Just a little bit of insight on the world around us, how we can better interact with it & each other.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


A person who studies the future and makes predictions about it based on current trends.

When i was young, i remember reading articles in the weekly magazines that we would read at school that predicted our future. Colonies on the moon and underwater cars. I remember waiting in line for the JetCars in Tomorrow Land at Disney and seeing videos of Walt Disney's predictions of automated cars and the home of the future. 

 Even though I have never been, i've always wanted to visit Walt Disney World's EPCOT. EPCOT, standing for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, is itself a giant Bucky Ball: a geodesic dome based on the design of Buckminster Fuller.

 Since my youth, i have become aware of others bearing the title "futurist" through various documentaries on their work: Raymond Kurzweil ('Transcendent Man') and Jaque Fresco ('Future By Design'), Michio KakuSyd Mead and even Frank Lloyd Wright ('Frank Lloyd Wright'). I am amazed at this category of people who used creativity to suggest what the future could look like. I find that they were/are the 20th Century's version of Renaissance artists, philosophers, and scientists. But i thought this title something that was from a by-gone era and no longer bestowed upon those of us who were born and raised in the last half century.

 It was seeing an update on Facebook from StarTalk Radio of their new episode featuring futurists Jason Silva and Melissa Sterry. This blew my mind a little. Jason is only four days older than myself. 
 I began to internalize the qualities I admire about the term "futurist". While i have grand ideas about the future of mankind and society as a whole, they vary quite greatly from self sustainable ultra efficient and integrated units like a city out of Star Trek to a post apocalyptic wasteland rendered back into the dark ages. But i made a connection between the aspirations of futurists to project the potential of various aspects of society to a simple cliche, "Think Globally. Act Locally."

 The truly great in the educational technology field do exactly that. Because of the constraints we all feel in budgets and timelines; the limited amount of time we can devote to professional development, and the rapidly changing pace of technology, technologists in the education sector either have to constantly be deploying newer versions of last years software, hardware, or service. Or they standardize and then make large leaps from version to version at once when all can be brought up another rung on the ladder. But again, i say, that a truly great ed tech professional has a vision beyond that which anyone else has yet reached. They see the target they desire to achieve and begin laying the ground work incrementally to get there.

 It is this vision of the future from which i derive my commentary on the outmoded state of any space that is called a "computer lab" and believe whole heartedly that the majority of technology in education should be in support of collaborative learning, even if it is the simple adjustment of the space in which the technology is utilized. We've seen it in the workplace, where the standard cubicle has been redesigned into team workspaces that harness the best performance by forcing group work. We have seen people's comfort level at using technology in their everyday lives increase and yet still using presentation tools and web based assessment in the same way it's been done for over a decade. Why can't we flip these things on their head and instruct the student in a more engaging fashion, using their best strengths to seamlessly integrate it as part of the curriculum without taking away from the strengths of standard manipulatives and physical tools, while assessing how well it is being understood?

 It is in this that i think my next business card will contain the two lines:
 "Educational Technologist"

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Helpdesk for Home

A Helpdesk for Home

Why I Decided to Practice During Non Work Hours 
What I Preach During the Nine to Five

In my professional life, I've had a computer based helpdesk established for quite some time.
 In Time Management for System Administrators Thomas Limoncelli discusses the folly in attempting to remember all the things coming at us throughout a day and Wikipedia states our short term memory is on average seven items, plus or minus 2.

 That is very true for myself, so when I accepted my position several years ago, I worked hard to establish the proper procedure for requesting assistance. I could promise I wouldn't manage requests in a timely manner consistently should the average four people pull me aside for "a quick question, "one small favor", "a simple request", etc before I had even reached my desk from the coffee machine.

 I have found trusting the process and utilizing a system that can automate responses, generate context based check-lists for me and keep track of repeated issues has saved time and improved user experience. It has also had the added effect of calming anxious attitudes towards technology over the years.
 So, knowing that, why a second system for my personal life?
 Because sometimes in our professional lives we don't apply knowledge we take for granted in our professional careers. So many SysAdmins i know don't back up their personal computers at home.
 I am guilty of what I have fought to eliminate at work: relying on my over confident brain to remember all the things I have to get done.
 I've read time management books and investigated various to-do list and reminder methodologies, but I find that what works for me from 9-5, works for me all day, in all situations.
 So, I grabbed an old machine i had lying around. Created a dummy email address for my domain that i would email things to myself as I thought of them or was asked to do and installed my favorite helpdesk and started configuring and tweaking taking the best lessons learned and practices i put to use at work to avoid leaving things left undone and escape feeling like i was trying to pack it all in in too little time.
 I'll go more into specifics of what i installed, how i configured it, and tips and tricks for using the system and various other software that helps tie into it in other posts, but wanted to share the theory. 
 How do you manage the laundry list (sometimes literally) of items that accumulate at home and at work?
 I'll keep you posted on how well it works in practice too; I doubt there will be much reverie in asking my wife to submit a ticket.

