Monday, April 4, 2016

Crash Plan


The day my Parrot Bebop 2 quadcopter crashed began like any other day. It ended, for the drone, at 9:02 a.m., 4:32 into its second flight of the day.


At about 8:58 a.m. Friday April 1, 2016 I was flying my Bebop drone just north of Arizona's Interstate 10 off Gold Nugget Road. The weather was clear. The drone was at 31 metres AGL; it had just finished a 360 degree pan of the area. Visibility was 20 miles. Four minutes into the flight a loud pop sound interrupted the whirring of the Bebop's four electric motors. An examination of video from the drone's camera revealed that 4:29 into the flight a wobble appeared that its image stabilization system was unable to correct. The wobble lasted three seconds before the motor failed. The craft immediately began an uncontrolled descent to the desert floor some 30 metres below.

Photo taken from falling drone showing a propellor fragment (red at bottom of image) from motor number two

A thorough search of the area was begun. Owing to the nature of the brush in the area, cholla for the most part, special care was taken as the searcher lacked safety gear (gloves and goggles). The drone landed in the branches of a small fallen and dessicated tree. It is believed this cushioned its impact, sparing major damage to the airframe. The Bebop's battery was found on the ground a few centimeters away. It is believed the battery remained attached to the airframe during its fall, separating at the moment of impact. The battery sustained a puncture with cracks and tears emanating from a point on its starboard side several centimeters aft of where it attaches to the cowling.

About 30 minutes after the crash the partial remains of the propellor, one vane, from motor number two were found approximately nine meters from where the Bebop came to rest. As of the time of this writing the location of the two remaining propellor vanes remain unknown.

After a tear down of motor number two it was determined that two of the three screws mounting the motor housing to the airframe's aft-port pylon had not been attached. It is believed vibration during the three hours of total flight time caused microcracks in the propellor that resulted in its catastrophic failure.

Photo of motor number two mount showing two empty screw holes


Language matters. Use the lingo the people you hang around with use. Learner, trainee, student: Use what the locals use.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Turned Around


Sunday morning my best laid plans for getting to the Learning Solutions conference in Orlando, Florida got turned around. News about flooding in Louisiana and Mississippi, my direct route, and word of more of the same on my alternate route through Arkansas encouraged me to play it safe. So I made it as far east as Austin, Texas and and turned around for home.


In Austin I decided to try for my alternate route through Arkansas. Increasingly dire warnings on the news and Facebook friends postings about heavy weather nixed that idea. I emailed the conference producer that I wouldn't be able to make it to present my session. I felt a kind of despair for a little while. What made the fear fade was hearing from a friend that I needed to ask God for guidance then decide then let go. So I did.

A hundred miles west of Abilene, Texas for no particular reason I pulled off Interstate 20 and walked around a bit. I had my BeBop drone with me. I wanted to take it aloft but was cautious as it was windy. In the end I let it fly. And then I was rewarded by this photo.

Photo of tilled soil with tire tracks turning away from a weedy field

I decided then to go off the Interstate. I got to visit several very small Texas towns. I experienced life through others' lenses. I flew my drone under a bridge over the Pecos River. I got to look down into what I think was a mine entrance. I fumbled a bit trying to fly over and around a moving train. I have to work on being steady at the controls though. But I did get to peer down into some of rail cars passing below.


A few days before Christmas 1977 I decided to take a couple weeks leave from my posting at the US Navy's training command at Corry Station, Florida. Early one Saturday morning I packed my sea bag into the trunk of my lemon yellow Toyota Celica and headed west on Interstate 10. My goal was spending the holiday with my family in Colton, California some 2200 miles distant. I recall it was quite foggy as I sped along. Around Mobile, Alabama it started to rain. Hard. It continued to rain well into Louisiana. The gas stations I stopped at to refuel were inundated by water. In Louisiana there's this long stretch of Interstate 10 that's elevated. I have a strong memory of my Celica and me hydroplaning over the flooded bayous. By the time I got to Beaumont, Texas the clouds and rain had mostly given way to clear blue sky. Topping off at a Texaco station I asked the attendant how long to El Paso. His reply remains vidid in my memory: "Worry about that tomorrow."

So here I am, my 60 year old self, enjoying another tomorrow. I have time.


Saturday, March 12, 2016

5 a.m.


It's 5 a.m. on a Saturday. I'm on a path that I'm not sure where it goes.


I'm on my way to #LSCon, the Learning Solutions Conference, produced by the eLearning Guild. But that's not what this post is about. I'm on my way to Orlando, Florida where the conference is held. To get there I have to travel along a path from my distant past.

