Tag Archives: technology

Where Progress Comes From and How We Can Create More of It


As I read the introduction to Stephen Johnson’s new book, Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age, 2012 I find myself thinking about the interconnectedness of today’s outcomes to the work of many in the years past.

In the process of setting up his book, Johnson retells about the story of the Miracle on the Hudson which is the story of captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who brilliantly navigated his plane in to the Hudson River with great poise under unthinkable pressure.

The point that Johnson makes is that “the plane survived because a dense network of human intelligence have built a plane designed to withstand it exactly this kind of failure. It was an individual triumph, to be sure, but it was also, crucially, a triumph of collectively shared ideas, corporate innovation, state-funded research, and government regulation.”

He goes on to write, “To ignore those elements in telling the story of the Miracle on the Hudson is not to neglect part of the narrative for dramatic effect.  It is to fundamentally misunderstand where progress comes from and how we can create more of it.”

I’m thinking about this because the work of education needs to be broad and deep. We must nurture interdependent thinking.  The world of technological innovation in science, industry, production and in education needs to also be broad and deep.

Progress doesn’t come from individual narrow and superficial work.

So, as we in schools think about what role technology should play in are classrooms and curriculums – we all will be well served, to also think broadly and deeply.  We will also be correct to help students to learn and practice to work collaboratively and interdependently.  Because, there will be many more miracles like the one on the Hudson which can and will only happen because of all of the learning and thinking that transpired well before the miracle occurred.

Here are more details that Johnson shared about the work that went on many years prior to this event that allowed the captain to land the plane in the Hudson.

“The phrase lucky break – like the whole promise of the miracle on the Hudson – distorts the true circumstances of the U.S. Airways landing. We need to better phrase, something that conveys the idea of an event that seems lucky, but actually resulted from years of deliberate preparation and planning. This was not a stroke of good fortune.  It was a stroke of good foresight.

The any attempt to explain that the confluence of events that came together to allow all flight 1549 to land safely in the Hudson has to begin with the chicken gun.

The threat posed by and bird-impact strikes to aircraft dates back to the very beginning of flight.  The primary vulnerability in a modern commercial jet lies in birds being ingested by the jet engine and, wreaking enough internal damage that the engine itself fails. The engine can simply flame out or it can shatter, sending debris back into the fuselage potentially destroying the plane in a matter of seconds.

Today’s jet engines are there for rigorously tested to ensure that they can withstand significant bird impact without catastrophic failure. At Arnold Air Force Base in Tennessee, a team of scientists and engineers use high pressure helium gas to launch chicken carcasses at high velocity into spinning jet engines. Every make of engine that powers a commercial jet aircraft in the United States has passed the chicken gun test.

The chicken gun, it should be noted, is an exemplary case of governmental regulation. Those dead birds been shot out of the pneumatic cannon are Your Tax Dollars at Work.  For the passengers flying on U.S. Airways 1549, those tax dollars turned out to be very well spent.

In fact, the advance planning of the chicken gun was so effective that the jet core of the left engines continued to spin at near maximum speed  – not enough to grant Sullenberger the thrust needed to return to LaGuardia, but enough so that the planes electronics and hydraulic systems functioned for the duration of the flight.

The persistence of the electronics system, In turn, set up a flight 1549’s second stroke of foresight: the planes legendary fly-by-wire system remained online Sullenberger steered his wounded craft toward the river.

The history of the fly-by-wire dates back to 1972, when a modified F -8 Crusader took off from the Dryden Flight Research Center on the edge of the Mojave Desert.  The brainchild of NASA engineers, the fly-by-wire system used digital computers and other modern electronic systems to relay control information from the pilot to the plane.  Because computers were involved, it became easier to provide assistance to the pilot in real time, even if the autopilot was disengaged, preventing stalls, or stabilizing the plane during turbulence.

