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I’m a Prepper, a Death Prepper

Over the past few months, I’ve been preparing to die. Or at least I’ve started preparing for that inevitability. It’s actually been kind of fun.

I don’t actually believe that I’m going to die soon; not that one can ever be too sure about those things. I don’t have a terminal disease, nor a death wish. I’ve just seen a lot of people die in the past few years, and I want to be ready.

The grim reaper awaits all of us.

As a death prepper, here’s what I’ve been up to lately:

  • I’ve written my own obit. It’s ready to go, once somebody else is able to add the date and cause of death.
  • I’ve chosen the songs I want to be played at my death party (or memorial service, if you will).
  • I’ve prepared a shared online spreadsheet to make sure my wife has access to all the financial accounts information.
  • I’ve decided on cremation, because I really like the word “cremains.” (I hope you cremember me when I’m gone.)
  • My headstone is being prepared. Tasteful little thing, no 24K gold or diamond studs. I don’t feel like I actually need a headstone anywhere in the world, but my wife would like to have our markers side-by-side. That’s a good enough reason for me.

I do have a couple of things left to do:

  • I’m working on a solution that will delete almost all of my online accounts when I die, except for this blog and my Twitter feed. I’ll leave those for my kids to look back on someday.
  • I still need to prepare a will. This should be moot, because I expect my wife to live 30 more years after I die, and everything goes to her with or without a will. However, it’s not a sure thing that I go first, so a last will and testament needs to be prepared.
  • I’m going to prepare a 5-minute video about my life. My whole life condensed into 5 minutes. That’s going to be a challenge. Lots of good stuff will hit the cutting room floor, but death is cruel – and most people will start to check out after five minutes anyway. Why a 5-minute video? I don’t know; I just want to.
  • And lastly, to steal phrase, I need to get busy living.

If and when you see my obit, you’ll see that I don’t use the phrase “he passed away.” You don’t pass away – you fail away. You didn’t pass, you failed. You failed to live forever. Death is not a hall pass, it’s a pink slip.

Using Voicethread in Education with an Eye on Accessiblity

In a previous post, Mea Culpa – Accessibility Concerns of Using External Tools in the LMS, I mentioned the This web-based tool has passed the accessibility testaccessibility concerns that come from using many of the popular external tools (Web 2.0 tools, if you will) inside the LMS. I previously posted about the accessibility issues with Slideshare and also the poor accessibility record of Prezi. This post is a bit more positive, because I’m highlighting a tool that has made major steps forward on the road to a11y.

Voicethread is increasingly being used in education at all levels. Some of their features (from  their website) include:

Creating: Upload, share and discuss documents, presentations, images, audio files and videos. Over 50 different types of media can be used in a VoiceThread.

Commenting: Comment on VoiceThread slides using one of five powerful commenting options: microphone, webcam, text, phone, and audio-file upload.

Sharing: Keep a VoiceThread private, share it with specific people, or open it up to the entire world. Learn more about sharing VoiceThreads.

Below is a link to an example Voicethread created by an educator and her students. It was easy to embed the Voicethread into Brightspace, but WordPress (this site) doesn’t play nicely with embed code. Click on the image below to view the Voicethread.

Voicethread example for education

Voicethread provides for both audio and text comments. It is one of the most accessible Web 2.0 platforms that you will find. 

More resources:

Voicethread also offers a series of higher ed webinars “to improve your pedagogical use of VoiceThread or plan a group viewing of an archive with your colleagues to stimulate an engaging professional development event on campus about teaching with VoiceThread.” The webinars are presented by Michelle Pacansky-Brock, a Voicethread evangelist and an eLearning professional educator.

Scott Walker has been Great for Education – in Minnesota!

This is a follow-up to my post from October 2012, Replacement Teachers Coming Soon to Wisconsin. Not surprisingly, I received lots of pushback on that article from those who “Stand with Walker,” including many who don’t live in Wisconsin and have no idea what is happening here, except for what they are told by bloggers and faux news people.We stand by while Scott Walker ruins Wisconsin

Every time I see another “We Stand with Scott Walker” yard sign, I assume that the home owner hates education and educators. I’m not sure what else to think here in Superior where Scott Walker has started the ball rolling down a hill where the result will be a severe lowering of the quality of public education.

