New (Church) Year’s Eve, New Blog Directions & Adventures with Moana

I’m enjoying a quiet Thanksgiving weekend and it seems like a good time to pause and write. In many ways, it’s the calm before the storm – midterms begin for us on 14 December and there are too few school days and too much content for me to teach between now and then. And we get an unexpected day off as our football team is playing (for the second year in a row) for the Ohio state title next Friday. Awesome (yet one less teaching day.)

Have you noticed a somewhat different direction for this blog? Yes, the mission and the writers have shifted. The original purpose (see the “About” for details) was to share ideas and insights about technology – especially as it can be used to support the work educators do in their classrooms. This focus, over time, expanded to include internet resources which could make us smile, think, and pray.

After taking a hiatus from writing here over the summer and enjoying time reading many novels and other books, I returned in the fall with a new focus. Every school day since mid-August, I’ve created and posted a presentation about the Saint O’the Day. This is a labor of love as I’ve grown in devotion to the saints and I desire to share what I’m learning about “our extended family in Heaven” with my students and others.

The writers of this blog have shifted too. Initially it was a trio of us creating this site. But time commitments and interests change. Tera, my Religion colleague, is now our Campus Ministry Director and our excellent retreat program (plus the day to day of teaching) takes much of her focus. And Rachel, my colleague who teaches Spanish, has become the publisher of our weekly faculty/staff newsletter (and is doing a great job with it).

So, that leaves me (Rick) – freshman and sophomore Religion teacher, husband of a fellow Religion teacher and school colleague, dad of a teen and near-teen, aficionado of technology, music, wine, walking, and life in general!

And Happy New (Church) Year’s Eve. On this very last day of CY2016, the lectionary reading has Christ assuring St. John and us: “‘Behold, I am coming soon.’ Blessed is the one who keeps the prophetic message of this book.” Furthermore, we pray in the Responsorial Psalm: “Marana tha! Come, Lord Jesus!”

Yes, 2017 begins for us tomorrow with the changing of the colors and the lighting of the advent wreath. As I wonder about what adventures this coming church year will hold, I’m listening to the main song from the wonderful new film (which I saw on Thanksgiving): Moana. It’s all about hearing one’s calling and discovering strength to courageously pursue it.

I’ll be back to share more during Advent. Until then, may you hear the voice of God, see the light of Christ, and be drawn this church year towards the horizon “where the water meets the sky.”

Sun(Fun)day Night (BONUS): Amazing Movie Mash-up

This time last Sunday night, I (and you too?) was watching the Oscars. If you haven’t done so yet, check out my post on where you can watch the nominated films.

Have you ever wished your favorite movie characters could be in the same film – TOGETHER? Now, thanks to editing and production so amazing I don’t even want to begin to figure it out, you can see this:

The tone does shift towards violence about halfway through when the Aliens show up. Until that point, it’s pretty fun to see how such a great range of favorite actors and characters (check out where at least four James Bonds connect) come together in one place within a story:


Sun(Fun)day Night: Lots O’ Links on the Future of Tech

It’s another Sunday night and if you’re like me – YOU DON’T HAVE SCHOOL TOMORROW! Sorry to “shout” there, but it’s always nice to enjoy a Sunday night without the preoccupation of having to prepare to teach on Monday morning.

Rather than just offer one funny  or thought-provoking Sun(Fun)day Night link, I’m offering a whole list of them. I’ve been saving these up and now seems like as good a time as any to share them here.

Enjoy these links and take a look into the crystal ball to see the future of technology:

“Mechanical Trees Become ‘Power Plants’ When They Sway in the Breeze”

“3D Touch Opens a New Dimension of User Interaction”

“Battery Research Claims 10x Gain”

“This Samsung Patent Lets Smartwatches Recognize You by Your Veins”

“Insane Ways of Making Energy You May Not Know”

“The Mobile Phone of the Future Will Be Planted in Your Head”

“Dissolvable Devices Keep Tabs on The Brain”

“Autonomous Robots are Changing the Way We Build and Move Products Around the World”

“Hop, Skip, Drive: Uber, But For Kids”

“Scientists Can Now Predict Intelligence From Brain Activity”

“Fiction’s Newest Frontier: Literary Geocaching”

“Wearable Sensors Could Translate Sign Language Into English”

“New Foam Batteries Promise Fast Charging, Higher Capacity”

“Artificially Intelligent Software is Replacing the Textbook and Reshaping American Education”

“How Your Device Knows Your Life Through Images”

“Meet Kangaroo: A $99 Windows 10 Desktop PC as Small as a Smartphone”

“You Are Your Smartphone”

“Do Robots Need a Human-Like Sense of Touch”

“This Guy Wants Us to Commute in Autonomous On-Demand Pods” 

“Why Hearables May Be the Next Big Thing in Tech”

“Mind Controlled Robot Suits Help the Paralyzed Move Again”

“Salt-Based Batteries Could Make Your Next Mobile Device Cheaper and Greener”

“7 Unexpected Virtual Reality Use Cases”

