Category Archives: technology

Back to Building the Plane

In a recent email, a colleague at the university where I teach called Artificial Intelligence the wild west. It reminds me of the early days of the Internet in schools, something I was fortunate to participate in as both teacher and professional developer.

Tonight, as I begin my ninth year teaching a graduate-level school technology course for budding administrators, I will be showing a video that I used to show in workshops during the early years of the Internet but haven’t shown for a long time. After nearly three decades, we have gotten comfortable with the Internet as a part of our lives in the classroom. In fact, these younger educators may have little or no memory of a time when they, both as students and now teachers, didn’t start the day by logging on.

But, AI is challenging that comfortable complacency, with schools scrambling to develop policies around what I think really may be the technology the forces educators to reconsider how they teach. The Walla Walla Public Schools are a good example of how schools often approach new technologies. They blocked ChatGPT last spring but are now embracing it for both teachers and students. The article is worth a read as it covers the issues related to cheating and bias The school district ultimately believes it is their responsibility to help their students grapple what is quickly becoming a ubiquitous technology:

“We’re fostering 21st century learners and we’d be doing them an injustice if we didn’t educate ourselves to therefore educate them on how to use it responsibly,” LaRoy said. “This is the world they’re going to go into. We really felt like there was no other option than to jump on this and embrace it.”

Walla Walla Union Bulletin, Loren Kykendall, April 15, 2023

It feels like the early days of the Internet but with a larger sense of urgency. We’re building that plane while we are flying it.*

*The commercial was for a company called Electronic Data Systems. I was surprised to discover that it was founded the year I was born by none other than Ross Perot! Thanks, Wikipedia.

Returning to the World

I have been mostly away from the networked world since late March, visiting with family, then completely disconnecting for a few days last week at Fairy Stone State Park in Stuart, Virginia. I did not make any particular commitment to this disconnect but without having to monitor work or students, I found it came naturally when I was with my family in Pennsylvania, preferring to be with them in the moment without the distraction of social media and news feeds.

Once we got to Fairy Stone, it was nature itself that imposed the disconnect. Internet at the park was almost nonexistent: they suggested one particular spot where you might be able to get to access but I did not feel compelled to seek it out. Meanwhile, my phone just displayed SOS instead of bars. I’m not sure if that’s because I could still get emergency access or because the phone was in crisis mode without it and wanted to let me know.

My husband and I both found the quiet liberating and restful. We rocked on the porch of our log cabin, reading, chatting and meditating on the spectacular scenery. We explored the area and I will have some stories to tell about those explorations in later posts. Here are two pictures of the cabin (one of eight in the park that were built by CCC workers in the 1930s) and the view from our porch.

We returned home to lots of gardening so my technological disconnect continued until this past Monday when, after nearly three weeks, I opened the lid of my laptop and reconnected to the larger world, digging into a database project and meeting online with a colleague. My phone and iPad had been sufficient for use during the travels, mostly using them for reading and picture taking and game play. (I do like a bit of Wordle.)

I know my life is very different from that of others now that I am mostly retired and that makes disconnecting much easier. But, I can highly recommend trying find at least a little respite from the constant connectivity. It helped me focus my intentions upon my return related to how I wanted to spend my time and treasure in the next few months. I even generated a few blog post ideas.

During our explorations of Patrick County, we might have been living in a pre-Internet era: at some points, I was navigating using a paper map! (Yes, they still make them.) When I picked one up at the Brunswick County Visitor Center, it was from a feeling of nostalgia. But when I couldn’t get to Google Maps on my phone at some points, the map became a necessary part of our travel toolkit. It is now tucked in the passenger side pocket of the Kia, ready for our next escape.

One of my last blog posts before disconnecting was about World Poetry Day. We are now well into National Poetry Month and I want to go back to Wendell Berry as his poem “The Peace of Wild Things” was very much with me and, as the world seems to spin out of control more chaotically every day, the words continue to echo in my mind: “When despair for the world grows in me…I come into the peace of wild things.”

