Thankfulness

Everyday I try to think of at least three things that I am thankful for. Today I’m grateful to be in good health. I’m thankful that I have a purpose in life. I’m thankful that I have a grandson too. Fall is a time of transition and sometimes it’s discouraging to see summer end. The days become shorter, the mornings and evenings colder and everything just slows down. This is nature’s way of taking a nap. We need time to regenerate and rest. There are many other things to be grateful for in autumn and one of those is the changing color of the foliage. It’s time for apple harvests and apple cider too. A nice warm cup of cider with a fresh donut or muffin is a great way to welcome the chaning season too. Glad to be well and able to enjoy.

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Ville de Quebec

I learned a lot of new words today and remembered some older ones too. I learned what it’s like to be in a country where you don’t speak the language. I got a break too because at least here in Quebec City there are lots of people willing to help visitors who don’t speak French. I took French for two years in high school but that was over 40 years ago and I don’t remember much of it. New words like “stationment” and “ouvert” are in my French dictionary now. Others like “bonjour, oui, oeuf,” and more have been dusted off and recycled.

Quebec is a beautiful city and I’m very grateful that we have spent a day here with one more on tap. There is much to do and see here and the sites, sounds and smells are captivating. I got to see the Plains of Abraham today. I read about Marquis de Montalm and General Wolfe and the battle they fought here in 1759 but I had never been to the spot. Today as I looked across the gently rolling plain I wondered what the soldier who fought here were thinking as they trudged off to battle and one that would mean the end of their lives. There is much to do and see here and I’m not sure what we’ll be doing tomorrow, but I’m glad we came here. Thank you Quebec and Canada for being gracious hosts.

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The lighting of a fire #IMMOOC

One of my favorite quotes is,”education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” by William Butler Yeates. Yet, most of the emphasis in education today is on how much is in each pail. We continue to weigh the pail as though with each measurement we are increasing the mass of learning. Measurement is important to be sure, but today’s over emphasis on standardized testing of students has done more to derail real learning that it has done to help students become productive in today’s world. It’s been almost 40 years since the advent of the personal computer and over over 75 years since the advent of television yet most of today’s classrooms do not reflect those realities. Tonight as I listened to George Couros (@gcouros) and Katie Martin () lead off the “Innovator’s Mindset” MOOC I thought of how much our educational system needs to change. Today’s children are surrounded with learning opportunities but it’s the educational gatekeepers who have until now stifled much of the necessary innovation needed to transform education. I’m hoping that this MOOC and the blogs, tweets and other sharing will help change that. Today’s students deserve better than they are getting and it’s not the fault of the teachers, nor the students and even administrators. It is time however for radical change. Radical in the sense that we need to give our students the tools to succeed and the broaden the scope of what is deemed academic. We don’t live in a college entrance world of the “baby boomers.” We need an educational paradigm change that celebrates diversity in learning styles and outcomes. That does not mean jumping on the newest “fad-wagon” either. It’s possible to be innovative without being a 1:1 school.One of the points that was made in their podcast was that some of the 1:1 schools still prohibit children from using cell phones and other BYO devices on their campuses. We need help our students to use these devices responsibly to be sure in the same way that we teach “driver education.” Not every student needs to learn how to code nor would our society or future world be better if they did code. Some will be coders, others will be writers, some will be builders, others will be painters and musicians. Everyone has gifts that can be developed. We need to develop communities of practice and learning where failure accepted as a necessary part of learning.

I’ve been co-teaching a STEM outreach program with Lego Mindstorms robots and one of the things I’ve noticed is the reticence of the students to answer questions because they have a fear of being wrong. I also have participated in four Ed Camps in the past year and this fear of being wrong is so in-grained in teachers that it takes a bit of cajoling to get them involved in discussions and sharing that are part of the dynamic of an EdCamp. Tonight’s podcast was exciting and I’m looking forward to more. You can follow along here.

 

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What would I tell my younger self?