Monday, October 13, 2014

In Flight Productivity - a coach passenger's inconvenience

Update: originally posted in Spring of 2011, a recent trip to a conference in Austin reminded me of just how physically incongruent with how airlines think passengers are built i am, so i decided to republish this post. enjoy.

I remember reading science fiction books as a child and being absolutely amazed at the theoretical level of connectivity we would experience in the future. Being able to be anywhere and still be connected to our stream of media seemed like such an awesome concept. Then, on the plane ride back to Seattle from Washinton, DC they tell us that our plane has in-flight wifi.
Photo evidence of my experience
"Spectacular!" I say to myself, thinking I'll be able to let my wife know that I'm okay, that I miss her, and pre-edit some posts about the conference I just attended as I let the overwhelming amount of information and inspiration I encountered ruminate in my brain. The reality of the situation was quite the opposite of the utopia I had imagined as a child. It wasn't so much a failure of the technology, though, there is no way I needed to be responding to email SO badly i was going to pay $12 an hour for it. The truth was in the workspace allotted. I don't carry a large laptop. It's actually considered to be just smaller than average. And speaking of averages, by the statistics of the average size of the population currently, I'm about on par. Though, plane seats obviously haven't been redesigned since the 1950's when the only fast food joint widely available to the masses was McDonald's and they just proceeded to pack more of these seats into the same amount of space in an airplane that also hasn't been redesigned since the last century. With the young lady in front of me, enjoying the half an inch she gained by reclining her seat, i was attempting to work from my laptop and had to make a life and death decision as to whether i wanted to be able to see my screen at it's optimum and fully open angle, thereby accepting that i would have to commit seppuku to allow for the tray to be slid out and into the void created, OR do as i decided to (for fear of making a mess) leave it at about a 75 degree angle and hunker my shoulders down and crane my neck to see the screen as best i could. Let's also mention, the arm position at which I had to type without basically "throwing elbows" into the neck or chest of the passenger next to me. I have deemed it the T-Rex tiny arms posture and it worked for about four minutes, until I hit my funny bone on the arm rest i was attempting to stay within the boundaries of. Needless to say, this was not the best experience and in the end I opted to just wait until I got home to use the internet. I don't know if the airline or the company powering the wireless technology quite gets that just offering up the access won't be a cure for the greater problems of staying connected while traveling.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

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"Why do I lead?" #SAVMP part1

 As part of the School Admin Virtual Mentor Program, this question was posed as an opportunity for introspection. I had a knee jerk answer, but giving myself time to contemplate the question has provided me with insight that i am happy to share.

 My first initial thought was "because no one else will". It is easy to think one's self noble and taking up the standard and leading the charge because you see weakness or lack of presence of someone providing the leadership you are demanding like a petulant child.
 Life is not so black and white. The shades of grey and granularity that influence situations and perspectives that need to be understood that create the current climate in a single school could be beyond count, so carry that out into the greater world and even our own personal lives and it would be impressive if anyone could even attempt to understand the factors that affect a single decision in an organization's leadership.
 "Ogres are like onions..." I think of that line from Shrek and often hold it's truth in mind through my various interactions with people.
 To put it simply, my reason for leading is far less noble. I have an agenda.
 It is not as easy to define as "get the school to a 1:1 device level of technology integration", "reduce paper use" or "find ways to prohibit sewage runoff into our local drinking water". What i'm shooting for is a more ambiguous agenda of making all those i interact with, just a little bit better.
 This sounds silly to some people i've told it to, but asking myself during every interaction "what can i do to help this person be a little bit better?" has helped me rethink what i'm bringing to the table and what tools i need to be of service to others. I don't always lead by example, but I'm willing to try to be on the front line and help to the best of my ability to tow the line.
 I choose to lead because if i'm not willing to put myself out there, how can i ask others to. I'm willing to be the first to stick their neck out to risk change and also willing to be the bad guy and take the blame to provide cover so that the others have the safety they need to risk changing a little in order to move forward and upward.
 A phrase i heard recently that i enjoyed was "let's hold them up while we nudge them forward" and i intend to keep trying to do so in the service of others.

Sunday, August 18, 2013


 I'm Nick. I'm the Director of Technology at a small private school in Seattle, Wa, USA.
 I'm a husband and father of two. 
 I am a tech enthusiast and have a passion for technology in the education sector in particular. 
 If you have any questions for me, I'm always happy to field them. I hope to share my thoughts on various topics pertaining to the subject of technology and its impact and implications. 
 Thanks for stopping by; come back soon. 
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