Saturday, February 27, 2016

Technological miracle called “books” continue to take hold.

The death of paper has been greatly exaggerated.  Take a look at new growth in used book stores, continued success in paper book markets, and the statistics that e-reader sales have seriously plateaued, and the indication that society is still in love with the physical printed word is alive and well. 

And schools seem to be behind the times.  There is an interesting technological revolution going on within Ukiah Unified right now and the initial results have been fairly interesting.  I won’t get into the nuts and bolts at this point because much of it is rumor and all of it is brand new.  One thing that has been broached in a smaller way is the substitution of textbooks with e-readers. 

What say you Interwebz?

In a new study conducted by American University linguistics professor Naomi Baron, researchers have found that an overwhelming majority of students prefer physical books — you know, with covers and paper — over e-books for serious reading.

These are this generations massive readers; college students.  They overwhelmingly want the physical books in their hands than an e-reader, even when the book has a digital copy at no financial cost.  And this isn’t just a college going phenomenon.  It looks like the teenagers are still into reading and that social media simply creates buzz for the purchase of the paper books. 

What’s most important to the student angle is the apparent lack of engagement that students find in an e-reader.  When presented with the opportunity to recall information, studies show that digital devices had a negative impact on the overall absorption and engagement within that information

  "the haptic and tactile feedback of a Kindle does not provide the same support for mental reconstruction of a story as a print pocket book does"

The statement could be seen by some as old fashioned or obsolete until you start sifting through data and realizing that, just as many teachers have said, the technology is only a tool and occasionally that tool is used improperly. 

I also buzzed around an AP U.S. Government forum where the question of e-readers as textbooks was put in front of a group.  A vast majority of teachers did not like their digital experience.  They found that either the students didn’t read as well or as often with the Kindle style books, or that the digital copies were poorly executed on Kindles and laptops.  This created a mess on Kindles because students had trouble going back to charts and graphs on previous pages, and laptop infographics ended up clunky and often distracting to the reader.  A couple of teachers noted that textbook companies like Pearson were also doing a masterful job locking schools into digital books as well.

The most dangerous part of integrating technology into schools is the act of simply integrating it into schools because it is technology.  It’s pretty and powerful and makes board members and administrators look like they are savy in the ways of current pedagogy.  That’s the wrong way to look at technology.  Technology is not pedagogy.  Technology is the tool and the teacher needs a lot more say about how that tool is most successfully used in the classroom.  Sweeping changes without consulting teachers can have disastrous and incredibly expensive consequences. 

While thinking about this, please view IKEA’s reminder to all of us about one of the greatest technological advances in human history….the Book.

Day 28: Victor, Idaho to St. Mary, Montana via Yellowstone National Park

We woke up at 2 in the morning. 

My wife was worried about the fire and wanted a back-up plan.  Part of the town of St. Mary (our next stop) was being evacuated, and we were fairly sure that everything else was smoked out.  Logan Pass (a highlight of the park) was closed.  We were concerned that our reservations couldn’t be cancelled and that we would be stuck being miserable at a high price.  Then we started figuring out alternate plans.  If we could get out of our reservations on the east side of Glacier we could detour over to the Badlands in South Dakota for a few days and then head to Kalispell, Montana on the west side of Glacier where the smoke was less pervasive.  If we could get out of both reservations we could skip Glacier and do a loop of Upper Cascade, Mt. Rainer, and Olympic National Parks.  We looked at drive times, hotel prices, fire conditions, weather updates.  After about 90 minutes we realized that a lot was riding on whether or not we could cancel the reservations and went to sleep.

For about two hours.

We made a quick packing of the car and by dawn we headed over the pass and north through Jackson Hole.  We hit sporadic showers and one bear jam at the northern end of the Tetons as about eight cars watched a large bear (don’t know what kind) wandering around a field before lumbering into the forest.  We decided to take the long way (through Yellowstone) to visit one location; Artist Point.  We had missed it last time through and the location was famous for looking over Yellowstone Falls through the gorge that was the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  It’s also historical in that the first major portrait of Yellowstone was drawn from that location, and the picture of Yellowstone Falls was a major part of what eventually became the creation of America’s first National Park.

