Archive for the ‘Reflection’ Category

Screen Shot 2013-04-06 at 6.59.25 AMIt has been quite some time since I last posted here at HIT.  Since returning to the classroom last fall I have been busy educating the youth of America, at least those that set foot in Room 100 at Adams Middle School.  Our journey together is almost finished in terms of the school year, and we have some evidence to show for it online.  Our American History site can be found at in all its glory.  There are several student projects shared on the home page for your viewing pleasure.  The resources that we use on a daily basis are found mostly via the “Agenda” links in the right hand column, and here you can see all sorts of practice that has been going on on a daily basis.  I hope my students are ready to go to the high school.  I feel like they are getting there, but I also know it will be a whole new “ballgame” for them.  I think they are ready for high school social studies…


Interdisciplinary…is it a goal, a state of education, an action?  As I contemplate my new history course and the awesome math teacher I will collaborate with (Mr. Dan Smith), I am working my mind to find ways to accentuate math throughout the ages and to show how data is an important historical tool that tells great and interesting tales. In this process, I want to share an example of what I am getting at and some data resources that one can utilize with students to inspire their search for truth through data.

The following is a video clip of an older piece from Hans Rosling:  200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes:  a great example of combing data and history…

The next items are links to data resources that may be useful (in no particular order)…

Stat Planet

KML Factbook


Many Eyes

Data First

2011 in 11 Graphs

The Joy of Stats Video 200 Countries, 200 Years in 4 minutes


Google Think Insights

Google Public Data Finder

2010 Census Data

Find The Best

Policy Map

Where Americans are Moving

Another summer has arrived in my life, another school year has ended, perspective rolls in once again.  I am starting my fifth year as the educational technology director for the North Platte Public Schools.  During that time we have gone through 2 superintendents and currently have an interim while we sort out who will be best to lead our instructional team in the future.  Technology in the district has increased and improved, but we have much more to do.

Within this big picture view are some little things that have profound influence on quality of life.  There are so many troubles out there in this big old world, and it is nice to have some tender mercies around to lighten the load.  We got a puppy in the spring and had spent all the time and energy it takes to bring him along as a member of our family.  We determined that the time was right and that we would have the summer to train him and enjoy him.  School ended for my five children on May 18th and my wife followed the next day after wrapping up her school year as a speech-language pathologist.  I have an extended contract that runs into July; so, I continue my service as we ready the district for a new school year.

On May 26th our dear, new friend Shadow was hit by a truck and we had to put him down.  Needless to say, the Memorial Day weekend took on a whole new meaning and was not filled with happiness and joy.  I grew up on a ranch in western Wyoming and have spent my life around animals.  For me, I have seen them come and go, but there are always a special few.  Shadow was one of them.  My children and I have had a special opportunity to reflect on the short life of something that became important to our family.  It has not been easy, but they are learning that it gets easier as each day passes.  This learning is profound, meaningful, and lifelong.  It will never be measured on a standardized test, and my children have learned more from this experience than an entire year of school will ever hope to bring.

We get in such a hurry in life that we forget to enjoy the things that are going on around us.  Events, people, pets, our surroundings often slip by like the scenery we view in a speeding vehicle.  We don’t notice, or cherish the little things, the special things, until they are sometimes taken away without a moment’s notice.  This can be the summer that Shadow died, or it can be something else.  I’m not sure what that something else is as of yet, but our family is searching.

I know a few that visit this blog from time to time, and your visits may be less because I post less.  It is because I have been too busy living life and that’s okay.  I hope you are all having a great summer, but if you are sad I can understand how you feel.  Your sadness may be greater, more profound, and more serious.  Take comfort in the fact that your sadness comes from the loss of joy.  Remember the joy and get it back someway, somehow, as soon as you can.  Goodbye Shadow.  You brought my family true, honest, joy.  Thank you.

It has been a few years since I heard Ian Jukes speak at the T+L Conference in Nashville (October 19, 2007).  However, his words continue to ring in my ears, and I want to share some of them with you as I reflect on where our school district is with embedding technology in learning.

Ian Jukes said:

“We have access to some new technologies but their use is generally optional not integral and certainly not required of all teachers – and the technologies are often used to reinforce old practices and assumptions about teaching and learning and assessment and do not require the teacher to change their current instructional practices.”

“Ask yourself this very important question – would your students be there in your classrooms if they didn’t have to be? Are they there because they want to be there? Or are they there because they have no other choice? And if they’re there only because they have to, what can we begin to do differently to help more students want to be in our classes?”