So when Sullenberger was at the controls and collided with a flock of Canadian geese his left engine was still able to keep the electronics running.  His courageous descent into the Hudson was deftly assisted by a silent partner:  a computer embodied with the collective intelligence of years of research and planning. This means that Sullenberger was in command of the aircraft as he steered it toward the Hudson, but the fly-by-wire system was silently working alongside him throughout, setting the boundaries or optimal targets for his actions.

The extraordinary landing was a kind of a duet between a single human being at the helm of the aircraft and the embedded knowledge of the thousands of human beings that had collaborated over the years to build the fly-by-wire technology.   Pages xvii to xx of the Introduction to Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age by Steven Johnson


More Students Learning at Higher Levels: Leveraging Technology!

Do we want to be part of a society where education truly benefits all?  Where education can lead toward upward mobility?  Do we want more students learning at higher levels?

How can we as a society dramatically increase the numbers of young people who achieve at high levels in language arts, math, science and social science in our elementary and high schools?

How can we as a society dramatically increase the numbers of young people who have the potential of graduating with four-year degrees should that be their desire?

I suggest that these questions are crucial to each of us as educators. 

I suggest that we look at what it will take for today’s educators to dramatically more toward leveraging technology as a clear and obvious asset in our journey to meet the learning needs of all our young people.

To do this, educators will need to think together with a clear focus on the goal of making significant, demonstrated progress toward serving all of our students in ways that the questions above illuminate.  Achieving progress with this focus will require letting go of some of what we are doing that isn’t making a ‘big difference’ for learners and moving toward a new high standards for student learning for each and every student. 

Obviously, as we look to the future we must be willing to openly explore the possibilities that technology offers to educators and the students we serve. This is a journey worth taking!


High-tech way to communicate with students


Influential leaders are effective communicators!  Knowing your audience is a basic pillar for successful communicators. When a superintendent wants to connect directly with students – it may be time to be creative.

Anthony Habra is a superintendent of Rudyard Area Schools in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  Rudyard is a district of 900 students.  Tony wanted to make a difference.  He wants students, parents or community members to be able to have a way to text an anonymous message to him that then the school can look into and follow up on.  He believes that by opening lines of communications the community may be able to reduce bullying, violence or other suspicious activities.

Tony decided to use technology to get his message out.  He chose to make a short video to announce and explain his plan.

He used Xtranormal at http://www.xtranormal.com to create the video. Anyone can make videos on Xtranormal.   It takes a little time, and even if you have very little expertise or prior knowledge with the web you will likely to be able to create an xtranormal video yourself.

If you wanted to explore making videos and you wanted to use Xtranormal you would go to the web site, explore it a bit, choose to sign up (and choose which package to sign-up for – I choose the free one), experiment by making a video and if you want to – publish it.  Depending on the options you choose to put in your video – you can publish one for free.   Tony’s cost about $2.00 to create, because he choose some extras.   You purchase points to publish when there is an extra fee and $10.00 is the lowest quantity of points you can buy and you likely won’t spend that much on one video.

Xtranormal allows you to choose your character(s) setting, voice, and totally control the content.

Watch Tony’s video: 


Other options for producing your own video:

Effective communication may include new ways of getting your message out!


We have a gap to close between “what is” and “what should be” for all students and their learning outcomes

Technology is an asset when it comes to schools meeting the challenge of insuring that more students learn at higher levels.

Whether you are a formal or informal leader in schools I believe it is important for you to know what you value when it comes to technology and learning.  Then it is important to be able to effectively communicate your thoughts and dreams related to students learning more and at high levels as a result of leveraging the assets available through the effective use of technology.  And because our students change and the world of technology changes – it is imperative to not reach plateaus where we think we have figured out all the ways to enhance learning through and with technology.

Kouzes and Posner in their book:  Credibility – How Leaders Gain and Lose It and Why People Demand It,  page 52, 2003 state: “To be credible as a leader, you must first clarify your own values . . . . . Values guide how you feel, what you say, what you think, how you make choices, and how you act. Once clear about your own values, translate them into a set of guiding principles.”

