Go Social: Open It!

I was at an EdCamp the other day. If you’ve not been to one they’re basically free professional development gatherings where attendees design think their shared learning experiences.

Anyway, it happened that organizers encouraged the use of Twitter. But the location where the EdCamp was held blocked access to Twitter. I think it may have been available to attendees affiliated with the EdCamp host. But as EdCamp is open to anyone to attend this is an incomplete solution.

If you’re going to have an open exchange of ideas open it.

A suggestion: is it possible for EdCamp planners to arrange with their IT person to create a sandbox for the event? One where the Internet and Twitter to be accessible for the duration of the event?

Listen to Go Social: Open It!

Getting Past No


It’s been a few months since I last blogged. A lot’s happened in that time. This isn’t about that. This one’s about something that happened yesterday morning. It’s about how to get past a “No.”


A couple years ago I got into drones, quadcopters, in a tentative way. I kept crashing or losing my Parrot Bebop II drone. They were tough little guys of the “takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’ variety.” But I got better at it. I currently fly DJI prosumer drones including the Spark, Mavic Pro and Phantom 4 Pro. I mostly fly them for the pictures and videos they capture. Though I’m not licensed by the FAA I do follow their requirements before flying. I also research local laws before flying. I use several apps including the FAA’s B4UFly and AirMap. Both help identify where to fly legally and safely. In Texas, where I am as of this writing, the drone law requires that before I fly over private land I must obtain the permission of its owner or someone occupying it. I can fly, at a low altitude, over publicly held land. I can’t fly over certain state parks.

So it was yesterday that I set up to fly my Mavic Pro drone under a canopy of leafless trees at the intersection of Kickapoo and Cougar Roads a little south of Interstate 20. I was trying to find a place where I could fly over the Brazos River to take some photos and shoot a video or two. It’s all private land between me and the river. There’s a ton of No Tresspassing Posted signs with homes set far back from the road. So I didn’t get a chance to do much asking (to fly over) private land. So my flying was mostly limited to brief excursions like this one over public spaces.

As I was setting up a woman driving by stopped to ask what I was doing. I said I was flying my drone (it was then about 20 feet from me at a height of five feet). It was easily visible to hear; I had the drone’s camera pointed away from her, as I hadn’t had a chance, yet, to ask her permission. She self-identified as the owner of the land I was next to. When I asked if I could fly over it, she replied “No.” Then she drove off and a moment or two later I landed the drone, packed it up and moved off down the road myself.


Over the next hour or so I left a phone message or sent an email to the owner or manager of ranches I passed. Some of them have signs at their entrances. I’d google them and some had websites where there was a phone number or email address listed. I figure that maybe next time I pass through the area I can fly over the land of them that provide their permission.

On the outskirts of Glen Rose, Texas I passed some metal statues of two horses being chased by a cowboy on a third. When I pass cool stuff on a highway Like that the thought, “I may never pass this way again. Is it worth it to..” This time it was. I turned back and sought to find a way to contact someone occupying or owning the land. In this particular case there wasn’t a “No Tresspassing Posted” sign at the entrance to the land. I parked at the edge of a gravel road and walked the 100 yards or so to the residence. A moment after knocking on the door a young man answered. I asked and he said “Yes.” I found out a little later that his name is Trevor Crawford and that I was at the C4 Ranch. I thanked him, walked back to my car and drove back to the horse art. I spent the next 20 minutes flying over the metal artwork and taking some stills and shooting brief clips with my Mavic Pro.

As I was packing to leave Trevor drove by in this big truck (that I wish I had because my Honda CrV is low to the ground and there’s many places I can’t go) with high clearance. He asked if I’d be so kind as to send him links to the photos and videos I was taken. I asked for and received permission to take his photograph. I said I’d gladly send links. He then told me about some “little cattle” on land of his nearby. Next time..


I think it’s natural to get discouraged when someone tells you “No.” The thing is that to get what one wants from someone else asking is something you have to do. Keep asking. Be assured a yes is out there with your name on it.



