People like me

Educators are into talking about the importance of their PLN. Their personal learning network (PLN) is the folks they interact with to learn new things, share ideas, etc. I get the value of ed jargon – it makes common folks wonder what you are up to, but an obscure label applied to your group does not by itself accomplish much.

I think PLNs are self-forming and as a consequence are typically actually PLMs. A PLM is my clever take on the PLN but in grabe-speak stands for People Like Me. If your group is really a PLM, you are likely having a good time, but not really changing much about how you think about your profession.

Groups with a common perspective tend to move toward a more extreme view of that perspective. This is social psych conclusion of what happens when groups consist of people like me rather than a mix of people with different knowledge and assumptions. Two groups made up of individuals with internally consistent, but externally inconsistent beliefs grow further apart rather than find ways to integrate what is good about their initial positions. This how a group bias generates extremism. To be heard within a group with common beliefs, you have to argue for a more extreme position of the existing belief systems. Sorry for getting all science of group behavior on you, but this is the way things work.

Piaget, that champion of constructivists everywhere, might explain it this way. A PLN that is a PLM is for assimilation. Real change comes from accommodation – challenges that cause you to change your core models of the world and not just add more to an existing way of thinking.

Ask yourself, does your PLN ever engage in argumentation? Does your group have individuals who challenge your beliefs and not just whether you have read the same book they are reading? Do they get you to use the same motivational phrases they use? Are they into innovation, teaching like a pirate, or hacking this or that?

It is a PLM isn’t it?

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Maybe the answer is simple – nobody really cares

I continue to be troubled by the DeVos appointment. It makes no sense. I cannot come up with a justification for putting an amateur in this position no matter how hard I try. Shake things up if offered as an explanation by some, but if you wanted to shake things up come up with a candidate with a plan for at least a couple of relevant issues. Kids are important is not a plan. Pretty much everyone sees things that way. Some think it is worth an investment, but that is a different issue.

I do think I have an explanation. I had to fall into complete depression to realize what is most likely the truth. Politicians don’t really care about education. Of course, it is about kids and our future as a nation and all, but education is complex, nothing seems to make much difference and everyone complains about the cost. So maybe the conclusion is that no one can really make a difference one way or another. The economy – that is important. The military – that is important. The environment (sorry bad example) – oil is more important. Most positions require someone with a clue. Why not use the ed position to reward someone who has been loyal and gives a lot of money? Why risk the ire of the party for going against the POTUS for such an unimportant post?

Am I right Senator Hoeven?

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#POTUS on Twitter

I posted the tweet appearing above to Twitter kind of hoping I would get a response. Maybe someone would tell me to “cool off” or at least “respect the office even if you cannot respect the person”. No luck. All I can say is that ever since I have switched spending all of my time writing about technology and education and spending part of my time writing about politics, my number of friends and followers has grown substantially. I can see how this gets addictive.

I hoped someone would respond so I could thank them for asking me to tone it down a bit, but also wanting to ask if they were willing to make the same request of potus. I certainly do not have the same audience nor are my tweets and comments likely to be as influential. This is my concern witht he behavior of the president and his Twitter commentary.

Twitter allows blanket and sweeping statements without the requirement of explanation. This is also kind of the problem I have with those who share without comment things on Facebook. The value of critical interaction is in taking a standing and being willing to be precise regarding what you see as evidence for your position. It is far too easy to take a stand or be willing to offer a caustic observation without evidence.

The thing I find useful about following Trump tweets is that his words become my evidence. I can point to a tweet and say – this is offensive, this is a conflict of interest, this is racist, etc. So, I do recommend that Trump stop with tweets because such documentation is so easily turned to show his lack of leadership skills. However, since I find his positions unacceptable, I guess what he has to pronounce gives me plenty to write about and more data are always a good thing.

