the public sector.

Hopefully, one day, we will have a candidate who is anti-establishment and focused on what is best for our country.  Perhaps Bernie Sanders was this person (though his economic policies appear to be a disaster.)  I do know one thing: Trump is not this person.  He is a playground bully; a spoiled rich kid who has always gotten his way and in no way can identify with the Americans who are in most need of a reformed system.  Trump is all about Trump - he has always put himself first and will continue to do so.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Heard On The Radio (my wearable tech follow-up)

As I was driving yesterday, I decided to listen to KCBS 740am, as traffic and weather have been road factors lately.  The KCBS Technology Analyst gave a report about wearable technology, notably the Apple Watch.  He claimed that the last quarter saw nearly a 50% decline in sales as compared to this time last year.   (Last year:  500 million units sold; this year: 270 million.)

I found this report interesting, but quite frankly, not the least bit surprising.  The analyst, as well as the broadcaster both stated that they own an Apple Watch as well as the Samsung Gear model.  Both also went on to state things I have felt from the beginning of this wearable technology craze:

  • The Apple Watch is pretty cool; it is fun to choose and create your own watch face
  • The battery doesn't last long enough.  Having a second device to charge is a pain
  • The price point is far too high; consumers can buy a traditional wrist watch and it will last them longer
  • They often forget to wear the watch
  • They look at their phone when they need to know what time it is
I really liked my Fitbit Flex.  It helped me eat more consciously and made me more aware to stay active - shooting for that daily goal.  But when is enough enough?  Maybe I am just getting old and maybe my eyes are just getting tired.  I love technology and the possibilities it creates - especially for the teaching and learning process.  However there are times when I simply need to disconnect - pick up a magazine, watch a tv show, or just veg out.

What is the future of wearable technology?  Time will tell.  I do know that it won't be attached to me.  I'll use my golf app / distance finder, but that's all for now.

OK... I know this is a weak post, but I haven't posted in a long time.  I didn't want to post about the current Presidential election - 12 days to go - and I can't wait until it's OVER.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

It's Been A While

It's been quite a while since I have posted to my blog. Why you may ask?  There are several reasons.  Recently, my wife and I purchased a home.  Moving at the age of 45 is far different than doing so in your 20's.  My body has taken a LONG time to recover.   I've also not blogged because of the current state of affairs throughout our country.  We are in the midst of one of the ugliest Presidential elections ever.  The majority of Americans will tell you that neither candidate is desirable.  And the ugliness of this election gets worse - not by the day - it gets worse by the moment.

As Americans, we tend to tune out and feel that our voice/vote may not make a difference.  This complacency has created a strange culture.  I recently read an article written by a person who chose NOT to vote in the 1968 election.  Worth the read.  We need to make the connection - not voting in this election is essentially voting for an unqualified, dangerous candidate who can hurt our nation to a point beyond repair.

In 1999, Director Ron Howard released a film titled Ed TV.  Essentially, it is what reality television is today - cameras followed Ed around and documented his every move, that of his friends and family, etc.  In the film, the concept became a sensation.  Next came The Truman Show and others; notably Survivor, Big Brother, The Bachelorette, The Bachelor,  and of course, Celebrity Apprentice.  You see, we have created this ignorant culture where viewers think what transpires on these shows is actually real!  I have seen interviews with participants who claim, "that is not how it went.  The editing really changed things."  Our culture and its media has created what is now the GOP Presidential Candidate - and this person is perhaps the most dangerous thing our country has faced since Joseph McCarthy.  Why the media and others don't take a stand against this individual baffles me.  The lies get deeper, the questions don't get answered, and the ignorant and uneducated are his "prey."  Racial tension in this country is worse than ever.  How sad.  What have we become?  Where are we headed?

The link to video below sums things up...

I promise that my next post will be positive.  It's been a challenge lately to stay focused on the positive when so much negative is regularly in the news....

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Need to Disconnect

Yep, it happened the other night.  The weather was beautiful, steaks on the barbecue, glass of tasty Pinot Noir.  My wife in one chair, me in the other, sitting around our patio table.  WE BOTH HAD OUR PHONES OUT, SCROLLING THROUGH SOME APP - Facebook for Lisa, Flipboard for me... All at once we looked up at each other and almost in unison said, "This is STUPID.  We are out here, have time alone, and we are both on our phones!"

We immediately put our phones down and had a conversation.  And it felt darn good - to SPEAK, to be disconnected from an electronic device that has become an extension of our being!

I realize the power of the internet.  I love the information that I have available to me at all times - literally at my finger tips.  But what are we becoming?  People glued to our phones and devices all the time?  It's anti-social and unhealthy.  My eyesight is diminishing.  My attention span is awful.  I walk into a room and everybody is on their phone - including me!  This has to end!

Lately, when I go to the gym and workout, I have been leaving my phone in the locker.  I need time away from it.  I have been making a conscious choice not to be connected all of the time - and it's HARD, but it feels so good.

