The Holiday Diversion

Those of you who have seen the film “A Christmas Story” based on the writings of Jean Shepherd will have a pretty good idea of what I think of the holidays.  Those of us who have kids eventually find it inevitable that we become like the father in the film, stomping downstairs to conduct war on a broken boiler belching black smoke while our curses float out over Lake Michigan like a black cloud, to linger for decades.  Meanwhile, the kids wind up in a slight frenzy of positive stress as “the day” approaches.

In the past, we sought to bypass some of this railroad track by deliberately plonking ourselves in the woods for four nights just before Christmas.  For several years, our favorite retreat was a barely heated plastic yurt at Beverley Beach on the Oregon coast, where we could be guaranteed to have five days of horizontal rain direct from the Pacific Ocean as we had family time, explored the aquarium at Newport, looked at boats in the marina, and didn’t really think about xmas.  It worked on a lot of good levels.

This year we opted for a business apartment at a low rate in downtown Brussels, and for four days we wandered the old town and enjoyed the small shops, the remarkable comic strip museum, the surprisingly good and empty Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, and found out that Belgium wasn’t bad at chocolates, beer, waffles, and frites.  Manneken Pis wasn’t my daughter’s favorite statue, nor mine, but that’s how it goes.

It was a very special trip, and the kids brought home a TinTin and some other specialized comics from the shops we found.  The only downside is that it’s now early morning on Christmas Eve (the day on which my daughter Eve likes to be called Christmas Eve), and we have done nothing for the holiday at home.  No tree, no decorations, no food for a xmas meal, and London pretty much shuts down on Xmas day.

In fact, I’m not even sure if half of the kids’ gifts made it from Amazon while we were away, so I need to bicycle into work with a large, empty backpack to see if we’re going to be heros or cads come tomorrow morning.

So, it’s time to do something about it, after one more cup of java.  Maybe sometimes I wish the Bumpas hounds were next door, ready to charge in our home and shred Christmas for us (as in the movie), so maybe we could decelerate and have more family time…

However, I don’t have much time to moan.  The biggest success of the Belgium trip was the the kids broke in their new hiking boats (my real holiday present to them this year, given two weeks ago), so now I’m more confident about our return to the Lake District for some cold and perhaps snowy fell walking starting on Dec 27th.  It’s nice to have a holiday vacation, or two.

Happy new year.

Uh-oh

If you like Apple products, don’t go to this page:

Apple Destroyed Products

Secondly, it appears that another Web 2.0 app may be no more:

Yahoo Shuttering Delicious

Meanwhile, we have our fingers crossed that Eurostar can brave the snow and get us to Brussels tomorrow morning.

The Lake District

Despite work, we still live in the UK.  Over Thanksgiving break we had a great stay at the Youth Hostel in Watershead, at the north tip of Lake Windermere, one mile south of Ambleside.

Here’s a photo gallery link:

Lake District Trip Nov 2010

Sample image of our hike over Loughrigg Fell:

Data, Spaces, Learning

The holiday break is approaching, and I’m taking stock of some changes this year.

We’ve been through some major processes in the changing of the student information system, and we still have much work to do in that area as we create key reports for the first time (report cards, transcripts) and we continue to chip away at Admission needs and HR needs.  Perhaps the hardest part is relating to people that we have a supported system that can have some customization done, but not an independent system that can have any customization done.  Everything that can be imagined isn’t always possible.

In terms of my “director of operations” role, I believe I have some definition on my four core objectives for the year in terms of master planning, current renovations, new multi-year projects and upcoming summer planned maintenance objectives.  I have a learning curve to achieve to understand the buildings at full definition (electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling, insulation, doorways, aging infrastructure, steel, concrete, brick, glass, original premises, problems, future premises, costs, deferrals).

It’s a long list, but it’s not unlike experiences I’ve had in the past.  Also, systems that used to be “fixed” or only slightly dynamic (pneumatic tubes run through the building that used to flick on and off air handling unit switches) are now becoming digital and fully dynamic (i.e., building systems are now becoming more like computer networks, with relational changes taking place to increase efficiency).

As for curricular integration, we have completed a technology audit of the main technology experiences and achievements grade by grade.  Our next step is to work on an overall information literacy scope and sequences (which thankfully is close to 80 percent complete due to work and research by the librarians).  What I find interesting about this project is more the process than the product, and how we may find the three main technology objectives we’d like to invest more time and energy into.

So where might the next main technology and curriculum objectives be?  Some examples:

  • Student collaboration in real-time and real-space (such as interesting 1:4 computer to student models)
  • Student collaboration online, synchronous or asynchronous (such as going beyond what can be done in Moodle to Drupal or other collaborative options such as Google Apps).
  • Student interaction with a broader range of collaborators, online or real-time (such as inter-school collaborations, or connections with professional institutes or authorities).
  • Student publication of work (online or via paper) as an expectation for keystone projects (such as end of high school online art portfolios which we already do, but extended to other or all departments).
  • More hands-on, inventive work and problem-solving with technology (such as robotics, architecture, programming, and others).

Most of these are not new ideas, but they are key areas for possible growth.  What I guess I see less of is committing major time and resources to new devices, unless they are an obvious fit with above (and easily co-opted, such as how we used iPads to help score a robotics competition last weekend).

Okay, that’s enough for now.  I’m currently on a train to Portsmouth Harbor to visit our boat.  I’m also writing a novel outline at the moment.  Maybe my next personal endeavor is to return to writing fiction, which has always been rewarding to me.  Too bad my day job has gotten in the way for about 25 years.

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