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How the Mind Works: 10 Fascinating TED Talks

1. Peter Doolittle: How “working memory” works

“Life comes at us very quickly, and what we need to do is take that amorphous flow of experience and somehow extract meaning from it.”

In this funny, enlightening talk, educational psychologist Peter Doolittle details the importance — and limitations — of your “working memory,” that part of the brain that allows us to make sense of what’s happening right now.”

2. Dan Ariely: What makes us feel good about our work?

“What motivates us to work? Contrary to conventional wisdom, it isn’t just money. But it’s not exactly joy either. It seems that most of us thrive by making constant progress and feeling a sense of purpose.

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely presents two eye-opening experiments that reveal our unexpected and nuanced attitudes toward meaning in our work.”

3. Michael Shermer: Why people believe weird things

“Why do people see the Virgin Mary on a cheese sandwich or hear demonic lyrics in “Stairway to Heaven”?

Using video and music, skeptic Michael Shermer shows how we convince ourselves to believe — and overlook the facts.”

4. Al Seckel: Visual illusions that show how we (mis)think

“Al Seckel, a cognitive neuroscientist, explores the perceptual illusions that fool our brains. Loads of eye tricks help him prove that not only are we easily fooled, we kind of like it.”

5. Barry Schwartz: Our loss of wisdom

“Barry Schwartz makes a passionate call for “practical wisdom” as an antidote to a society gone mad with bureaucracy. He argues powerfully that rules often fail us, incentives often backfire, and practical, everyday wisdom will help rebuild our world.”

6. Benjamin Wallace: The price of happiness

“Can happiness be bought? To find out, author Benjamin Wallace sampled the world’s most expensive products, including a bottle of 1947 Chateau Cheval Blanc, 8 ounces of Kobe beef and the fabled (notorious) Kopi Luwak coffee. His critique may surprise you.”

7. Susan Cain: The power of introverts

“In a culture where being social and outgoing are prized above all else, it can be difficult, even shameful, to be an introvert. But, as Susan Cain argues in this passionate talk, introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated.”

8. Daniel Wolpert: The real reason for brains

“Neuroscientist Daniel Wolpert starts from a surprising premise: the brain evolved, not to think or feel, but to control movement. In this entertaining, data-rich talk he gives us a glimpse into how the brain creates the grace and agility of human motion.”

9. Charles Limb: Your brain on improv

“Musician and researcher Charles Limb wondered how the brain works during musical improvisation — so he put jazz musicians and rappers in an fMRI to find out. What he and his team found has deep implications for our understanding of creativity of all kinds.”

10. Helen Fisher: The brain in love

“Why do we crave love so much, even to the point that we would die for it? To learn more about our very real, very physical need for romantic love, Helen Fisher and her research team took MRIs of people in love — and people who had just been dumped.”

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Posted by on April 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Faith — C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

“[To have Faith in Christ] means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.”

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

The Classroom of the Future is Now!

The Google Chrome web browser released without a lot of fanfare and entered an arena that had plenty of web browsers (IE, Firefox, Safari and many others) but is well on it’s way to significantly changing the world of education. The most significant impact has been realized within the area of apps that load within the chrome browser. If you have not explored what is out there, now is the time. The Chrome Web Store consists of hundreds of thousands of apps and the number and quality of free apps for education is almost unbelievable.

As if free apps for education wasn’t enough, the management and zero-touch deployment of these apps are as simple as creating an email address using the Google Apps for Education interface. To say this greatly reduces the cost for schools to support and install apps on computers is a ridiculous understatement. What one or two technically-savvy people can do with these tools are again “almost unbelievable”.

Now enter the $250 Chromebook, that’s right… two-hundred-and-fifty-dollars for a laptop. Overnight it appears that Google has accomplished what seemed to have been years away; an affordable, easy to deploy, (and dare I say) long-term sustainable solution for education. Where each student has a laptop complete with online textbook access, interactive apps, collaborative capabilities and everything web.

The downside… of course there is always a downside. Many schools are using wireless technologies and cable modem access that may not have the network backbone and wireless (802.11n) technologies required to support this environment, so for some there may be a significant upgrade need to accomplish this. However, if you are a school that has recently upgraded or is looking into new equipment and perhaps building new facilities the timing to embrace this advancement is perfect!