Like last year Yellowstone National Park was painfully slow to drive in.  Lots of traffic and road work kept our speed around 25-30 mph for most of our time within the park.  The scenery was fabulous and Artist Point was well worth the trip but man the drivers in this park are bad.  After hitting the point we drove through Haydon Valley, up and over Dunraven Pass, and headed out the northern entrance of the park.  We did catch a very substantial bear jam near Mammoth Hot Springs where a grizzly and two cub were sniffing around a log about 150 yards away.  That was a pleasant ten minutes.

We got ahold of our location in St. Mary’s and asked about our reservations.  They basically told us that they were open, most of Glacier was unaffected, and they expected us to meet our obligation for the reservation. 

Ok then.  Guess our decision is made up.

We enjoyed the terrain up to from Yellowstone to Interstate 90 in Montana, and for the first time in a long while we headed west.  Near the headwaters of the Missouri River (which is odd to think about in Montana) we headed north towards Helena.  The weather had cleared up mid-afternoon but the weather to the west was looking iffy.  We arrived at Helena and decided to hit a Super Wal-Mart to stock up for the days at St. Mary’s.  We walked in to partly cloudy skies.  We walked out to thunder and lightening, and a nasty driving rain.  Then it started to hail.  We slowly made our way to Interstate 15 along with the rest of the very cautious traffic.  We were doing about 30 mph on the on-ramp to I-15 when the heavens opened up and it flat out poured.  I don’t know if I have driven in a harder rain than that moment.  People were pulling off the four lane highway and I can’t say that I blame them.  I stayed in the left lane and slowed way down; visibility was poor but the main problem being the loud and driving rain. 

Then it was gone.  That quick.  The rest of the way was completely sunny.  Totally spazzy weather.  It makes you appreciate California’s climate.

There was a gorgeous area of I-15 known as Gates of the Mountain that was a total treat; red rock cliffs and river canyons that spanned mile after mile.  Then we went off the highway and into the rolling flatlands of central Montana towards eastern Glacier National Park.  There was very little to see between Gates of the Mountain and St. Mary.  There are a few small towns that depend on agriculture.  A colony of Amish-style people that are a very closed society.  A couple of wildlife refuges in view of the Rocky Mountains.  And the town of Browning, Montana.  Browning is a reservation town that looked like many reservation towns we visited in the Southwest; an insanely depressing location.  Arguably Browning is an under-developed nation within one of the most developed countries in the world.  It’s sad. 

We could see the smoke from the Reynolds's Fire in Glacier National Park from about 60 miles away, yet the air didn’t seem quite as bad as the news outlets had made it out to be.  As we dropped into St. Mary’s we looked up the canyon towards Logan Pass and could see the fire roaring along the western forested slopes while being attacked from above by three water-carrying helicopters.  It wasn’t pretty but being from California we’ve seen much worse.  That doesn’t mean we don’t have smoke at our cabin but it’s not nearly as bad as it could be. 

Trails hiked:  Artist Point

Miles hiked:   Really doesn’t count

Monday, February 22, 2016

Day 27: Victor via Taggart Lake, Hidden Falls, and a fixed car!

We were determined not to let the car run the show today.  We drove into Jackson early, catching sight of a female moose munching down on the Idaho side of Teton Pass while admiring the fog within Jackson Hole.  We were at the Subaru dealer when it opened and found that the parts needed did arrive and the car was going to be fixed.  It might take three hours.  Fine.  We left and got a courtesy shuttle to Dollar Rent-A-Car.  Subaru’s warranty pays for rental cars and this was a trip situation where it was a necessity.  Yesterday’s phone call with Subaru, while taking a year to get ahold of someone, was fantastic when got talking to people.  They seemed really want to help.  We rented a mini-van for cheap and continued our journey.

We reached the Taggart Lake for the ranger led hike about ten minutes late, which means we skipped introductions and moved with the hike.  It took a long time and many stops for the ranger led hike but we learned a ton and my wife wasn’t nearly as afraid with a ranger present yesterdays choice encounter not withstanding.  As with yesterday, ranger-led hikes have the benefit of teaching people an enormous amount of information (we don’t mind) while talking hours to go very short distances (it took over two hours to go 1.5 miles).  This rangers expertise was geology and we received a fantastic amount of information on glaciers and wildfires.

