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Hey everyone,

Welcome to my mostly dormant blog that I’ve kept running, in one form or another, for a long time. I might even go so far as to say it’s been an internet lifetime since I started this thing.

Feel free to explore. You’ll find silly poems about my dog, my thoughts on climate change, bicycling, politics, train travel and other random stuff. Most of it written when I had a job in a bank where I spent vast quantities of time with headphones in my ears, sitting at my desk. I haven’t really kept up with it because until #coronavirus hit, and basically ever since I began work at school, my days have been filled with interactions with people… blogging has not been at the top of my priority list.

But… we have a new world in front of us, and at least for the next couple months, we’re embarking on an exciting new experiment in teaching and learning. I don’t think it’s an understatement to say this is the biggest experiment in educating kids that has ever happened in history. There will be a lot to process. It might be fun to do a little blogging again.

Categories: General.

Why messaging your students via your LMS is so important (and not sending them emails)

Since I was just complaining about internet recipes that give the author’s life story before telling you how to cook the cookies, here is the TL;DR (too long;didn’t read) version:

  • Your students’ and parents’ inboxes are theirs. Your messages are one of hundreds vying for their attention.
  • Your learning management system’s announcements or messaging feature is “the school’s”. All of the messages there are relevant to school and between the school (teachers) and the students (or parents).
  • When your student (or parent) wants to check on school and goes to their inbox – they are distracted by every other email that is there.
  • When your student (or parent) wants to check on school and goes to their LMS – they find only relevant messages.

A more complete, but probably rambling version of my thoughts follows… I’d welcome your comments or feedback. It’s been a while since I’ve been blogging, so I’m probably a bit rusty!

As we make a rapid shift from face-to-face learning to distance learning, one of the things I’ve struggled with is the shift in communications. In a physical school, where a one can expect to have the (mostly) undivided attention of your students for a period of time, the communications can be direct and relevant to the time and space. We can write messages on the board, we can find a student for one-on-one conversation, we can make an announcement in assembly.

Yes, not every student hears those message with perfect clarity, not every student is paying attention and not every student writes down their homework in their planner, but most do! Email volume for students, on the whole, is low. Most of the “messages” they receive happen in person.

Now fast forward to distance learning. Kids are with their teachers in a web conference for maximum, 90 minutes a week. (and our guidance has been don’t spend more than 10 or 15 minutes in each session live, and use that time to connect – not direct instruction) Our first student survey is littered with comments like “It’s hard to pay attention during a web conference.” I’m right there with them. My brain has melted at the end of every day for the past two weeks as I jump from Zoom to Meet to Slack to Chat, Messages, email and back again.

And so we necessarily sending messages. So far, mostly, via email. The problem therefore, is that everyone else is sending emails too. Your student’s inbox is littered with messages. Some from school, some from friends, some from colleges, some from some game they installed, some from their parents, etc etc etc.

Now think about the parents. You, a teacher or administrator, are trying to get an important message home about an important website their student should read. You send an email. What is in that parent’s inbox, besides your message?

Literally a bazillion other emails.

If you’ve been on the internet for the last five years, you’ve probably received a covid-related email from every entity you’ve ever interacted with. Not to mention the parent’s work emails, emails from friends and neighbors, notifications from Facebook, Nextdoor, shipping notifications from Amazon, whatever! And then your message about school, and it’s important, but will the student or parent see it? Will they act on it before tending to all of the other emails? See the problem?

We know from all of the guidance about screen time and phone addiction and the like that a necessary first step is to turn off all of the notifications. When I want to go on facebook, fine, but I don’t need their notifications and pop-ups coming at me to try and get me in there.

We (as teachers and administrators) need to apply the same thing to our school’s messaging:

Create a single place that students and parents can go for all of their school-related messages. When they think school, they can go there and be sure to find school-related messages.

While the school can’t control the time or place or environment in which those are read, the school can set an expectation that you check in to that virtual space every morning. Students can consistently find the information they want about school, when they want to.


Categories: Education.

Working From Home – Reorganization

Just wondering if anyone else has undergone a #cornonavirus related furniture and room reorganization blitz?

I realized pretty quickly (hour 3 of day 1 maybe?) that we needed to create some new spaces in the house. Four simultaneous video chats are a recipe for tension.

So, desks have been moved, shelves were cleaned, books reorganized, paper.. shredded. I went to my pile of old tech gadgetry (literally) and dug out an old monitor, keyboard and mouse.

Categories: General.



The Green New Deal aims to get us there—and remake the country in the process. It promises to give every American a job in that new economy: installing solar panels, retrofitting coastal  infrastructure, manufacturing electric vehicles. In the 1960s, the U.S. pointed the full power of its military-technological industry at going to the moon. Ocasio-Cortez wants to do the same thing, except to save the planet.

Source: Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal Is a Winning Climate Strategy – The Atlantic

This is the most exciting package of climate change policy to come from the Democrats in a long time. Great article that dives into the messaging problems that have existed in the past regarding climate change policy. I don’t know that it actually has a chance to be passed, but the clock is ticking to 2030…

Categories: General.

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Video: Naomi Klein Interviews Bernie Sanders on Climate Change

THE BOLD MORAL leadership of newly elected members of Congress like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has me feeling more optimistic about our collective chances of averting climate breakdown than I have in years.

Source: Video: Naomi Klein Interviews Bernie Sanders on Climate Change

Worthwhile video – we have 12 years…

Categories: General.

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This is terrifying

The Insect Apocalypse

When his parents took him driving, he remembered, the car’s windshield was frequently so smeared with insect carcasses that you almost couldn’t see through it. But all that seemed distant now. He couldn’t recall the last time he needed to wash bugs from his windshield.

Categories: General.

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Cargobikes are the future

Hat tip to my uncle for this great article about cargo bikes for urban transport of goods. We’ve had our cargo bike for a number of years now, and as our kids have grown older, the cargo is less kid and more groceries and other household items. I can get to our local grocery or Target and back again far faster on my bike than in our car.

There are a number of interesting tidbits in the article like this:

cities are being strangled by trucks and vans: a great deal of freight traffic in urban areas is now comprised of delivery vans (in the UK, van traffic has grown by 71% over the last 20 years, compared to growth of 13% for cars.)

71% ! Can you believe it? I guess when you think of all those Prime Now vans running around…

Source: Cargobikes Not Drones Are The Future For Urban Deliveries

Categories: Biking.