“…Our emphasis as professional educators has to be on more than just LOTS.”

“The starting point for making the necessary changes is that as educators we have to understand how truly different our students are.”

“This shift is so fundamental – the gap between them and us is so wide – that there’s no going back to the basics. There’s no going back to the way things were when we were kids.”

“The problem is that many educators just don’t get that there is a digital divide. Many of us pay lip service to the notion that this generation is different. We knowingly nod our heads but then we shut the door to the classroom and go back to business as usual where it could just as easily be 1960 all over again.”

“Most teachers know very little if anything about the digital world of their students – from online gaming to their means of exchanging, sharing, meeting, evaluating, coordinating, programming, searching, customizing, and socializing.”

“The bottom line is that we really don’t understand their digital world and we never will until we take the time to honor and respect where they come from. But to do this we have to be willing to acknowledge their world and start to educate ourselves about that world.”

“If we truly want to make a difference in the lives of our children, schools must become a place where students are actively engaged in constructing their own knowledge and know how…”

“The context of a significant event provides a frame of reference and relevance for remembering the specific information about what you were doing long after the event. By providing a context for the new information teachers are actually helping students with long-term memory.”

My summary and challenge to myself and others that continues today:  As educators it is time that we take responsibility for our own learning.  If we want to create self-directed learners, we must become one.  We must model self-directed, independent learning, and we need to discover how our students learn in the 21st Century.

4 Years of Blogging…

Posted: February 14, 2011 in Reflection

Four years ago I started this blog, and time has slipped by much quicker than I ever imagined.  At the start of the blog I was searching for an instructional technology position that I soon found.  That position took me and my family from western Wyoming to Greater Nebraska and the city of North Platte.  Many changes have occured in the North Platte Public Schools, and I can say I have witnessed and been a part of many advances in the technology available to staff and students. Where life takes me next is always up in the air.  I am always looking for new opportunities and adventures.  Sometimes those new things are found right where I am and sometimes they are in a distant place.  We’ll have to see what happens.  Four years from now will be interesting to see…I wonder.

I have been contemplating my personal learning network (PLN) as of late, and I have shared my off and on dealings with such tools as Facebook, Twitter, and the like.  As an educator, a PLN is vital in gaining new ideas, sharing, seeking support, and maintaining all sorts of human relationships that get one through the days, weeks, and years.  I have never been a good giver over my digital PLN, but living as a taker has helped me to survive.

Sometimes people come along and give you a good shot in the arm when you least expect it, and two gentlemen did just that for me many months ago.  Dale and Jarred were two new teachers, just finishing up their programs of study at university.  Last year was their first year in the classroom, and now they march along in the second.  I had followed these teachers, and visited with them on rare occasion, but I lost them for a bit (my fault).  I backed away from my digital PLN to gain some perspective, that I never quite found, and added them back today.  Hopefully they will take me back.

Chances are good they didn’t know I was gone, and that would be my fault for being a taker.  That’s okay.  I need to take from them, I need their enthusiasm, I need to hear of their struggles and triumphs, and I need to be ready to offer encouragement when I think they need it.  That encouragement makes me a giver.  Support is one of the great benefits of a PLN.  It comes from strangers, those you least expect, but they become familiar:  they become family through one’s PLN.

We come to the end of a calendar year.  This is a time of reflection for many, and a time to set new goals.  I’ve been thinking about goals, been taking stock of the past, and wondering how to navigate the future.  I have been looking for perspective.  I was referring to my PLN via my RSS feeder to find some wisdom, and Dale provided just the perspective I needed in the following video (Dale and Jarred:  Thanks for finding me many months ago even though you didn’t realize I needed to be found!):

You can follow Dale and Jarred on Twitter:  @DaleHolt and @JarredRowe and learn from them at “Not Your Average Teacher

They truly are not average, they are great!!!

Inference – Online Resources

Simply put, an inference is also known as reading between the lines.  The reader must put together the information the author provides and the information that the reader already knows to come up with the answer.

Lesson Plans (K-12):

Ideas (K-12):

Science (6-12):

Logic Problems (K-12):

Elementary Activities:

Middle School Activities:

High School Activities:

Resources (K-12):


Why I left Twitter…

Posted: September 11, 2010 in Reflection, Social Networking

Seriously!  In part, this is why… 😐

My current Twitter info:  Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.  (It is because I am gone!)

A year ago I was prepping for the second surgery on my broken right arm. I am right handed; so, that whole adventure caused some serious thoughts on how much we take important things for granted. My family took good care of me, and I feel like I’m back to a normal lifestyle with modifications.

During that time I turned my attention to several social networking tools to pass the time. Most I had dabbled in before, but I had some extra time, one good arm, and an iPod Touch that enabled such communication. Twitter was interesting, but Facebook led to many connections. Last year was also my 25 year high school class reunion and Facebook connected me to many old classmates.

By the end of summer I was in serious rehab and my Facebook connections were in full bloom. I was back at work preparing for a new school year, and I was making the necessary adjustments with my newly configuered arm. Twitter was becoming a more powerful tool for my professional goals, and the network that was coming together proved quite valuable.

By late fall, I was wondering about the connections I had made. Many were to old friends, but I soon learned you can catch up on 25 years in a couple of posts and you are probably good for another 25 (if we last that long :-)! Facebook unnerved me with their constant agreement changes; so, I decided to leave the venue despite 1 or 2 people missing me.

The trick in all this is who would really miss you? If you have a strong network, that crosses the digital and real world, I can see some solid bonds. For me I suppose I haven’t created that powerful of a network; although, I benefit so much from this digital resource.

The key to it all is you get back what you put in. I need to add more value. Twitter is my most used tool to connect and often I get that old high school feeling that I’m on the edge of a crowd of really cool people, but they don’t know I’m there or could care less if I was. Insecurity at best on my part, but any group, organization, or gathering of humans has the high school cultural dynamic at play.

Cliques, social networks, whatever you want to call them exist, and I can’t help but wonder how this impacts kids. If the “cool” kids don’t let you in, what is the impact. What I mean in this case is that you can get in digitally providing maybe a false sense of acceptance, but in reality you are not recognized intellectually or for who you really are. I can see this social disconnect, if you will, taking place with youth and even adults.

The neighborhoods in the digital world look good on the outside. Nice yards (landing pages), well kept structures, and pleasant conversation, but there may be no substance or there are underlying deficits lurking beyond one’s social connections. It is an extension of the real world as we know it, but the digital world can be manipulated to mask that imperfect reality.

As adults we have a responsibility to help young people navigate through this added dimension to the complex world. Depite the digital world being somewhat removed or anonymous, it is ultimately real: it does exist and we must deal and live with it. We must be careful how we utilize and act in this world if we want to keep our human traits that nuture and care for one another. The digital world can dehumanize people. Caution should guide the way as we embrace these digital tools.

What it comes down to are relationships. Do we have a relationship with the technology and/or devices, or do we have relationships with people? Do we “unfriend” or “unfollow” out of convenience, or do we stick out a digital connection to let it grow, to develop a meaningful relationship, to help make each other better people?

Sunday evening as I walked to my hotel from the ISTE 2010 opening keynote I was struck by the difference on the downtown Denver streets compared to 25 years ago.  In a surreal coincidence I saw 2 young men dressed in white shirts and ties and saw myself those many years ago when I served the people of this city.  As a 19 year old young man, I spent my time downtown and in the Five Points area helping many people that could not help themselves.  I don’t share this to shine a light on what I did, but I want people to understand tough times.  In several of the sessions I attended at ISTE the current dire state of affairs was shared.  Come back in time with me and we shall compare and contrast.

25 years ago I spent 18 months of my life, unpaid (I saved money as a teenager to do all this on my own dime) helping people.  The time was 1985, the organization I represented had shortened service time from 24 to 18 months because we were in an economic recession, interest rates were 13% and higher, unemployment was up, and there was an influx of Vietnamese and Hmong refugees from Laos and Thailand here in Denver.  The streets I walk today were filled with desperate people, and I spent time with them, helping them.  We delivered clothes, beds, food, helped them find housing and jobs, gave them rides, did whatever we could do to help them have a better life.  Many of the young children I knew back then are now adults, and are out in the world helping to make it a better place.

The service I was involved in was meaningful, frightening, rewarding, painful, full of heartache and joy at the same time.  I had worked hard growing up on a ranch in western Wyoming, but this was something else:  a different kind of hard work.  I benefited from each experience, I am a better man because of these times in my youth, but where did all the people go?  There are a few I see, but are they all still there?  Do we not see them because they were shooed away, because they are hidden elsewhere, were they cleaned up like crude oil on a sandy beach and taken away out of sight and out of mind?

