Power User

If you listened to morning radio in the Detroit / Windsor area a few years ago, JJ and the Morning Crew was great listening.  I was in a carpool at the time and we would flip over from the Windsor station to listen to Dick the Bruiser’s rants.  They were on at the same time every morning.  George Baier who was the voice of the Bruiser was hilarious.  His approach was pretty straight forward – “<today’s topic – “what does this mean?”> and then he was off on a rant.

The whole show came back in a flash of memories this weekend in conversation with a couple of friends.  We’d seen the message “I’m a Power User” with respect to technology.

All I could visualize was Dick the Bruiser “Power User – What Does This Mean?”

I remember at one time being asked if I wanted to be part of a Power User Group.  In the back of my mind, I immediately thought of the classic Groucho Marx Line “I wouldn’t want to belong to a club that would have me as a member.”

But, instead, with tongue firmly planted in my cheek, I said “What makes for a Power User? Does that mean that I can use Bold and Underline in the same document?”  As silly as that sounds, it stood up well against the comeback, “No, you know what I mean”.  Really?  Does it mean that your computer skills don’t smell but other people’s do?  

I’ve had this conversation a number of times.  There are organizations that certify teachers as Power Users or equivalent.  It ultimately means that they’ve mastered the ins and outs of a particular piece of software.  Tim King, in his Dusty World blog has talked about this a number of times, naming names, and noting for all that these Power Users end up just shilling for a particular company.  And, I guess people are OK with that.  They might also get some free swag or other things in exchange for their promotions.

I’m not really comfortable with the concept that there are Power Users and then there are the rest of us.  People do what they can with the skill set that they have.  I think that the biggest compliment that can be given happens when they indicate that they are constantly learning and using this learning to do better things for themselves and, in the case of education, for their students.

To me, those are the real heroes.  

I’m less impressed with someone knowing that the bold command is in the Edit Menu or can be activated by some combination of keystrokes and then declaring themselves Power Users.

Just the label conveys the impression that they’ve reached a particular level of knowing everything.  For everyone else, they know that that level can never be truly obtained and just keep on learning.

OTR Links 11/30/2014

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.


I suppose it was inevitable but undesirable actions have invaded my morning reading.

This morning, as per normal, I’m reading stories on Zite on my iPad.  In the background, I had a Detroit television station on and was giving partial attention to it.  The stories and pictures from the American Thanksgiving Day Parade were terrific. 

As I looked down at my iPad, I noticed that it was sitting at the Apple App Store, wanting me to download this application.  It was one of those fighting world applications that I wouldn’t normally be bothered with.  Weird.  I exited the store and went back to Zite.

As it was loading, I thought to myself that I must have had a story open and then attention flipped to the television and my finger slipped and touched something on the screen to launch a download.

So, I go back in and tap to bring up the same story that I had been reading, and again, paying only partial attention because there was a story about the Pistons.  As I looked down again, I was back in the App Store.  This was more than a coincidence now.

Ever the believer in three strikes, I mute the television and try again.

Sure enough, just after the article loads, Zite quits and the App Store opens to this application.

Now I know for sure it wasn’t something that I was doing.  This was a deliberate move on the part of the story that I was attempting to read.

I started to think – this has to be some scam / scum to get the reader to download the application.  I’m sure not about to do that.

But, I’ll get even.  I’ll review the app and give it a one star rating.  That will fix them.  There’s a mean side to me after all. 

Sadly, the App store won’t let me rate something that I don’t own.  Rats.

Well, I suppose the best I can do is make sure that Zite doesn’t send it to me again.  I gave the article a big thumbs down.  I should never see something from that place again.

During our noon hour walk, Jaimie asked if I had tried to open the story on a computer instead of the iPad.  That way I could look at the source code and see just how the article was forcing Zite to quit and the App Store to open.  Damn, that dog is smart.  I’ve got to file that under things I wish I’d done.

We’re back home and I decide to try it.  But, of course, I’ve shot myself in the foot.  I can’t find the story again because I’ve told Zite never to show me it again.

Opportunity lost.

In a world where you think you’ve seen everything, this was something new for me.  The frustrating thing is that there isn’t anything to indicate that the story to be read was shady at all.  The title and preview were legitimate enough.  It was only after opening the story that a hidden payload action was released.


OTR Links 11/29/2014

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

So, during this morning’s walk Jaimie and I were talking about what content to put into this post.  As always, there’s always some great stuff from Ontario Educators.  Of all the posts that I do, this is far and away the easier one to do.  The only difficult thing is to weed it to keep it down to three-five entries.  (See my TL friends, I do listen and learn your code words.)  As we were walking, he indicated that I’m all about this coding thing so why not highlight some Hour of Code stuff from Ontario people so that teachers have at least a week to plan for something for the Hour of Code, December 8-14.  So now the secret’s out – the brains behind this blog is a 5 year old Shepherd/Husky cross.

Hey, I’m smart AND good looking!

It sounds like a good idea so here goes…

Playing with Programming: Coding for Younger Students

From the Minds on Media event at the recently concluded Bring IT, Together conference, Peter McAsh shares his collection of links and resources for coding in the elementary school.