“Microsoft’s 2016 Predictions: Expect the Year of Machine Aided Wit”

“Yahoo Labs Develops Biometric Authentication Method for Touchscreens”

“2016 Will Be the Year Wearables Disappear”

“Google Testing a Feature to Eliminate the Password”

“Future of Messaging Apps Spells the End of Google as We Know It”

“OrCam’s MyMe Wearable Will Watch and Decode the World For You”



Friday FunLink – “Be Kind – Rewind”: 16 Struggles No Kid Today Will Ever Understand

Last Friday, I dated my self by reminiscing that some of my favorite movies from the 1980’s are turning 30 years old in 2015!  Keeping in the same vein – technological changes and generational differences, I present a great post from Diply recalling a dozen plus realities that I remember (and likely you do as well.) Each of these is as alien and odd to the 14 to 16 year old’s I teach as this big, bad boy is to my generation:

Console radio

Here’s my favorite:

Old Tech -1

And this one is classic. I think I had that acid-washed jacket!

Old Tech - 3


Friday FunLink – “There’s No Way ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ Could Happen in 2015”

Now that I’m firmly in middle-age, it blows my mind that many of my favorite movies of my teen years are turning 30 years-old in 2015.  It was truly a vintage year for films as the following classics were all released:

And some not so classic (but still quite memorable):

But today, as the image above shows, I’m thinking about Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It was released in 1986 (the same year as other classic films such as Platoon, Top Gun, Stand by Me, The Color of Monday, and Police Academy 3: Back in Training). I included the list of 1985 films above because that was the year Day Off was written and set.  And because the list of films turning 30 this year is much more impressive than the 1986 ones!

Today in class, I showed my students the 1:30 clip below in which Ferris, Cameron and Sloane go to the Chicago Institute of Art. I showed this evocative scene to illustrate how I am inviting my students to gaze at art when we use it to mindfully meditate in class.  I have numerous links to share later about the value of meditation, but for now, I have a funny one about Ferris Bueller.

From Mashable, comes “There’s No Way ‘Ferris Bueller’ Could Happen in 2015″ It’s an insightful list of the technologies we take for granted today which would have torpedoed Bueller’s day off before it even sailed.  The list (which is humorously illustrated and explained at the link above) includes:

  • Tinder
  • Car-locking apps
  • Google Image Search
  • GPS
  • Instagram
  • Geocached Teets
  • Caller ID apps
  • Vine
  • Web MD

Look at the list of films above and think of all of today’s technology which would ruin nearly every single one of them, e.g. drones and Top Gun; Googling a name and Fletch; Google Earth & Wikipedia and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (or simply Googling: “Does the Alamo have a basement?”); and Rotten Tomatoes and the eternal and infernal Police Academy sequels.


7 Words That Educators Need to Stop Using

Here’s an even more succinct list, from Instructional Fluency blog, on words to banish from educators’ vocabulary and mindset:

  1. Cover
  2. Rigor
  3. Targets
  4. Differentiation
  5. Technology
  6. Homework
  7. Enrichment

I particularly like this blogger’s thoughts on “technology”:

Everything humans make to facilitate completing tasks is technology. Language is technology. Pencils and paper are very important technology. Perhaps if we train more teachers on how to use “technology,” they would understand the pedagogy that goes well with each digital tool. That’s what we’ll call it all, “tools.”


iPads are the Worst Technology Students Will Ever Use

Since my colleagues and I began this blog last November, I’ve read quite a few articles on educational technology.  Few have remained in my thoughts as much as the one from Te@chThought entitled “Education Technology as a Matter of Principle.”

Blogger Terry Heick reminds us that using technology to facilitate learning has always been an essential part of educational methodology.  Over time, this usage inevitably evolves from lower to higher complexity and functionality. Using chalk on a blackboard progressed to writing with dry erase markers on a whiteboards and then to using virtual “pens” on SMART boards.  Every classroom at my school has an LCD projector and Apple TV which any teacher can use with his or her iPad to project “whiteboard” apps like Explain Everything. As a result, the portable SMART boards purchased only a few years ago are obsolete.  We do still occasionally use them though, along with semi-erasable markers, as “whiteboards on wheels.”

So the question isn’t “should teachers use technology in their teaching,” but rather “which forms should be used?”  And I think a related question is: “How central to the learning process in our classroom is the use of “higher” and emerging forms of educational technology?”

The sentence which stands out for me the most is when Heick observes:

iPads are the worst technology students will ever use.

Wow. How true. And how often I am so enamored and amazed by what the iPad can do that I forget this simple fact.

Heick continues:

When today’s elementary students are 40, they’ll remember iPads the way (many of us) remember cassette tapes. It will be funny that they used to hold large, heavy glass rectangles in their hands, and had to open up apps separately. And had to know which app did what. And had to “Google” information. And sometimes weren’t even connected to the internet because WiFi signals were unreliable.

