Monthly Archives: August 2011

you call that a hurricane?


seems to me like the new york times needs to work on its weather graphics. a hurricane deseves a bit more than a couple of raindrops… although, thinking back to the first “hurricane” i remember (hurricane gloria, 1985, which hit new york city like a light rainstorm), maybe sticking with the raindrops is appropriate.

the price is too damn high!


With apologies to Jimmy McMillan, maybe the price is too damn high!

I spent some of this weekend trying to track down a blowout hp TouchPad without any luck. What one month ago was a $500 product and two months ago wasn’t even on the market was nowhere to be found at a discounted $100. Why would anyone want a TouchPad, a now-discontinued product made by a company that doesn’t seem to want to sell anything considered as personal technology to anyone?

Maybe it’s because the TouchPad wasn’t half bad. I got a chance to play with a demo model yesterday, and it was pretty solid. It felt about as good in the hand as my iPad does, though a little bigger. The webOS software was always well-received, if a little rushed. But at $99, these things flew off the shelves yesterdy and quickly became the #1 selling product in’s Computer Tablet category. Forget the fact that the product has no future, this was a sign that people will buy a LOT of something that is a decent product at a good price.

I love the iPhone, iPad, and iOS in general. But I think it’s hysterical that the pricing on these products is so consistent — iPhones at $199 and $299, and iPads at $499, $599, and $699 every year, with every new release — without any regard for economic slowdown or component pricing. The prices are what they are, and now that more and more vendors feel like they can take on the market leader, they’re pricing their tablets similarly. But nothing is selling as well as the iPad is. Some even question whether there is even a tablet market aside from iPad.

hp is eating a lot of money to sell of the remaining stock at $99/$149 — a list of component pricing weighs in at $318. But they’re not paying that much per device. If they kept the product on the market at a more reasonable price — say $199 (and $249 for the upgraded model) — I bet they’d sell a boatload, and continue to sell boatloads if they decided to resurrect the product.

With all the talk about ubiquitous computing and a device for every student, I’m surprised that there isn’t more of a push for more affordable alternatives. We need cheaper technology, and companies to push Apple to either deliver more or charge less — charge me $500, but where’s my higher resolution display, some sort of mass deployment tool that’s easy to use, or better cameras; or charge me less for a product that, right now, has artificially high prices. (iSuppli’s iPad teardown shows the bill of materials at about $325, but again, that’s not a price that Apple’s paying per device.) They’ll never drop the price because folks are buying iPads faster than they can stay on shelves half a year after their debut.

The price is too damn high, and I’d love for webOS or Android to have compelling hardware to actually make the tablet decision a tough one because it’s just not right now. Until then, I’ll use my iPad but hope for a different playing field to come soon.

sharing… education… same thing


In his 2010 TEDxNYED Talk, David Wiley said, “Without sharing, there is no education.” At the time, I chalked it up as being one of the many inspirational takeaways from that day. But, more and more, this has maybe become the way I think of everything in education… my own, my students’, the whole thing in general.

I’m in the late-beginning-ish stages of planning for a new model of technology professional development for my school, as I’m going to try and facilitate a half-day unconference. For many, it’s going to be the first time they take part in an unconference, and I’m excited to see what comes of it. But I’m more excited to see some of them experiment with things they’re not necessarily expert in and to share with each other. (I’m excited about this regardless of what my grad school professor thinks about decentralized professional development…)

I’m also hoping to get them into a more networked way of engaging with others. Not in the “I’m going to post this status update” kind of way, but in the kind of PLN-aware way that I’ve benefitted so much from in the last ten plus years. From NYCIST to EdCamps to Twitter chats, this kind of decentralized and uninstitutional lifelong learning is something that I believe everyone can and should benefit from.

And now we can start turning to the people who make the products that we use every day to help us share, build our networks, and continue learning. ShowMe makes a great iPad app that not essentially makes your iPad an interactive whiteboard but, more importantly, has cultivated a community of teachers who share their ideas and lessons freely. Livescribe makes a great pen that allows people to record notes, lessons, audio — pretty much anything except video. As if that wasn’t cool enough, they also host a collection of teacher-contributed pencasts. Explain Everything is a very new iPad app that lets you “explain anything and everything” — make and share videos, collaborate on ideas, and do live presentations. They’re also accepting submissions for videos to feature on their EE Showcase. Heck, Polyvision, the makers of eno interactive whiteboards, had some colleagues and me to their New York City headquarters to talk about how we use their products, what we would like to see from them, and talk about how we could actively help them with some future planning.

