Category Archives: Technology

AI Doesn’t Like Blueberry Muffins

First a warning, this blog post will ramble because it was written by me… it is centered around the idea of what Artificial Intelligence’s (AI) effect is on our society.

The spark for this post centers around a number of articles about ChatGPT and its ability to write essays for students. One article used the example of a literary criticism essay covering the works of Emily Dickinson’s work. ChatGPT did a fine job, but of course it did. 

Honestly, there are only so many ways to write a literary criticism over a single poem. I actually use poetry to introduce the literary criticism essay. We discuss a number of poems, breakdown how elements like similes, personification, even rhyming is used in the poems. Then the students write their essays. At the heart of a literary criticism is the idea of teaching the reader something about the poem.

So, many of the students’ essays read about the same. The introductions and conclusions are different, yet the body of the essays center around what anyone can learn if they analyzed the poem themselves.

I’m not especially worried about ChatGPT writing essays, or even its own poetry. AI will never be able to write a narrative essay, at least not a real one. A narrative essay is about the meaning of a moment for the writer.

AI doesn’t deal with the complexity of living. It will never be hungry. Or feel the joy of a great meal. AI will never open an unexpected present that fills their heart. Or deal with the bad mood of a loved one.

I do worry about us giving our lives over to technology in general. 

I see too many students just consuming their screens. At the moment it is TikTok. They watch all these people doing different things, while they just sit there. I actually encourage students to make their own videos (yes, I’ve been in a few). 

Also, the idea of just letting technology tell us what we should listen to or watch next; from products on Amazon to a playlist Spotify thinks we would like. Yes, we do tend to enjoy certain genres of music, but there is so much of our human experience connected to media that an algorithm can never give us a perfect recommendation.

As an example, I will listen to a song or watch a movie that I do not like because someone I care about likes the movie or song. I usually find something interesting from the media, even if it doesn’t get saved to a playlist.

Yet, we can just let technology live for us… that is what I am afraid of.  What’s so funny is how we keep advancing technology to be more human. We marvel at how close we can get AI to write like Edgar Allen Poe, yet here we are trying to be human but addicted to the technology.

What I know for sure is that AI will never enjoy the tradition of making blueberry muffins for breakfast every Sunday morning. And that I will always write my own stuff.

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This is the Worse Blog Post Ever

Can I ask you a question?

Why did you follow the link?  What did you expect to see or read?  Are you already tempted to X out of the tab and move on to something else?

I understand that I used a clickbait title to lure you to this blog post. And that is what I want to talk to you about in this post. The emptiness of clicking in our interactions with others and the shallowness it brings to our lives.

Can I ask a few more questions, just to get you thinking about the topic?

How many heart icons, thumbs up icons, or retweet icons have you tapped today? 

Did you interact with the person in the comment section or leave a reply?

Image by Coffee Bean from Pixabay

Now, I own up to the same behavior. I am just as guilty of retweeting a bunch of #vss365 (Very Short Stories 365) stories on most days. I tap the heart icon on Instagram pictures, too. I will read a blog post and hit the like icon (and usually the share buttons too).

But I’ve been trying to interact more with the people behind the icons. To build connections, however small, with others. To let them know that their words, their pictures, their small windows they share with the world are not simply viewed and forgotten.

Because I know the empty feeling one gets from social media. The feeling of screaming into the abyss we tag with the ironic label “Social Media”. But I’ve been thinking about the other side of the abyss, the emptiness I get by just scrolling, by hitting an icon that is supposed to mean I love something… yet, I don’t really love that image. I thought it was cool, yes, but it was forgotten in minutes. I agree with a blog post but the writer doesn’t see me nodding my head. 

Let’s add a layer to this idea; how much time is lost filling in icons that don’t really match our feelings at that moment? How much of our daily life is filled with empty motions that don’t fill our emotions?

I’m afraid of the answer. I’m afraid of the cost to our sense of purpose and even the simple joy of being connected to people when our only connection is a blue thumbs up icon. We are more complex as people than an outlined icon that is filled with a tap. Joy and belonging are built through connections, even digital ones. We can handle emotions like heartache and loneliness because we have people in our lives that can take some of the weight of those emotions from our heart, but only if we have true connections with people.

Social media is an incredible tool. I actually enjoy using it (been on Twitter since 2008) to share my talents… and to make connections. I think we should spend more time fostering those connections instead of simply scrolling past the content other people took the time to share with us. I bet the reason they shared it was in the hope it would make a connection with someone (at least that is why I share my writing).

