To Whom It May Concern… in other words

I have often thought about what fires my passion and my curiosity, and I keep coming back to the same idea. Apple. While my passion for and curiosity about technology certainly precedes my introduction to computers, it clearly exploded once I got my hands on my first Apple IIe. For me, that initial experience (and the IIgs that followed it and the very, very long string of Macs and iDevices that have followed since) defined (and continues to define) my professional life. Moreover, as anyone who knows me well can attest, they have an enduring and profound positive effect on my personal life as well.

Had there never been an Apple Computer, I would certainly still be interested in technology (see my previous post). But I am just as certain it would not be with the same enthusiasm and zeal. For me, Apple is a company that inspires. As one might expect, I know quite a number of people involved with technology, both through my years in education and through my years in the private sector. But, of those hundreds (perhaps thousands) of self-described “geeks,” I cannot name one who expresses the same passion, the same excitement for their Dell or HP or Lenovo that I have for my Mac.

In the late 90s, when Steve Jobs returned to lead Apple Computer, the company adopted the famous “Think different” ad campaign. At the heart of this campaign was a kind of mission statement aligning creativity, genius and change titled “To the crazy ones.” This manifesto spoke to me at a very basic level. While I suppose I may have always known, it brought forward in my consciousness the fact that I could use technology to change the world.

So I do.

As a technology coach, my passion and curiosity are the backbone of how I work. Those with whom I have worked express appreciation for the joy and excitement I bring to teaching technology. I have been told that my love of computers has an infectious quality (I believe they meant that in a good way…) And I suspect it is that love that allows me to be so patient with people learning new skills. I want to share the joy I feel when I locate the perfect font or find a keystroke command to make the job just that much easier, the wonder of tables and the beauty of charts, the creative freedom of Photoshop and Final Cut. Just as technology simplifies complex tasks, I want to simplify technology for others. And I want them to feel even a small part of the excitement and power I feel when I create using these elegant and glorious tools.

In order to express both my passion and curiosity for technology as well as how I attempt to inspire passion and curiosity in those with whom I work, I have recreated Apple’s iconic “To the crazy ones” print ad. While the structure might remain Apple’s, the passion, the emotion and the intention are all mine. Note that I have replaced the nine images of genius with nine icons characteristic of skills deemed important by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (If you are not yet familiar with, I highly recommend becoming so. They share my passion for technology.) As ever, your comments are welcomed and appreciated.

click to enlarge

teach-different pdf


ben (2009). palette [png]. Retrieved from

Burgam, K.J. (2013, October 30). Maker experiment #3 [Blog post]. Retrieved from

entropy_eater (2011). City hall [png]. Retrieved from

Fadookie (2007). Caduceus [png]. Retrieved from

fra30774 (2011, September 5). Apple—think different [Blog post]. Retrieved from

garethclubb (2012). Green recycling [png]. Retrieved from

jantonalcor (2012). A good idea [png]. Retrieved from

jongo_jingaro (2008). globe [png]. Retrieved from

j_iglar (2013). Team at work [png]. Retrieved from

mazeo (2013). Meeting presentation [png]. Retrieved from

Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (n.d.). Framework for 21st century learning [Online pdf]. Retrieved from


Rethinking Teaching in the 21st Century

Our think tank in CEP812 has been reexamining just what it means to be a teacher in the 21st century. More specifically, we have been exploring options for helping students gain the skills necessary to succeed in this new, globally-networked millennium. It is a wicked problem to be sure with multiple stakeholders potentially pulling in opposite directions. But we believe we have found, as they might describe it in the movie, “Argo,” the “best-worst solution” to this most wicked problem. You can learn more about our proposal here.

As ever, comments are both welcome and encouraged.

Can You Tell Me How to Get…?

I remember watching Sesame Street with my children many years ago and hearing Gordon say that “Asking questions is a good way of finding things out.” To this day, I still echo his words on a regular basis with my kids, friends, family and sometimes even with people I may have just met. Knowing the right questions to ask (and, I suppose, actually asking them), I believe, is a sign of wisdom. This week in CEP812 I learned a little more about asking the right questions and finding some things out when I surveyed teachers at the Cayman International School on the topic of Educational Technology. To find out more about what I learned, please read my Summary Report. I gathered the results of the survey in an info-graphic you may also be interested in viewing.

If you are an educator, I would love to have your input on the survey. It will be open through October 31, 2013. It is only ten questions long and can be completed rather quickly. And, if you have any questions of your own, please feel free to ask them in the comments.

