Who I Work For

In one of the talks I do on a semi-regular basis I share thoughts on my audiences — one is way down the path and the other is the one that stands before me on my campus. While the students I work to inspire and support right now are really important, it is the ones down the path a bit that I love to think about. I have a built in barometer living in my house with my own two digital kids. My daughter is eight and my son is 3 and they are both heavily engaged in the use of digital devices.


More and more I am watching both of them attacking digital devices in ways that just a year or so ago they didn’t. They’ve mastered the Nintendo Wii, their DSi, the iPod Touch, and in a lot of ways the Mac. My little boy can browse (and we’ve learned, also place things in a sopping cart) the web with relative ease. But what has become amazing is how my daughter is using the Mac to create digital artifacts — the creation of blog posts, videos using PhotoBooth, and podcasts using GarageBand seem close to second nature to her. It gives me a great view into what our students will demand of us as they arrive on campus.

With that said I continue to be torn about my need to provide the platforms, but I still think it is important and I do not think the platforms we provide are simple commodities given the importance of privacy, identity, and other emerging concerns.

I showed Brad Kozlek my daughter’s travel journal she keeps for school yesterday and we got to talking about how cool it is that we are building the future infrastructure to support children like her. She keeps her travel journal as a WordPress blog and sends the URL to her teachers, classmates, and family. I love everything about it — especially that she can do it herself. This time we even looked at how to embed pictures from Flickr in her posts! What is interesting is that this space grows over time and allows us to look back at things in ways one can’t when living in a more analog Universe. We looked back at our trip to Washington DC as we were finishing the post from the Outer Banks with real amazement of all we did — we sort of relived the trip and that was really cool.


So when people ask me why I care so much about providing platforms for digital expression one of the first stories I tell them is the one about my own children and how I want education to be able to support them in all sorts of ways. I want them to be able to do what they can do at home inside the walls of the school … I need them to feel like the things they make are an important part of who they are today and who they will become. I need them to feel the power related to thinking about their thinking and I really want them to actively reflect on what that means to them. As I sat looking at her travel blog I actually got goose bumps thinking about how important our work really is — and how important it is to build opportunities for how it should be in the future.

Father’s Day

Happy Fathers’ Day to all the Dad’s out there! Being a Dad has been the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Having the chance to help shape my two little ones lives is a blessing beyond belief. I’m just blessed in so many ways and I have to say that Father’s Day seems more about them than me. It is very cool.

And to my own Father, I know you know how important you’ve been to me! You’re not only an amazing Dad and Grandfather, but have been an amazing role model for me. Thanks so much and I love you!

Horsing Around

Horsing Around

Last Day

It started out really rough. Our daughter did not want to move to a new school and she certainly wasn’t all that into it when she first got there. To tell you the truth my wife and I weren’t all that thrilled either. We loved her pre-school and Kindergarten experiences at the local Montessori school and we really didn’t like the vibe we were getting from the public school administration. In retrospect things have turned out great, but it has been a year filled with tears, learning, growth, tolerance, and new perspectives. Its been hard at times, but I think all of us are stronger and better off because of it.

Some of our own hang ups came well before school started … the biggest was the outright refusal to really create a peanut free environment. Given Madeline’s severe allergies, we hoped the district would cooperate and go nut free — we felt that since there were lots of other students in the same boat they’d find a way to do it. Not so. We had to come to terms with the fact that she’d have to sit at her own table, wear her allergy emergency kit around her waist, and be subject to different treatment than most of her first grade friends. This was really hard on us — probably more so as we projected visions of being picked on and looked at as an outcast on her. None of that ever happened. As a matter of fact, several of her friends wanted to get cool hip packs like Madeline had and on most days all of her friends sat with her at the peanut free table. That was a huge relief for us.

The year started so rocky the we spent the first few months looking hard at alternatives — none of it felt right. We toiled over keeping her in the public school, but ultimately decided that moving her to private meant paying lots of money and knowing that she’d eventually have to work her way back. The structure was a shock and the rules angered both Madeline and my wife and I. We felt at times she was singled out because of her free spirit and that she was being “put in line” to act like the other kids. It bothered her. We spent lots of mornings those first few months dealing with tears about going to school. That was difficult as we saw this little girl who just months before would spring out of bed for school in the morning do everything in her power to not have to go. I can understand feeling that way in high school, but first grade is still about wonder and magic. It took until after the winter break for it to turn around, but it did. She started to love school again. That made us very happy.

No Tears on the Last Day.

No Tears on the Last Day.

Even with her growing into it all I was still very concerned with the overall impression I got of the work she was doing. I was writing about it quite a bit this past year and have even used lots of what I was thinking about to fuel many of my more recent talks. I watched my refrigerator go from a full on spectrum of color and creativity to a black and white dumping ground of xeroxed curricular projects. I coined the term “Worksheet Nation” to help describe what I saw happening before my eyes and I was pissed by the State’s proud display of the Adequate Progress my daughter’s intellectual participation was adding up to. I spent a lot time just complaining about all of it. Then we started to do some different things at home — we started an ePortfolio together and even though we haven’t posted as much as I’d like it still exists. We encouraged her to stretch her reading more, we talked quite a bit more about how she was feeling about what she was learning, and we asked her to reflect on what she was doing. It helped. And I think it helped me a lot.

I needed to grow up about all of it more than she did.

I’ve watched my little girl walk into her first grade year terrified and emerge as an even more powerful and confident little girl. She’s grown so much this year — and in ways I didn’t expect. She taught my wife and I some really valuable parenting lessons about allowing her to be herself, to back off, and to not project our negative impressions of things onto her life. We know she is a sensitive and wonderful little girl who found ways to make all new friends, survive a new environment, and win the heart of a teacher she was initially unsure about. In the end I am so proud of her and I can’t believe I just watched her run up the walk as fast as she could to go to her last day of first grade. As we drove up this morning I asked her about first grade and she closed with scream of, “I loved it!” I’m so happy I caught that on audio … if you want, you can listen to the short Maddiecast of Madeline’s Last Day of First Grade. I’ll want to be able to revisit this and how it all worked out many times in the future. Thanks for indulging me with this post.

On Being an Uncle

Early this morning, after nearly 20 hours of labor, my little sister had her first child. They named her Mia and she is absolutely beautiful. I am already an uncle many times over to children from my wife’s side of the family and I love them all with all of my heart — each of them are so different but are so similar. They are children and they carry with them a wonderful perspective and view on life … I am blessed.

For some reason it has been a little different with my own little sister. Seeing her last night working to get Mia into the world safely made me so proud of her. Then today seeing Mia and Kitt together was a wonderful sight. Amazing how perfect she seems when holding her … I remember when we were kids how she would take such good care of all her dolls and act like a little Mommy. Now here she is all these years later a real Mother, but still my same little sister yet transformed in an amazing way. Like I said, I am blessed.

Welcome to the World little Mia!

The End of the Line

For 2008, that is. I don’t have the mental energy or attention span to address the great comments from the Community Question on Identity from before the holiday break — rest assured I’ll get to it as the new year rings in. For now I think it is fair to say that I am enjoying some much needed time away from it all. I’ve checked email a total of three times since 12/24 and it has felt great. The good thing is that while my inbox was overflowing, the number of real issues to deal with was zero. What a relief.

We had an amazing Christmas morning — my son is a little over two and he really got the concept this year. He actually played with the gifts and not just the wrapping paper and boxes like last year! My parents came for Christmas Eve and Morning so we had a full house with my sister and brother-in-law also joining. It was a great day! The evening saw us celebrate our daughter’s 7th Birthday (which I am still amazed at).

We went to our hometown of Bloomsburg, PA to visit more with my parents and to see our great friend KP. KP and his wife brought their newborn son to the East Coast for the Holidays and it was amazing getting to hang with the best of friends. We spent time walking, eating local foods, and staying up and out way too late a couple of nights.

My WVU Mountaineers capped a good season by winning their bowl game and then a little later in the day went into Ohio State and beat the 15th ranked Buckeyes by almost 30 points. My Wife, Mother, and Father all have WVU roots so it was fun watching and cheering for them together.