The end of 1977 found me at Corry Station learning the finer points of being a technical sailor in the US Navy. Corry Station, in ancient times, was a naval air station. I have a vivid memory walking across the old runway apron and tripping over an old aircraft tie-down cleat. It was set, recessed, into the concrete, a small loop of rusted iron. At least that's how I remember it. I think I took a photo of it. If I did I lost it. It isn't in my Flickr, one of the apps I use to record photos.

Screen capture of a grayed-out Flickr screen

At this very moment I'm in El Paso readying myself for today's travel. I'm connected to the Internet via a 3G Verizon mobile device. In its day it was fast. Today it's like molasses. A few minutes ago I was in Flickr looking for old photos. After about two years of pictures the screen turned gray. The photos are there, on a server somewhere, but not here in front of me to verify my memory.

I hope to travel 600 miles today just like I did yesterday. Except that yesterday I barely made it 400 miles. I kept stopping, for reasons of health and curiosity, to pass some time among memories. I flew my BeBop drone to give me a perspective I didn't have back then. If you follow me on social media expect lots of fisheye views of the ground from 30 metres up the next few days.


In 1977 parts of Interstate 10 hadn't been completed. Today, I hope to find a detour I took around one such unfinished section. Only I'm not 100% sure where it was. One end was at Fort Stockton, Texas. I recall a cattle watering tank and an ancient Ford Aeromotor (a windmill). If I find them, expect a flyover. If I can't find it maybe I'll do a sketch of the vivid memory of something I think I saw 39 years ago for a moment.



Saturday, March 5, 2016

Hey Aviator


I'm an aviator. Ok, not really. But I do wear glasses and own a drone quadcopter. The point is I drive something that flies.

Photo of Bebop 2 drone in flight next to a saguaro cactus


For as long as I can remember I've wanted to _______. But I have a short attention span. It doesn't help I'm attracted to shiny objects. So along the way of my life I've half started a lot of things. But now that I'm an OldPa (a term I remember from an old Lionel Barrymore as grandfather movie) I have a little more disposable income.

So the other day I used some to buy a Parrot Bebop 2 drone. I needed one to respond to an RFP (Request For Proposal). Now that I've responded I have a cool red toy to play with.

Speaking of play, I like to have fun while learning. One way I have tons-o-fun learning is by participating in EdCamps. In a nutshell they're gatherings of teachers where everyone is a genius. I've lost count of how many I've participated in. Anyway, at one of them I noticed how learning can be influenced by environment. I was in a first grade classroom. Not only was everything small, like models I glued together as a boy, most things in the room were scaled down, maybe 3:1. I had expected that.

What I hadn't expected was how low things on the wall were. I'm 6 feet and 5 inches tall. I had to look down at learning aids placed on the walls. Something a six year old looked straight into I had to peer down at. This has AHA! moment kick-started my thinking on learning environments.


When I spun up the props on my Bebop and got it about three metres in the air I saw a whole new world. Tall as I am I mostly look down at things. Of course I look up at stuff too. But being a creature of habit I tend to not really notice the usual stuff around me. Taking a look at my surroundings from higher up than usual really opened my eyes. Cliche though it may be to say I saw a whole new world it's true.

Photo of the top of a saguaro cactus

Cactus tops, tree tops, house tops, my bald head are all things the drone and me have captured. I don't expect the novelty to wear off for a while.

In 1977 I entered active duty with the US Navy. I did a lot of traveling over the next six years. One of my more memorable trips was driving my then new Toyota Celica from Corry Station near Pensacola, Florida to my boyhood home in California. The 2209 mile trip took me around 44 hours. I remember bits and pieces of sights along the way. What I remember most though was how big and diverse the southern United States is.

In seven days I start driving from my home in Arizona to a conference in Orlando, Florida. I'll be in my new Honda CR-V. I expect to make a lot of stops along the way. I'm looking forward at what the drone's view reveals.


What the drone really does is expand my view just a little bit. My eyes are almost 40 years older than they were in '77. It occurred to me just now how Google Earth lets me look down. The drone makes it more personal, so much more up close. I think that's what an aviator might feel flying through the air. I'm not a passenger peering out a window at the world going by. I'm choosing the path and experience what's coming up.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Conf it up


What do you do when the concurrent conference session you were really interested in falls flat?


I've done it. I'm in a conference session whose title and description really resonated with me. But then a little into it I catch myself browsing the web on my mobile device because the actual presentation isn't all that interesting.

Image of distracted listeners

Over the past 12 months I've gone to a dozen or so conferences. Most were EdCamps; the others were sponsored by professional development organizations.

As a presenter it stings when I don't connect with the people in the room. Heads go down and it's plain they're doing something else. Mea culpa. Reflecting on this on the long drive home from EdCampVentura Sunday I wondered how a presentation might play out if it was more conversational. That's where the root of conference comes from: conversations among people brought together by similar interests.


