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Tech Talk, December 2014: Don’t Shoot the Messenger

You check your email and find an odd-looking message1 from one of your friends. You read it, and it’s asking you to go to some strange web site2 or open an attachment. Hopefully, red flags go up at this point — you’re pretty certain your friend didn’t send this. To be safe, you ask him, and he has no idea what you’re talking about. He checks his “sent” folder, and there’s no sign of an email like that ever having been sent. Has his account been hacked? Probably not.

Tech Talk: The Cloud

In this inaugural edition of Tech Talk, I’ll be talking about clouds. (When the topic was first suggested, I thought, “no problem.” I had no idea that I’d write 1600 words about it. But here we are. I’m sure you’ll love each and every one of these 1600 words, too!)

I was going to go with the obvious joke1, and open with a definition of clouds, the kind you find in the sky. It turns out, scientists are somewhat murky on the details of what exactly constitutes a cloud. Who knew?

Much like meteorology’s clouds, defining a cloud when it comes to technology can be equally, well, cloudy2.

Be Not Afraid

Back in the 90s, I had a hard time convincing some people1 that there wasn’t some special button or combination of keystrokes that would cause them to lose everything on the computer. Times have changed.

Or have they? I still see a lot of fear. I see people who are afraid to try something for fear of what might happen.

What I tell people is this: if you want to do real damage to your computer, damage beyond what I can repair, you’ll have to really, really try2. It’s not going to happen by accident3.

Within reason, if you poke around within a program like Microsoft Word or whatever it may be, you’re not going to cause any serious problems. In most cases, hitting the “undo” button will get you right back where you were.

We have all seen people who seem to possess some innate ability to use technology of any sort. In most cases, it’s simply a lack of fear. They’re not afraid to poke icons and push buttons and see what happens.

There are times where restraint is warranted, of course. Downloading and running every program you find on the Internet is like rolling out the red carpet for malware and viruses. Ditto for clicking random pop-ups and advertisements.

Fear is a funny thing. I see people who are extremely bright, but it’s as though their common sense and intelligence are inversely linked to the computer’s power switch – turning on the computer turns off their common sense and intelligence.

When you walk into a dark room and you would like it to be lit up, what is your first thought? Probably “flip the light switch” or “turn on the lamp”4. When it comes to technology, fear causes many people to abandon logic. When they encounter the computer equivalent of a darkened room, rather than trying the easy stuff first, they start knocking holes in the walls looking for problems with the wiring, or blaming it on lupus5.

Fear drives us to do things that we would otherwise find ridiculous, even in ourselves.

As we wrap up technology month, if you get nothing else out of this, please heed this one piece of advice: STOP BEING AFRAID. Believe me, I know it’s easier said than done. If we could dismiss our phobias that easily, I wouldn’t be afraid of heights6. Technology is here to make our lives easier, not more difficult7. Sometimes, though, that means doing something that is temporarily more difficult, but makes life much easier in the long run. And often times, it means getting past our fears, and trying something new and scary.

Go forth and use technology. Be not afraid.

Check out the infographic:  http://goo.gl/yth6L8   Thanks for reading my weekly posts this month. I hope you got something out of them.


1 Don’t worry, Aunt Sherry, your secret is safe with me.
2 This isn’t an invitation.
3 Unless you spill something. Then all bets are off.
4 Maybe you shout “Let there be light!” Nothing wrong with that. (Come on, I can’t be the only one.)
5 It’s never lupus.
6 My fear of falling is perfectly rational, thank you.
7 Stop laughing!

Technology is a Gift

Today, I have a gift for everyone: technology.

Like a Hallmark card, it sounds trite, even though the sentiment is valid.

We live in a time that lets us do things that were previously unimaginable, or at the very least, unattainable. We just have to take advantage of what’s available to us.

And technology isn’t just about what it makes possible — although that’s great, too — but about what it makes easier and more practical.

Upgrading your VHS tapes to DVDs and Blu-rays isn’t what it’s about1.

Completing a task with a technology-related method instead of a Luddite approach is one step. Yes, replace your old transparencies with a PowerPoint or Prezi. But if you stop there, you’re missing out.

Nearly every industry and facet of our lives has been transformed by technology to the point where it’s almost unrecognizable2. But to a large degree, a visiting time traveler3 would be hard pressed to tell if they’re in a classroom from 1974, 1994, or 2014.

In the end, it’s about transformation. What are you doing with technology that would otherwise be unfeasible4 or outright impossible?

We’ve been given a gift5. Let’s use it. And if you find something amazing, share it. Don’t feel bad if others don’t share your enthusiasm6. Different things evoke different reactions in everyone. I know that many times I’ve excitedly told someone about a new app or web site or piece of technology, only to be greeted by indifference. But then I mention it to someone else, and to them, it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread7.

Keep an open mind, and see what slice8 of technology you can use. Share it with others. Revamp, refine, and redefine your classroom. Technology is a gift — unwrap it.

