Friday, August 21, 2015

Peas and Queues


During last night’s (August 20, 2015) #lrnchat this question came up: What advice would you give a 13-year old to prepare for a future that doesn’t yet exist?

screen capture image of question


“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” -- George Santayana

I reflected on this question at length afterwards. This morning over breakfast with Mrs I asked for her thoughts. We both came up with the idea that to get a clear picture of an indistinct future we should look to the past.

At 13 I was more or less clueless what I wanted to do for a career. I liked taking things apart and putting them together again. I remember being increasingly concerned about the Vietnam War. It was always on the TV news. I didn’t wanted to get drafted into the Army in five more years. There wasn’t much of a future for me there, I remember thinking.

Mrs and I recollected the technology we had at our fingertips at 13. For me this was in 1969. Transistor radios the size of a paperback book was it for portable entertainment. We had a color television in our home; it broke down a lot as I recall. At school there were overhead projectors and mimeograph machines. There were heavy noisy typewriters. We laughed at this, remembering what it was like having to load two sheets of paper into the thing and fumbling to get the mechanical tabs and margins and paper to line up just so.

Uncle Andres was a radioman in the Army during World War II. He lived some distance away from us so we didn’t see him too often. He’d bring gadgets on his visits. He showed me the first power inverter I ever saw. It was a kludgy thing with terminals on top (the connections were naked wire -- touching them could mean instant death). Car stereos: that was another entertainment device. I remember now why he brought the inverter: to power the car stereo inside my room. This is the first innovative act I can remember.

I had a couple of sisters who went to college. Stella was a teacher for a time. She ended up working for the Social Security Administration in an administrative and then later a managerial role. Avelina had a career as a nurse and later, after completing her Masters in Nursing, an educator. These jobs didn’t seem that interesting. The former involved working with the public and pushing papers. Nursing held little interest: antiseptic smells and those caps. The men in my life, Papa and my uncles, were workers: steel mills, cement plants, and manufacturing were where they worked. I guess that’s where I saw myself working too, when I was 13. The space race was going strong in 1969: July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. I had no idea what it would take to be an astronaut so I resigned myself to being earthbound.


Looking forwards I have lots of questions. I am planning to retire soon. How soon is soon? I don’t know. That’s another question. I think I would like to get a teaching certificate. Not to teach though. The certificate would add credibility to what I think I most want to do: help educators with their professional development (PD). But do I really need to get a certificate? I’ve met lots of educators the last couple of years through EdCamp unconferences. What if I were to present at conferences ideas on how to engage teachers in thinking differently about their PD? How might teachers take ownership of their PD and not rely on what their schools and district offer? How much control do teachers have now regarding their PD?

So many questions!


To 13 year olds everywhere who should be thinking about their future selves here’s what I recommend. Start by asking yourself what’s it going to be like? Take a good look at the past. Take a really good look at your own past. What do you like to do? What brings you joy? Start asking questions of the people around you whom you respect and admire. Google questions like crazy. That’s the advice I would give. Ask many questions.


I started this post on my new Chromebook in GoogleDocs. The lrnchat graphic was snipped from TweetDeck using SnapChat. Not being sure how to use my blog's web interface I opened the document (it had been saved on GoogleDrive) in Desk on my Macbook Pro. There was a moment or two of fumbling getting the lrnchat graphic inserted. Desk is weak in that area.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Write This Down


“Write this down."


A month from now it will be two years that my PD (Professional Development) has taken place primarily through interactions with K-12 educators. I started participating at EdCamp in September 2013. I became a card-carrying member of TCEA (Texas Computer Education Association) around the same time. My learning through CUE conferences and CUERockstar happened this year. It's time and effort well spent.

A few days ago I attended an Explore Teaching session at Rio Salado College. The experience was designed to give pre-teacher students a glimpse of what being a teacher is like. It was quite different from what I expected: the application of pedagogy and technology and engagement. No. It was basic stuff, some of which I had missed during my own K-12 educational experience. Though I had heard that “Being a student doesn’t qualify one to be a teacher." the deeper meaning of the phrase had escaped me until now.