When a presenter asks their audience to put their mobile devices away are they doing it to avoid disruption? Or might they be saying, "What I have to share isn't all that interesting." Maybe an appropriate response is following that basic tenet of EdCamp: Vote with your feet.



Tuesday, February 9, 2016

An Old Dude Gets Whyze


In my personal life rarely do I have a plan.


A basic tenet of EdCamp is to vote with your feet. Not getting what you came for? Vote with your feet: Let them take you where you might.

Almost 40 years ago I gave up control of my life for six years. At 20 I enlisted in the US military. In the Navy to be precise. I made choices, sure. But for the most part others made the decisions. Except they were really my choices. Confused? So was I. At least until I read a blog post by @davidtedu on a writing technique known as The Three Whys. The way I figure it asking why three times takes one deeper into a subject. This allows one to glean insights that might have been missed during a more conventional process of analysis.

Why did I join the Navy? To have an adventure. To have a chance at living a life beyond the commute here and there existence I'd known for far too long. Why did I want adventure? Because I felt my life to that point resembled a connect-the-dots puzzle where predefined forms reveal themselves after a period of focused effort. The point is the forms were there all the time. It was live by the numbers 28-29-30 and there you are hello Mr. Easter Bunny. Why do I have a problem with numbers? Because life isn't about counting. Life is more about formulating. And there I got brought up short. Because I don't like to plan. If I really believe in formulating, in thinking deep thoughts and applying, them isn't that planning, which I have mentioned I'm not a big fan of?


Diego Garcia. I spent one of the best years of my life there. Located a little off the equator in the Indian Ocean it's a coral atoll and jungle. The thing about jungles is they smell. Jungles smell bad. It's because jungles are in continual renewal. Old stuff falls to the jungle floor where decomposes. It feeds new life. I had to travel something like 11,000 miles from home to learn that lesson.

I got there after a week riding a C-141 transport plane all the way from Norton AFB (Air Force Base), to Travis AFB, to Hickam AFB, to Anderson AFB, to Clark AFB, to.. Trust me on this point: It took a whole lot of tos to get me where I wanted to be.

Collage of images
Which brings me back to choices. Diego Garcia in 1978 was isolated duty. I volunteered to go there so the Navy obliged and sent me. I learned that I could usually get what I wanted by asking for stuff few wanted. It wasn't a plan. It was a formula.


I've voted with my feet twice in the last couple weeks. At Design Camp San Diego and EdCampPerris I listened for a time then got up and moved on. What got me moving was a static message, a conversation where one person was doing most of the talking. I know this as teaching. What I'm much more into these days is learning. It's like traveling by air. You can get there slowly by balloon. To go the distance, to make the big leaps, takes oomph, the sort of thing a rocket is good for. The great thing about EdCamp are conversations, where everyone speaks up and shares. It's a kind of design thinking. Everyone speaks up. Different things resonate with different people. Bonds of empathy bring people together for deeper collaboration.


So I asked why a few times and I got whyze. With this whyzdom came the realization that I don't much like being told how something works. I'd much rather listen to a multitude of others share how they think something works and then try it on for size so I can figure out how it works. Thank you David for why assist.


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Learning is motion


Initial meetings with clients can be illuminating.


The other day I met with a new client. Their team and I are in the "getting to know you" stage. They showed me a number of slides with data on how many courses were in production, how many were live on their LMS and how many courses were taken by their employees.

Sketch of a human body showing its heart and brain

When I asked about results, what we refer to in the business as return on investment, they drew a blank. Sadly, this is typical. Their data tell a story about butts-in-seats: developing and completing training. But learning is so much more than that.

Don Wettrick teaches a course on innovation at his high school in Indiana. In a Periscope video this morning he talked about how he's considering moving away from traditional grading to PASS/FAIL.

Reflecting on his thoughts I got to thinking that the methods my client and Don use to assess learning misses on efficacy. How well did they achieve their planned result?

One (among many) things I've learned after two years of professional development (PD) alongside K-12 teachers is that mistakes matter. They're a significant part of the learning process. My client, tracking the data they do, don't have visibility on the number of mistakes their organization is making. They don't know if the training they've developed has moved the organization towards its planned result.


I would suggest to Don that grades are important. PASS/FAIL doesn't capture the mistakes learners make along the way. I don't believe grades are a carrot to entice learners to do better for the sake of a higher grade. In Don's Pure Genius he writes how learners say what they're going to do, how much their ultimate work will be worth and then assess along the way and at the end. I believe learning is much more than butts-in-seats. It's about enabling learners to get their hearts and minds in motion doing stuff. Honor the mistakes learners make along the way. Keep the grades.