Five years ago I could never have imagined how I spend my life these days. I retired from public education three years ago. That was frightening at the time. What would I do I thought. How should I re-invent myself. There was a lot of angst. Since then, I’ve found new life as a volunteer in a soup kitchen and a food pantry. I’ve become a prolific writer. I’ve learned to program robots, write Python code,  and teach others to do the same. Recently I began helping local authors get published using Lulu.com. I gratefully reflect on the direction of my life. It is anything but dull. I’m far from retired. I’ve merely changed direction. In retrospect I’d tell my younger self to “be open.” Openness, humility and serendipity are keys to a happy life.

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Brothers and Sisters Among Us

Last week on Thursday I had business at the Prendergast Library in Jamestown, New York. I was there for a meeting and after a fifty-mile ride I stopped in the library’s  lavatory to refresh myself. While I was there a fellow came into the same space and he looked unkempt, smelled like he hadn’t had a bath in a while and took some half-gallon plastic containers our of his knapsack and filled them in the sink.  Here was a homeless person, the likes of which most of us don’t see but who do exist in our midst. I felt uncomfortable but what could I do to help this guy. I realized then the library was more than a place to fill your mind with information but it could also be a place to fill your canteen as it were with water.  I wondered too, how many others like this fellow come to the library daily or weekly to fill up their jugs too. I’m glad the library can be a point of nurture for this guy.

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Fixing LibreOffice after an upgrade to OSX El Capitan

I read an article this morning which stated that more developers use Macs than Linux and while I can’t disagree with that I am perplexed by my recent upgrade to El Capitan. My four year old MacBook Pro continues to perform well despite its age. I’m happy with that, but after upgrading to El Capitan from Yosemite yesterday, LibreOffice 5 no longer worked. I kept getting an error message about the need to install Java JRE. I’ve downloaded the Java packages from Oracle after reading some “how-tos” after doing some “googling.” I use my Linux laptop more for everyday so it’s not a huge inconvenience, but I’d really like to know how to solve this current problem.

There is a fix I’m happy to report and it involved downloading the appropriate JRE environment from Oracle for OSX 10.11.3. Then I deleted LibreOffice from my system and then downloaded and installed the most recent version of the software. After doing all that I had to open LibreOffice for the first time and then go to LibreOffice  -> Preferences  -> Advanced then select the version of the Java Environment which in my case was version 1.8.0_73. Highlight that selection, press “Add” and then “Okay” and you’re done.

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Proud to be a St. Bonaventure Fan and Alumnus

Last night was tragic for St. Bonaventure University’s Men’s basketball post-season aspirations. The team came out flat against a very good and well coached Wagner College team. In October of last year while assessing St. Bonaventure’s basketball fortunes I told a friend that I didn’t think we’d have much to cheer about this year. I thought the team was undersized and under-manned. The bench was not deep and the tallest player on the team was merely 6’9″ and that young man was a freshman center. My assessment was very wrong. This year’s team led by Senior’s Dion Wright and Marcus Posley was the most exciting St. Bonaventure team I have watched in the past 37 years. Not since the days of Bob Lanier, Matt Gantt, Greg Gary and Billy Kalbaugh has the university fielded such a squad. Like their forbearers in the 1960’s this was a team of balanced scoring, intense defense and camaraderie that saw them grow with each game. Over the course of the season we were treated to some amazing finishes. The Bonnies excelled not just at home but were a tough road team too. They beat perennial powerhouses like St. Joe’s and Dayton. They nearly always found a way to win.

Those of us who live nearby the Reilly Center have been treated to incredible basketball experiences over the course of our lives. We take for granted that we have a Division 1 NCAA team in our backyard and this year was exceptional. The outcome last night was not what anyone of us wanted and especially the players and coaches. The likelihood that this spectacular season will be repeated next year, despite many returning starters is not a given. I continue to be amazed with the coaching ability of Mark Schmidt and with the limited resources of the University that such teams get fielded in the first place. I want to take this time to thank the St. Bonaventure Men’s basketball team, one and all for a fabulous season. Good luck and Godspeed in your future endeavors.

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