Boy, was I missing out…

Razor Blade Retro Blade Male Shaving Shave
Blade Razor Blade Shave Retro Male Shaving
Public Domain

Just the other day I was reminded of the importance of not becoming too set in my ways. As human beings it can be easy to become set in our ways. I have been using the same brand/type of razor blade for maybe 30 years and I have become programmed to buy the same refills each time. Well, the other day at the store they were out of my brand and I nearly panicked. Instead of running around to different stores I took the plunge, bought a new razor with refills and decided that I would give them a try. The price was actually the same as my “tried and true”model. The next day, Voilá, I had the best shave ever. The new blades smoothly cut my 5 day stubble. I don’t know why I waited to long to make a change.

Just a simple reminder that it’s important to stay in touch with progress and new technologies.

Innovation from Kenya


It’s no secret that I am always looking for examples of innovation. Since moving to Tanzania I have been frustrated about having to use cash with most of my transactions. It’s even more difficult here in TZ because $1 USD = 2,230 TZH. I leave the bank with stacks of 10,000 TZH bills. I had heard a buzz about M-Pesa but had no idea how it worked. My first instinct was to search the App store for M-Pesa. I later realized that if this service was an App, it would not have succeeded. That’s because tens of millions of cellphone users in Africa use basic cellphones.


I just returned from a small local store where there was a line for people to either deposit or withdraw cash through M-Pesa. I just deposited money into my wife’s cellphone number so that she can pay her hotel bill in Karatu, TZ. According to my wife, Karatu is in the middle of nowhere near the Ngorongoro Crater.

M-Pesa was launched by mobile operators Safaricom and Vodaphone in 2007. Neither company is in the banking industry but this innovative has become the world’s leading money service. The system simply transfers money from one phone to another. If the statistics above aren’t convincing that this innovation has had a huge impact and changed the way that users do business, take a look at this study by Professor Tanveet Suri from MIT. 

The developers created software that could be used by existing cellphone technology to transform the economies of countries throughout the developing world.


How is your school handling Google Glass?

Last week we started our second semester and one of our students created a bit of a stir when he came sporting his Google Glass. Go figure…, there are only 10,000 in the world and he landed one. Several e-mails from teachers were flying back and forth asking if we needed a new policy for Google Glass. Obviously, people are worried about privacy issues and wondering if he is secretly videotaping or photographing them.

Graded Student Sporting Google Glass

Turn the clock back three years ago when our leadership team was discussing whether or not to allow cell phones in the classroom. After months of discussion we came up with the following:

Cellular phones may be used as educational tools with the permission of a classroom teacher. Otherwise, the use of cellular phones on campus is prohibited except for in the student center, cafeteria and hallways during breaks. Unauthorized use of cellular phones will result in the confiscation of the phone and the phone will be delivered to the Assistant Principal.

By the time we went 1 to 1 we realized that a cell phone was just another mobile device for students to use (this is just one example). We’ve all become comfortable with them and they are a regular tool used in our classrooms. So now all of a sudden we’re faced with an alien object that we’re not sure how to handle. We have to take a step back and assess the situation.

Cellular phones may be used as educational tools with the permission of a classroom teacher. Otherwise, the use of cellular phones on campus is prohibited except for in the student center, cafeteria and hallways during breaks. Unauthorized use of cellular phones will result in the confiscation of the phone and the phone will be delivered to the Assistant Principal.

Is it sufficient to delete “Cellular phones”and substitute it with “Mobile and Wearable Devices”? Hopefully mobile device implants are far off in the future.

A quick look at our LARK (Legal, Appropriate, Responsible and Kind) guidelines seems to show that we have policy in place to handle this new toy.


  • Get permission to record and publish images or video of others.


  • Access media that is focused on learning and is fitting for the academic environment.


  • Use cell phones for educational purposes when requested by teachers.

Our director of technology was commenting that he imagined a scenario in the future where students and teachers will be using them with their prescription glasses.. Let’s face it, it won’t be long before prescription lenses are inserted into the frame.

So we have decided to engage the perpetrator in a discussion over how we should deal with this new tool. He is beginning to develop ideas for how they can be used in education. He did say that that they should not be allowed during tests and quizzes. In terms of our current policy, he thinks that they will work but that we will need to change the language. By the way, he’s sharing his feedback on Google Glass with users from around the world and knows that he has created a bit of a commotion at school. Just as we had students participate in our discussions around cellphones, we will include them in these new discussions. We look forward to dealing with this situation in a positive way to that our entire community can learn from it.

What are your schools doing to prepare for this new device?

If you’re interested in learning more about Silvia Tolisano‘s (our Middle School Academic Technology Coordinator) experience with Google Glass she  wrote an excellent piece entitled, First Experiences with Google Glass at School. I highly recommend it.

Tele Communications at McDonald’s

In Nathan Conway’s photo journal, The People that you meet at McDonald’s from the New York Times I found this photo to be very interesting. The woman has brought her internet phone with her to connect to the McDonald’s Wifi. Compare that to the other photos of the payphone and the group of boys who have a cellphone sitting on the table. Kind of amazing.

Woman on her Vonage phone at McDonald’s.