Here is Berry reading the poem:

Tech Tuesday A Day Late

I had this idea for different daily themes that would help me blog regularly. So, cliché as it might be, I was planning on “Tech Tuesday.” So, I logged in, brought up a new post ready to right about how much fun I have been having with my new digital planner, only to realize it’s Wednesday. A friend said you know you are really retired when you don’t know what day it is, and it doesn’t matter.

Anyway, I am doing “Tech Tuesday” a day late and, as I mentioned above, celebrating my new digital planner. Mine is from Only Planners, and it was an impulse buy related to a general desire to streamline my analog life using digital tools, with a focus on the iPad as my main device.

I have been using it since the beginning of March, experimenting with the various tools and templates to plan and track my life. I still use Google Calendar and other web-based tools for shared events and reminders, but the digital planner has mostly replaced my analog calendar and tracker. I started out using the text tool but have come to rely more on the Apple Pencil. My lettering has gotten better, and it feels more analogy to sit down with a pencil in hand. For now, I have stuck with their built in templates and particularly like being able to have multiple versions of the monthly calendar to track different parts of my life.

I might suggest that, if you are considering moving in this direction, do some research as now that I have purchased the planner, I am getting lots of ads for others.

What I haven’t given up are my morning pages: three pages of long hand writing. I tried it with one of the digital notebooks but didn’t like the “feel” of the pen and paper. I have seen ads for screen protectors that claim to mimic the feel of paper. I suppose I will need to figure this out as the downsizing continues. And then there’s the question of what to do with the 22 years of spiral bound notebooks I have. But I think that’s another blog post.

If A Tree Falls in the Forest

Today’s existential question: If you do yoga without recording it via your fitness device, did you even *do* yoga?

I have taken to wearing my watch to bed in order to track sleep patterns. But, that means it doesn’t get charged overnight the way it always had so at some point during the day, I am surprised to discover it is down to 10%. That happened this morning just as I got started with my morning yoga. I was tracking the workout and found myself thinking I would have to charge the watch before continuing to make sure I got credit.

Hmm…got credit from whom? The inanimate object on my wrist? Apple headquarters? Steve Jobs? AARP to whom I granted access to my health data? God?

I faced down my somewhat obsessive need to track everything, put the watch on its charger and continued with yoga. But, don’t give me too much credit for fortitude: I knew I would have several opportunities to complete other workouts during the day that would get tracked. At some point, I may need to dive further into this obsession, but as I credit the watch with supporting my weight loss and generally good health I don’t worry too much.

Nostalgia for Old School Aerobics

Fitness Guru Leslie Sansone

I was coming of age in the late great 80s just as the aerobics movement, led by Jane Fonda, was getting started. I may still have a vinyl copy of her first workout album in the days before everyone owned a VHS player. Live classes were everywhere. My mother and I took a class at the nearby community center. The cable access channel hosted a weekly workout led by a local gym instructor. I could set the VHS to record it so I could do it on my own time…an early version of streaming, I suppose.

I haven’t done these kinds of workouts for a long time, preferring my treadmill, Wii and working and walking outside. But, with the demise of my Wii and my need for a bit of excitement beyond the treadmill, I went exploring online and discovered fitness guru Leslie Sansone. She was a contemporary of Jane Fonda, and her signature exercise was simple: WALK. There are a few different steps, but mostly the goal is to keep moving.

I explored her YouTube channel to start with and then downloaded the app and paid the subscription. Leslie is my age, and her upbeat approach was immediately fun and nostalgic. I found myself wishing I had a unitard and leg warmers! One of Leslie’s claim to fame is that she was the first live on-air guest on QVC. I got to know her colleagues and enjoy the wide variety of walking workouts. As COVID moved in, they began streaming live workouts from their studio in Pittsburgh.* They have also added some strength training workouts in the app.

There are plenty of videos featuring Leslie in the app, including archives of some of her original workouts. But, according to Wikipedia, she hasn’t been featured in any videos since 2020, and there is some mystery around where she might be and her current involvement with WALK. There is some speculation on Reddit but otherwise no one seems to know. Hmm…sounds like podcast fodder to me!

*Part of my attraction to Sansone was her ties to Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh.