I Have An eMail Hoarding Problem. Maybe.

This morning I’m on my way to work and listening to the book Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths.  Sitting at a stoplight I hear something that I’m pretty certain Brian Christian was sharing specifically for me.

Brian cited research done by Steve Whittaker at UC Santa Cruz back in 1996 regarding email overload.  When asked “Is sorting email a waste of time?” the answer was an emphatic yes.

email foldersReally?  I’ve spent an immeasurable amount of time in my life categorizing and sorting my work email and personal email into digital files and folders.  It’s all there organized and ready to find at a moments notice.  Folders are set up by topic, sender, or the class they’re related to. Even personal notes and correspondence are kept in their perfect place.

Want to know what my wife wanted me to pick up at the store back on October 9th, 2017?  I’ve got that for you in the “Michelle” folder – two red peppers, green onions, Tostitos, and some Mexican Style Cheese, preferably the Sargento kind.

The eTickets and QR Code for the Phillies game we saw while in Philadelphia for ISTE back in 2015?  I’ve got them too.  And you never now when you’re going to need those again, right?  Which is, probably, never.

Why have I spent so much time putting electronic mail messages into a paper style file folder format?  The reality is that the one time I actually do need to find an old archived email I’ll just use the search tool in my Apple Mail.

Could it be that this sense of order, this going through the motions of reading and filing that gives me a sense of control with a communication format that often feels out of control?  Or is this a complete waste of time?

The issue with time is that it is a commodity.  Just like money, we spend it and save it and try to use it as sparingly as possible when at all possible.  But, unlike money, it’s finite.  We can’t actually “save time” like we “save money”.  There’s no way to cash it in later.  Even if I were to “save” hours of time at work every week by not sorting my email there’s no way to bank it.  There’s no way to open the fictitious Time Saving App on my phone while laying on my death bed and say “let’s use that 12 hours I saved not sorting my email and go for long walk with my grandkids before I croak.”

Time is the commodity used to measure both order and chaos.  If I saved the time sorting email now would I just waste it in the future sorting through a disorganized email inbox looking for some all important email or document?  The question now becomes is an unsorted inbox really chaos?

No. Email inboxes are digital and easily searched.  This is why we have technology, a tool that makes our life easier. So here’s my restoration resolution for today to make life easier.  I will no longer sort or file my email.  I’m going to read it.  Delete it if it’s not important.  Leave it if it is.  And in the rare chance that I do need something in the future and can’t find it, I’ll go for a walk.

In conclusion, if you like this blog post or have any questions, please don’t email me about it.

For an opposing viewpoint and more information about using email efficiently check out “A Super-Efficient Email Process” by Peter Bregman from the Harvard Business Review.


Fire, Fear, and Smart Phones: Don’t Get Mad, Don’t Get Even. Get Thinking.

Part 1:  Fire

This morning I’m feeling extreme relief and grateful beyond words.

My oldest daughter is alive.

Thursday morning she called, stuck on a road trying to get out of Paradise, California.  She had driven home from Butte College when an announcement was made that her town was being evacuated due to a growing wildfire up the road, the now famous “Camp Fire”.

“Dad, ha— you ——- news ——.  There’s a fire and ——— (snapping sound) flames in my backyard. (Silence). —–being evacuated——-”  …. Her panicked voice interrupted by cracks in the connections.  The line goes dead.  I call back.  An obnoxious honking sound. The call has failed.

F*** you iPhone!  What do I do now?  My kid is in the middle of a forest fire, do I Google “Paradise California Fire”?

Yes. And there it is.

Live video from a Redding news channel of a wildfire is burning in Butte Creek County and threatening thousands of homes.  Since 6 AM it has tripled in size with zero containment.  Helicopters are being sent to evacuate patients from Feather Creek Hospital.  All roads are blocked.  Fire departments have been called from surrounding towns to keep the roads open as long as possible.  Over 23,000 people are under an immediate evacuation order.  My kids are two of them.  Hopefully my son is at one of his college classes and not home in the path of the fire. There is only one way out of town not blocked by fire.  It’s a traffic jam.

Back on the other end of the broken phone line, with only a few minutes to grab a couple items from the house she sprinted back to her car and headed towards Chico, 23 miles downhill from Paradise.  After two hours in gridlock traffic, with flames engulfing both sides of the road, the noon sky turning to complete black, the car heating up from the growing flames, watching people running down the street with children in their arms or releasing their pets to fend for themselves, afraid she was going to be cooked to death, my 17 year old daughter experiences a world that has turned into something she should never see.  Hell.  The text messages she sent captured her fear. Images of being trapped on the road.