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

How to Effectively Use Technology and GTD to Simplify Your Life

How to Effectively Use Technology to Simplify Your Life

  1. My primary tools are Gmail, Google Calendar, Evernote, and Dropbox with the GTD system. (I leverage these realtime apps with my computer and cell phone. The key to efficiency is using basic GTD concepts in conjunction with online tools.)
  2. Capture any random thoughts and ideas immediately with a note in Evernote using my phone app.
  3. Go paperless – scan documents and send to email inbox
  4. Set up a contact in Gmail named “Evernote” and enter the Evernote associated email address so you can easily “forward to Evernote” from your email.
  5. Use Gmail inbox to respond to items that take less than 2 minutes, everything else that requires action and takes more than 2 minutes forward to “Evernote” inbox for review
  6. I also recommend using IFTTT.com to automate tasks between Email, Evernote, Dropbox, Twitter, Facebook, and other online tools (very useful).

A Screenshot of how I organized Evernote using the GTD concept (inbox is default folder)

GettingThingsDone (GTD) concepts by David Allen

  1. Capture all the things that need to get done into a logical and trusted system outside of your head and off your mind
  2. Disciplining yourself to make decisions about all the inputs you let into your life, so that you will always have a plan for next actions that you can implement or renegotiate at any moment

Outcomes & Actions

  1. Describe in a single sentence the intended successful outcome for the problem or situation
  2. Write down the very next physical action required to move the situation forward

Horizontal & Vertical Control (Get Things Off Your Mind and Get Them Done)

  1. Horizontal maintains coherence across all activities in which you are involved
  2. Vertical manages thinking up and down the track of individual topics and projects

Five Stages of Workflow (Horizontal)

  1. Collect things that command our attention (anything personal or professional, big or little, that you think should be different than it currently is and that you have any level of internal commitment to changing)
  2. Process what it means (What is it, Is it actionable?)
  3. Organize the results
  4. Review the options
  5. Do It

Weekly Review

  • Loose Papers – business cards, receipts, etc. – put in in basket for processing
  • Process Your Notes
  • Previous Calendar Data – review for remaining action items, reference information, etc.
  • Upcoming Calendar
  • Empty Your Head – write down any new projects, action items, etc.
  • Review “Projects” (and Larger Outcome) Lists – ensure that at least one kick-start action is in your system for each
  • Review “Next Actions” Lists
  • Mark off completed actions & review for reminders of further action steps to capture
  • Review “Waiting For” List
  • Records appropriate actions for any needed follow-up & check off received items
  • Review Any Relevant Checklists
  • Review “Someday/Maybe” List
  • Check for any projects that may have become active and transfer them to “Projects” & delete items no longer of interest
  • Review “Pending” and Support Files
  • Browse through all work-in-progress support material to trigger new actions, completions, and waiting-fors

Models for Making Action Choices (The Three-fold Nature of Work)

  1. Predefined
  2. Work as it shows up
  3. Defining work

Six Level Model for Reviewing Your Own Work

  1. Current actions (Runway)
  2. Current projects (10,000 ft view)
  3. Areas of responsibility (20,000 ft view)
  4. 1-2 year goals (30,000 ft view)
  5. 3-5 year vision (40,000 ft view)
  6. Big picture view (50,000 ft view)
  • Projects: clearly defined outcomes and the next actions to move them towards closure
  • Horizontal focus: reminders placed in a trusted system that is reviewed regularly
  • Vertical focus: informal back of the envelope planning

Five Steps to Accomplish Any Task (Project Planning)

  1. Defining purpose and principles
  2. Outcome visioning
  3. Brainstorming
  4. Organizing
  5. Identifying next actions

Five Phases of Natural Planning Techniques

  1. Purpose / guiding principles (Why are we doing this?)
  2. Mission / vision / goals / sucessful outcome (What would wild success look, sound, or feel like?)
  3. Brainstorming (How would we accomplish it?)
    – View the project from beyond the completion date
    – Envision wild success (suspend “Yeah, but. . .”)
    – Capture features, aspects, and qualities you imagine in place
  4. Organizing (identify components, subcomponents, sequences, events, and/or priorities; what must occur and in what order? When do we do these things?)
  5. Next actions (Where do we start?) “If the project is off your mind, your planning is sufficient. If it’s still on your mind, keep applying the model until it’s clear.”