From the late (and great) comedian George Carlin:

"The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.
We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things.
We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.
These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete.
Remember to spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.
Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.
Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent.
Remember, to say, 'I love you' to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.
Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.
Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.
And always remember, life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by those moments that take our breath away."
We all need to reflect about our tech use and perhaps disconnect - otherwise we will lose our personal connections and relationships.... life will pass us by.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Recent Thoughts on Social Media

I admit it - I use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  Facebook and Instagram to "celebrate" and share life's events with friends and family.  Twitter as a professional tool with colleagues and my network of educators that I have met or with whom I learn.

Lately I feel more and more that social media is just out of control.  I support the first amendment and free speech - I truly do.  But social media has opened up an avenue where we are not being sensitive to others; we are not understanding how a post can be interpreted.  Some are using social media to celebrate murders, deaths, or even plan illegal acts.  It's crazy.

I think this recent election season is showing us two things: social media can be used as a powerful tool to engage people to think and get out there and vote; it has also been used in such ugly ways.  "Crooked Hillary" comments, blatant racism towards President Obama, sexism towards Hillary - even many negative things towards Trump.  When did we lose our class as Americans?

Out of respect to the tradition of election season and the democratic process, I watched last night's opening to the Republican National Convention.  And I was saddened - saddened that we are so divided as a country and instead of working together collectively for solutions, many are pointing the fingers, making excuses, and spewing hate.  I grew up a "Reagan Republican."  I later changed to the Democratic party, and after last night, I am sure glad I did. The current GOP is spewing hate and pointing fingers.  I have not heard any of the speakers, the presumptive Republican nominee, or the Vice President nominee present a plan for fixing our challenges.  They want to hold NATO and others accountable - bring American jobs back, etc -- but HOW?  I pray that next week's Democratic National Convention demonstrates respect to the process and all involved, whether we agree with their points of view or not.

Given the violence that has erupted lately - police officers being killed, suicide bombings, potential coup in Turkey, I am wondering what our future as a world holds.  Are we simply going to self destruct because we haven't learned from the past?  If so, I am sure it will be on social media.  I cannot give up my hope that one day, we will not judge each other based on race or religion.  One day we will look at and treat each other equally.... one day.  Maybe we can start by being more kind to one another via social media.  Maybe we can be sensitive with our words and actions..... Maybe.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Future of Shopping?

I will be candid:  I hate shopping.  I dislike going to a mall, going from store to store, spending time in malls, etc.  Maybe because I am frugal. Maybe it is because I have a busy life and feel this is a waste of time.  I'm not sure.

Yes, I find myself using, Groupon and like services often.  Is it because of the convenience or the deals?  Must be.  As an Amazon Prime member, I have the ability to find what I am looking for relatively easy, get free two-day shipping, and free returns.  Additionally, with Amazon Prime, I get Prime Video and Prime Music.  I don't have to subscribe to Apple Music; Netflix and Hulu are "affordable options" but think about it.  For $109 a year (about $9 per month) Amazon meets many needs.   They also provide online storage with Amazon Photo and other services.  I wonder if they are losing money....

Online shopping.  Who ever would have thought it would come this far.  Looking for something special or unique?  Something you purchased overseas?  The gap has been closed.  We have access to pretty much anything now.  At any time!   

Obviously shopping malls and stores will always be around.  I wonder what they will look like as we move forward.  For now, supply chaining is working well - started by WalMart, perfected by corporations like Amazon and Google.  Crazy world we live in.  

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Visiting The Beaches

D-DayMonday, June 27 was a true highlight of my life.  I was able to complete a "bucket list" item - visiting the beaches of Normandy - the site of the largest land, air, and sea attack in the history of war, known to us as D-Day.

Prior to arriving at the Memorial Center at Caen, I felt myself overwhelmed with emotion.  I've seen Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers.  I've read many of Stephen Ambrose's books on the subject, most notably D-Day: June 6, 1944.  Still, visiting the Memorial Center, strolling around Pointe Du Hoc and Omaha Beach, and browsing through the American Cemetery is nearly indescribable.

When the United States entered the war, we only had 190,000 active members in our armed forces.  We were not ready to go to war.  The training and preparation required for the attack in France to open a western front was intense.  Pointe Du Hoc was one of the first places of the Allies focus, as the guns located there were able to reach both Omaha and Utah Beaches.  The mountains that the Army Rangers had to scale were enormous.  To actually sit in a German "pill box" and see the vantage point they had puts things in a whole new perspective.  I wonder how anybody survived.

Omaha Beach, one of the deadliest and bloodiest areas, is absolutely beautiful and peaceful.  The sand is clean; houses are on the near mountainside that once housed German fortifications.  Looking at it today, it's hard to imagine the total warfare that took place there.  It's hard to imagine metal obstacles along the beaches, land mines, and dead Allied soldiers everywhere.  Many accounts of the event claim that there was so much death, parts of the water turned red.

