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.

Ohio Digital Government Summit 2018 – Collateral Change Presentation Resources

Thank you to THE Ohio State University, eRepublic, and everyone who attended the Ohio Digital Government Summit today.  As promised, here is a PDF version of the slides I used this morning.  Although this doesn’t capture all of the interactive graphics and transitions, you will find the data and images are easy to access.
Click here to download the PDF – Collateral Change 2018 OHIO Slides

And if you’re interested in the survey results from the Google Form activity they’re all available here – Ohio DGS 2018 Collateral Change Survey Results

If you forgot your phone Ohio resultsThis is my favorite graph, the one showing results to the question on how you’d feel if you forgot your smart phone.  The results are very telling as to how dependent we have become on our digital devices.  If you answered “Crisis” or “Oh No”, like almost 75% of us did, think about what it is about your device that you depend on.  Is it for navigation? Connectivity to work or family?Access to apps and tools that allow you do to your job better?  That’s probably not a bad thing here in the year 2018. But if it’s something else, and you don’t feel good about it, what can you do take back control?

Additional resources about education and technology in Ohio in the presentation were found at:

Blended Learning & House Bill 2

Computer Science Instead of Algebra 2

Texting and Driving Law Effective October 29, 2018


VR In the Classroom on UEN PDTV

Spending time in the classroom with students is my favorite part of being an educator.  And this spring, I was fortunate to be invited to Joel P. Jensen Middle School in West Jordan, Utah.  Media Specialist Belinda Gambrino and Teacher Dustin Plott invited us to share a lesson using Google Expeditions with a group of kids who meet after school to learn more about Innovation and Design in their MakerSpace STEM Program.  Take a look at the video above to see how well VR and other Mixed Reality Tools engage learners in new ways.

Georgia Digital Government Summit 2018 “Collateral Change” Resources

Thank you Atlanta!  What a great day.  I got to meet so many nice people and really enjoyed hearing stories from everyone about “No Screen Sundays”, Tech-Free Dinners, No Device Dallas Games, and a great story about a 10 Day Meditation Retreat near Jessup, Georgia that sounds absolutely amazing.  Interested?  Click the link to learn more.

As promised, here is a PDF version of the slides I used:

Collateral Change 2018 GEORGIA

If you are concerned about computer science being taught in your Georgia K-12 Schools check out, or go directly to the Georgia Fact Sheet.

Interested in the Georgia Virtual High School program?  Check out 

Want to read more about Chromebooks in Kalb County (pronounced like cab, sorry about that) you can find the article here at the Neighbor Newspapers website.

And finally – thank you for providing support and doing all that you do with technology at the Georgia State Government.  Over 10 million people depend on you to keep their state running smoothly, something no one should take for granted.

Social Media Makes Teens Happier?

Hopefully that title caught your attention.  It can’t be true, can it?  Doesn’t Social Media make teens more anxious?  I thought a constant compulsive need for connectivity leads to sleep deprivation? Aren’t all the kids in the world suffering from cyberbullying?

This week I’ve read two contradicting articles online that make me question everything I think I know about social media and the psychological well being of our teenage generation.  Kind of.

2018_cs_socialmediasociallife_infographicimage_1 (1)Common Sense Media released an infographic titled “Social Media, Social Life: Teens Reveal Their Experiences.”  (September 10, 2018)

Click the picture to the right to see the entire image and be sure to look very closely at the change in percentages over the last six years.

The one fact that stands out to me is that since 2012 the percentage of kids who say social media “distracts them from paying attention to the people they’re with” has increased from 44% to 54%.  Both of those percentages seem smaller than I would have anticipated.  To me it seems like 100% of the people I know, teens and adults, are distracted by social media when I’m thinking they should be paying attention to me!

Here’s another shocking statistic – 1 in 5 teen drivers admit to checking social media notifications… while driving!  Come on.  Texting and driving is the number one killer of teenagers in our country today, and now they’re checking social media while behind the wheel?

And finally, the big truth – teens are who already susceptible to low social-emotional behaviors are experiencing more of the negative effects of social media than kids with high social-emotional well-being.  And that fact solidifies my theory – social media is a mental health magnifying glass.  Hold it over a happy person, they see and post happy things.  Hold it over a teenager struggling with mental health issues, you have a child who is more likely to commit an act of self-harm.  Unhappy teenagers who use social media are more likely to feel lonely, depressed, and have a lower sense of self-esteem.

The percentages of teenagers who reported negative effects of social media far outweigh those who report positive benefits – four to to seven fold.  Especially when it comes to cyberbullying.

Prior to reading the article I found contradictory evidence about teen use of social media a 2016 Journal of Adolescence article #sleepyteens  Click the title to download a PDF Version from ScienceDirect

There are no surprises here – 467 Scottish adolescents confirmed that there is a link between social media and wellbeing.  The interesting aspect of the research here, which differs from the survey done this summer by CommonSenseMedia, is the effect on teens’ well-being depending on the time of day in which the online activity occurred.  Night time use drastically increased vulnerability to anxiety, depression, and negative self-esteem.