I took the long [long] way home after visiting my brother in California. I went down a road away from home to take me home.


Driving down a highway towards Yuma, Arizona I passed a canal. I was doing 65 mph. Off to my right, going over a bridge, I saw a lone palm tree. In that moment I composed a photograph in my mind’s eye.

An irrigation canal disappears into mountains on a distant horizon

The only problem was I was going 65 mph and my actual eyes had moved on. I guess you might say I had to turn around, do a 180, to go get my imagination back.

I’m in the process of revisiting an elearning authoring tool I used some time ago: Storyline, now in its (I believe) third iteration. This version being named Storyline360. My plan is to return to my roots and design online learning again. I’m thinking of snippets of learning to aid teachers in reimagining their PD (professional development) experience.


What this might look like I can’t say at this point. I need some design thinking help from my PLN (professional learning network) to identify the first snippet. Another 180 and I’m on my way.

Charred Access


Design thinking involves iterative fails. Just how many depends on one’s persistence or, from another’s perspective, foolhardiness.


When I was a wee lad I had my share of owies and oopsies. Some were worse than others: cuts, scrapes, burns and a broken/smashed bone or two. For the most part these healed and were then forgotten. I learned from them: how to walk, run and ride a bike. The cost of learning back then was relatively cheap.

Later on, mistakes got more expensive. The artifacts, evidence seen by others of one’s fails, became more abstract and less entertaining to talk about. That time I broke my ring finger is an interesting story now. Getting that F- in a math test isn’t something I generally share with people I meet on the street. When as an adult our performance on the job is rated against that of others there are often scars to our psyche that are invisible to our peers.


Looking back on my learning the past 60 years I find that the stuff I remember [and apply] most often was enjoyable. On some level curiosity made me want to learn it. Engagement made me continue doing it, though it may have involved sweaty stinky work and lots of it, til I got it right.


It isn’t access to peers or information that encourages [my] learning. It’s the relative cost of making a mistake. The really cool stuff that has had a lifelong impact on me involved owies that are fun stories to share now. When I approach learning now I try to morph it into something that involves my whole body. I think that’s the ticket to design thinking and innovation. The more we approach it holistically and with others so that what we do is visible the better off we are in the long run. Go out and break something.

Zones of My Proximal Development


How do I self-motivate when the going gets rough, tough, boring or other? Someone asked me that the other day. Here’s my take.

Photograph of a tilted water tower


Reflection. I hold myself up to my existential bathroom mirror and take a long look. What does it feel like my eyes do when seeing something new?