Take a peek at this week’s infographic: http://goo.gl/6AbW6Q   Check back next week for the thrilling9 conclusion of Technology Month 2014, and find out why, even on Halloween, you shouldn’t be afraid!


1 But please, feel free to do so.
2 In a positive way.
3 Keep track of how many emails you receive this year that mention time travel. Report back to me for my informal survey.
4 http://goo.gl/vtw8x
5 Whether you want it or not!
6 Some people like fruit cake. Some people don’t. It’s no different with technology.
7 Maybe I just don’t eat enough sandwiches for this to even sound impressive, but I think it’s time for an updated reference here. Best thing since ______?
8 Like bread. Get it? hahaha .. haha.. ha.
9 Whether the content is thrilling or you’ll just be thrilled that it’s over is up for interpretation

I’m a Failure

When it comes to technology, I’m a failure1. It’s true. And I’m okay with that. In fact, I’m proud of it.

Many people assume that because I work with technology on a daily basis, that I know everything about everything. I don’t. Not even close2.

So if you ask me, “How do I use this new app?” the answer is probably going to be, “I have no idea, but let’s find out.” And I will give it a try, and probably fail, so I’ll try again and again, until I figure it out (or tell you that the app stinks and you should find another one – hey, not all failures are the user’s fault3).

Look, I get it. You’re a teacher, the master of your domain. You stand in front of your class each day, 100% certain that you know more about your subject than any of the students in front of you. But when it comes to technology, that confidence evaporates. You wonder what the kids will think if4 you try to use technology and it fails — or you do.

I will tell you this: I stand in front of my class each day, 100% certain that I know more about my subject than any of the students in front of me. And yet I fail on a daily basis in front of my students. I say, “I don’t know” an awful lot. They look to me for the answers, and I scratch my head.

I’m certain many of you, if not most of you, have heard me say that: I don’t know5.

I don’t say it because I enjoy looking ignorant. I don’t say it to annoy you6. I say it because I really, truly don’t know. But I am absolutely willing to try to figure it out.

For me, failure isn’t an option; it’s a requirement. I expect each student in my class to try things, and fail. I know that they have learned more from failure and the successive self-discovery and revelation that follows than from any lecture I’ve given or PowerPoint I’ve shown. I’m just there to guide them, to steer them in the right direction before they get too far off course and take a one-way trip to Frustrationville7.

So please, do me a favor: go forth and fail. Fail spectacularly, fail publically, fail in small ways, fail in private. Just fail. And then succeed.

Don’t forget to check out the accompanying infographic:  http://goo.gl/wEZLt7     Join me next week, as I have a gift for everyone!


1 I saw you nodding your head.
2 You can stop nodding your head now.
3 99% isn’t “all”
4 When.
5 How many times have I said it? I don’t know.
6 Usually.
7 The traffic there is terrible.

Marriage Doesn’t Work

So I got on my BlackBerry yesterday and checked my MySpace account, and… wait. Sorry, I forgot this is 2014.

BlackBerry and MySpace are still around, but they’re now mere footnotes1 in the brief history of tech fads.

There is no way of telling how long a certain web site or app will be around, no matter how popular it is.

BlackBerry absolutely dominated2 the business world and the smartphone market. MySpace was once valued at $12 billion3 (yes, that’s billion, with a “b”). For one reason or another, they refused or were unable to evolve quickly enough, and failed to maintain their market dominance. This is not an uncommon story. In fact, it’s more the rule than the exception.

Every day, new companies are formed, announcements are made, trumpets sound and the early adopters dip their feet in the water to see what the new service/app/site/gadget is all about. Maybe it catches on and gains a foothold that leads to a better sense of permanence. Much more likely, it doesn’t. And while these new companies and new products are being formed, an equal amount is quietly fading into obscurity and eventual abandonment.

This is technology. It comes from a culture that not only embraces change, but manufactures it, relies on it, and spurs it onward ever faster. If you fall in love with something, that’s great — but it might not be around tomorrow.

For every Amazon and Facebook, there’s a Pets.com and a MySpace.

So my advice to you is this: try new things, fall in love with them, but don’t marry them. Don’t be afraid to go all-in, but at the same time, you need to be prepared to bail out — or be forcefully ejected against your will — and move on to something else.

And who knows? Maybe the next thing you stumble across will be ever better — and stick around for the long haul.

Be sure to check out this week’s infographic, and check back next week to find out why I’m a failure.


1 Some footnotes are good, like these ones.
2 Nearly 47% of the market share. Now? About 5%. Conclusion: 5% of smartphone users are very stubborn.
3 You could probably buy MySpace for 50 cents and a candy bar now.

Technology is a Fad

Technology in education is a fad. It’ll pass.

I hear that a lot. And it’s true that technology in education is a fad. Everyone wants to get a piece of the tech-ed pie, from Google to Microsoft to a million other companies and tech startups. Technology in education is the topic du jour1, and not just within the educational community.

So if technology is a fad, why embrace it? Why not just wait for it to go away? Because it’s not going to.2

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