Taggart Lake was beautiful and I highly recommend it.  And just follow people if you are really bear worried.  We returned with the ranger and had a great conversation about his history (he’s an ex-Shell Oil exploration guy), the problem with the current education curriculum (“why no AP Earth Science”), and his experiences at Grand Teton and Dinosaur National Park.  It was very pleasant.  Plus the end of the trail presented us with a badger crossing, something that is supposed to be very rare at Grand Tetons National Park. 

We headed over to Jenny Lake where I tried to get my wife to take a non-ranger-led hike on the most popular trail in the park; the Jenny Lake Trail to Hidden Falls.  It worked out and we enjoyed the hike around the lake, saw magnificent wildflowers, and got out of there just as thunderstorms started to fire up over the mountains.

We returned the rental car and picked up our Subaru Outback sans grinding noise.  Ahhhhh, my car was back to normal!  I will tell you one thing, Teton Subaru was awesome to us.  They squeezed us in, worked with the warranty, and the whole time represented kindness and professionalism.  They were excellent. 

Back over the hill we went, through thunderstorms and driving rain, to a wedding that was taking place at Moose Creek Ranch.  We didn’t hear a thing.  No kids, no problem.  So the Moose Creek experience was going to end with two days with annoying children, two days with no one but the hills whispering to us.  While my wife made dinner I checked the fire at Glacier and the news was not good.  It was heading east toward St. Mary’s, where we are to be staying next.  I called ahead and they said we have nothing to worry about but that new reports were coming in pretty quickly.  Eh, I don’t know. My wife and I have decided to risk it and head up.  All our hikes except for one involved areas not impacted by the fire, and our place to bed down is located away from the general St. Mary area.  We’ll see what happens.

Trails hiked:  Taggart Lake, Jenny Lake to Hidden Falls

Miles hiked:  8.2

Monday, February 15, 2016

Ukiah Unified has a social media policy. Let’s look at it.

In the last school board meeting there was a set of guidelines and policies that were established regarding how I conduct my social media practices and Internet use.  This is a good thing because the amount of teachers that are on social media is large and the stuff that often goes on those social media websites is sometimes illegal and inappropriate.  I’m not talking illegal in the “hey there’s a picture of a teacher snorting blow off a glass table” type of way.  I’m talking about the naive idea that teachers can and do take pictures of students and post them online, even in a perfectly innocent fashion.  That’s a no-no.

“…absent parent permission for the particular purpose, District employees may not send, share, or post pictures, text messages, e-mails or other material that personally-identifies District students in electronic or any other form of personal technology.”


Being the digital heathen that I am and the privacy advocate that I preach I can proudly say that I’ve never taken a picture of a student, even the entire class with their back turned, and posted it online.  Nope.  I was warned about that a long time ago by the nice folks at Ed Camps.  Parent permission or no-go.

I have a digital presence.  This blog is now over ten years old and most students know I write it.  Most students also find the blog boring and are disappointed when I don’t act shocked in class.  I have a Twitter account that is followed by students.  I follow none back.  I have students that are friends on Facebook.  None of this is unusual and those that profess that it is are paranoid freaks that think the government is controlling their soul via chemicals in drinking water.  I have a teacher-student relationship with Seniors in high school in person, and that doesn’t change simply because we are on social media.  The Internet is public, therefore my interaction with students is limited.  However my feeds are chock full of good information so I have no problem with student follows. 

Let’s see how the new rules impact me.

District employees are encouraged to limit their personal technology use during duty hours. Use of personal technology for non-District business should be limited to off-duty time and designated breaks.