Laila's Traffic Text  Laila's Fire Picture

Today she’s sleeping in our guest bed here at my house in Salt Lake City.  An hour and half airplane ride from Sacramento, a flight she managed to make after reuniting with her mother and brother in Chico to share tears and concerns.  At this point we fear their house, all of their belongings, and two cats are gone.

Through text messages, twitter, snapchat, and news stories, we try to keep up with whatever we can learn about the fire, fatalities, and more evacuations.

Part 2 & 3: Read on at this page, but beware – the remainder of this blog post features images and tweets from President Trump and responses that are inappropriate.

ISTE2018 Review

As a veteran of six ISTE trips dating back to 2009, I can say with 100% confidence, this is the best ISTE Conference I’ve ever experienced.  I’ve thought a lot about why it was so much better than ISTEs of the past and came up with these four simple reasons.

Chicago Fireworks

First – Chicago was the perfect venue for late June.

It was both affordable and easy to fly in and out of Chicago Midway International on Southwest from Salt Lake City.  Taking a CTA train from the airport to the hotel to the convention center to anywhere in town as also affordable and fast.  The weather was nice and mild, not hot and humid like San Antonio or Atlanta.  And the City of Chicago was both clean and friendly unlike the stinky and stuck up vibe of Denver.  Not to mention, Chicago didn’t reek of recently legalized marijuana.  Sorry Denver.  I love you, but you’re just not the same town that I remember visiting as kid.

Second – The Keynote Speakers were top notch.

MH and AWGetting to hear from authors David Eagleman (The Brain: The Story of You) and Andy Weir (The Martian and Artemis) was enlightening, entertaining, and thought provoking.  Wednesday’s closing Keynote by Nadia L. Lopez from the Mott Hall Bridges Academy in New York gave a nice balance of heart string pulling to the cerebral mind bending presentations of the earlier presenters.

Third – Breakout Sessions were easy to find and attend.

The McCormick Place Convention Center is laid out in a simple manner that’s easy to navigate.  Connected with bridges to the Marriott and Hyatt Regency Hotels made it very easy to get food, water, rest, and access to anything that you needed any time of day.  Although some sessions did fill up quickly, most were easy to pop in and even easier to pop out.  When two interesting sessions happened at the same time I had no problem attending one for 20-30 minutes to grab all the content I needed before running out to catch the last 20-30 minutes of another one.  Electronic materials were also easy to access and share with colleagues.

Speaking of electronic resources, check out all of my notes here in my shared Google Folder – ISTE2018 Notes.

Fourth – There’s so much good food!

Chicago DogChicago Dog at Comisky Park is an experience you won’t forget. You’ll be reminded of it several times as your stomach growls for hours after the game.  Pizza at Gino’s East right off of Michigan Avenue.  More Pizza at Giordano’s on Navy Pier.  Even better pizza at Lou Malnati’s.  Steak at Harry Caray’s or Seafood from McCormick and Schmick’s.  Breakfast?  Be sure to visit the Donut Vault.  No matter where you are in Chicago you’re surrounded by good people and great food.  This means that when you’re tired and hungry from the high tech educational mental fatigue that is ISTE, your stomach won’t suffer.

In conclusion, thank you to the ISTE Board and everyone who helped to put on a fantastic educational conference this summer.  I returned to Utah feeling motivated, rejuvenated, and re-energized.  It wasn’t exactly a “vacation” to attend ISTE in Chicago, but it was definitely well worth the trip.


National Memorial for Peace and Justice

“Hopeful Reflections On A Hateful Past”

A humid Wednesday afternoon in May.  Montgomery, Alabama.  With the day off to explore this southern city I went for a walk around town.  Relying on my phone and Google Maps to find some must see locations I started with a visit to the Civil Rights Memorial created by Maya Lin through funding by the Southern Poverty Law Center.  Walking from my hotel I passed landmarks like the bus stop where Rosa Parks boarded a city bus on December 1, 1955, and the Dexter Avenue King Baptist Church where Martin Luther King, Jr. served as Pastor from 1954-1960.  During my visit to the Rosa Parks Museum on the campus of Troy University, a pleasant young woman named Keisha gave me directions to the recently dedicated “National Memorial for Peace and Justice” built by the Equal Justice Initiative.  She pointed me up the street and around the corner suggesting I purchase tickets on my phone using the EJI App.  $5.50 later I was on my way to visit a place I’ll never forget.