My K-12 experience took place in the nineteen sixties and early seventies. I would have liked to have learned about Cornell Notes back then. That’s one cool way of note-taking. I liked learning how to use them as a study-aide too. It’s a more structured way of taking notes but I can see its value.

Beyond learning about note-taking tools I was a little surprised to find that not much else had changed. Teachers still stand at the front of a room pointing and talking. I was a little shocked when the presenter would say, “Write this down.” That was my first aha moment.


The EdCamps and CUE conferences I’ve attended have been dynamic learning experiences. They are heavily focused on educational technology. But the presenters always share how to apply technology to facilitate learning and enable student success. CUERockstar, the most recent K-12 learning experience I completed, was in many ways a capstone where everything came together: creativity, innovation, technology, learning experience. But what about the basics? The teachers I learn from have the basics down. Even the new teachers have student teaching and observation experience.

This was my second aha. Funny to think that it took me almost two years to figure it out. I don’t think I would have gotten it otherwise.


Since CUERockstar Las Vegas, it ended a couple weeks ago, I’ve tried two things. The first was creating an infographic and using it as a talking point with a subject matter expert (SME). It was amazing. It took my usual design thinking approach to interviewing, something I learned via EdCamp, to a whole new level. The ideas flowed. The SME ended up doing the initial workshop outline for me. This is a big deal because usually I create the outline and the SME reviews and approves it or kicks it back for edits. This saved us a LOT of time.

The other thing I tried was the Breakout Box experience. We, the SME and I, didn’t actually have a box. I explained how it was a box with several locks that needed to be opened and how problems had to be solved to unlock to locks. The SME and I were together for 90 minutes. It was at about the 25 minute mark I mentioned Breakout Box. We hit flow-state a little after.


The learning experiences I design are meant to enable learners to be better at solving problems. But what’s a problem? When the SME heard about the Breakout Box the problems all of a sudden seemed to become simpler. They weren’t problems at all. They were puzzles to solve. We could make the workshop a game. I learned from a podcast, I think it was with Jon Corippo, that rigor doesn’t mean harder. It can mean challenging. The SME said it before I did. “How about if we make it so the first activity is easy. They (learners) will have lots of time to solve the puzzle.” Yes. Each iteration of the activity learners have less time to solve the puzzle.


A week and a day after CUERockstar Las Vegas ended I earned the Rockstar Badge. Going forwards I have to approach projects using a simpler frame. I can already imagine how to make learning more engaging while consuming fewer resources by getting back to basics. I think I’ll enroll in the teacher program at Rio Salado College. Not to necessarily become a teacher, but to enrich my understanding of how instructional design can teach.


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Shiny Object Guy


I’m a “Shiny Object” guy.


I’m a Navy veteran. I served in the late seventies and early eighties for six years. Some memories from my experience have faded so much that I think they’re fantasy; others remain so vivid in my mind that they seem to have happened only yesterday.

One of the latter vivid variety memories happened on September 13, 1978. On that day I boarded an Air Force C-141 Starlifter. It would take me one half the way around the world to my first overseas duty station: NavComSta Diego Garcia. But that isn’t what this post is about.

What it is about is something that took place many months earlier. A standard Navy activity is reading the Plan-of-the-Day (POTD). During one such reading my instructor, I was then taking Electronics Technician 1 at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, read about a new program wherein students could dream-sheet a sixth choice of what advanced training they wanted to receive and where they would like to be stationed. A dream-sheet gave sailors the opportunity to provide their detailer (the Chief in D.C. who cut orders) input on where and what; usually we could submit up to five choices. He said if we asked to be stationed on Diego Garcia we wouldn’t have to bump one of the other choices to make room for it. So I did. I had no idea what Diego Garcia was.