I’m a big fan of the Hopscotch programming language if you have access to iPads in your classroom.  This link takes you to my Hopscotch page on my PD Wiki.

Making a palindrome from a user-provided String in Java

It’s hard to convince the non-converted that coding can be fun.  One of the fun problems that has to be part of any program of computer science has to be coding fun with palindromes.  “Able was I ere I saw Elba”.

It’s fun to create palindromes and it’s also fun to input a string to test if the string is indeed a palindrome itself.  It lends itself to a discussion of rules – does capitalization count?  How about punctuation?  Spaces?

True story – I woke up and played this YouTube video from Brandon Grasley this morning.  It’s just plain fun – and a reminder that Hour of Code isn’t limited to the youngest of students.

How to Get Started with Coding in Your Classroom with the Hour of Code

For the unbeliever, this is always the question.  A few others – where do I find the time?  How do I learn this stuff?  Does it fit the regular curriculum?

Scott McKenzie addresses much of this in his post…

Learn to Code – A Hands on Tutorial for Teachers

Maybe coding in the Scratch language is where you want to be with your students.  On Wednesday evening, Brian Aspinall led a unique opportunity in #csk8 to learn a bit about the basics of Scratch and how to develop an application.

The session was captured by hashtag and a Storify document created from it.

Hour of Code 2014

Finally, in case you missed it, I had checked my Hour of Code links from last year, updated them, and added a few more.

In addition to updating the Learning and Pearltree resources used previously, I added a Flipboard and NKWiry version.  If you’re interested in my resources, you only need to check one of them.  They all point to the same resources.  It was just my way to force myself to keep at least a modicum of functionality with these tools.

Jaimie was right.  That was fun and I hope helpful.

Check out all of the Ontario Educators blogging list here.

Maybe I should add these links to a Livebinder for next year….

OTR Links 11/28/2014

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

About Snake OIl

I had breakfast with the wonderful Alison Slack yesterday.  We seldom get a chance to sit down and chat so we made a point of making it happen.  I’m so glad that we did.

We talked about many things and one thing that she shared with me was an article “How to Recognize Snake Oil in Your Personal Learning Network“.  It is a real thought provoking article and I whole-heartedly recommend that you read it at least once.  I think I’ve gone through it at least four times as of this writing and I pick out something new from each read and the comments.

I think it’s important to recognize and admit that we’re all selling something.  Perhaps not formal or touchable but I would suggest that ideas, thoughts, and experiences are just as powerful and can be as valuable.  I remembered a Murray McLauchlan song from long ago and it’s been going through my head since she mentioned the article.  The whole song isn’t relevant but certainly this part is:

Everybody has ambition
Everybody has a dream
But everybody don’t get to be kings and queens
That seems to be the way it seems

I think that the message heard tags on nicely to the post that Brandon Grasley made about expanding one’s online learning by “Finding “unusual” content using Zite“.  In addition to enriching your learning by reading, you enrich your learning by the folks that you include in your Personal Learning Network.  (A term that I’m not a fan or but is used throughout so I’ll include it.)

Reading an article is one thing.  Your attention can be grabbed with a catchy title and drawn in my a good opening paragraph.  It’s standard writing fare and writers use it all the time.  After the first paragraph, you do have the option to stop reading and move on if it’s not meeting your needs.

If we turn to social networking, it’s a bit difference.  Twitter messages, for example, have no title or opening paragraph.  In up to 140 characters, you get both barrels before you have a chance to really evaluate the merits of the post.  There are no pictures or diagrams – you just get it.  The brain is an amazing thing; the message gets taken in.  A well supported post may also include a link or two to online content that fleshes out issue.

A lot of the time it doesn’t. 

You’ve got everything that the author has.

I’m making the assumption here that a major reason you use social media is for learning and expanding your mind set.  Therein lies the rub.  The reason why you follow a person presumably is that you feel that you have something to learn from them.  So it begs the question “What are they selling?”

I think you also need to ask:

  • “Why are they selling it?”
  • “Do they actually practice what they’re preaching?”
    (A colleague once called it “All sizzle, no bacon”
  • “Are they consistent with their message?” 
  • “Do they engage in a worthwhile manner that’s worth your time to read?”
  • “Are they learning as well or just using the platform for personal promotion?”

Moderating things with Zite is relatively easy.  Just give it a thumbs down and Zite promises to give you better content.

On social media, it’s a bit different.  At times, the snake oil becomes annoying and repetitive.  At its worse, it can change your perception of things for the worse.  You may develop a negative attitude towards things that don’t deserve it or you may be cajoled into doing something that you shouldn’t or are not capable of doing.  At times, these people can exhibit the worst in bullying behaviour.

What to do?

Stand up and focus on why you’re connected in the first place.  I remember advice from my parents “Would you invite them into your house?”  I think it clearly applies here.  I’m a glass half-full kind of guy. I wouldn’t invite a bully into my house.  Why would I continue to have them in my online learning space?

Use the tools to address the snake oil salesperson.  Mute them, put them into a list that you don’t read regularly, unfollow or unfriend them.  Life is too short to be wasted on detractors.

Take back your Personal Learning Network and turn it into your positive learning again.  You’ll be glad you did.