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Remembering dead dinosaurs

I agree this is a strange title, but there is a back story. I was in bed last night thinking about my frustration with the failure of republican senators to challenge the lack of experience or background in the Trump Dept of Ed nominee. My frustration focused on ND senator Hoeven. This is what made me remember dead dinosaurs.

I lived in North Dakota for a long time. For most of this time, the citizens of North Dakota had a great scam going. The would elect all republicans to state office and send democrats to DC. This translates as low taxes in state and lots of fed money coming back to the state. It is not really supposed to work this way. You either believe in paying taxes for the common good or you do not.

Unfortunately, the republicans whom have always controlled the state got greedy. Senator Conrad (D) retired. Representative Pomeroy (D) was defeated. However, times were still good. North Dakota was held up as an example because under the brilliant leadership of the republicans, ND was one of only a very small number of states adding jobs and making money post 2008. Then Gov. Hoeven was rewarded by being allowed to quit his job as governor and move to DC as a state senator.

This is the time when my series of posts focused on dead dinosaurs appeared. I was frustrated with the ND republicans congratulating each other on their brilliant leadership in avoiding the financial problems facing the rest of the country. I remember that doing nothing was not really something I thought you should take credit for. I could see the outcome (low unemployment, etc.). It was the decisions made that were supposedly responsible I could not identify.

At the time, the only decision I could think of to credit Hoeven and colleagues with was the heady move to position the state on top of a huge pile of dead dinosaurs. Who knew this would ever prove useful. You can search my blogs for “dinosaur” to find my comments – I think my way of explaining the issue began in 2010/2011. I noted at the time that aside from anticipating the benefit of oil, it was probably not wise to also lower taxes of those coming into this wealth. Depending on the Canadians who flocked to the state because of the weak dollar or the farmers to continue to bring in big bucks because commodity markets have a way of swinging on you whether you produce a good crop or not was not really much of a strategy. I suggested that instead of lowering taxes those in power should take the opportunity to improve the infrastructure of the state and invest in programs (I think wind energy was my personal favorite) that would diversify opportunities for the future.

As we are learning more and more, one of the interesting things about a public record – on the Internet or recorded statements recorded in the news media – is that you should be willing to stand behind what you claim because you will end up being reminded of what you said.  So when the state is in financial crisis when others states are now enjoying recovery those who congratulated each other for being brilliant and offering their public this brilliance as justification for continued and increasing support should continue to take credit for the present as well as the past.

North Dakotans – remember what I said about dead dinosaurs. One more related suggestion. How about changing the mascot for the state republicans? Elephants are out and dinosaurs are in. I really like this idea – the dinosaur that symbol of great brain power and adaptability.

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DeVos is in

DeVos is in. I guess I am not surprised, but I am disappointed. Of the various candidates, some of whom I thought were poor choices based on past performance or ethics issues, I thought Betsy DeVos was clearly the weakest. Not only does she have no credentials relevant to the field, she has views on vouchers and how school finance works that are a danger to K12 education. The Department of Education has long been disparaged by those who see it as having no meaningful purpose, but at least this lack of respect did not translate into a position that could do damage to such an important field. I just can’t see politicians making a choice of this type for a position they regard as important.

I tend to view political issues from my own perspective. I live in Minnesota and the two Senators from Minnesota both opposed the nominee making comment on the same issues I find to be relevant. I spent most of my working life in North Dakota. This state is strongly republican and while the state claims to value education it has very little experience with the kind of issues that are important in populated and diverse states. Sen. Hoeven must know DeVos is a weak, but rich candidate. I am guessing he decided the extreme positions she holds can do limited damage in his state because of the small population and saved his political chips for another day. Weak, but understandable. I know he was under pressure even in North Dakota. He had very little to say to explain his vote. He claimed he was a friend of education (hard to know what that means) and said he had spoken with DeVos who said she would respect the decisions of states. Taking such a narrow position allowed some cover and might have been acceptable to the citizens of a state who simply do not get out much.

Rewarding unqualified, big contributors with party favors makes a mockery of draining the swamp, but did anyone really think that slogan carried any weight.