Organizing Stuff

Pick up anything around you that you’re wondering what to do with, and apply a simple set of formulae:

  • I don’t need or want it = trash
  • I still need to decide what this means to me = IN basket item
  • I might need to know this information = reference
  • When I could possibly move on it, I want to see the action as an option = next action reminder, reviewed when and where it could be done
  • I need to be reminded of this short-term outcome I’ve committed to = project list item, reviewed weekly
  • I need to have this when I focus on a project = support material
  • I might want to commit to this at any time in the future = Someday/maybe list item
  • I might want to commit to this on or after a specific time in the future = calendared or “tickled” item incubated for review on a specific future date
  • I want to achieve this “bigger” outcome = goals, objectives, visions that you review on some longer interval
  • It’s something someone else is doing that I care about = item on Waiting-For list, reviewed at least weekly
  • I need to consider it when I do certain recurring activities = item on a checklist

GettingThingsDone (GTD) Workflow

Summary

  1. Keep everything out of your head (create a bullet-proof collection system – use Evernote for this!)
  2. Leverage technology and become as paperless as possible.
  3. Decide actions and outcomes when things first emerge on your radar, instead of later
  4. Regularly review and update the complete inventory of open loops of your life and work

ENJOY THE FREEDOM OF STAYING ON TOP OF THINGS WITHOUT HAVING TO REMEMBER IT ALL

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Using Technology in Schools and Why the iPad2 is the Best Purchase for Education Today.

There are so many factors in deciding the best way to spend money on technologies in schools today. With shrinking budgets and rising costs more consideration is being given to the return on investment and total cost of ownership when buying something new. As someone who has guided technology spending in schools for the past 17 years, I have learned the importance of getting a bang-for-your-buck every time you buy technology. If you are able to string together a series of quality purchases over years, your school will end up landing in a place where you are doing far more than other schools while spending far less.

When it comes to technology in schools, I lean heavily towards the philosophy that "less is more". More technology does not equal better student learning. My recommendation is to keep it simple and focus on practical tools that everyone can use that will impact student learning. Don’t get me wrong, I am an advocate for smart boards, but they are well down on my list. Dry erase boards are far more practical and "everyone can use them" without additional training and they cost far less. I think the most important piece of technology in the school is the one in the hands of the teacher. If you do not currently have powerful technology for teachers then that is where to start. Then add projectors, speakers, and wireless access.

On the topics of wireless networks, servers, filters and firewalls, it is important to identify what your priorities are then meet them without apology. If your desire is to provide high speed wireless access to teachers so they can reliably pull multimedia into the classroom then don’t open your network up to students. This can very easily be accomplished by getting a router that filters the MAC address of requesting devices and only allowing access to those devices you enter. You do not owe students and parents the same access as teachers and staff, especially when the cost of adding them impacts the teacher in the classroom. It’s a nice gesture but if it interferes with your mission, don’t do it.

As for filtering the internet, there are many approaches, but none more secure than a white list of approved sites that you control (I like OPENDNS.com). Remember your school’s priorities. This is not about if you agree or not with freedom of the press, or that you disagree personally with censorship. Internet access in schools should ultimately be about supporting the mission of the school which is tied to administration, instruction, and ultimately student learning. I’d even go as far to suggest starting with no access and develop the discipline of having teachers and staff request access to sites that support the mission. This is the approach we took at the school I’m currently at and it took about two years to get it where we needed to be and the past four years have been adding a only few sites a month that are almost always tied to a classroom assignment or project.

As for servers, It’s time for schools to move to the cloud and leverage tools like Dropbox, Google Docs, Evernote and other online tools. I like Dropbox and Evernote because they scale to multiple platforms including desktops, notebooks, tablets, and cell phone apps that make your information more accessible, even when you are not connected to the web. The other really valuable upside is that the information is backed up and you do not fall into a disastrous situation if a hard drive fails on a local server. Even with highly competent technology people, backups do not always get restored in a catastrophic scenario, like when hard drives fail.

Having developed and led several successful technology plans, I have allowed myself to be guided by the following principles:

1. Low Maintenance: If it takes more people to maintain adding it then the total cost is probably not worth it. High maintenance means more expertise, more time, and more money is required. Avoid high maintenance purchases, you’re better off buying pencils and paper for the classroom.

2. Quality Construction: Don’t buy poorly made products. Look at the things you’ve had over the past five years. There is a durability to it, the products you buy should be durable. Everything from headphones to mouse pads. Ask yourself this question: "Will this last more than five years if I use it every day?"

3. Easy to Use: If the tools you buy take extensive training to use, then reconsider how practical it will be to get everyone trained. There is nothing more wasteful than to spend a lot of money on a product that people don’t use because they have not been trained. It is usually worth it in the long run to spend more on intuitive products that everyone can use then to get a bargain on tools that require more than an hour of training.

