Final Days before Publishing

Old Cover
This was my original cover idea. Then I decided it was too dark, and opted for something lighter and with my own art work.
I started working on the book in 2014. It’s short title is A Quiet Revolution, and it chronicles the 40+ years I have spent as an educator, the last three decades as an advocate of modernizing classrooms with contemporary information technology.

I’m experiencing the last days before publication, fixing problems that the final processes have exposed and polishing the final work.  The problem is that a task like this is never finished.  I re-read and edited the book six times, and I could do it six more times and make as many changes.  I completely changed the cover today.  But I am rapidly committing myself to the publishing.  Until then, I want to share some of the promotional text that appears on the back of the book and other places.

This is some text that didn’t make the final cut, so I’ll place it here.

This story is about thirty-five years of rapid change that have challenged education, an institution that, by structure, resists change. It is about the heroes who sought to understand and utilize emerging technologies to help their schools adapt. This story celebrates their passion for education, their inventiveness, resourcefulness and their persistent advocacy for schools that empower learning, instead of administer it.

..and the revolution continues.

A Walk Around Kings Mountain

Ferguson Memorial
Memorial for Col. Patrick Ferguson, Commander of Loyalist forces at the Battle of Kings Mountain

My wife and I visited the Kings Mountain Battlefield last Sunday. It’s a 1.8 mile walk around and up over the mountain, reading plaques and imagining the smoke-filled scene of 1780. It was fought between colonists who were loyal to the crown (who wore slips of white paper in their hats) and independence seeking patriots (who wore bunches of pine needles in their hats).

The hated commander of the Loyalist forces was Col Patrick Ferguson. I’ve researched Ferguson recently and found him to be quite an interesting character. He was a Scot and was raised in Edinburgh, where his family associated with some of the the leaders of the Scottish Enlightenment. Indications are that he was sympathetic to the American patriot cause.

Acknowledged as the best marksman in the British Army, Ferguson spent time, while convulsing from wounds suffered in the West Indies, designing and fabricating a breech loading rifle. With it, he was able to fire 15 accurate shots in one minute, a HUGE improvement over the muzzle-loading Brown Bess muskets used by the British Army. Because of the expense of mass producing Ferguson Rifles, they were only used by a special unit that Ferguson established early in the American Revolutionary War. He admired the style of Indian warfare practiced by many of the patriot soldiers, and had his soldier wear (somewhat) camouflaged uniforms and practice guerrilla style fighting. Wounded again, he lost his unit to other officers, who had ridiculed his tactics as less than “honorable.”

Kings Mountain Death Of Ferguson
In fact, only one in ten loyalist soldier wore red coats and none of the patriots wore blue. Except for Ferguson, all of the combatants were Americans.

Returning to service he was assigned to raise a loyalist militia to assist Gen Cornwallis’ Southern Campaign. It was the militia that he raised that was defeated on Kings Mountain, where he was killed and his body mutilated. His blunder was sending a letter to the Overmountain Men, threatening retribution against their families if they marched east to fight the British. The Overmountain Men came. They were rough frontiersmen from the Appalachian mountains and beyond, accustomed to eking a living from the wilderness.

The Battle of Kings Mountain was preceded by the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill, which resulted in a similar outcome. My interest in these events comes partly from the fact that my ancestral patriarch of the 18th century had children who served on both sides of that war.

Two Hours at ISTE in Chicago

I’m sitting on the shuttle bus now, only a few blocks from the Courtyard where my wife and I are staying. The chatter is wild and expressive as is the buzz of energy that this event sparks. Boarding are educators from across the country and around they world. They’re all here to learn and to be energized. The buzz of anticipated energizing will grow to a roar by the end of the conference on Wednesday. Im only here for a couple of hours, hoping not to be confronted by officials checking for badges. Hopefully my deaf-mute act will release me. My plan is to hang out at the Blogger Cafe, a comfortable corner for bloggers to sit and compose or just geek out with each.

At the Leadership Luncheon
At the Leadership Luncheon

My reason for coming, other than visiting one of my wife’s favorite cities was to attend the ISTE Leadership Luncheon. There, I had the honor and privaledge of sitting with Chris Lehmann. To learn more about this weirdly energetic education innovator, read my upcoming book. The bus is arriving, so I’ll write more later. im in and it’s a sea of people, all educators, moving in currents with no apparent purpose, but certainly directed toward opportunities to learn. They’re educators who are not satisfied with business-as-usual. They are comfortable with discomfort. They see technological, social, economic and cultural chang, not as a challenge to be feared and ignored, but as emerging opportunities to better prepair their students for their future — to own their future. More later…

The Blogger Cafe

It‘s about an hour-and-a-half later. One of my best buddies, Kathy Schrock came over and we shared stories from years past and about our children who are around the same age. If you buy my upcoming book, you’ll learn much about Kathy. Steve Dembo also came over. He was the first educator podcaster that I knew, and a dynamo presenter. Steve is also a drone enthusiast.