I am sorry for using a clickbait title. If you are actually still reading this, I am grateful. Thank you. Leave a comment, let’s connect.


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Sharks have to move to stay alive.

This is mostly true (Must Sharks Keep Swimming to Stay Alive?). For most species they have to move to push water thru their gills to breathe. So, to stay alive, they must constantly swim, be in constant motion.

What about us?

Do we need to move to live?

I say, yes.

And not just physically. We need to move mentally and emotionally. Living is moving. One of my dadisms is “We are all works in progress.” I know that we can stop growing, but we shouldn’t. Yet, there are too many things today that hinders us from moving in our lives.

The obvious factor is smart phones. I see the effects of this device as a dad and as a teacher. 

My students get restless when we take notes, but if I give them some down time with their phones… the room is quiet… and they just sit there looking at the screen. I see this with my daughters, too.

The way we use our smart phone gives us a false sense of motion, of living. An interesting TED Talk, “Why our screens make us less happy” by Adam Alter, highlights the fact that many of the apps, social media, and games have no “stopping cues”. Moments that allow us to consider moving on to something else, like the end of a chapter in a book. So, we scroll through Twitter or Instagram because we can, it feels like moving. It keeps us scrolling because the feed is moving, too. There is nothing that cues us to stop. Of course tools like this don’t want us to stop.

Adam’s talk also highlights why this can be an issue. In his talk he visually shows how much time we have in a workday from three different years; 2007, 2015, and 2017. The blue sections indicate work, responsibilities for family, and eating/sleeping. The white space is our “personal time” and the red area overtaking the white area is how much time we spend on a screen.

Chart from Alter, Adam. “Why our screens make us less happy.” TEDTalk. April 2017.

Life is moving. We are not moving when we hold a screen in front of our face. It’s not just the physical aspect either. If you think about it, much or our life is lived in our hearts and minds. The way we think, what we feel, our motivation affects how we move about in a typical day. 

We need to move in this field of our lives, too. Screen time is not the main hurdle in this area, attitude is. As an English teacher I have to fight the belief students have that reading is stupid. Understand, I teach seniors, so their belief about reading (and writing) is hard to break through. Reading is one way we can learn, but we can learn from others through listening to their stories and perspective. Social media is not the place for this, especially at this moment.

Growing takes emotions and thinking. Feeling all of our emotions allow us to understand ourselves. This takes courage and a willingness to face our own shortcomings. Thinking through our emotions and our perspective makes us better people. Also, this type of moving allows our everyday life to be lived on a deeper level, to have a fuller, more joyful life. We stop taking things for granted because our hearts and minds are in constant motion. We are moving. We are living.

Maybe Ryan Bingham (character from the movie Up in the Air) was right…

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A Year Without a Smartphone

I don’t know if you have heard, but VitaminWater is going to give one person a chance to win a 100,000 dollars if they can go without a smartphone for 365 days.

Yes, I have entered for the chance.

Have you? Could you go a year without your smartphone? I doubt I will be selected. To enter you have to post on social media how your life would be different for the year. As I write this, Instagram says there are 59.3k posts with the VitaminWater’s contest hashtag, #NoPhoneforaYear. So, I doubt my three entries will even be seen.

But it is an interesting question to ponder. Two of my entries were focused on writing more and being more involved as a father and husband. Common ideas from other people. My third entry was based on what I would miss…

Smartphones do enhance our lives. I listen to music. I take pictures all the time. In fact, I was going to do the 365 photo challenge again for 2019, but decided to wait till VitaminWater chose the person for their contest. I would miss the instant communication with my family. Even the quick text to let them know I love them. Yes, I even play games on my phone. I have played Puzzle and Dragons for 1661 days (this is why my oldest son doesn’t think I could make it a year without my phone).

When I told my students about the contest, one student said 100,000 dollars wasn’t enough money to give up their phone.

Now, I could reference all the articles and studies about the power of screens in our lives. This is a cultural debate, but also still a new development in our society. The iPhone is only 11 years old. Think about that… both the positive and negative of what smartphones have done for us.

But again, this post isn’t about that, either.

Would you live a year without a smartphone for 100,000 dollars? I think I can.

Would you live a year without a smartphone for your goals?

I’m trying. I’m not giving up my phone. But I am putting it down to write this blog. I am leaving it on my nightstand more. Yes, I have played Puzzle and Dragons today. I have texted my family. Took a crazy photo at lunch. But I am letting my life dictate my phone use. I’m not letting my phone dictate my life.