  • Eyes rolled up 
    • I’m in my “Oh no!” zone. I don’t feel safe enough to start learning right away.
  • Eyes level
    • I’m in the “Let’s do it!” zone. What are we doing just standing around? Let’s have at it!
  • Eyes down (frozen on the spider/alligator/puppy-poop at my feet)
    • I’m in the dreaded “What the..?” zone. I’m having a problem fitting what I have to do with what I know has worked or not worked in the past (sometimes going back decades).
The hard part, once I’ve reflected and figured out which zone I’m in, is not zoning out. That is, how do I overcome the Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) Factor and apply some grit and adopt a growth mindset approach and get on with learning? It’s easy to fall into the woe is me trap. Speaking from experience, it can be a lot harder to level oneself and just do it.
What I do is remind myself that I’m [most likely] not alone. (It’s a little like the OODA Loop I learned and practiced in the US Navy a long time ago.) I have support and help available. All I have to do is ask for it. Sometimes it may not feel like it. Depending on how peers and managers respond can kick one back a few steps. I’ve occasionally asked myself if it’s really worth it to keep trying?
A while ago, I think it was towards the end of 2013, I stumbled upon a different way to do Professional Development (PD). What I tripped over in my dark was EdCampWestTexas, now in its third year. Basically it was K-12 teachers coming together on a wet and rainy Saturday morning in Abilene, Texas. In a few short hours I was exposed to new ways of knowing. While most of what I left with was skewed towards educational technology, the main takeaway, the jewel, was Design Thinking (DT). DT is a problem solving methodology grounded in empathy, reframing problems, and prototyping.
It makes me a little sad, when I reflect on my past years practicing the art and science of instructional design, how technical I was. I should have empathized with the people I supported more. During my first-pass at design thinking, at a law enforcement training academy, I began the analysis phase of instructional design with a soft-question: What did it feel like doing/learning this thing? It made for a more human/humane approach I think. It had some serious benefits, too. The rest of the process took less time. The team was more involved than ever before. A complaint I often hear from other instructional designers is how hard it can be for people to keep meeting and deliverable commitments. Once I adopted a design thinking approach that reluctance to contribute gave way to some serious collaboration. 
If the empathy, caring, is there then so am I. If it’s not, it’s time to ask “Am I in the right place?” Maybe it’s time to move on?
I’ve been trying to learn something new for a few months now. I don’t want to get too deep into the details here. I’ve been in the “What the..?” zone for a while. I think I’m starting to see light at the end of the tunnel though. I’ve sought some serious help from some smart, dedicated and caring people. The hardest part has been learning by making mistakes. I still make some significant ones. Not giving up, continuing to pick myself up and owning the mistake, communicating clearly to clients and peers has made all the difference. 
How do I motivate myself to learn new stuff? Design thinking.


Thumb Aplomb


I did a lot of rhizoming yesterday driving from Salliwell, OK to Abilene, TX. I backtracked and stopped quite a lot along the way when curiosity got the better of me. I’d see something and think about stopping to take a closer look. Only I wouldn’t stop right away. I’d continue on for a bit then think, “I may never pass this way again.” and turn around.

Photo of horses for sale


I took a couple hundred photos of stuff yesterday. It was after importing them just now from my iPhone into my Mac’s Photo app and deleting the ones that didn’t come out right that I remembered The Thumb. You know, when an errant finger finds its way into the picture frame.

Photo of an old metal slide

In the olden times of film you'd take a picture of something then later when the film comes back there it was: a thumb or finger spoiling the shot. Only today we get to see the oops in real time just after taking the picture or, as happened for me just now, whilst importing and curating the pictures.


I’d deleted all the thumbs and fingers when I remembered last night’s #LRNCHAT Twitter chat. The chat was moderated by @SarahMMcKay, a neuroscience researcher. Question 6, my tweet, and Dr. McKay’s reply came back to me.

Screen capture of lrnchat subject

My reply to Dr. McKay was to agree to disagree. Not worrying overmuch about theory and research I go about designing learning experiences with aplomb.


My design craft has been influenced greatly the past couple of years by the thoughts and experiences shared by educators I’ve met throught EdCamp, TCEA, CUE, the Elearning Guild, and my local ATD chapter.

Photo of Urbie in front of a Bigfoot crossing signpost

I can’t recall that we talk about research a lot, at least I don’t remember anyone calling out anything specific. I’m a practitioner among practitioners. But I wonder what’s out there I might be missing?


Redux: Djinn Tech


About two months into my tour of duty on NavComSta Diego Garcia I got my Dear John letter. What has stayed with me was she went with a guy more into technology than I was in 1978. Shortly after arriving at Hickam AFB I hightailed it over to ComputerLand Honolulu and bought my first personal computer: a TRS-80 Model 1 Level II.


Ever since I can remember I’ve been enamored (a word, btw, my ex taught me) by technology. One of my uncles was a Navy radioman during WWII. He was all the time tinkering with stuff. I got into that TRS-80 for a couple of months; all I really remember about it was how gray it was. I soon traded up to an Apple ][ (integer model). I’ve been an Apple fanboy ever since. I bought one of the first Macintosh computers. Well I remember shopping for software and finding none. It was a sad feeling.