Blogger CafeThe flow of educators has not eased, even though presentations have begun. Around me, people are standing and sitting talking and learning. In many ways, the best learning at these conferences happen between sessions, in the hall, in conversations with educators from different states or nations.

Much can be said about education today that is not good. Most of our children are being schooled, but they are not being prepared for a rapidly changing future. It’s the people in this conference center who are trying to change education, and they’re doing it with brilliance, dedication, perseverance, and with enthusiasm. They are my tribe.

 

What’s Wrong

Now that I’m in the quiet of the Chicago airport, on my way back to North Carolina, I want to share my concern for education in the U.S. The people who are attending  ISTE, those I know and most of those I do not know are there for the sake of the future. Their eye is on the future. Part of it is the glamour of education technology — all the shinnies. But most of their presence and energy comes from a mutually held belief that by empowering student learning with information technology we are going to accomplish peaceful and prosperous in our future.  It will happen because we have become more tolerant, more compassionate, more inviting of different cultures for the sake of how they change us, and more willing to adapt our economic system to build a more inclusive society. We will predict and then learn that a country without poor people is a much better place to live.

Its hard to imagine such an America today, because the US is led by a man who continues to run for president, setting policies based on what got the biggest crowds during his campaign rallies. He addresses issues on the most simplistic levels ignoring the nuanced complexities of a country with 326 million people, 263 million of who didn’t vote for him.  He thrives on chaos and shuns the serious informed thoughtfulness that is necessary for leadership in this potentially wondrous time when almost anything is possible. He is a bully and he’s a fake.

..and I hold education responsible. I do not blame individual teachers and principals, except in as much as we have allowed public education to be corrupted into a standardized and mechanized institution for preparing future workers.  Instead, our job is to help our children learn as much as possible about their world and learn to

  • Think logically
  • Recognize the irrational
  • Read habitually
  • Learn as a lifestyle
  • Become information artisans
  • Respect each other, and
  • Find their personal intersect between play, passion and purpose.

 

Another Giant Step Backward

CC BY-SA 2.0
CC BY-SA 2.0
If you think that America’s future energy should be burning coal and other fossil fuels, then you should be happy with Trump. According to a Bloomberg report, the Trump administration plans to use two Federal laws “to order (electrical) grid operators to buy electricity from struggling coal and nuclear plants in an effort to extend their life…”

Further reversing our country’s progress, Reuters has learned that Trump’s tariff on imported solar panels is forcing renewable energy companies to cancel or freeze investments of $2.5+ billion in large installation projects. According to developers, it also cancels thousands of jobs.

All of this while Britain regularly announces increasing numbers of hours and days that their entire grid is powered without coal. The BBC reported on April 24 that the nation had gone three days without coal – the first time since the 1880s.

Sources:
Bloomberg Article – https://goo.gl/noeSrN
The memo – https://goo.gl/1SqfZx
Reuters Report – https://goo.gl/FveFPd
BBC – https://bbc.in/2HrRyn0

Kneel in Pray and Lose Your Chance to Meet the President

Fox News tweet Eagles kneeling.jpg_11780284_ver1.0_640_360Kneel and pray on the field and lose your visit to the White House, at least according to FoxNews.  The Trump-leaning news service tweeted this picture yesterday, implying that the decision to dis-invite this year’s Super Bowl winners from the White House was because team members had knelt during the Star Spangled Banner.  Seems that they couldn’t find any pictures of Eagle players taking a knee in protest (since none of them did so during the entire regular season).  So they included one of Zach Ertz kneeling for a quiet moment before an NFL football game in order to corrupt the story to their liking.

When challenged, FoxNews removed the tweet and apologized.

How Much Information?

Here is something from my seemingly endless preparation of The Quiet Revolution.  It’s a story that I often related to audiences to illustrate the changing nature of the information that we are using today and our need to redefine literacy.

VEB Carl Zeiss Jena, 1-Megabit-ChipThere was a study conducted by the University of California at Berkley called “How Much Information.” They discovered that the world generated five exabytes of information in 2002.

You are probably thinking,

If I knew what an exabyte was, I’m supposed I would be impressed.”

To clarify, if we added five exabytes of information to the Library of Congress, the largest library in the world, it would require the building of 37,000 more Libraries of Congress to hold that year’s additional information. The kicker, however, is that only one one-hundredths of one percent (00.01%) of that information ever got printed. All the rest of the new information was digital, existing as 1s and 0s and residing on the memory cells of magnetic tape, disks, optical discs and integrated circuits; and requiring digital technology and technology skills to access and use that information. If more and more of our information is digital and networked, then we can take the paper out of our future workplace.

This also begs the question, “Why are we continuing to spend so much time continuing to teach our children how to use paper when we need to be teaching them how to use light – to use digital information?