NMPJ02 Skyline

NMPJ01 Entrance

The memorial, consisting of 800 six foot tall metal monuments suspended from the structure, sits atop a grassy hillside on the six acre site.  It is easy to see from the road, hauntingly inviting.  Concrete poured into wooden molds gives the entrance a cold, hard feel.  Mimicking the innards of a ship, complete with holes similar to those drilled by slaves seeking a glimpse of where they were sailing.

A quick trip through the metal detector and you emerge back into the daylight along a gravel path leading to a metal sculpture depicting an enslavement scene from the west coast of Africa.

NMPJ02 Enslavement

NMPJ03 Portrait

A young mother in rusty chains reaches for her baby’s father who stands in defiance, looking off towards the memorial.  Others have fallen to their knees in surrender.  All are cuffed and bound by the chains.  A closer look at the standing man’s face reveals a sense of calm despair, confusion, and strength.

Rust from the iron chains leaves marks along his timeless black metal skin resembling streams of blood.

Continuing along the gravel path brings you to the entrance of the structure where the metal monuments are supported by both the concrete floor and the post above.  Each monument is inscribed with the date, State and County in which a terror lynching took place.  Under the location are the names of the men, women and children who were killed there.

NMPJ04 Monuments

NMPJ05 FootprintsThe pathway turns right.  The concrete floor is replaced by a wooden deck and begins to slope downwards.  The monuments pull away from the ground, wooden boxes remain like empty footprints below.  Each step echos louder as the walls grow higher, hints of the sound one might hear boarding a slave ship.

Eyes are forced to look upward at the suspended monuments hanging over head.  A lady ahead of me stands in silence, her legs and feet filling the space between.

Splintering the sunlight the blocks suggest a heavenly ascension, an escape from the injustice and hatred that fueled this time and place.  There is light between them.  Room to grow?  Room to remember?   And waiting outside, laying in rows, duplicates of each block sit and rust in the sun.  Laid out alphabetically by state and county they wait to be collected, intended to be displayed as memorials themselves in the 800 counties where they belong.  I found the one monument to the two men who were murdered in Utah.  Hopefully it will be collected soon and put up on display in Salt Lake City.

With a heavy heart and bleary eyes I continued towards the exit, alone.  Families walked together among the blocks looking for familiar names or their own home counties.  An older white man sat and wept on a bench while his daughter consoled him.  I heard him whisper to her, “but there are so many.”

The last statue as you approach the exit shows men with their arms held high in varying degrees of concrete submersion.  They appear to surrender to water with the city scape dwarfed in the background.  Until you walk around behind the sculpture and see a different perspective.  Are their arms outstretched in surrender?

NMPJ10 Surrender

Or are they uplifted?  Attempting to raise the monuments suspended before them.

NMPJ11 Uplifting

CyberCorps Camp 2018

CyberCorps Coding
This weekend I had the pleasure of presenting “Mixed Reality Resources for Education” to two groups of high school students.  The kids and their chaperones all traveled to Cedar City, Utah to attend the “Talent Ready CyberCorps Camp” at Southern Utah University.  Put on by the Southwest Educational Development Center, students had the opportunity to attend break out sessions about coding with micro:bits, cyber security, Makerspace tools, and more.


Working with students this weekend rejuvenated my internal motivation to educate.  As a professional development specialist it’s easy to lose that connection to what really drives education – the enjoyment that comes from learning.  All of the students I worked with has experiences, talents, opinions, and tons of questions.  More importantly, they all had very optimistic ideas for the future.

During our three hour sessions students got to experience a Google Expedition and then lead their own VR Trip, explore AR/VR apps for their phones, test out several interactives with “Merge Cubes“, dive into a world full of dinosaurs with the Microsoft HoloLens, and even participate in a NearPod Lesson with VR features.

Merge Cubes

At the completion of each session I was most amazed at the brainstorming and connections students made to future applications.  From preparing for jobs to reimagining the entertainment industry, each of the kids had a unique and optimistic view of how technology would make their lives better.

Rubiks Cube VR

And the best thing I heard over the two days?  A young man said “I don’t use social media.  It takes up too much of my time and makes you feel cruddy.”  Then he went back to solving my Rubik’s cube.  It took him less than a minute.  I’d been working on it for weeks.

A Visit to Tallahassee


This place is beautiful.  Warm, friendly, and full of amazing flora and fauna.  The live oaks hang in the sunset over the garnet brick pathways meandering across campus, accented by spring blooms and sharp green palms.  Tallahassee wraps around the college with the State Capital standing tall to the east.  Flying in was awe inspiring as there’s nothing to see but endless green as you descend into the Tallahassee International Airport over the massive Apalachicola National Forest.