The American Cemetery is a solemn and absolutely beautiful place; a fitting tribute to our fallen.   It overlooks Omaha Beach.   Viewing the tombstones of nearly 9,000 fallen individuals is humbling; each stone represents a story - a son, father, brother, friend - a life lost - mostly at a very early age.  "They sacrificed their tomorrow so we can have today."

Much like the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, everybody should visit the museum/memorial in Caen and the beaches in Normandy.  To understand the present day, we must understand and learn about the past.

Warfare and technology has evolved tremendously.  While I know warfare today is not like it was for the soldiers of World War II, I often wonder if today's generation could answer the call the way the "Greatest Generation" did.  I truly do not think there will ever be another generation like the men and women who brought us victory and liberated Europe (and defeated Japan).  Our world has changed so much and has gotten more complex. This is not to suggest that the Greatest Generation did not have its own challenges, but they came together during a crucial time in our nation's history and saved democracy.

Reflecting on the Greatest

The passing of Muhammed Ali a few weeks ago has made me reflect; reflect on his life, my life, and the state that of our country.

I was eight years old when Ali retired; my memories of him (during my childhood) are those that were forged through my relatives - and unfortunately, many of my relatives did not like Ali.  In reflection, I realize a lot of their dislike is based mostly on Ali's personality - he was a giant; a person far ahead of his time who did things that many from the 1960's and 1970's were not used to.  

Ali's "exhibitionist" style was one that boxing (and the world) had never seen.  Yet, despite the exhibitionism and despite his flamboyance, he was brilliant and very often misunderstood.  His courage to stand up against the war in Vietnam, to become a member of the state of Islam, and simply stand for what he believed was right and just.

My 11th grade US History teacher, when speaking of Ali, said that he was the greatest ever.  The most perfect athlete - a combination of speed and strength that the world had never seen.  Ali also was very human, having unsuccessful marriages and other challenges  in his life - Parkinson's disease being one of them.  

Billy Crystal's eulogy during Ali's funeral was brilliant - a must see.  I watched it three times and each time I have enjoyed it more.  It has inspired me to watch more and learn more.  Who was this man that took the sports world by storm, was willing to forfeit his title due to his objection of the Vietnam War, and promote peace?  My conclusion:  Ali was like no other - a person who saw things through a different light.  His understanding of the challenges with race, religion, and culture is phenomenal, especially when considering his upbringing in a very rural Louisville.  Ali taught us to stand up for what was/is right; to treat each other with equality and compassion.  

When Apple launched its "Think Different" campaign, Ali was one of the select individuals featured. Steve Jobs understood the difference Ali made, putting him in the company of Jackie Robinson, Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso, and John Lennon.

It saddens me that we often wait until a person has left us until we realize just how special they were or the impact they made on so many lives.  Love him or hate him, Muhammed Ali was a change agent - a messenger for world peace.  A man far ahead of his time.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

It's Not That Hard...

I just read this article, Six Keys to Effective Digital Leadership, and must say that effective digital leadership, or any leadership for that matter, is not that hard.  It's really about the mission and goals of your educational institution, sticking by these goals, and believing in what you do.  Naturally, communication and buy-in from stakeholders is EXTREMELY important.
Image result for digital leadership
Sheninger's Book
The article referenced Eric Sheninger, a high school principal in New Jersey.  His first quote, hit me right away, "If the leaders don't get it, it's not going to happen.  Yet the people in charge of leading schools in the 21st century often are the least knowledgeable about the 21st century."  Tell me that doesn't strike a chord....

According to Sheninger, the six keys are:

  1. Don't make excuses ("If it's important to you, you'll find a way to make it happen.  If not, you'll find an excuse.")
  2. Give up control (hard one, huh?   We often teach the way we were taught.)
  3. Put pedagogy first, and technology second.  (I cannot emphasize this one enough!!!!)
  4. Build relationships and break down silos
  5. Work smarter, not harder - this applies to life in general!
  6. Seek out feedback - how else do we adjust and improve?
Image result for digital leadership

I think Sheninger summed it up best when he stated, "Pedagogy is the driver, while technology is the accelerator.  Technology is simply a tool and not a learning outcome by itself..... the real outcomes you should be looking for are the things like finding answers, creating products, taking action, changing peoples' minds, and making a difference in the world."

Earlier today, I received an email from a teacher, asking that we add more behavior codes to our student information system to reflect electronic device violations, because according to her, "they are out of control."  This relates directly to Sheninger's article - and #2 --> GIVE UP CONTROL.  If teachers model effective use of devices, they become a powerful learning tool; providing students with autonomy and personalized learning opportunities, while using devices or not, helps (#4) build relationships and break down silos.  Also, isn't doing so (#5) working smarter, not harder?  

We are dealing with a generation of students who do not know life without the internet.  More information is available now than ever before.  As educators, we need to learn about this and teach students how to navigate it correctly and meaningfully.

This takes me back to mission, goals, and core beliefs.  Anything is possible.  It really comes down to how badly you want to make it happen.