Are We Worthy of Our Accomplishments?

Sapiens, by Yuval Noah HarariI’ve just started reading “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari. Every page teaches me something extraordinary. For instance, for 97% of the time that Homo (humans) have been walking upright, there were several species of human living simultaneously. Homo sapiens, Homo neanderthalensis, Homo erectus, Homo denisova, to mention only a few. It’s only recently, in evolutionary time, that Homo sapiens has emerged as the sole species of human to inhabit the earth.

I just scanned the Amazon description for Harari’s next book, “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow,” and these sentences jumped out:

“Famine, plague and war have been transformed from incomprehensible and uncontrollable forces of nature into manageable challenges. For the first time in history, more people die today from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists, and criminals combined. The average American is a thousand times more likely to die from binging at McDonalds than from being blown up by Al Qaeda.”

It makes me wonder how we’ve accomplished so much to make our world more civil, and, apparently, so little to to civilize ourselves.  Are we worthy of our accomplishments?

Dentistry 2.0

3D Rendering captured with a camera mounted rod and assistive music - to boot.
3D Rendering captured with a camera mounted rod and assistive music
I went to the dentist yesterday, for a crown.  I am now using CornerStone Dental Associates in Shelby, NC.  Having used a dentist in the sophisticated city of Raleigh for years, I was not expecting much in this small city.  However, I was pleasantly surprised.  Actually, I was overwhelmed.

Months ago, they identified a tooth with an abscess, which was no surprise to me.  Cornerstone sent me to a dentist in Gastonia for a root canal, since I needed it done right away and they did not have an immediate opening. I’d had a root canal and crown done in 1973 – an excruciating experience.  However, the procedure went well in Gastonia with very little pain, even though the dentist said it was an especially difficult one.

The cool part was the crown.  My dentist first ground the tooth down.  Not fun, but she let me listen to my music.  With that done, she started the process of creating the crown with a rod that had a tiny camera on the end.  Moving it around, she captured images of the tooth from every angle.  To help, a nearby computer played music in a major key.  If the camera was not getting a clear image for any reason, the tune changed to a minor key.  The computer was assisting her with music.  That blew me away.

Once they got the pictures, the computer created a three dimensional render of that tooth (nub), and the surrounding teeth (See picture).  The 3D rendered file was sent to a 3D milling machine, that carved my new crown out of a cube of composite resin.

Some glue and a little polishing and I was done.

All I can say is Wow!

A Question about Investigating Russian Meddling

There’s been a question, trying to form in the back of my head, like an itch I can’t reach, concerning our investigation of Russian meddling in U.S. elections. I do worry about Trump’s possible collusion with a foreign power and the corruption it would imply – though corruption seems to be the way of things in our capitals these days.

Social Media Vs. VOAI found that itch yesterday, as I was talking about it with my wife — and here it is.

What’s the difference between Russia’s efforts to sew distrust in our government with social media and our efforts to sew distrust in the Soviet/Russian government during the Cold War with Voice of America broadcasts?

There is an important difference, I believe. VOA sought to “win the attention and respect of listeners” behind the Iron Curtain by offering a “consistently reliable and authoritative source of news.” (Words from the VOA Charter of 1959.)

We wanted to help intelligent people in the USSR, to recognize true news and reject the Soviet propaganda.

Russia, on the other hand, wants to appeal to unintelligent Americans’ willingness to believe sensationalist propaganda and reject true news.

That’s the difference!

Perhaps, rather than investigating Russian meddling, we should be investigating education policy that wants students to memorize the right answers to questions, instead of teaching them the discipline of asking questions and the wisdom to question the answers.

Coworking Space in Shelby

I discovered something interesting, while leaving Hannah’s Coffee House yesterday. It was a flyer for a new company in Shelby called BizHub. It is a coworking space, opened last August, that serves professionals, creatives and organizations in the Shelby area who have a need for temporary work or meeting space. At BizHub, you and I can rent a desk, a conference room or an office for a week, a day or an hour – professional work space with high speed WiFi, printers, coffee and sodas, big screen TVs, etc and etc. Wikipedia describes coworking space as being “attractive to work-at-home professionals, independent contractors, independent scientists or people who travel frequently who end up working in relative isolation.”

A friend of mine, Brian Russell, established the first coworking space in the research triangle, Carrboro Creative Coworking. Even though Carrboro was to far from Raleigh to be practical for my use, the concept fascinated me, as an independent home-office professional.

Jason, with whom I spoke at BizHub, said that they host meetings for groups who found coffeeshops too noisy. They also have business travelers who use their space for working while on the road, locals who need a formal office for a period of time and other professionals who simply need some work time away from their usual workplace.

I loved being an independent worker, what Dan Pink called a free-agent worker, and spaces like BIzHub make it a lot easier to do work independent of corporate or government direction.

Photo by David Warlick
Photos by David Warlick

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