Would you live a year without a smartphone for your goals?

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Life Without a Phone

iphoneI know this is going to shock you… I have been without my iPhone for two weeks. It finally died during Christmas break. I have a replacement phone on the way, but it is back-ordered. I’ve learned a few things about how a smartphone impacts our daily life.


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First, life goes on. Honestly. in some ways, it has been good not to have my phone… or maybe I should say apps. Some readers may have noticed that I have not been as active on Twitter lately. Especially with sharing my typography photos I make with Typic. Which I also share those photos on iTagged and Instagram. I do miss taking photos and not just for the creative things I do with them.

I could not take a photo of any of my children during the break. No smiling faces as they opened presents. No fun shots as the family let our new guinea pig, Kota, play in the living room.  Even worse, no chance to share those photos with Grandma and grandpa in Wyoming. I also couldn’t send text messages to other friends and family just to say hello. Let alone communicate with my wife to handle our busy everyday life. Who’s picking up who? Can I stop and get milk?

But life goes on.

I am more connected with the people around me. I’m not checking my Twitter notifications while my daughters take a bath.  I’m playing or talking to them as they make bubble beards. I am getting projects completed in half the time at work. I notice how people are feeling through their eyes. And honestly, right now, I feel more relaxed.  I feel free, not connected to my phone.

This feeling is interesting because when my phone first died I was stressed. I couldn’t check in on one of my favorite games, Puzzle and Dragons. Puzzle and Dragons uses a simple psychology reinforcement of tracking how many days you have played total and how many days in a row. Before my phone died, I had played for over 600 days. My streak was 496 days. Now, I don’t spend hours a day playing Puzzle and Dragons. But as you can see, I was connected to it.I won’t even discuss how many worlds I have lost in Minecraft Pocket EditionTheTop




I can’t calculate  how much time I spent with Twitter alone. Add all the time I listen to my music, checking Flipboard, researching new apps and just texting friends, and you can see that I was connected to the phone.

There are a number of studies about our addictive behavior with technology, this is a true concern for our development as people and a culture. These last two weeks have been an interesting case study of how connected my life is to my phone. Without my phone I am more connected with the people around me.  I’m more connected to what is going on in my life right now. But without my phone my connections with people and interest is affected. Connecting with my family in other states, friends and colleagues on Twitter, and even communicating with my family to make our daily life run smoothly has been lost.  I miss taking photos and playing Puzzle and Dragons. I miss creating typography pictures.

I learned I can live without a smartphone and when I get my replacement to make sure I disconnect from the phone to connect with the people around me. The past two weeks have reinforced that technology should enhance our lives, not control them.

But the most interesting thing I learned is that I don’t want to live without a smartphone. And that idea is for another post, I think the mailman has just pulled up…


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Tech is Awesome

Sometimes it is the simplest moments that bring the greatest joy.  My second son and I jammed out to Aloe Blacc’s, “The Man,” on the way to basketball practice last night.

On the way home I thought about how technology allowed our moment to be so cool.  First, my son and I jam out all the time.  But last night just highlighted what an awesome time we are living in.

My son asked me if I had heard the new Aloe Blacc song. I asked which one and he said, “the I’m the man song.”  I said I hadn’t heard the whole song, but knew of the song because of the Kevin Garnett Beats commercial.  Now, this is when technology kicked in to foster a great father and son moment.

Our minivan has Bluetooth for our phones. So, quickly we looked up the song on Grooveshark website. Switched the radio to broadcast my phone and soon we were bobbing our heads while we sang, “Go ahead tell everybody. I’m the man. I’m the man.  I’m the man.”

You might be thinking, there is nothing special about the technology.  That is true.  In fact my son and I may have jammed out to another song.  But ten years ago, this wouldn’t have happened.  We take for granted what technology does for us everyday.  How awesome it is right now… I think Neil Pasricha would agree with me.

Have an awesome day!

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A Digital Path

IMG_2890 “Please help me teach a valuable lesson to the 7s retweet/favourite/share whatever 🙂 #weinspire #cybersafety” Tweet from Home of 7AH.

Well, lucky for you I am also a teacher… but I could be anyone behind a keyboard.  Your picture is now apart of a blog post from an individual in Nebraska, US. I have not manipulated the photo, but I could.  Photoshop is an amazing tool… oh wait I did alter the photo…IMG_2892

In fact, I used a simple app…PhotoFunia.