1:1 Laptops = Head Fake

  • We have been planning for our 1:1 rollout for the past year and a half and the event finally took place last week. Graded is fully 1:1 in the middle and high schools. During this time it has become clear to all of us that all of our talk about 1:1 was just a head fake. Randy Pausch described the “head fake” in ,  “Last Lecture: Achieving your Childhood Dreams”. Dr. Pausch talks about the indirect learning that happens when you’re involved in an activity. One example that he offers is from parents wanting their children to play football.

“We actually don’t want our kids to learn football. … we send our kids out to learn much more important things. Teamwork, sportsmanship, perseverance, et cetera, et cetera.”

Transcript of Lecture

For all of our talk about becoming a 1:1 school, we didn’t just want teachers and students walking around campus with machines. We learned quickly that what we wanted was so much more. This is where the commonly heard expression “it’s not about the technology” fits. Sure, we planned for electricity, software, bandwidth, polices and procedures, but the real learning came with those bigger questions that we are still tackling.

Finding the answers to these questions is where the real learning occurs and this is why our journey will continue.

  • What skills and knowledge do our students need to learn for now? Future?
  • Is the culture of learning different today?
  • “How do I help teachers bring authentic assessment and real world problem solving to the classrooms?”
  • With the technology in hand, what new resources will help with learning?
  • “How can we balance the teaching-learning process both on-line and face to face mode in a 1:1 program?”
  • “The relationship between new learning and old learning – is it a paradigm shift or a continuum?”
  • “How do we manage student learning as we encourage more outside/digital interaction/play?”
  • “What is the best way to change structures at Graded to support learning outside of traditional classes…and should we?”

We know that we have just begun the journey and that it’s going to be an exciting one for our entire community. If was really just about moving to a 1:1 environment we’d be done and we could check that task off our list.

How often do we limit our students’ learning?

A couple of weeks ago our lower school academic technology coordinator, Jennifer Peterson, and a 4th grade teacher, Maranda Schwartz, were grappling with whether or not to use Google SketchUp on the medieval unit on castles. Maranda had heard that 4th graders at another international school were using it so Jennifer decided to test it out. In the process, Jennifer learned that Google SketchUp is an extremely powerful tool that takes time to master and understand. She consulted online tutorials and used trial and error to create her own castle. Maranda and Jennifer were not sure that their idea was even realistic. There was little time for them to prepare and students only had a few sessions to create their castles. At one point the two of them were going to scrap the project in favor of traditional castle building. At the last minute they decided to test it out and see how it would go. Jennifer presented the tool to the students but made sure that they knew that she was not going to be the expert with the tool and that they would all need to seek online resources and help each other out. What happened then, surprised everyone. Many of the kids picked up the tool much quicker than Jennifer and Maranda had expected. The students helped each other out and they sought out resources for their learning. In the end, the project turned out to be a success.

Imagine if Jennifer and Maranda had decided to not take a risk to introduce this to students.  It would have been a lost learning opportunity for the everyone. This story got me thinking about how often we decide to not  do something because we think that the students can’t handle it or that we don’t have enough time to become the experts. One of the most powerful learning experiences from this example came from the teachers not being the experts. They were just learners alongside other learners. Kudos to the both of them for taking a risk that benefited the students.

Check out the final projects to see for yourself.

What did we do before…?

I know that it seems silly to rave about how technology has changed our lives, but I think that it’s important for those of us who may be “digital immigrants” to reflect on the changes. It’s very easy to forget how quickly technology changes our lives.

I am currently in Bonito, Brazil hanging out at the pool writing this blog post. Bonito is a very small town near the Paraguayan border and it’s not exactly considered high tech. Bonito is known for its natural beauty and outdoor adventure activities (I probably shouldn’t even have brought my laptop). How long has it even been possible for people to access a wireless network here in Bonito?

What did we do before…

  • Skype allowed us to interview teacher candidates? This year I have interviewed teachers who have been in China, Korea, the United States, Turkey, Malaysia, Myanmar, Taiwan and the majority of our hires have come via Skype interviews and online reference checks. Who needs the job fairs anymore?
  • digital book readers were invented? I recently entered the digital print world by reading my first book on my new iPad. I don’t see myself going back to paper books any time in the near future. What a great option for those of us who are overseas and find it hard to get current books (in English).
  • GPS navigators allow us to go anywhere without knowing how to get there? I panicked when I couldn’t find our GPS navigator because it is a necessity in Sao Paulo. Before having the navigator I used to get directions in Google Maps and download them to my smart phone. Before that I used to print out the maps and directions.
  • video rentals were available for download? My children downloaded rental movies through iTunes so that they could watch movies on our iPad during the car trip to Rio de Janeiro. No need for the in car DVD player.
  • tools like Skype and Google Docs were available for us to use with outside consultants?  At school, we believe that we can work with a consultant via Skype, Google Docs and other tools rather than have him/her visit our campus. Think of the benefits that this model provides us with. Instead of bringing someone in for a few days, we can work with the person over several week or months.
  • Facebook connected us with friends that we have not seen in years. I love the fact that I am communicating with friends from high school via Facebook. Who needs a reunion?
  • before cloud technology allowed us to save files online? I recently had a third hard drive crash on my laptop and I never once worried about losing files. All of my files are saved in Live Mesh. I finally learned my lesson after losing a hard drive the day before an important presentation.

What examples do you have in your personal/professional life?