So, what’s happening here in Superior, Wisconsin? Superior is a border town. It takes me 3-4 minutes to be on top of the “high bridge” and into Minnesota. After leaving my house, I could be pulling into the parking lot of a half dozen Minnesota schools within 15 minutes. But I’m not the one doing that. That commute belongs to the excellent teachers and other education employees who have recently taken better jobs on the Minnesota side of the border.

The migration of our best educators from Superior to schools in Minnesota has begun. From one elementary school alone, four excellent educators recently quit their jobs in Superior to take similar, but better, jobs in Minnesota. Why did these educators jump to the other side of the bridge? Because they couldn’t afford not to. They needed to have affordable health insurance for their family, and they no longer had that in the Superior School District.

Good teaching jobs in Minnesota, lousy teaching jobs in WisconsinNote to all school administrators in Duluth, Proctor, Hermantown, Esko, Cloquet, Two Harbors and others; the best Superior teachers are ripe for the plucking since you offer them much better benefits than they now receive in Wisconsin.

The stripping of decent health insurance was a two-step process. Scott Walker didn’t accomplish it completely on his own, but he took care of part one, which was stripping away the collective bargaining rights. I case you missed it, the 2011 Wisconsin Act 10 was proposed by Walker, passed by the Wisconsin Legislature, and became law, effective June 29, 2011. At that point, the School District of Superior no longer had to negotiate with their employees over anything except pay raises.

The second step in the process has to be owned by the Superior School Board. They are the ones who took the opportunity provided by Walker to decimate the affordability of the health insurance coverage offered to employees of the school district. One example of the devastating change in employee health insurance is the quadrupling of the annual deductible for family coverage from $1,500 to $6,000.

If ever there was a case study for the importance of public employee unions, Scott Walker’s actions and the resulting fallout would be it. His supporters believe, apparently, that public employees don’t need unions because their employer (the gubment) is always above board and would never screw them over. Those same people like to point to FDR’s statements about how public employees don’t need the protection of unions and collective bargaining. That was in the 30’s and 40’s, and if we still had government leaders like FDR, maybe the public employee unions wouldn’t be necessary. Instead we have politicians like Scott Walker, and there is no doubt that the public employees need protection from the actions of their government employer.

To my friends on the police force and those in the fire halls, he’ll be coming for your collective bargaining rights next. Obviously he hasn’t wanted to do this until after the election, because he’s counting on your votes to get re-elected. As soon as the Wisconsin Governor election is over, Walker will be positioning himself for a run at the White House; and that means finishing the job he started by wiping out all public employee unions in Wisconsin. Do you like your employee benefits? If so, then you’d better protect them, because Scott Walker won’t.

I Stand Against Scott Walker!

I Stand WITH Education and Educators!

Don’t Forget the Attribution – Sorry CogDog

I am the yearbook committee each year for the elementary school where my youngest attends (and he’s got two more years to go, oy!). Every year it is a mad dash to get all the class photos laid out – and then to stuff as many candids into the various pages as possible. Almost everyone likes to see their face show up multiple times in the yearbook, although there are some exceptions to that very general rule.

Doing something fresh and interesting for the front and back cover is always a challenge, especially since I am neither the most creative person nor the best designer you’ll ever meet. These two cover pages are the only color pages in the book; everything else is black-n-white. This year I decided to use a photo of the Aurora since the school is named Northern Lights Elementary.

Luckily, I was able to find some very nice CC-Attribution photos on Flickr. I didn’t have to look any further than my friend and fellow educator, Alan Levine (cogdogblog on Flickr). Since it was licensed for remix – I cropped it to fit the vertical page layout and then added the text as seen below.

Then I made the fatal error (well not really fatal, at least I hope not (although that would get me out of the yearbook business)) and forgot to add my intended blurb on the inside of the cover giving Alan a photo credit for his fine shot.

Please consider this to be a make-up attribution for Alan as well as my apology for being a bit scatterbrained. Now there will be about 600 grade schoolers who won’t see his name in their yearbook. His career may never recover, but I certainly hope so.

Alan, please accept my apologies for my oversight. Hope this makes us square.

Navy SEALS are Lying Conspirators

Or so it must be according to those who want more proof that bin Laden is dead. The word of a Navy SEAL is not good enough. Apparently.