If you can’t say something nice…

This week in Applying Educational Technology To Practice (CEP 812), we were asked to examine and expand our “information diets.” Specifically, the instructions were to write about how three new additions to my information diet have pushed my thinking in a new way. After a great deal of exploring, I eventually settled on websites for the Conservative Teachers of America, the Heartland Institute, and the Heritage Foundation.

image by kjburgam (CC licensed non-commercial, share-alike)

image by kjburgam (CC licensed non-commercial, share-alike)

From the start, I found a great deal of reinforcement for why I tend to avoid traveling in conservative circles on the web. From a story about parents upset at their children’s middle school for having them watch a video of celebrities pledging to support the President and asking students to do the same to a story highlighting the injustice of a man arrested for disruption of a school board meeting addressing questions about the Common Core in Maryland, I encountered what I can best describe as a general sense of outrage in full bloom. Moreover, the tone taken in many of the articles I read was one of snide sarcasm. I often found myself unwilling to even consider the writers’ viewpoints strictly based on the snarky attitude. But, for the sake of the assignment, I had to soldier on.

At this point, I asked myself if conservatives reading from my “information staples” might experience similar feelings. So I went to some of my standard sources for news such as the New York Times, New Republic magazine and National Public Radio. I understand some people might think that as a lifelong liberal* I would have difficulty recognizing bias in the media I frequent. But, even if that were the case, I felt as though I should at least be able to identify snark, be it from the left or from the right.

Selecting education stories from each outlet (NYT, TNR, NPR), I looked for sarcastic writing or even writing expressing feelings of indignation toward those holding differing opinions. But I did not find any. Now, I certainly do not claim this to be a scientific examination of the evidence. I recognize it as nothing more than my experience during this particular assignment. And, to be fair, I was able to locate some liberal websites that included snarky comments in their reporting on education topics (e.g., Jezebel). They just were not websites that I would consider as staples in my information diet (which, upon reflection, is likely due to the level of snark present in them.) But, to address the ultimate question of the assignment, I would have to say that varying my info diet has, at the very least, brought to the forefront of my consciousness a heightened awareness of snarky attitudes in the media. I am certain that my snark detection system will stay on high-alert for the foreseeable future.  And that’s not a bad thing.

* Actually, to be completely honest, I did vote for Nixon in 1968. But, in my defense, I was only 10 at the time, and it was in a schoolroom version of the national election that was taking place that year. Plus, I did so because in fifth grade I thought elections were about being on the winning side as opposed to standing up for what one truly believed in.


Baker, K. J. M. (2013, September 26). Right-wingers rail against Wisconsin’s ‘masturbation ed policy’. Retrieved from

Caplan-Bricker, N. (2013, September 5). New evidence: There is no science education crisis. The New Republic. Retrieved from

Demby, G. (2013, October 10). Recent findings question state support of black colleges.  National Public Radio. Retrieved from

Howerton, J. (2013, September 20). ‘Is this America?’: Parent ‘manhandled’, arrested while speaking out against common core at public forum [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Seelye, K. & Bidgood, J. (2013, October 9). Boston school-bus drivers return to work amid uncertainty. The New York Times. Retrieved from

snark. 2013. Retrieved October 8, 2013, from

Urbanski, D. (2013, September 29). ‘A little 1940s Germany’: Parents livid after middle schoolers watch video of celebrities who ‘pledge’ support for Obama — and ask viewers to do likewise [Blog post]. Retrieved from

How Are You Feeling Today?

Early in my teaching career, I remember seeing a poster entitled, “How Are You Feeling Today?” with a series of cartoon faces, each labelled with a different emotion. The drawings were funny, and it was easy for me to tell what label belonged beneath each image. But, for children with Asperger Syndrome, recognizing emotions from facial expressions is anything but easy. Rather, it is a skill that needs training and practice to acquire and develop. In the white paper linked below, I explore some basic information on Asperger Syndrome as well as some research linked to the disorder. Armed with that research I examine the VolaFriends iPad app that can be useful for Asperger Syndrome individuals in learning how to do something that comes naturally to most of the world. For a taste of what the app is like, view a brief video of the app in action here.

Technology to Aid in the Recognition of Emotions via Facial Expressions in Children with Asperger Syndrome

Once more unto the breach

James Paul Gee’s The Anti-Education Era discusses limitations humans must overcome if they are to stop being stupid and solve (or at the very least address) the complex issues that face the world today. His statement of the problem (or should I say problems), while blunt, is right on point.

This is a book that, at first, I found pedantic and repetitive. But, sticking with it (required reading for my Masters class, CEP812, after all), I am now a fervent believer that it should be read by everyone! Follow this link for a taste of what Gee sees as our limitations and some discussion on how understanding even just one of them informs our actions.

Get the Scoop on this ill structured problem

Below is my response to this week’s CEP812 assignment to screencast a solution to either a well-structured or an ill-structured problem. I believe the screencast speaks for itself (in spite of the fact that I do nearly all the speaking in it), so I will not belabor any of the points I make in it.

Please share in the comments if you have used or even know about ScoopIt! I just discovered it and am really excited by its possibilities.