As an educator and a leader my belief is that when we focus on the goal of each and every student learning at high levels (for that individual) that there is a need for more and more opportunities for students to engage with and use technology to experience exciting learning.

I value learners and their potential.  I see schools as being responsible for being resourceful in meeting learners where they are and helping all of them to progress on their learning journey.  As I think about the future, I see schools being rich with technology and rich I adult teachers, guides and supporters helping all students learn.

Kouzes and Posner go on to say (on the same page): “To be a leader, you must . . .  develop a deeper understanding of the collective values and desires of your trusted constituents. Leadership is a relationship, and strong relationships are built on mutual understanding. Leadership is a dialogue, not a monologue.”

As school leaders I think we must accept that the values of the parents whose children we serve and I am sure they believe that their child is of worth schools connecting with and that their child should benefit from schooling.  Part of that benefit from schooling has to be focused on the child learning the curriculum at high levels.   Sadly, many individual students are not finding success in schools.  We have serious drop out statistics and our achievement records clearly show that not all students are learning at high levels.  We have work to do. We have a gap to close between “what is” and “what should be” for all students and their learning outcomes.

Thus, I end as I began: Technology is an asset when it comes to schools meeting the challenge of insuring that more students learn at higher levels.


Making Teacher Evaluations Public is a Bad Idea ~ Bill Gates

In an interview with Weekend Edition Saturday‘s host Scott Simon, Gates explained himself.

“The goal is to help teachers be better,” Gates said. “And when we run personnel systems where we want to be frank with employees about where they need to improve, having [evaluations] publicly available is not conducive to openness and a free exchange of views.”

Scott pushed that point, asking Gates if he could understand this is information that might be helpful for parents who want to know how their children’s teachers are performing.

Gates said parents looking at evaluations could lead to a rush of them trying to get their kids in classrooms with the highly rated teachers and that’s a “zero-sum game,” he said, when what we should be doing is helping all teachers improve.

Still, Gates said he believed in evaluations. He said if Microsoft didn’t have evaluations, “it wouldn’t have worked.”

He said that seniority and educational degrees didn’t correlate with “who was writing the best code.”

Listen to the six minute interview to hear all Bill Gates had to say.


Are schools becoming more engaging as a result of the advancing technologoies?

Over 4 years ago this short video first appeared.  I saw it during that first year and I am showing it now, some for years later with a few questions.

Has much changed for school aged learners?  Are there more opportunities for ‘engagement’ with each other by way of technology?

Is it common throughout the curriculum that students are collaborating and connecting as a result of technology?

Are decisions being made for school districts to invest in more technology that has the potential to engage more learners in mastering the curriculum?

Are the school staffs supported enough as they increase their knowledge, skills and dispositions related to engaging students with learning through ‘opening doors’ to technology?

Is there more change needed?

What is your role in helping the future continue to unfold for today’s and tomorrow’s learners?

What role might an interested citizen play in supporting students in their learning through and with technology?

India and the Aakash ~ A Transformative Time in Indian Education

I have just returned from two weeks in India.

We had the good fortune to spend time in many sectors of modern India.  We visited a k – 12 school and talked with a the principal and the state commissioner of education.  They spoke of the fact that they would be providing every tenth grader with a laptop computer in the very near future at a cost of $35 per tablet.  That computer is the Aakash tablet.

As you can see from pictures I took of the school it is not a physical presence like that of American schools, yet by moving toward connecting students to the power of the world wide web they will have access to new and abundant learning opportunities.

In our visits with young Indian business and manufacturing leaders they explained that major efforts and capital are in place to make WiFi access available throughout the whole country of India over the next five years.  This will make it so the tablets will be able to access the internet outside of schools.

India’s current population is 1.2 billion people.  As the project unfolds to distribute Aakash tablets to students the opportunities for learning have just dramatically increase for students and citizen of India.


When you take a step forward, you are bound to disturb something. ~ Indira Gandhi