My experience confirms this.  When I was in elementary school I remember playing Oregon Trail (this version and not this revised one) on a green-screen Apple IIe.  In the late 1980’s when I was in college I typed and printed my papers on an all-in-one word processor.  People who are older than me remember before there were palm sized transistor radios.

It’s hard to imagine how outdated iPads will seem in 5 or 10 years.  While there’s no shortage of predictions about what the future of consumer technology will hold, we can’t ever predict it accurately.  When I got my first Walkman in 1985 could I possibly believe that 20 years later I’d have an iPod which held a ridiculous amount of music?

My takeaway from the inevitability of the rapid and unanticipated evolution of technology is two fold.  First – Don’t get too wedded to any one particular form of hardware or software as ‘this too shall pass.”  More importantly – I should teach my students how to learn about using technology rather than simply having them learn content via technology.

Let me share an example from my freshman class this Spring.  Recently I had my students pair up to create “social media” pages from the perspective of a character in Genesis.  I had them use the Tackk platform for this assignment.  Meanwhile, my colleague who teaches the other freshman Religion classes used Blendspace as the platform for a similar assignment.

I’m planning to assign my students a similar project to create a “social media” page for a Judge, King or Prophet.  Should I have them use Tackk again in order for them to develop their novice skills on that platform?  Or is there more learning potential in having them use Blendspace, even if their output will be of a beginning level?  Governed by the philosophy of teaching students how to learn about using technology, I think I’ll opt for the later and not former option.  Sure, there will be more of a learning curve for me as well, but I think learning how to pick up a new technology and use it effectively is a 21st century skill equal to the other ones on the typical lists of these skills.

As always, I’ll let you know how Blendspace works out for my students and me.


SNOW DAY — And Technology

SNOW DAY – the best 7 letter combination a teacher can hear (most of the time).

Since this is a mainly tech-oriented blog, I thought I’d reflect for a moment on technology has changed the time honored rituals of – will-we-or-won’t-we-have-school and the less exciting – when-will-my-street-be-plowed.

I didn’t grow up in a snow belt area, so I don’t have personal memories of how eager students and parents previously learned about the status of school on snowy mornings.  I’m told that it involved tuning into the TV or radio and listening for the list the announcer shared when convenient for the broadcast.  Later (and currently), the ubiquitous “crawl” at the bottom of the TV screen evolved to give constant (and repetitive) info about closings.

With websites and apps, today’s eager hunt for this radically day-changing info involves less watching and listening and more acts of hitting the “refresh screen” on the browser.

Today I was out of bed at my usual 5:15am and the first thing I saw on my iPad (which I use as my alarm clock) was a notice that Columbus City Schools were closed.  This was good news, but not completely relevant b/c my children are in a different district and my school is under a separate diocese notification.

I wanted to know quickly whether I needed to continue my carefully timed “get out the door” routine or if it was a snow day and I could go back to bed.  So I went to a local TV news website and saw this:

Aviary Photo_130650363978199011

It’s not a terribly pretty site, but it’s definitely a “just the facts, ma’am” portal.

Since the list was likely to grow at the now 5:30am time mark, my waiting and nearly constant screen refreshing began.  This made for an awkward time of prayer as I toggled between the reflection I read daily on my iPad and the, now two TV sites I was viewing.  With each screen refresh, I eagerly scanned the list (and I’ll admit – prayed) to see if the diocese and/or my children’s district was called off.

At about 5:40, 5 minutes before I needed to move to my next step in the morning routine, BINGO! The two notifications I was seeking came up! Allowing my children to blissfully continue to sleep, by 6 am I was back in dreamland myself.  Thank you technology and Mother Nature for bringing us this SNOW DAY!

Now, the question (besides how I will use this “bonus day”) is when will the streets in my neighborhood be plowed?  Columbus, after taking a lot of heat for poor snow removal and communication about it last winter, has created a cool new website called Columbus Warrior Watch:

Aviary Photo_130650363668837957

Apparently the plow Road Warriors are networked and real-time data about their progress and their plans feeds into a color-coded map.  I don’t know whether it will get my street plowed more quickly (as it’s designated at the lowest priority level), but it will be another interesting map to watch on-line.

—> This is the 50th post for our fledgling blog.  Thanks for following and please continue to keep up with us as we boldly move forward with our next 50 posts!

Ten Ways the World Changed in 2014

So, I have a few more (hopefully) thought-provoking “looking back at 2014” items to post.  I’d hoped to have them posted yesterday, but it’s astounding, time is fleeting.

The title of the blog post I’m referencing is a bit too broad as it focuses on mainly on changes in technology.  I think the list he shares is interesting, especially as we consider how these shifts relate specifically to education:

  1. We went from people searching for things to things finding people.
  2. The smartphone became a remote for the real world.
  3. New platforms were born (he has a good info graphic for this)
  4. Virtual reality became more than just a gaming platform
  5. We learned that the next smart devices won’t be phones.
  6. Personalization became universal.
  7. Content became king again.
  8. Urbanization returned to the U.S.
  9. Mindfulness and nutrition were more prevalent than ever.
  10. Gender inequality in tech finally got more attention.