Diego Garcia was, and remains, a shiny object for me. It’s difficult for me to tell this story because of all the tangentential stories about my time there that scream out to be told, too. Anyway, the gist of it is that as the Starlifter, after leaving Travis Air Force Base, flew over the Golden Gate Bridge (man how I wish I knew where that photo was) I was filled with a sense of wonder and joy for what was to come. It’s a rare feeling.


I have to work today. I’m worried it’s going to be a long one. At the end of my work day I’m going to be getting underway for Las Vegas. I’ll finally be on my way to CUEROCKSTAR. I signed up for it back in March after a CUE conference with Jon Corippo.

Jon Corippo and Urbie Delgado selfie

I was so motivated by the CUE experience. That CUE ball cap I’m wearing in the selfie with Jon is the first hat of any kind to be on my head since I left the Navy in ’83.

I do and I don’t know what to expect. I know it’ll be three days of learning with K-12 teachers from all over. Not being a K-12 teacher I have a fuzzy idea of what I’ll be learning. The past two years I’ve participated in something like 24 EdCamps. I’ve learned a lot about how our children learn during their K-12 experience. Some of what I’ve picked up has made it into the learning experiences I design. But the thing is EdCamps are brief experiences; several 50 minute sessions over the course of a few hours. I make connections with some teachers and encounter others during educational chats on Twitter afterwards. But CUEROCKSTAR will be different. It’s THREE DAYS!

I like to say that I design transformational learning experiences. That means learners will be butts-out-of-seats moving around doing stuff. They’ll be making their learning visible: to themselves, to their instructor/facilitator, and to their team back home. CUE ROCKSTAR will be transformational.


In my mind’s eye I can see the jewel that is San Francisco Bay through the Starlifter’s port-side porthole. A few minutes after leaving Travis I undid my jump seat belt and ambled over to the porthole (this wasn’t a smart move as the heavily laden transport plane, unlike a passenger jet, bounces and heaves like nobody’s business as it claws for altitude. I made my way past pallets piled with who-knows-what and gazed back in wonder at the bay, the bridge, and all that I had known before.

I’m going to be different after CUEROCKSTAR. It’s going to be different. How? I have no idea. That’s how it is with shiny objects.



Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sit n Get


My K-12 experience spanned from 1961 through 1974. My butt polished a lot of chairs in that time.


I can't recall many times, outside of PE class, where I wasn't sitting down in school. Sure, there were those terrifying moments working problems on the blackboard. But this activity wasn't something a kid looked forward to.

The classrooms I knew had rows of chairs. Desktop collaboration was difficult. Aside from the floor flat surfaces to spread out and collaborate on were few. I cannot recall a time when we used the floor.

Photo of urbie and his granddaughter Carly

@ErikWahl and @KidsDeserveIt if you want to move education forward then your delivery needs to get students' bodies moving.


I design learning experiences for adults. In the almost two years that I've been participating in EdCamp I have learned many ways to teach kids. I have been able to use some of these techniques and strategies and tools with the learners I support. The best of them involve movement.

Devices and technology give students reach: to information and each other. The information stores, libraries, that I encountered in the 1960s were places to borrow books. The Internet of the day, card catalogues, were slow and cumbersome and in the end useful only insofar as the library was able to keep the resource: book, periodical, or map. Accessing the resource required that I go to the library. Today the information comes to students through browsers and apps.

Students need to be set in motion. In a Twitter chat some time ago I heard about Heutagogy. In a nutshell I think its about going after learning. Students, whether adults or children know what they need. It's arguable that maybe adults have a more definite idea of their needs than children. I'm not so sure.


If we're serious about growing flexible, curious, and creative people we have to set them free to go after what interests them. It's our job as educators to design learning experiences that facilitate that chase. Set our students free. My granddaughter Carly is counting on you.



Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Focus Operandi


There are lots of things vying for our attention. Maintaining the laser-like focus many of our jobs demand can actually distract us from innovative insights.


Erik Wahl, guest writing in the Kids Deserve It blog notes that innovative insights often occur during times when people are intent on doing their jobs. The problem is, given how busy we are, it’s easy to miss ideas that flit in and out of our consciousness during while we’re busy doing our thing.