I’m looking forward to sharing my “Collateral Change” presentation with attendees of the eRepublic sponsored Florida Digital Government Summit.  From the event program…

Is there any doubt that this is the Age of Disruption? Technology is rending the fabric of society as we know it, driving historic levels of transformative change and mindboggling opportunities. But what are the consequences of this disruption on the lives of everyday citizens? The ramifications run deep, and it’s time to shift our focus from the technology to the resulting “collateral change” in human behavior. We’ve long passed some serious tipping points. This provocative session explores new communication paradigms, runaway device infatuation, generation gaps, radical education, future game-changers and creative ways to engage the “new citizen.” 

Throwback Thursday to 2009…


This is an old one, but a good one.  Check out this story that aired on C-Span from the 2009 Cable Trade Show.  I had a great time working with Discovery Education and Cable for the Classroom to demonstrate to Congressmen, FCC Chairmen, and a few very special guests (FLOTUS) how technology and high speed broadband internet can transform learning in the classroom.  Fast forward to the 12 minute mark to enjoy a 10 years younger, 15 pounds lighter, pre-beard Michael Hakkarinen talking about Google Earth, Promethean Boards, and Discovery Education video content on demand.


UCET 2018 Keynote Speaker Manoush Zomorodi

This year at the UCET Conference we were lucky to have journalist, podcaster, and author Manoush Zomorodi as our Keynote Speaker.  Manoush is the author of Bored and Brilliant and the host of the podcast “Note To Self”.

bored and brilliant

Over the past year I’ve enjoyed listening to Manoush and her guests talk about everything from the show Black Mirror, to the Replika App, and even interview other podcasters like Dan Harris of “10% Happier”

Farewell Canyons

Today is the last day I get to work with the Canyons School District Ed Tech team in the “Launch Pad”.  This is a place that over the last year and a half I’ve learned so much about instructional technology, made friends, laughed until I cried, and got a lot of really good work done with really good people.

It’s hard to leave.  Life is hard.  Well, it’s hard if you’re doing it right.  The challenges we face appear unsurmountable sometimes, but when you’re surrounded by good people and friends it seems much easier.

EdTechs, you all know moving to Utah has been a big change for my family and I.  We’re still going through changes.  It’s hard.  Coming to work with you has made it almost manageable.  There’s no way I can ever thank each of you for all that you’ve done.

I will miss the meetings, emails, messages about Sage, projects that just keep getting bigger, classes, workshops, everything.  I will miss the Sunday runs in Emigration Canyon, trips to the climbing gym, random hikes in the mountains, skiing, all of it.

Although we won’t work together at CSD after this week, I look forward to UEN events, C-Forum, UCET, any excuse to spend time with you in the future.  Thank you for everything.  I don’t know how else to say it without triggering an avalanche of emotions.

First Mount Olympus Hike

Go for a little hike one morning, and you end up in the paper.  So just to set the record straight – I didn’t put up or tear down a flag pole at the top of Mount Olympus.  I was simply an innocent bystander after the incident.  Really!

Photo from http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=30473797

For more on the story about how several missionaries cemented a flag pole into the boulders at the summit of Mount Olympus, and a caring hiker removed the pole, check out the full story at The Salt Lake Tribune website.

How is this related to educational technology?  Here you go… YouTube, Facebook, or even Twitter could have served the purpose of sharing the missionaries’ dedication and accomplishment much better than a sack of concrete and a flagpole erected in the wrong place.

Mount Olympus is on U.S. Forest Service property.  It isn’t a place for putting up permanent manmade structures. The broken off remains of the aluminum flag pole now stick up as a hazard to anyone walking along the boulder field that is the summit of Olympus.  One wrong move can now mean not only a fall, but also being impaled on jagged metal protruding from the rock.

At the same time, it’s a very difficult hike that requires stamina, endurance, and some basic mountaineering skills.  Climbing Olympus is something to celebrate.  So how could this group of young people celebrated their accomplishment in a less intrusive and more appropriate way?  Use social media.

Climb the mountain.  Experience the team work and camaraderie.  And when you’ve reached the summit record it for all posterity’s sake with a picture – you can even take a flag with you, just don’t cement it into the rocks.  Hold the flag, and post it online where it will be permanent and public.  People around the world can see it without having to hike up 3,000+ feet in a few short, steep miles of rocky trail.

That’s what I did.

Click here to read about how this story was resolved.