This is significant — vendors and other people whose tools we use know that none of us are quietly using their products and keeping to ourselves. We’re already sharing our experiences with each other, and they’re encouraging us to share with them so that they can help make our experiences better. Is it to also make their products bstter? Sure it is. But there’s a more immediate benefit for us in that we can expand our networks, learn new things, and help others learn. 

No one should be doing this alone. It’s not what education is about, and there’s too much teaching and learning to do.

photo credit: self-explanatory

more summer reading: hedgehogs and the stockdale paradox

i just finished the second of three books for NELI (I’m pretty sure we only have to read two of three, but I’m really enjoying the reading), Jim Collins’ From Good to Great. It’s a fantastic book, though it’s hard to look at some of the eleven “great” companies he highlights without snickering — luminaries such as Fannie Mae and Circuit City alone are enough to make anyone think that things really were drastically different eleven years ago when the book was published.

One of the amazing things about Collins is that he’s demonstrating exactly what makes a great leader — the hallmark of every one of these great companies — as you make your way through the book. He’s clearly got a team of researchers helping him with the book, and I’m pretty sure he namechecked every single one of them over the course of the nine chapters. You could tell they were in it together, and his leadership wouldn’t have been possible without their contribution.

But there was something much bigger that made me stop and think. Between all the talk about hedgehogs and BAHGs, there was a profile of Admiral Stockdale, who I had only ever known as a Vice Presidential candidate in 1992 and that was surely something that did his legacy no favors. 

This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end–which you can never afford to lose–with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they may be.

The man was not only a Vietnam POW, but was the highest-ranking US military officer there, and he so inspired his fellow prisoners that they would tap out “We love you” in the Morse Code-like communications system they developed. He never lost faith, but also was never optimistic about the situation. What an amazing lesson in balance.

The Stockdale Paradox, this balance between faith in the endgame and brutal pragmatism, is a great lesson for anyone who thinks their situation is unchangable, unwinnable, and otherwise stuck in good but not great.

savvy summer reading


I’m getting ready to attend the NYSAIS Emerging Leaders Institute next week, and am thankful that my school is giving me the time away from our start-of-year orientation to attend it. We had summer reading to do, and I often plan on doing event-specific reading immediately before it’s due for two good reasons: 1) I tend to procrastinate, and 2) I like having readings fresh in my mind when I need to talk about them. Oh, and I procrastinate. But I just got finished with the first of the books, Robert Evans’s Seven Secrets of the Savvy School Leader. It’s a good read for anyone in any sort of school leadership position, and was a great practical follow-up to a book Michael Fullan’s The New Meaning of Educational Change, which I just finished in a grad school course. Fullan’s book made a lot of sense to me, but Evans’s book just made a lot of practical sense.

Any book that says something like this is a winner:

If we truly want schools to become learning organizations, their leaders–and the people to whom their leaders answer–need to avoid perfectionism, to see some level of error as inevitable in an endeavor as complex as schooling; to see it, in fact, the way good teachers do when working with students, as an opportunity for growth.

In another passage, Evans writes:

I still recall the example of a principal I’ll call Jane Green, whom I met long ago, halfway through her first year at an impoverished, low-performing urban elementary school. “What has surprised me most,” she told me, “is not how bad this school is, but how good it is, given what it’s up against.” In one sentence, she began to recast the school’s entire situation.

Such a great example for school leaders who think that their job is just to say something like “We have to take our school from here (low point) to here (high point). I know people who do this, and all it serves to do is frustrate people who have been trying to get things done who don’t have a seat at the larger school leadership table, whose contributions to the institutional history were being devalued. How does this motivate anyone to raise their game? Everyone needs encouragement, support, and motivation for continual improvement.

I love this stuff, or at least the stuff that makes sense.