Tomorrow morning at around 10 AM a group of us from Franklinville Central School will be making our way down the highways and byways to the ISTE 2011 Conference in Philadelphia. It promises to be an exciting time and I hope one where I for one get some more insights on the use of classroom technology. I pray to keep a beginners mind and be open to all that I see and hear. The older I get the more I realize how little I know and that we are really only scratching the surface with classroom uses for computers, iPads, Androids, Smartboards, projectors and the like. I hope to see and hear some of the folks I regularly follow on Twitter and whose blogs I read nearly every day. Two years ago I attended ISTE 2009 in Washington, DC and it was there that I really began to use Twitter. At that time I had about 1200 tweets in the two prior years. Since that time Twitter has become a major part of my repertoire and it’s lead me to some incredible insights and information. My use of Twitter has increased exponentially and by the end of this week I’m sure I will have passed my 10,000th tweet. I say that not to brag but to offer tangible evidence of the effect Twitter has had on my learning.
I’m traveling light, carrying an iPhone and iPad2. I’m not lugging a laptop around the conference and I’m encouraging those I’m accompanying to do the same. I encouraged them to bring extra power cords. I thought of bringing a solar charger too. I saw a solar charger two years ago at ISTE. It was a novelty item them but they’ve become more mainstream. Most of our crew is bringing either an Android tablet or an iPad. We’ll be reading, writing and tweeting. It simply amazes me how much of an impact mobile technology has had on my own life and upon education and society in general.
I pray that we will have a safe journey, a fun trip, a great conference and that all of the conference attendees have safe travel to and from the conference. I pray too that I will keep an open mind and learn something from everyone there.
A couple of days ago I wrote a short piece for a colleague who is the senior class adviser at Franklinville Central School. I was trying to be helpful and I’ve found that whenever you try to help others you invariably help yourself too. Several people have responded to that request. My son who works in the Rochester, New York area was one of the responses. Devin realizes how important it is to give these young people a hand. More than that many of these students who come from low income backgrounds get a chance to get out and see what opportunities exist for them. It can be a mind expanding and opportunity expanding experience for them. Franklinville’s need has been our opportunity to be helpful but also to think about how we can help on a broader scale. Peace.
A few days ago the faculty advisor for this year’s senior class at Franklinville Central School approached me with a problem. He’s got some seniors who cannot attend this year’s senior trip because their parents recently lost employment. Now, I know compared to many of the world’s ills this is truly minor. But, if you’re a kid in Franklinville, New York where so many of our students come from low income families the senior trip can be an experience that provides these young people with a vision of what life could be like. If you’re interested in helping, the Senior Class Advisor is Ed Butler. Ed’s a very caring person and a great man for the job. He has a heart for children especially those in need. The students raise a lot of the money for the trip themselves by working at car washes, bake sales, spaghetti dinners and you know the drill. There is a portion however that comes from in kind contribution by the student and usually that falls to the parent or parents. You can contact Ed via email if you’d like to help. Thanks and peace.
Today is the first day of my winter vacation. Last year I went to Arizona and I miss not going there, but I will travel soon to Washington, DC for DrupalCon. This morning I went to the gym with our daughter, Dara. Dara’s home this week because she’s been student teaching in the nearby Hamburg Central School system. I worked out on the eliptical machine, which I’ve been using religiously lately. This morning I did 4.5 miles in forty minutes. I was happy with that. I compete with myself, trying to improve each day. I did the math and that’s less than nine minute miles. After getting home and showering I had my a bowl of rice krispies with milk and honey. Today I’ve been relaxing, watching “Dances with Wolves,” and napping. What a life.
I haven’t written here as much lately, but I’ve been busy. I researched and built a new Ubuntu Linux Terminal server on our network. It is a virtual server. That means that it resides inside one of our VMWare ESX servers. Because it has been virtualized it can be shared more easily with others. It is one of my ways of contributing to the open source community. The teachers and students who came to rely on our older Linux terminal server and who waited patiently while this one was built and configured are very happy. I’ve also been learning how to use and deploy Drupal. My life has always been about reading and learning. It’s been my passion and it continues to consume me.
Yesterday a friend wrote a very nice recommendation. I had asked him to recommend me on LinkedIn and I was humbled by what he wrote. It is nice to have friends who think highly of you. Here is part of what my friend Frank Pirrone wrote.
Don is one of those creatures who by temperament or by choice inhabits the cutting-edge of whatever he finds himself working on or engaged by. He has done tremendous work implementing novel technology solutions for the Franklinville school district as well as the surrounding community.
There is a chance I might retire from the school district. I don’t have to, but I’m eligible. I hope that those of you who read what I write will pray for God’s will to be done. I will try to listen to his will. I’m trying to determine what that is in all of this. Next month I will have worked at school district for thirty years. Add to that a couple of years of military service and some other public service and I will have nearly thirty-five years of service. I suppose that is enough, but I don’t want to sit around collecting dust. Life is to be lived.
Today is my birthday and I’m fortunate to have so many friends with whom to celebrate. Birthdays are events for looking forward and sometimes looking back. Today I did a little of each as I wondered how much longer I get to hang around here. Fifty-six is only four years from sixty and that used to seem old. Now that it’s right around the corner it’s different. My brother Mark called at 7:30 this morning to wish me well. He was in Charleston, South Carolina and it was a warm 32 F compared to our 8 F here in Franklinville. Mark always calls and this year we chatted for longer than usual. I asked about my nephew Tom who is serving in the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard in Washington, DC. Mark said he was doing well and had even served at the White House already.
I spend most of my day in an elementary school where my office is and so each morning I’m greeted by a sea of young faces many of whom know me by name. Sometimes I stop to visit, other times they need help opening a locker or picking up something they’ve dropped. I’ve been greeting young people in this building for just a few months shy of thirty years. These children are the flowers of my life. They pick me up on days that I’m down. This morning I greeted a kindergarten class that was passing near my office. I asked them to wait so I could bring a special friend to greet them. I quickly retrieved a life-size Teddy bear from my office and held him so the children could touch the bear. They were delighted that I brought the bear out. Most of the children took time to hug the bear and when I saw them later in the hall they mentioned the bear again.
I usually eat alone in my office but today my wife came and made sure that I’d come to the faculty room at 11:30 AM for a special lunch. When I entered the room all present began to sing Happy Birthday. It was a nice surprise and I was very touched. We all shared some birthday cake and a few stories. I’m grateful for my wife, my life and the students of Franklinville Elementary School who have been so much a part of my life since March of 1979.
This picture of my wife conducting “Meet the Teacher” night at Franklinville Central School was one of the highlights of my day. Diane loves frogs and her room was decorated with a frog motif and on the door of her classroom hung a sign that said, “we are hoppy to see you.”
I’ve been blessed to share my life with Diane for almost twenty-seven years now. God really smiled at me the day she came into my life. I cannot tell you how long she’s been teaching because I’ll be in real trouble. This year she moved to fifth grade and she’s very excited about that. When we met she was teaching third grade. In her career she’s taught third, first grade reading and now fifth grade. She’s happy to be back in her own classroom. She’s had opportunities to go into administrative roles, but really loves the interaction with students. She’s a born teacher and I love her.