This is where I think I’m using the technology for school use, even if the occasion is on my personal account.  I usually scroll through Twitter on breaks and a quick hit during the news to check for any breaking information or primary sources.  I only follow between 55 and 60 people at one time and most deal with news, politics, or economics.  Justin Wolfers links employment data?  I’m there.  Conrad Hackett makes a population distribution map?  Bring it up.  Reuters has breaking news?  Let’s pull it up!  And that’s what’s great about Twitter; I can take roll on the laptop and check Twitter in under a minute and I’m caught up.  The pay-off can be massive.  Years ago Al Jazeera English had the protest in Tahrir Square on Twitter first and we spent a long time in class watching history.  Facebook?  Meh.  I’ll check it on my prep for good videos but mostly it’s only good for Instant Messaging students that need help. 

Employees are encouraged to maintain a clear distinction between their personal social media use and any District-related social media sites. To avoid jeopardizing their professional effectiveness, employees are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the privacy policies, settings, and protections on any social networking websites to which they choose to subscribe and be aware that information posted online, despite privacy protections, is easily and often reported to administrators or exposed to District students.

Someone is going to get nailed on this one because there are just way too many naive teachers online.  Eventually someone will screw up and reveal their private life and be embarassed.  Thing is; this generation actually gets it.  They’ll laugh and move on, unless it’s something really egregious that might cause a legal or moral issue.  This isn’t ten years ago.  This generation lives within the Web.  And students are no better.  I’ve seen plenty online that tells me that kids need to be reminded that nothing online is private.  Nothing.

Before employees create or join an online social network, they should ask themselves whether they would be comfortable if a 'friend' decided to send the information to their students, the students’ parents, or their supervisor.

This is true.  It’s narrow-minded and potentially restricts the rights of teachers to free speech but true.  Since I live on the north coast of California I’m afforded more latitude in regards to speech.  I will use profanity because it is an excellent way to clarify a point.  I don’t spew it like Denis Leary so it hasn’t got me into trouble.  I’ll go after public figures, the media, and politicians in this blog and they way I see it I have the right to do so.  That includes my own school board that contains elected officials that listen to pathetic arguments from lazy parents about school start times, or something.  Hey, they read the blog and the only complaint I’ve recieved from a school board member is a disagree in policy.  Of course, I’ve also recieved compliments too. 

Educators must give serious thought to the implications of joining an online social network. District employees should not have online interactions with students on social networking sites outside of those forums dedicated to academic use 

“Educators must give serious thought to the implications of joining an online social network?”  Like, it’s public and don’t be an idiot?  Like, hey remember that they are your students and not your friends?  I have limited interaction with my students online and most of it is on Twitter.  But if a student Tweets me with “hey Brown, you need a new point guard so put me in the next game” I’m going to respond with the same smart-assery that I’d give in the classroom.  Something like “I heard The Smurfs need a starting center and your 5’3” frame would be better suited for that team.”  It’s harmless.

We do need to be careful though.  Take this Saturday night interaction I had while watching the Metallica concert streaming on YouTube.


Justine is a reporter for the local newspaper, the Ukiah Daily Journal.  It’s 9:20 on a Saturday night and I can’t tell if she actually thinks it would be required for students to listen to a Metallica concert.  To a normal person that would be called a joke.  Who knows what’s going on here but a sarcastic and whitty response could have been potentially dangerious.  So instead I went the Social Science standards route.  Just a note; we do watch the Metallica concert in Russia when the Soviet Union fell.  We watch a clip of it anyway.

Social media teachers usually split into three groups. 

-Teachers that don’t use social media at all.  My wife fits in this group and it is quite small at schools.

-Teachers that are not digital natives but are on social media.  These people may not be used to the digital culture or pitfalls of getting engaged with the online community.

-Teachers that are digital natives, are fully engulfed in the digital world, and have an understanding of the culture of the Internet.

Believe it or not it’s the third group that needs the most guidence.  These are the young teachers that have grown up with a public face and don’t always remember that it follows them forever.  They forget that students are not friends so Snapchat feeds can actually be dangerous.  They forget that students have opinions too and the Internet will expose a lot that they might not like about a teacher.  They really need to be reminded that the Net is forever present.

And myself?  Well I’ll still be online as ever, yet still aware that everything I do here is public.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Day 26: Victor via Phelp’s Lake, car issues, and really big, black dog.

We started the car and drove down the dirt road when the “low tire pressure” gauge light went on in the car. 