It is easy to be concerned when we have something shoved in our faces.  It is right there, not to be ignored.  We may get concerned for awhile because it is a popular thing to do, it captures our interest for a time, or it impacts our personal lives so directly that we have to deal with it.  I was taught at an early age to serve people.  I don’t mean the occasional helping the neighbor.  I mean consistently giving of my time, money, and life to those that I live amongst with an eye to the big picture of things and with a hope that others will do the same across the globe.

I heard a comment during an ISTE session on Monday that we must think global first, and I wonder if that is misguided thinking.  If we can’t think about our neighbor and help them, how can we know what it really takes (time, energy, heart, etc.) to help around the world?  It may be a case of semantics, but family first, community second, and global third seems like a natural progression of thinking, or in the case of students learning.  We can make a huge difference for good where we are at a given time. I think we should.

Yes, these are tough times.  There have been tough times since I took my first breath in November of 1965.  We live in a troubled world, we face great challenges, and we do need to help our children prepare to meet problems head on just like I was taught to deal with things by great and noble people in my past.  We do that via authentic opportunities of service.  I shall restate the key term:  do.

Doing something requires action.  Yes, I can join a social network group and discuss the issues, make a plan, but it serves no real purpose until that action is carried out in the form of service to others.  Hands on, get your hands and white shirt dirty, help a guy stand up on California Street in Denver, feed him, get him some clothes and housing, take him to a job interview, check back and make sure life is getting better kind of service.  Selfless service, not out to make a dollar service.

We can talk about it and it is a noble, idealistic effort, but until you act I have a hard time listening.  Would you really help someone you see in need on California Street?  Will you?  If you came back 25 years later and saw no one in need, was the problem solved?  Today, the economy is tough, but I would say better than it was 25 years ago.  A trip to the Exhibit Hall of ISTE 2010 sure makes me think everything is okay in the education world.  Tax dollars will buy many of the gee whiz items that grace the hall, but will these items help our kids go out and find people in this city, in your city, that are in dire straits?  Maybe that is a lens that we can use to help us decide before we choose that new interactive whiteboard, set of clickers, or information management software.

I listened to a man on Sunday night speak of solving the world’s challenges.  Would he go out on California Street, just a few hundred yards from the very stage he stood on (25 years ago California Street ran through the Convention Center!) and help someone in need?  I hope so.  I have.

Let’s help our children, students, young people look the hundred yards and go out and help.  That is good hands on experience that will help them look a mile, 100 miles, 1000 miles, and all around the globe.  It will help them to see the people on California Street that we may not see anymore, but they are still there in need.  Most of us already do this in our classrooms and schools, and we must continue to extend that vision beyond those spaces keeping an eye on that young face within our view making sure they see the challenges ahead and that they learn how to do something about it as we do something about it with them, today.

Sadly I have belatedly learned of one of my great mentor’s death.  He lives on within me, in my mind and in my heart.  Leonard Bruguier was a great friend, first and foremost.  He was my professor at the University of South Dakota during the early 1990s.  I spent many a morning or afternoon in his office discussing history, life, and family.  We kept in touch off and on.  I would stop by to visit when in South Dakota.  I later found him in Mexico (Thanks to the www).  Leonard was a descendant of the great Yankton Sioux leaders Struck by the Ree and  Chief War Eagle.  He was a veteran of the Vietnam War and a decorated Marine.  I admired Leonard and respected his counsel so much.  I will dearly miss him.

The following are Leonard’s words to me a few years ago as I faced a new change and challenge in my life.  It is just as he typed it, and they are valuable words of wisdom from one of the greatest men I have ever known. God be with you until we meet again.

“well, your occupation tale sounds like another adventure best taken and not rued forever. i might have ants in my pants and happy feet but one thing i do practice is memories, and i carry them brightly in mind. i try to remember all those places and maybe that’s why i am able to smile today. working with other people in enclosed places with mucho politica is difficult, and as your ancestors know, who knows what’s over the horizon. us sioux b dat way!!!! the onliest thing i can say about that is always try to go and be where you can have a loving relationship with yourself and your family. but, never forget, somebody has to assign the stall cleaning details. that is sometimes an aggravating task, so make sure your heart is part of the equation on the next move. it would please me no end and continue to make me smile to see you finish your doctorate. that’s my biased opinion from the cloistered ranks of academia.”  Leonard Bruguier March 16, 2007