4. Practical Application: Make sure the reason you are buying a product is because it fits the application. Don’t fall into a scenario where you buy something cool but you don’t have an application for it. Focus on tools that will help you do your job better or more efficiently every day. Remember white boards work every day.

5. Be "Open" minded: Be careful about buying products that lock you into one way of doing things. You are better to think about open architectures and interchangeable tools. Probably the single most under-utilized tool out there is OpenOffice. It is free and does nearly everything other suites do. Our schools have powerful multimedia computers in our media center because we did not spend $15K on an office suite and opted for OpenOffice instead.

6. Built-in recovery: Leverage the cloud for backups and also consider adopting a policy to rebuild computers back to original when you have problems. Requiring storage on the desktop in a tool like dropbox and using a FOG (Free Opensource Ghost) server can save you hours of troubleshooting by simply rebuilding the workstation and configuring dropbox so it will copy the backed up files to the freshly installed desktop.

7. Buy "Leading Edge" not "Bleeding Edge": The easiest way to blow your technology budget is to fall in love with the ultimate new product. This is probably the nuber one reason why so many schools have spent so much money with so little to show for it. The best product to buy is not the latest one, but the previous version that can leverage many of the improvements of the latest one via updates and firmware upgrades. Usually there is a significant price break for a nearly identical product and its hardly ever worth the extra cost. In truth you are really paying for research and development of their next product line and the ability to say I have the latest and greatest.

I know this is a long way to go to support the claim "Why the iPad2 is the best technology purchase in education today" but hear me out. You have to know what technology is really valuable, and underpriced. I always ask myself "What is the most underpriced piece of valuable technology out there and what is the best way to buy it?" Nearly always bulk purchases are best. If you go back through this article and read the criteria and principles to use for quality purchases, the iPad2 meets nearly every criteria.

I have recently proposed buying 100 iPad2’s for our entire faculty. It will improve student learning, and move the staff to a very portable tablet environment so I can prepare for my next move of tablets for students and electronic textbooks. We’re not there yet but this is a significant step in that direction. The price of $40K for 100 iPads for teachers is a steal when you consider what you get for the money. The iPad2 is low-maintenance, intuitive, durable, practical, tons of free useful apps, runs Dropbox and Evernote, best bang-for-the-buck tablet available. You could spend $60K for 100 iPad3’s but I’d save the $20K and pat myself on the back for understanding the best way to buy technology for schools.

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Christ, our God who understands pain.

For years I have wrestled with cluster migraine headaches. For me, it is the most intense pain I know. This razor sharp pain pounds roughly an inch inside my left temple and I have had headaches that have lasted for as long as three days. I am very familiar with the extreme degree of this pain. Those who share my experience with cluster migraines know you do not forget that kind of pain. And to suffer for any duration of time causes you to know the precise location where the hurt comes from.

In life we can pretty easily zoom in on the specific pains we’ve experienced. We might ask "How could God allow us to suffer so? Why would a good God permit pain to begin with?". Others may question God’s power and see him as unable to take away the pain. For all the perspectives in philosophy and religion it is the cross of Christ that makes the most sense in explaining why an almighty God would allow pain.

If we accept that Christ is who he said he was, then he is God’s only son. History accounts for his death on a cross. And it is because of the cross that we have in Christ, a risen savior who understands our humanity and pain. This is the one thing that is uniquely Christian and separates Christ from all other religious leaders. His claim was not merely that he was one "way to God", but that he is God himself, and He experienced our pain first hand. He absolutely understands it.

That is what make the cross so important, and so personal. Christ not only understands our pain, but He willingly bore our sins on the cross. I sometimes think this may be the exact reason why God allowed suffering in the world. Since everyone can identify with pain, most have even experienced intense pain on some level, so we can appreciate that Christ willingly chose to suffer on our behalf on the cross. It was his expression of his love for us. And that God loved us enough to allow His son to experience being tortured (can you imagine) and die for us so that we would know the depth of his love for us. And then that He redeemed us all through Christ’s miraculous resurrection and ascension into glory. This is the story of the cross, and of Christ, and a very personal God who understands pain.

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

To bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality…

The sense that in this universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret. And surely, from this point of view, the promise of glory, in the sense described, becomes highly relevant to our deep desire. For glory meant good report with God, acceptance by God, response, acknowledgment, and welcome into the heart of things. The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last.

C.S.Lewis – Mere Christianity

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

 
 
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