We drove to a gas station and found that the right front was low but not crazy so, and I added air into the tire with hopes that it last past a morning hike.  We continued down Moose-Wilson Road to the Laurence Rockefeller Center and prepared for our ranger-led hike to Phelp’s Lake.  Ranger-led were going to be the norm for the Grand Tetons and Glacier because my wife is terrified of bears.  This creates slow-going trails that don’t usually travel long distances but offer plenty in terms of information. 

The ranger was a seasonal intern who was a college student from Las Crucas, New Mexico.  The hike was only a total of three miles, and the information was primarily history  (John Rockefeller Jr was amazing) and conservation related.  It was a really nice hike except that it took a long, long time to go a mile and a half.  Then why the guide?  A sow and cub were in the area and we liked the idea of the ranger guiding us along.  We walked back to the car, satisfied but desiring more.   

When we got in the car to continue our trek, the tire pressure warning came on again.  We needed to get it looked at.  We headed to Jackson. 

Big O took us in pretty quick and they seemed packed.  We only waited about 40 minutes or so for our tire issue to be fixed and in that time I convinced my wife that the scraping sound I was hearing should be looked at before we made our push into the eastern end of Glacier National Park.  The tire was patched.  The culprit was a small piece of sheet metal.  Then we headed over to Teton Subaru.  It was around 2:30 by this time and we described our situation; we were on a long road trip, there was a sound that was odd, it shouldn’t happen in a 2015 vehicle.  They agreed and the a technician took it out for a test drive.  My wife called Subaru and we got our warranty straightened out.  Our warranty paid for rental car and hotel (if necessary) on a trip so the only question was what was wrong and how do we fix it.  The technician came back from the test drive and said he’d heard nothing.  At this point I was quite annoyed but they put the car up on the lifts, a man in the drivers seat pressed the gas, and as the wheels turned a technician immediately snapped his head toward the driver rear tire.  The man put something akin to a stethoscope on the wheel assembly and immediately announced, “Wheel bearing.”

At this point Teton Motors and Subaru became awesome.  The service department didn’t have a wheel bearing there (who would have a bearing for a 2015) but had it overnighted from Colorado, and they would begin work on it in tomorrow morning.  Subaru said that they would pay for the overnight shipping cost, the part (covered under warranty), and the rental car if the service was going to take long tomorrow.  The only problem was if the part would arrive in time.

We headed back over the pass to Victor (the technician said driving the car was fine) and decided to take a walk up the dirt road the lodge was on to a series of trails that ran around Moose Creek.  Once again a mother black bear and a cub had been sighted in the area about four days ago but we felt secure in that there were homes on the road, some traffic, and bear spray in our hands.  We weren’t even considering really running into a bear until we walked about a half mile down the road and my wife pointed about 30 yards ahead proclaiming “Hey, that’s a really big black dog.”  The black bear seemed to be munching on a bush on the left side of the road when it looked up at us and bolted across the road into the brush.  We walked back down the opposite direction to get some mileage in and eventually back to the cabin; my wife shaken up and I elated that we had our first bear encounter.            

We’ll be at Teton Motors at 7:30 tomorrow with bells on, and hopefully we can get the car fixed and get some hiking in as well.

Trails hiked:  Phelps Lake, cabin road

Miles hiked:  4.25

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Do you feel this?

Young teachers are often shown this during their first years of teaching:

Parts of this are still a part of a regular teachers’ year long process in my opinion; minus the survival part becaue at this point there shouldn’t be a survival mode.  But this is usually the point of the year were I’m tired and I become extra annoyed at all the little idiocies that are a part of education.  My guess is that the drag of the holidays mixed with the end of basketball season sprinkled with the continued existance of a Winter season all contribute to my dreary mood. 

My guess is that the end of the season will perk up my spirits when I’m not tired all the time from game nights.  Increased sun might do the trick too.  I’m noticing that since our forays into the desert Southwest that I’ve been craving more sunshine and warm temperatures.  I’ve always used to be the kind that loved a good rain and fog.  Now I’m good for a couple of weeks and I want my sun back. 

Anyone else on this track or is it just me?