Could this be because of the sleep deprivation incurred from late night social media use?  More research certainly needs to be done to determine if this is causation or correlation.  Does Social Media use “CAUSE” mental health issues?  Or, are teenagers predisposed to mental health issues simply experiencing increased negative effects from social media triggers?  Either way there is definitive evidence for one simple solution –

Keep internet connected devices out of your child’s room after bed time.  It doesn’t matter if their four years old, fourteen, or forty four.  Screens don’t belong in the bedroom.

Happy teenagers may cite benefits of social media use, but remember this – teenagers aren’t always happy.  In fact, it’s rare.  The hurricane of hormones swirling around in their still developing frontal lobes change in extremes that parents can never prepare for.  Allowing your “happy teen” to fall into the negative effects of social media isn’t worth the risk when the only thing to gain are a few likes on Instagram or a longer Snapchat streak.

Remember the “S” in R.E.S.T.O.R.E. – set limits.


Virtual Reality at the University of Utah School of Dentistry

This summer Dr. Mark Durham at the University of Utah School of Dentistry introduced a new mixed reality strategy for teaching students by incorporating VIVE systems to his summer course.  After learning about the tools and content created in collaboration with the Marriott Library’s Creative Spaces Department our UEN PDTV Video team set out to film a short story about Dr. Durham.

While interviewing Dr. Durham I found a new respect for his process of infusing instructional technology into the curriculum.  Many educators often look at technology first and then make attempts to integrate it into their teaching, while others avoid technology for fear of failure.  Mark falls into neither group.  Instead he saw a problem that needed be solved, then found both the correct technology to provide a solution and the right people to make it happen.

The video above highlights the process of creating VR content and the methods for delivering the experience to the students.  To learn more about using VR, AR, and other “XR” tools with students check out the UEN Course “Mixed Reality in Education“.  The next run of this course will occur in-person at the University of Utah, September 26 and 27th, 2018.

C-Forum Google Expedition & Tour

Join us today at C-Forum for a tour around the Wasatch Front of Utah!  In this Google VR Tour you’ll get to see how educational technology has changed the way students are learning in our schools, how local companies are supporting digital teaching and learning, and visit the University of Utah where the UEN PD Team works hard to create new educational resources.


Step 1: Open the Google Tour “Changes In Utah EdTech 2018” at in your Google Chrome Browser or on your mobile device.

Google Cardboard IconIf you’d like to experience the tour in true virtual reality use your mobile device and look for the little Google Cardboard icon to put it in VR view.  Slip your device into a set of Google Cardboards or any VR headset that will accommodate your phone.

Step 2: Download the “Changes In Utah EdTech Google VR Tour” Changes in Utah Ed Tech Tour Questions Handout 2018 activity sheet or a make a copy for yourself in Google Drive to complete on your computer.

Step 3: Move through the eight scenes and click on the information icons to find the answers to the questions on your activity sheet.

For more information about how to create your own Google Tour in Google Tour Creator check out the Google Tour Creator Help Page.

Or, sign up for the UEN PD Two Day Course “Mixed Reality for Education” being offered this year on campus at the University of Utah.  Current UEN PD Courses are available at


COVITS2018: Collateral Change Presentation

Thank you everyone who attended the COVITS event in Richmond today.  You may be a crowd of “Wahoos” and “Hokies”, but I definitely enjoyed sharing with you and getting to meet people afterwards.  As promised, here is a PDF version of the slides I used:

Collateral Change 2018 Virginia COVITS

Image Link to COVITS18 Survey

How did you like that survey we did at the beginning of the presentation?  Want to see the results?  Click the image to the left to see them in a linked Google Doc.

As mentioned in the presentation, The CodeRVA High School magnet program promoting computer science is doubling in size this year.  Read more from here from the July 22, 2018 article by Justin Mattingly in the Richmond Dispatch 

If you are concerned about computer science being taught in your Virginia schools, visit for more information and download the Virginia Computer Science Fact Sheet.

Interested in the Virginia Virtual High School program?  Check out

Videos Used in the Presentation can be found at YouTube and embedded below:

ELIMINATE – Goodbye Facebook! Again.

slotmachineThe second letter in the acronym “RESTORE” stands for “ELIMINATE” .  Have the courage to eliminate the apps and distractions on your phone that make you feel bad or waste time.  Here’s a story about digital elimination…

This is hard.  Deleting the Facebook App from my phone has been like walking away from a slot machine with a cup full of coins and the knowledge that it’s just about to hit the jackpot. The Facebook scrolling interface is addictive and never ending.  Flipping your thumb up the screen in search of the next big hit of dopamine… will it be a post from a college friend?  Funny video?  An article about Trump’s latest lie?  Or a disappointing ad about the coolest new minimalist wallet?  A passive aggressive Bible Quote?  Dear Jesus, please make it stop!

