The Battle Between Typewritten Notes vs Written Notes

JUL15_31_notesOn Friday, two seemingly unrelated events occurred. The first was the delivery of a new Evernote Moleskine. Upon seeing this, my wife asked, “Why do you need this? As the Director of Technology at your school, don’t you take notes on your computer, iPad, or iPhone?”

Even though I do try to use the latest tools and devices in order to determine how they might be best used as we try to harness and leverage the use of technology, I have always resorted to using multiple color pens and a notebook in meetings, especially one-to-one or small group meetings. Why? For several reasons. First, when I take notes, I like to capture the key concepts that are being discussed, not the full transcript of the conversation. Secondly, I love to sketch, draw cloud bubbles, and arrows to connect ideas and highlight key connections I have made during the meeting. Sometimes these are related ideas, sometimes they are synthesized from other idea fragments that are bouncing around my head, and sometimes it is an unrelated reminder that occurs to me. While I could use an iPad for these visual sketch notes that I scribble out, I love the tactile feel of the pen running across the paper compared to the feedback from my finger or a stylus. It’s not even close.

In meetings, I use a notebook and pen so that I am not hidden behind and screen. I feel that this lowers the barrier for those who might be more reluctant to embrace the potential of technology in learning.

Later that evening, I was was browsing my RSS reader. One article from Harvard Business Review jumped off of the page, “What You Miss When You Take Notes on a Laptop”. ( In this article, Maggy McGloin shares three research studies that demonstrated that taking notes on a laptop was detrimental to overall conceptional understanding and retention of material.

This information will be essential to keep in mind as we develop new ways and strategies to best leverage our increased dependence, expectations, and utilization of personal devices, laptops, tablets, and smart phones. We will need to remain mindful of a balanced and appropriate use of the right tool and technology (pen and paper versus laptop) as we help our students make sense of the world around us.

Multi-facted Refractions – The Reboot

It has been over 13 months since I have added anything to this blog. It is not that I haven’t had any ideas that I have wanted to share. No, I have had many of those. Instead it has been because I have not carved the time out to do much writing in the past year.

So it is time for a reboot for this blog.

RebootOver the last 13 months, I have been going through many transitions. An 1100 mile move to a new school, a new position, and increased responsibilities. It was literally one year ago today, August 2nd, that I jumped in my car in the afternoon with our dog in our Volvo with its schizophrenic air conditioning to drive from Chicago to Houston. Yes, in all of the heat. I ended up getting a sunburn on the inside of my right arm, right where the sunlight rained on it through the open sun roof as we were trying to get cool. After arriving at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, I made camp and the next day headed to my first day at school, an administrative team retreat on the next two days.

Later that week, I began supporting my wife who obtained a position in a local public school district. The hoops and hurdles that she had to endure, from overseeing the packing of our house and then jumping on a plane to come get fingerprinted and return back to finish cleaning the old house all within a 24 hour period. It turned out to be one of the most challenging school years in her career.

We adjusted to becoming empty-nesters. My daughter moved with my wife only to move to Tucson, Arizona to begin her freshman year at the University of Arizona. That week she was home, we were frantically trying to wrap up last minute needs while trying to figure out just where everything was located – gas stations, grocery stores, local Targets, Bed, Bath and Beyond, etc.

Between August and November, I felt I was in a haze. Every issue took three times as long, as I had to learn what the problem was, sometimes learn the software, figure out what had been done in the past, understand the local community, and then, and only then, develop a strategy to solve the problem.

I wanted to transition into the position slowly. Take some time to get a lay of the land. Become the anthropologist and get to understand the people and the culture. But that is not how I am wired. I jumped into the deep end and we began to tackle a large number of projects. Thanks to the great team that we have, we have successfully completed or are on pace to complete nearly all of them.

Upon returning back to Houston after spending a week visiting family, friends, and favorite places in Chicago last week, this location is beginning to feel like home. I do miss family, old friends, and favorite places, but this is where I am supposed to be at this point in time.

Welcome back. It is my goal to post at least once a week, hopefully more frequently. I hope to share some of the wonderful projects we are involved in and some of the stories that I run across. I will share my experiences giving an ISTE Ignite talk, which was one of the most invigorating experiences that I have had.

Shifting Roles @ ISTE – From Learner to Facilitator

I used to go to NECC/ISTE eager to learn and grow. I remember being fascinated by the potential of virtual learning environments (1993), the revolution that would be unleashed by the Internet (1994), the advent and power of connection (2007), and the explosive growth of small mobile devices (2010). While some of these have had greater impact on teaching and learning, each represented a shift.

This year, the shift seems to be towards the Maker Movement. I am guessing everywhere you look and see, every conversation that you eavesdrop on, someone will be either sharing their experiences or looking for answers, guidance, and resources so that they too can jump on this bandwagon, to stake a claim.

In the past, when I attended NECC/ISTE, I used to be one of those who were looking for the next big idea and gathering resources. I would engage others in conversations so that I can learn, grow, and implement the ideas with the teachers, administrators, and students.