Wahl suggests setting aside moments to let our minds wander. Hopefully we’ll notice and be able to cajole some of the insights to stick around long enough for us to get our minds around them.


Storytelling and sketching are what I do to open and rest my mind. It helps me focus on something quite different from what I’m usually doing. If only for a few minutes I listen to my little voice of wonder and curiosity hoping to hear something cool.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Training Has a Problem


I read the other day where the Classroom Desk has become passé.

It’s finally bit the bullet.


The best training experience I ever in my life had was in 1993 when Intel hired me as a manufacturing technician (MT). Hundreds of people were hired to work in Fab 11 in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. It was the stuff of myth. You see, the state of the art Pentium factory existed mainly as a dream on blueprint. It was over a year away from going online.

In my experience before Intel, training happened piece meal. It seemed an after thought. It was all about skills for jobs that existed now.

To gain the skills I needed Intel sent me to work at an existing fab in New Mexico for a couple of weeks. Then I went to a fab in Santa Clara for three months. It wasn’t just me. The many hundreds of other new hires were sent to Intel factories throughout the world. Yes, the world. It was as much about learning Intel’s culture as well as process, operations, and problem solving skills. Like I said, the stuff of myth: developing critical thinking workers.

Some of the training happened at desks. Most of the training involved movement, collaboration with others, and making things like reports and job-aids.


I started writing this post in response to reading “Is This a Training Problem?” by Dr. Patti Shank. She was sharing her thoughts about a process for improving human performance. The hook in her post that grabbed me was whe she said “Training is expensive."

After I read her post I skimmed the Six Boxes document she referenced. I think it’s missing something. In the Analysis section the Six Boxes author describes a process for gathering information about environment and individual as they relate to a performance problem or opportunity. It’s similar to the process I’d learned for developing training. That is, up until I learned about Design Thinking at an EdCamp in 2013.

The bit I added to my workflow is Design Thinking. I do the same things the Six Boxes describe. But I do it with the learners I’m supporting instead of to. I think it’s an important distinction. It’s like being at a carnival and watching the action from the perspective of a parent. I like to get on the ride with the learners.


Is training expensive? In the grand scheme of things the cost of training pales compared to the cost of not training. It’s more than the cost to the organization though. What about the cost to individual learners? Are they a piece of a workflow leading towards a solution to a training problem? Or are they a contributing member of the learning and development team?

Friday, July 3, 2015

(Not) Being There


Time was that to get something out of something one had to be somewhere. No more. A bit vague? Read on.


ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) had it’s annual conference in Philadelphia last week.

The conference brought thousands of K-12 educators and others together for several days of professional development and networking opportunities. I wasn’t able to attend. Except that I did. Sort of.

Through the magic of streaming media technology like Periscope and the efforts of caring teachers like Jen Wagner, Cori Coburn-Shiflett, and many others I was able to observe bits and pieces, some large and some small, of keynotes, presentations, and conversations.


My being able to connect with the ISTE15 experience as much as I did started with the NotAtISTE15 Google+ group created by Wagner. The group brought together lots of people interested in learning as much as possible from ISTE15 participants. The other half of the equation was people like Coburn-Shiflett using Periscope to live-stream keynotes, presentations, and other events. I hadn’t experienced this level of connectivity and collaboration before.

Most of the time when I connect with others attending an event its through Twitter; its 140 character limit constrains the conversation. While tweets are useful as pointers to deeper and richer content or to arouse curiosity it’s a bit harder for deep (content) diving.

That’s about all I have to say about NotAtISTE. For a little more you can check out my PuzzlingMix blog.


Reflecting on my not being there learning experience started me wondering. How might we leverage Google+, Twitter, Periscope, Pinterest and other collaborative social media tools for other events? What might a framework for NOTAT___ look like?


And that’s as far as I got. Jen Wagner read my mind (or a tweet/blog) and provided an amazing How To #NotHere step-by-step guide.

I love my PLN. Thank you so much Jen!