Every American who believes that the U.S. Navy SEAL Team 6 didn’t kill bin Laden apparently thinks that the entire group of specially trained, best-of-the-best American soldiers are all involved in a lie and the cover-up of that lie. Sure, people have their political reasons for not wanting to believe Obama, and Hillary, and anyone else seen biting their lips in that “staged” photo in the “Situation Room” at the White House. After all, how could anyone ever believe a U.S. politician? The cable “news” channels see to it that we can never believe anything that comes from a politician.

And isn’t it convenient that there is no group officially called SEAL Team 6? Also convenient that they need to stay completely out of the public eye – such a shroud of secrecy. So yes, if you believe that the bin Laden killing is a scam and a hoax – then you also believe that U.S. Navy SEALs are a major part of the effort in pulling the wool over our eyes. It’s not as if Obama went over the wall of that compound himself and shot bin Laden in the head.

No, it was a U.S. Navy SEAL. Do you seriously not believe that?

(Okay. That should take care of my political ranting in this space for at least several months. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.)  (Flickr-CC photo by The U.S. Army)

On Becoming Self-Employed

I’m trying to figure out where I fit in the employed — self-employed — unemployed landscape. Technically I’m still employed in that I will continue to have a paycheck for approximately three more months and I am still working on some “special projects” for my employer. However, it really feels as though I am unemployed, since I received the news (see previous post) that my position is being eliminated at the college.

As I write this I am working on plans to see if I can make a living being self-employed. I’ve been self-employed previously and I really believe that it feels more like being unemployed than employed. Not because you don’t work when you’re self-employed (usually, quite to the contrary), but because you do not have the security of the trappings that come along with those remaining good jobs that are out there – particularly those significant employer contributions to insurance and retirement costs as well as managing all that income tax crapola that requires special attention.

Although some of the advice is questionable, I am re-reading “Before You Quit Your Job” by R. Kiyosaki (you know, the Rich Dad guy) to get my mind around reviving my entrepreneurial spirit. More relevant to me have been several posts by Harold Jarche, including Freelancers Unite, Freelance Lessons, To be, or not to be a consultant, and So You Want to Be an E-learning Consultant.

I’m also faced with a bit of a dilemma. Although I would love to go down the entrepreneurial path, I do have concerns about my ability to put 3 kids through college in addition to all that other stuff like keeping a roof over their heads and food on their table. So I’m also sprucing up my job application materials with the thought of applying for several of the jobs that are recently posted or about to be posted around the region. Right now it feels like figuring out my next ten years is a bit of a full-time job itself.

On Becoming Unemployed

As many of my friends already know, I recently received notice that my job was being eliminated at Lake Superior College. I was fully expecting that I would hear the news that my job was being re-designed into a lower level title with less pay, but I had no inkling that my position and my employment would be cut completely. This picture of me in my office was taken just a couple of months before I received this news. Ahh, good times.

Along with three of my vice presidential colleagues, I received the kind of news that no one wants to hear – something to the effect of – “you’re no longer needed here.” Although that is not a direct quote, that pretty much sums up the situation. As part of a major reorganization at the college, the remaining administrators will take on new responsibilities and there are also quite a few things that probably just won’t get done any more. I’ve spent 15 years at Lake Superior College and about 27 years altogether working in higher education. A brief rundown of my time at LSC includes:

  • November, 1995: I accepted a temporary faculty position at LSC teaching accounting, starting the winter quarter of ’95-96 school year.
  • August, 1996: I started a probationary period on a tenure-track accounting position with the LSC faculty.
  • During the 2000-01 academic year I received some release time to serve as the Online Faculty Coordinator.
  • June, 2001: I resigned my faculty tenure (oops!) to become the Dean of Technology and Distance Learning at LSC.
  • June, 2004: Received a promotion to Vice President of Technology and e-Campus at LSC, and joined the President’s Cabinet.
  • November, 2010: I received notice of my impending lay-off due to reorganization and reduction in force.

I am now working from home on special projects during the three-month period when the college is obligated to pay me but doesn’t want me around (note: I don’t want to be there either as it is extremely difficult to deal with the near constant pity party related to my departure). I’m not exactly sure what is next. More info will be posted here in the near future.

My biggest regret/disappointment/concern has to do with my abrupt exit from the college community. After 15 years of service, and after creating (I believe, and so I’m told) a pretty decent record related to online learning and the uses of technology at the campus; it doesn’t feel good at all to basically just disappear from the campus and from my friends and colleagues. It feels as if I’ve done something wrong, which I haven’t. In fact, the whole thing is downright painful.