No matter how you slice it up the Holidays are a great time to connect with family and friends. It is also a great time to reflect on the year and to start setting sights on what is to come. So Happy Holidays to everyone and enjoy a very Happy New Years!

Supplemental Activity

So after my post the other day where I was lamenting the lack of opportunities I see for engagement in the school system I got a handful of comments telling me the same thing — “take matters into your own hands.” Good advice and it really got me thinking about some things. My wife and I have always spent time reading with our daughter … as a matter of fact, the little lady has always really been into reading, talking, singing, and all sorts of other really creative and engaging activities. She pushes us more than we push her and that is really cool. But, I’ve never really taken the time to bring my own interests, research, and perspectives home to her.

Night before last, she and I sat down at the kids’ eMac and opened up iWeb for the first time. I decided that I was going to find a way to work with her to create a digital portfolio, journal, blog, or whatever where she and I could spend time reflecting on the work she was doing in school, the things she was thinking about, or anything in between. The goal for me is to get her used to the idea of actively reflecting on her activity in an ongoing way. As a sidebar, I personally think it is an incredible opportunity to develop a life-long story about her intellectual development … that is, if it sticks.

So we created a website with iWeb and published it into a password protected space within my .Me account. Very easy and relatively flexible. The real win here is that with only a little instruction she is getting the hang of it. Last night, for example, she wanted to publish a story reflecting on her kitty, Misty. We sat at the desk searching for a picture at Flickr tagged Misty and she dragged it into iWeb. She then proceeded to dictate the words and I was surprised how she spent time really reflecting on what Misty had meant to her … Misty passed away almost two years ago. The time we spent reflecting was good for both of us. She talked while I typed, but then ran and got her Mother so she could read her reflection to her. She was really proud and I was happy to have spent the extra time with her.

The other thing we’re trying to do is capture some of her analog work and put it into her space. Two nights ago she was showing me a picture and the story she wrote to accompany it on a piece of paper. I grabbed the camera and snapped a picture of it. She helped me import it and drag it into iWeb. She then told me the story of how she drew it, what it meant to her, and when I asked her where the story came from, she looked at me at said, “from my mind.” I probably should have known that. Either way it is reflection and that is something I now can trust she is engaging in.

The Six Children

The Six Children

Change of Seasons

Spring has always been my favorite time of year. There has always been something about shifting out of winter and seeing the hope and promise of new opportunities. The new green grass, the buds on the trees, and the extended hours of daylight all seem to recharge me. Historically I’ve been less bullish on Fall. I always seem to dread the move from Summer into Winter, often ignoring the fact that Fall in PA is a wonderful time of year. But for the second year in a row I find myself really excited about the change of season … it never used to mean much to me, but I am strangely eager to see the leaves change. Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention.

Yesterday I went to the opening PSU game and took my daughter along. We had great seats and unlike the game we attended last year, she made it well past the first three minutes. She seemed to look at it all with very different eyes this year. I think she is seeing the spectacle of it through new lenses … the energy of the crowd and the power of the student section in particular really seemed to perk her interest. At times I caught her paying quite a bit more attention to the fans and the surroundings than the game itself. But, since at one point she said, “Daddy, I only cheer when all the people in blue do” I figured the game of football hasn’t quite made it into her conceptual framework. No problem … Beaver Stadium is quite the place to take in the sights and sounds of the experience.

Pass Attempt

Pass Attempt

It dawned on me as I prepare to see her off to first grade this year that answering the bell in the Fall is one of the things I’ve started to look forward to. I tend to measure my life in semesters for the most part — spending two decades in school and now a third as a member of the higher education community, my view of time is influenced heavily by the academic calendar. Maybe that is why my interest in Fall has started to take over — I see huge promise in the start of a new year. Not sure, but I like it.

It also makes me realize that I am feeling a real sense of belonging … I am now more than ever convinced that my choice to be in higher education is the right one. If I am eager to hear the school bell ring at the start of a new year, I must be in the right place. I’ve struggled with this choice for quite some time, but feel proud of the fact I spend my time here. I am watching with great anticipation as my daughter heads off to public school to see how long her enthusiasm for school lasts. I hope it is a lifetime.