Consider for a moment the unknown that happens with anything we produce digital… from a picture, to a tweet, to the information of our lives that we share. Home of 7AH, I hope this blog post spurs some interesting discussions. I also hope it generates a few seconds of thought for everyone before you go digital with anything… who knows what will happen to that moment.





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What happens when a connected teacher loses the connection?

A normal hurdle in our connected lives is home Internet service.  For the last three days our Internet has been down.  And life has been different.

First, we have been spending more time together in the living room.  The older kids still had their mobile devices, but mostly to listen to music or to read.  My oldest daughter has been spending time working on her first graphic novel, the boys have been taking turns holding their new sister, and the two other girls have been running sprints to the front door.

Mom and dad have been intertwined into the activities.  I am the official starter for the sprints. The girls line up next to me and I say, “Go, Go, Go!”  Mom will make sure the boys hold their sister’s head right.  And we all check the newest panel in our daughter’s project.

The disconnect has allowed us a chance to reconnect during this busy time.

But being disconnected has its drawbacks.

First semester is the time I teach the Eng. 101 class.  The students use Moodle to turn in everything.  In the best circumstances, I am always just a little behind in grading.  The students write almost everyday.  I am now days behind in just that class.  I have work to do to just get caught up.

My other classes use Schoology, and I have kept up through the app on my phone.

Photo by former student Angelica.

Photo by former student Angelica.

But when the rest of our world stays connected, we have a digital mountain to climb when we reconnect with them.  We have emails to read and respond to, tweets and status updates to respond to, and for teachers, piles of digital papers to grade.

We might have come to the point that we cannot function well without being connected.  And that idea is for another blog.

A technician is headed to our house this morning to fix the problem.  And I will be back to grading papers late into the night. And tweeting during my breaks, of course.


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Whatever happened to Georgia Wonder?

Back in 2009 I was following a band Georgia Wonder on Twitter. I was also teaching a unit on digital literacy for my sophomores. I had a crazy idea to try to connect with people I followed on Twitter to enhance some of the topics we were covering in class. One of those people was Julian Moore of the band Georgia Wonder. He agreed to talk to my sophomores via iChat to talk about the music business.

Here is the online magazine my students produced from that lesson: Chalk: Georgia Wonder issue.

Here is the blog post Julian wrote: Nebraska USA.

But this post is not about that lesson; it is about relationships. Relationships in our digital age.

Julian and I hit it off right away. In fact we both have the same birthday. For quite some time after the iChat lesson we kept in contact on a regular bases. Georgia Wonder was working on a new album, and in fact the class and I got to hear the first single from the album as Julian was working on it. Today it is 2013 and I have lost contact with Julian. There have only been two posts on Twitter from the band since last year. Their blog has not been updated in a long time. Julian is working on a novel, but that blog has not been updated either. So what happen to a friendship in the making? Life.

Let me take a minute to bring in a few ideas that have been on my mind lately. In the TECHS class we have been discussing digital citizenship, and part of that discussion has been the change in our definitions of friendship, communication, and relationships. Yesterday we watched the following TED talk “Alone Together” by Sherry Turkle.

I have been reading the book You are not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier, which discuss many of the same ideas. This blog isn’t about those either.

Now this is a hard truth. I know that if I stopped using Twitter or Facebook, nobody would really care. Somebody might think off hand that I hadn’t posted anything in awhile, but life would go on. I will be starting a new job soon and in a few months after I leave ESU 10 somebody might think about me, but life goes on. But here is the point, the aspect we as a culture and as individuals are discovering and working through; life goes on whether we are online or not. (And I am thinking we need to be offline a little more… but that is for another post) But when we embrace the power to enhance our relationships through technology we create an incredible personal experience that enriches what we do and who we can become. At the moment much of technology discussion feels like technology is a separate aspect to our lives. It is not; it is a tool that can enrich our lives.

So what does this have to do with Georgia Wonder? Good question. I may never connect with Julian again, but the possibility is there because of technology. But just like any friendship, job, or change, life goes on. But my life, and my students’ lives, was enriched by our connection. If we keep the focus on how technology can make our lives better; I think we will do just fine.

By the way, Georgia Wonder, if you get the chance to read this… I’m still listening to your music.

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Class Research

The TECHS students did a simple Google Presentation on future technology. Each student, across four class periods, were assigned to find something cool happening in the world of technology.

Technology allows any of us to collaborate with ease.

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