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The BUDWEISER is for the republicans

Evidently, Anheuser-Busch decided to ditch the horses and go with a Super Bowl ad focused on the story of their immigrant founder Adolphus Busch. Republicans interpreted the ad as a  Trump slight (they are pretty thin skinned) and decided to fight back. Their idea was to include a hashtag in tweets discouraging the purchase of Anheuser-Busch beers. Fortunately, the Republican geniuses responsible for the hashtag campaign were unable to master the spelling of Budweiser raising more questions about the voting patterns in the past election.

So, for all my republican friends out there in need of a spelling tutor – this BUDWEISER is for you.

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What happened to the W in the R/W web?

Remember when it was called the R/W web. This was the time that got me excited about social media. R/W implied a read/write or participatory web and seemed to offer an alternative to the consumption-oriented approach of television, radio and newspapers or magazines. There was an optimism implying that ordinary citizens could express themselves and have a more direct influence on politics and other areas to which the integration of opinions is supposed to matter. This was a time when you could go to the setup page for your Mac and turn your own machine into a server (or at least I could).

The W of R/W began to fade. There were fewer and fewer of us with personal web sites and a shift to services such as MySpace, FaceBook and Twitter. Even these services make it easier for individuals to express themselves, most folks found it far easier to forward rather than write. I think this also led to the extremism we now see online – radical Facebook extremism. To gain attention without forwarding everything you might encounter, the tendency is to “share” things that are more likely to gain attention – the cutest, funniest, or more radical content. I admit I do a little of this on Twitter. I don’t really take Twitter too seriously. It takes so little thought to dash of something in 140 characters or less. [Insert your impression of Trump’s tweets here.]

I am starting to have hopes that the 60s is making a comeback online. The potential is there. However, you have to actually sit down and write something yourself. I do have a suggestion. Fire up YouTube or whatever music service you use and see if you can locate Express yourself (Charles Wright and the Watts). Should give you a little energy – Do it to it!

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So called leaders

More inappropriate behavior from an elected official too impulsive to be a leader. I suppose there are some encouraged by the “bare knuckles’ style, but bullying behavior is easy to spot and reflects a thin skin not conducive to thoughtful leadership. Far too easy to provoke. This immature style may rally a 35% base of support, but will constantly motivate an opposition. Hope we do not encounter a crisis requiring the country rally behind such a dividing figure. Trump would be far better off keeping his ignorant thoughts to himself. A good start would be to forget Twitter.

Donald Trump’s most bone-chilling tweet – CNN


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A preference for chickens

I take my photography fairly seriously. I own a couple of nice cameras with some nice lenses and I know the basics of their use and of composition.

I tend to get one complaint from relatives. They like the photos but criticize me for my lack of people pictures. This has happened several times. Just to self-check, I went to the photos I have uploaded to Flickr from this trip. I can see some truth in what they claim. There are a couple of pictures of Cindy (taking pictures). This is a tradition. Other than that, no pictures of people. It turns out I have far more pictures of chickens and avocados. I could speculate on my photographic preferences, but that would likely get me in trouble.



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Super, secret strategies

I know a big Trump thing is to not reveal your strategies. Evidently, this is because you give the opposition time to prepare. Strategies are to be revealed through the actions taken.
Evidently, one super secret negotiation strategy when it comes to goods flowing between countries is to threaten a trade war. You pay for the wall or we will charge you to bring goods into our country.
I have a fairly basic understanding of international trade. It seems to me you bring in foreign goods when you cannot produce the goods yourself or the foreign goods are less expensive. So, if you introduce a surcharge doesn’t that mean consumers end up paying more for goods you cannot produce and more for the goods produced internally. It seems to me it might be less complicated to just raise our own tax on what we purchase. Wouldn’t this amount to the same thing and not irritate neighbors who would find ways to charge our producers and those who want to spend money in other countries.
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