While I’m reading the book A Deadly Wandering by Matt Richtel I’m reflecting on my use of the Facebook App on my iPhone.  There’s no question it’s the biggest time suck on my device.  Looking into my settings / battery report  I can see 25% of my battery was burned by Facebook over the last three days.  That means one quarter of my iPhone time is spent on Facebook.  That’s absurd.  This device is designed for me to read and send emails and text messages, or make phone calls.  It also allows me to get directions for driving, check my bank account, even pay bills.  But I’m spending a quarter of my time looking at posts I rarely care to see?

Visit the Syncios Blog and learn how to see what you’re doing on your iPhone and iPad

Matt Richtel does a great job of explaining why.  Facebook is a lot like a slot machine because it leaves the user unsatisfied, “it works on the principle called variable and intermittent reinforcement.” (Richtel, A Deadly Wandering p.198)  Most of the content I see on Facebook is totally useless, mind numbing, pointless digital content.  I scroll through it quickly with my eyes scanning the text looking for that tiny reward of seeing something that actually interests me.  And when it hits?  I want more.  The scrolling continues.

In addition to the scrolling, there’s the constant checking.  Nothing to do for a minute?  Let’s see if my last photo get any likes?  Yep!  There’s a another smiley face and two more thumbs up. Jackpot!

Let’s look at another hypothetical twist to this Facebook issue.  Addiction.  Is it addictive?  Or is it a compulsion?  Or, is it just a habit?  Either way I believe it’s a problem.  For me.  I’m saying this for myself, I’m not trying to project anything onto you the reader.  You don’t have Facebook addiction.  Maybe.  But for me, a person who possesses some characteristics of attention deficit, hyperactivity, and anxiety disorders, Facebook fuels these symptoms like a shot of nitro-methane.

I’m not completely sure without sticking my head into an MRI, so I’ll say this with caution – I think it’s very possible that scrolling through Facebook is not only a waste of my time, it’s also contributing to the decline of my attention span, instigating hyperactive tendencies, and triggering my anxieties.  And if this is truly happening, it may be negatively impacting my ability to make good choices.  So let’s go deep end and apply this diagnosis on a global platform.

What would happen if this was simultaneously occurring for everyone using Facebook?  Which at the time of this blog post writing is 68% of the adult population in the United States (Pew Research Center).  That’s roughly 167 million people currently active on Facebook.  If 45% of them get their “news” from Facebook, that’s 75 million adults… and if 58% of them voted…  what could go wrong?


A lot could go wrong.  In a lot of different ways.

From fake news to fake friends.  Spam.  Russian hackers.   Is our sense of reality being stolen right out from under our screen  flicking thumbs?  Identity theft seems benign compared to reality theft!

So this morning I’ve deleted the app.  Again.

I originally removed both Facebook and Instagram from my phone before a week long trip to Hawaii and it felt great.  There was a brief period of withdrawal followed by a new found sense of presence and focus.  I enjoyed every moment of that trip.

Then last month I brought Facebook back thinking it would help communicate with family.  I was wrong.  I can communicate with family just fine by email, text, phone, and FaceTime.

I’ll keep Facebook on my computer to access from time to time, when I can sit down and focus.  But there’s no more space on my phone for this app.  Facebook is great for helping me communicate with my own fears and other peoples’ false realities, and who needs that?

Piktochart: Perfect for Preparing Printables and Presentations


Here’s one tool I really enjoy using.  Picktochart

It’s easy, fast, full of beautifully designed templates to help you get started, and serves multiple purposes.  You make a quick informational image, or “pictograph”, to visually display statistical information.  Or a diagram.  Concept map.  There are limitless applications for this simple cloud based design tool.

For my first “Piktochart” I created a diagram to explain the four different ways teachers can communicate and collect students work in Canvas.  Saving it to the web makes it easy to share via link or download as a PNG to embed in a blog or website, as you can see below…


Getting started is easy, especially if you already have a Google or Facebook account.  Create your free account first to make sure you like the tool, later you can “Level Up” for $39.99 per year if you need the advanced features.  Educators – you can get special pricing for the Classroom Pro Plan here.  Personally, I’ve been very happy with the free version, but I’m also not collaborating with other designers or collecting student work.

Create New Piktochart.png

Once you’re ready to give it a shot go to your Piktochart Dashboard and click the create button.  From here you’ll be taken to a new screen where you can choose which product you’d like to create – Infographic, Presentation, or Printable.

Three types of Piktocharts.png

Piktochart Tool Bar MenuWorking in Piktochart is simple. The menu buttons on the left side of the building screen allow you to add shapes and icons, lines, photos and photo frames.  Backgrounds and other images are also easy to import.  Text is added with a simple text box, but with dozens of themes and designs to choose from.  Piktochart also takes all the guess work out of having to pick and choose from different color schemes and fonts, they’ve already picked out what goes together best for you making it easy to build a professional presentation.  You can even add charts, maps, and videos with one click.

Rather than show you all the steps to create such a Piktochart watch this short intro video from the Piktochart Homepage:

Need more help to get started?  Not a problem. Piktochart has a full playlist of tutorial videos you can watch while you build, and they’re all available free at 

Now go get Piktocharting!