Rosemary and Jody--thanks!

Rosemary Daniell was gracious enough to publish a post from my blog on the Zona Rosa Web site. Thanks, Rosemary! And thanks to Jody Schiesser, her stellar Webmaster, as well. Be sure to check out his stuff.


Education is in worse shape than I thought

We're working in an architecture that uses Industrial Revolution systems on an Agrarian Revolution calendar to teach 21st century learners. So says Mark Milliton, and unfortunately, he's too right. The academy is archaic. There is no reason why IT can't work for education just as well, if not better, than the old model. Sometimes I feel Sisyphusian. Another madeup word. I have to be sad about this for a while. I don't want to wait until the kiddos who are in college and learning IT now take public office, or go into ed administration before we change the face of teaching and learning in the US. We are critically behind. According to this panel's statistics, colleges in China graduate @600,000 engineers a year, India @300,000, and the US 65,000. Even allowing for population differences, we are way behind. Every Child Left Behind is a failure. Anything after K-5 is a failure. The publish or perish tenure attitudes, especially at Tier 1 research universities does precious little to reward good teaching.

We are out of touch with our students, for the most part. We aren't really helping them learn the skills that they WILL be using when they graduate. Education is on the same priority level as something like taking out the trash, or maybe cleaning the toilet, if the amount of money and balance is any indication.

Not to say nobody is doing anything. I'm lucky to work at a Tier 1 university that does reward good teaching, even if it is only 10% of the awards given here. And many professors are on fire with improving education through IT, and proving it in the projects they support. That's pretty much what this article I'm writing is all about. The instructors who took the extra time to learn (or find a student or a colleague that could help them learn) how to appropriately apply technology to further learning.

Headline on the Daily Texan: President Powers to petition the State Legislature to allot more funds for education. Go for it, Bill! It would be the best thing you could do as a university president. This is giving me the incentive to post more about instructional technology. Note to self: link to IT sites in my Bookmarks.

WiFi and organic butternut squash soup

Sitting on the floor against a wall, recharging my computer, having a container of soup for lunch. Heard a fantastic story from my fellow recharger, guy from Boston named Joshua. At 4:30 this morning he was on Rt. 1 on his way to Logan in the dark, in the rain. Suddenly, looming out of the gloom, he saw a large object in his lane. He slammed on his brakes and swerved to avoid hitting the lumpy pile. As he tried to negotiate around it, he felt a bump, and saw that it was a woman lying prone right in the middle of the lane. Scared him silly. He pulled over, got out, and as he was rushing back to see if he'd killed the woman, a man ran up to him, shouting that it was his wife. He didn't appear too concerned about the fact that Josh might possibly have just run her over.

As they approached the woman, she got up, walked up to the car, and began to urge Josh to give the man a ride, he didn't need to be there, he should leave immediately. Josh was frantic to make sure she was OK, since he was convinced he hit her. The man said that he and the woman were staying in a hotel across the access road, and that they had been fighting. The woman threatened to commit suicide, and ran onto the highway and lay down.

By this time, Josh figured out that they were both high on one or more substances, and called for EMS. The highway patrol arrived, and asked him what his part was in the event. Josh said that other than running over the woman accidentally, he had no connection to the couple whatsoever. He was just concerned about the woman, and that's why he stopped. He stuck around long enough to make sure she was checked out and hadn't sustained any injuries.

The best he could ascertain was that he had, in fact, run over the woman's foot. She was wearing athletic shoes, and he surmised that her foot must have been sideways on the asphalt, and the rubber and steel construction was just sturdy enough to protect her foot when he rolled over it.

As Josh told me his story, I suggested he write it up. He was still reeling from the experience of being a hair from running over and possibly killing a strange woman. He told me I could relate his story; it's been a couple of weeks since I heard it, so Josh, I hope I got it right--and I hope you've recovered.

Day 2, SXSWi

Got a really nice surprise coming out of the first session this morning. I have a new job title! Information Writer II, which means I write about anything and everything.

"Writing, Better" was a panel made up of an "amateur" writer, Greg Storey of Airbag Industries; a "reader," Ethan Marcotte, of unstoppablerobotninja.com; Bronwyn Jones of Apple.com; and Erin Kissane of Happy Cog Studios and editor of A List Apart.

Learned a new term: chillaxed—doncha love it? Normally I'm leery of jargon, but this is such a great word. High points:

Storey—(chillaxed coiner)—"the Internet is a mosh pit," "keep whittling down your style til you find your groove."

Marcotte—"Paradise Lost is the biggest mix tape ever." "Find your rockstars--riff (don't rip) off someone else's life style, like jazz."

Jones—"Talk with, rather than at your readers—write in conversational style." "Write in e-mail!" "Keep your voice with you no matter the medium."

Kissane—"Know your audience, who you're writing for." "Focus, structure, clarity= plan, outline, write, revise."

Consensus advice:
Don't let anything stop you from writing.

Interacting at SXSWi

Day one at SXSWi went fairly quickly. The registration process is as organized as it gets, I guess. At least this year they used badge photos from last year, so that shortened the time spent in huge lines. Met some nice gentlemen from Nova Scotia. They were duly impressed with our ephemeral good weather; they came from frigid cold to mid-80's or so. They were entranced by Austin, and said they'd try to get out as much as they can.

Heard Evan Smith, Texas Monthly editor, list his five things you have to do while you're in Austin for SXSWi. One of them was to get out and walk, especially at Wild Basin. Good idea. Texas has three seasons: ice cold or boiling hot, bookended by 1-2 weeks of primo conditions: dry, nice cumulous clouds, warm air, but with the ground still a bit chilly from winter on one end, and the same on the other, except the air is cooler and the ground is baked.

We are in drought, as usual, and I'm heartbroken that we probably won't have a good bluebonnet display this year. We need winter rain for them to prosper, and most of our precip was ice. Not to say one of the 4 weather systems that seem to battle over Texas at any given time might not bring a little moisture. Cloud tears, I heard someone say. "The Little White Cloud that Cried." One of my favorite tunes from childhood.