These long forgotten memories welled up in my mind yesterday. After being exposed to oodles of Google Chrome and Chromebook goodness during three days of CueRockStar I decided to buy one. Only the stores I went to had only one or two models available. At Staples they only had display models: none in stock. At a Best Buy the sales person began arguing with me about how I NEEDED Windows 10 as soon as I asked “Where are your Chromebooks?” As I left the store to give OfficeDepot a try I recollected my early Apple days. It felt good thinking different again.


Christy Fennewald, at great peril I believe, revealed the Secrets of a Google Ninja during her first CueRockStar session.

My take is it’s less about becoming a ninja and more about becoming a djinn. That’s how it was with me and my trusty Apple ][ and early Mac. I’m going back out again today and I will come home with a Chromebook.

Show Your Mousetrap


Why not show your work? What do we have to hide? Show your mousetrap.


A rising tide lifts all boats. It takes a village. These are two common phrases used to describe how something that benefits one may also benefit many.


It to our benefit that we share what we do with others. What we share benefits us because of feedback from peers we may receive. Sharing our work might lead to someone experiencing an AHA! moment that increases their know-how.


Ask yourself, what is really keeping you from sharing your mousetrap? Besides, there’s easier ways to steal ideas: Like zombies eating brains for example.

Heavy Lifting


ISTE15 was last week. I didn’t go. Instead, I was at NotAtISTE15.


NotAtISTE, as near as I can figure it, is a Google+ group of educators who were not in Philadelphia last week for ISTE2015. Because of the group and some new technologies (or new ways to apply existing collaboration tools) it felt a little like I was there.

@TonyVincent, @CoburnCori and many others who paricipated at the ISTE15 conference were kind enough to use the @PeriscopeCo app to record keynotes, Ignites, and other events. It really was an amazing thing to experience. It was like a backchannel only in real-time, with motion graphics, and two-way text messaging.

Photo of an old dump truck

Information and peoples’ perspectives came in a crush-rush. @JenWagner did an amazing job with the Google+ group, enabling challenges, coordinating NotAtISTE15 events. It was fun jumping around and staying connected. I even got to engage with @CraigYen in a GHO (Google Hang Out) primer.


By Wednesday afternoon as NotAtISTE15 wound down I was into some serious reflection on some of the cool things I learned. It got me to thinking about smarter ways people NotAtaPD event can collaborate and share learning with those that are at the event.

Reflections: #EdCampWestTexas Weekend

Intro: Thoughts a week after an edcamp

Photo collage of Pure Genius by Don Wettrick, a GoPro camera, iPhone and pen

I celebrated my First EdCamp Anniversary in Abilene, Texas with a number of educators. As usual it was amazing to be with motivated and happy professional educators. I deepened my knowledge of:

  • Learner engagement: Keep it real.
  • Pearsonal Learning Communities: Collaborate and share. Keep it real.
  • Innovation: Be practical, have fun, and lose the not-invented-here mindset. Keep it real.


Learner Engagement

Photo of teacher explaining how to add color to his phonograph record spin-to-decorate bike

Keep it real. People will lean-in and actively engage if what they are learning is interesting and relevant to their interests. Ideally learners should make something to demonstrate their understanding.


Personal Learning Communinties

Photo of teacher sharing with a small group of learners

Keep it real. Get together with people who share your professional development interests. Share success, near misses or ideas that fizzled. Ask for help. Social media venues like Twitter, Facebook and others make it possible to connect. Don't be shy: Get involved.



Photograph of a projection screen showing the Kahoot web assessment and survey app

Make the most of what you have at hand. Try new ways of assessment like the Kahoot web app. It all starts with an idea. Share with peers close by or far away. Tweak the idea for your context and give it a good try.


Outro: Be open to different ways of knowing

Photograph of rattlesnake poised to strike

Every person you meet and share with opens up new perspectives. Relax and be open to new ideas. When you come up with something really interesting invite your local media (newspaper, radio, or TV station) to come by.