This year, instead of learning, I will be leading. A look at my schedule is completely different than what it used to be. This year I will be:

  • Sharing at the Independent School Educators Network table in the Community Network Fair Saturday afternoon.
  • Co-hosting the Independent School Educators Network social gathering Saturday evening
  • Presenting my Poster Session on Creating a Maker Mindset that will share my personal journey into Making, Maker Ed, and the Maker Movement on Monday afternoon
  • Co-hosting the Independent School Educators Network Birds of a Feather/Annual Meeting on Monday afternoon.
  • Acting as the Master of Ceremonies for the screening of Emily Pollitin’s new film, If You Build It on Monday early evening. This includes moderating a question and answer session after the film.
  • Organizing the Maker and Agile Learning Spaces Playground which will run from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday.

As can be determined, this is an extremely full schedule. You can also note that instead of searching and learning about the next big idea, I have been immersed and will be leading several opportunities for folks to share my experience and lessons learned. I am excited to share while at the conference.

Here we come, Atlanta.

2014 Update – My 9 Tips for a Balanced ISTE

This is an updated post for 2014. While others have shared similar sentiments, I have been sharing similar As an introvert, I find ISTE can be overwhelming. Here is how I try to keep in balance.

ISTE can be an overwhelming conference with over 10,000+ attendees. I have been to the conference 15 times previously, and ISTE seems to get larger each year. Coupled with the advent of social media, there is a celebrity-like buzz and excitement  that has evolved, especially with the growth of Hack Education (formerly EduBloggerCon/SocialMediaCon). This is so unlike the first ISTE (then the NECC conference) I attended in Orlando twenty-one years ago in 1993.

My goal for ISTE is to maintain a balance between my own learning, connecting with others while living a rounded lifestyle. In order to achieve those goals, I am sharing the 9 tips which I try to follow:

1. Meet new people – It is easy to stay with friends and colleagues with whom are familiar and comfortable. It is easy to live in the Blogger’s Cafe or other ISTE Playground. However, in order to grow and not  stagnate, it is important to meet and have a meaningful conversation (15-20 minutes) with people who you have never met or are on the extreme periphery of your Learning Community. Go hangout in the newbie lounge to encourage and welcome new users into the mix. Encourage others and allow the network to grow.

2. Seek Out a Diverse Set of New Voices- It is also easy to go through the conference program and select either the spotlight sessions or sessions given by other members of your Learning Community. However, also find two to three people who you don’t know, either in the poster or paper sessions. Sit, listen, or converse with them. It is amazing how much this can benefit your learning. Seek a diverse set of voices to help challenge you and your thinking.

3. Celebrate Connections and Friendships - Yes, it is important to reconnect with those who most of our communication is done virtually, through Twitter, Skype, Google Hangouts, or other networks. It is important to celebrate those friendships face to face while you have the chance. Take time and really connect with great friends and colleagues.

4. Exercise and Sleep - It is important to keep moving. Sitting in seven sessions, for over 6 hours, is not what most of us normally do. We wander and move. So find the time to exercise. Walk to the conference center, rather than take the bus. In both Washington D.C and Denver, I found a bikes that I could rent for less than $10 per hour. Take a ride, go for a run, step away from the conference to recharge your internal energy stores. Likewise, it is important to get sleep, at least 6 hours. Your body cannot stand the increased stimuli from the ideas, sounds, lights that you will be experiencing.

5. Eat balanced and healthy - Your mother told you to have a variety of colors on your plate, not just fried foods. It is important to eat your fruits and vegetables to maintain yourself at the conference. That is not to say that I am going to skip southern (think fried chicken, biscuits and gravy)  food this week in Atlanta. But find a way to balanced set of meals, which includes breakfast. Even if this is not a normal part of your routine. In D.C., I found a great Asian place  just outside the conference center, with a great noodle and tofu dish and in Denver, I found a great salad place (I usually disdain salads) that provided the balance to the heavier foods eaten later.

6. Don’t be afraid to share – even when you may have a contrary idea. Don’t let network celebrity get in your way and keep you quiet. You have great insights to share and ideas to test and build. That is why you are going to ISTE in the first place, right? This one is I really have to work on. I tend to be be quieter and shy in larger conferences. Don’t be shy and afraid to ask.

7.  Look to the periphery - on the vendor floor or in one of the cafes or playgrounds, look to the periphery. This is where I find the best new ideas, products, and people.

8. Stay true to yourself - I know that I am more introverted. I have to get away from people and enjoy some solitude. It is perfectly fine just to go off by yourself sometimes. Don’t try to be something that you are not.

9. Be Careful Out There – As many of you know, there was a blog post about behavior that crossed the line. Last year, I distinctly remember leaving one of the events which was highlighted in this story and discussing with a friend that educational conferences had been blessed by not having been involved in a scandal or incidents that have plagued other conferences and professions. There seems to be a party/celebrating seeking aspect to this conference which does not forward the purpose we are attending, to learn and connect with others, to build ideas

I look forward to the ISTE experience. I hope we can connect. I will be hanging out at during the Community Network Fair at Independent School Educators Network booth on Saturday from 3:00 – 5:00, the Independent School Educators Network Annual Meeting  Monday at 5:15 p.m, and the Maker and Agile Learning Spaces Playground on Tuesday from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Other times, you can catch me in the Blogger’s Cafe or somewhere else in the hallways.