Friday, February 14, 2014

...the pursuit of Happiness (is not a guarantee everyone gets to be happy)

"It is the year 2081. Because of Amendments to the Constitution, every American is fully equal, meaning that no one is smarter, better-looking, stronger, or faster than anyone else. The Handicapper General and a team of agents ensure that the laws of equality are enforced. The government forces citizens to wear "handicaps" (a mask if they are too handsome or beautiful, earphones with deafening radio signals to make intelligent people unable to concentrate and form thoughts, and heavy weights to slow down those who are too strong or fast)."

- Kurt Vonnegut Jr., "Harrison Bergeron"

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

- from "United States Declaration of Independence"


A Maryland middle school is under fire for throwing a dance and pizza party for only the smartest students, while more than 300 kids were left out. It begs the question: does this help or hurt lower achieving students?

During a Fox and Friends debate, psychologist Dr. Susan Lipkins said this type of reward system undermines anti-bully programs.

“It is divisive. It makes kids feel like they’re excluded, and it’s sort of like a country club that only accepts the smart kids,” she said.

Dr. Charles Williams, a psychologist at Drexel University, argued that rewarding achievement is beneficial. “The science says that it’s one way to ensure that students will perform and achieve when you set the bar high.”

It also goes back to the ‘everyone gets a trophy’ debate. Dr. Williams said, “Although the Seattle Seahawks won, should we have given the Denver Broncos a Super Bowl trophy too? […] It’s also our job to prepare kids for life and the reality of life, and the reality of life is simple: you are rewarded for hard work.”



In this age of higher competition in the global marketplace, higher unemployment, higher inflation, and higher debt, it amazes me that our public institutions of learning are still lowering the bar for educational achievement. It is a shame that instead of preparing our children for the challenges of life, we choose to pander them and white-wash their world. Unfortunately, after they leave the nest, the rest of the world really doesn't care about their feelings or whether they are part of the club; businesses measure their worth by how hard their employees work and how well they perform. If an employee under-performs, there is a line of replacements waiting outside the door.

At some point, hopefully before it is too late, our country is going to wake up and realize that fortitude and hard work are vital to the success of our economy and each of us as individuals. The era of the helicopter parent and social warm fuzzies is over. We must rise to the occasion, not wait for someone else to hand it to us.

- Ken

Monday, November 18, 2013

Start with good writing, the learning will follow.

I recently had the pleasure of collaborating with 22 other writers on "How to become an eLearning Professional," an eBook for professionals . The group I participated with included the likes of Christopher Pappas, Cammy Bean, Connie Malamed, Diane Senffer, and many others. The key objective of the eBook was for our group of seasoned professionals to share anecdotal stories of what we felt were important skills, characteristics or behaviors required to be an eLearning professional.

Most of us by now have heard of or have some idea regarding the concept of rapid design and development. Christopher Pappas decided to see if the same approach could be used to create a professional level book. Instead of becoming an expert on all things eLearning, he sourced our group to each write one chapter in one month. Not only did this create the book in "record" time; it added sincerity and passion behind each topic that only comes from true experiences, not academic postulations.

My topic is more primordial ooze than rocket science. I chose to focus on a fundamental issue that actually kills more learning programs than "buggy" technology. Somewhere along the technology superhighway, learning professionals decided that proper writing is optional; that grammar, spelling and punctuation just do not matter in the 21st Century. Armed with anecdotes of learning disasters, I composed my chapter and submitted it as my contribution for future eLearning professionals.

As storytelling re-emerges as a dominant feature of learning, I hope to see more of this type of collaborative publication. The voices of many will help us all recognize and acknowledge the accomplishments of today and our visions for tomorrow. The format democratizes the field of knowledge and empowers the next generation of learning professionals to build up from the foundations we have laid and create solutions for the future.

You can read the results of this rapid collaboration here at


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Time is generally relative...

Punctuality used to be an important part of who I was. If anything, I was habitually early - air travel, my classes, basically anything I had to do I was there with plenty to spare. That part of me is now locked in the past. These days with the exception of work, I arrive when I can. It started a few years back with all the traveling I was doing, and as the kids got more and more involved with activities that required them to be on a schedule, I found myself with less and less accountability for my own time. In fact, I found the closer the relation to me, like my children or my wife, the more their time means and the less I worry about what hour or minute I find the the hands of the clock.

It is with this concept of the relatives of time that I find myself this evening realizing that it has been over six months since I last posted to my blog. Six months! So much has happened in the interim it doesn't even make sense to try and recap. Just know that we are all well and doing fine. 

Time appears to be in fast forward. Last month I celebrated my three-year anniversary with Ingersoll Rand. In less than 18 months Alex graduates from college. Isaac will have his real driver's license in a month. We have to dive into the college selection game soon for him. And Darby is nearing the end of her freshman year of high school. 

Very soon, it will just be Trudie and me making our own time; and making up for lost time. And, generally, wait patiently for the relatives to spend time with us.

- Ken

Sunday, August 12, 2012

First person politics with my children...

The sun rose bright and clear this morning. As my two high schoolers and I headed out the door, we were greeted with the first cool morning in months. There is a change in the air; a political change. With this in mind, we took a short trip north up I-77 to the NASCAR Training Institute and experienced part of what makes America great: the political bus tour.

A week ago I received a Facebook post inviting me to get tickets to see Governor Mitt Romney on the campaign trail in person. I requested three tickets so my children could come along and we waited for today. We wanted to get there early to make sure we got good seats, so we headed out before breakfast. Traffic was heavy, so our GPS really paid off by taking us in a back way, bypassing much of it.

We waited in line with other eager supporters. As the line inched forward, we passed the requisite 3 or 4 protesters (yes, there were literally 3 or 4, not three or four hundred). As for the Romney fans, there seemed to be thousands. We met small business owners who were happy to share their stories with my children, Isaac and Darby. Being interested in politics himself, Isaac listened and discussed viewpoints on key issues and differences between the Liberal and Conservative platforms. A writer named Dr. Truth shared a Liberal parody book loosely based on the "Cat in the Hat" with Darby. We all thought the writing was amusing and might have thought it hilarious if so much of it had not been true. I love it when adults take time to talk to future voters and not just brush them off. Isaac was especially happy when the voter registration volunteers asked if he was registered; thinking he was eighteen and not three years younger.

The morning almost ended on a sad note as we approached the metal detectors to enter the building where Governor Romney and his newly announced running mate Paul Ryan were scheduled to speak.In one of four rows of waiting mothers, fathers, babies and the like, we were eight people back from the gate when the fire marshals came out and announced there were too many people and we would have to view the speech from outside. Disappointed, the kids and I walked back around the building to come face-to-face with at least a thousand more people in the same boat as us. I later heard that of the 2000 expected attendees, there were almost 5000 people. While we were sad not to see the speeches in person, we were excited that the turnout was so high in our swing state.

We were not detoured. We stood on a grassy hill overlooking the event and waited and talked until the buses arrived. We knew the buses were coming, not because we saw them, but because the wave of cheering came around the bend. And so from the hill we listened to the speech those inside witnessed first hand. And, although we would have liked to have been there too, the company of fellow conservatives around us made the experience worthwhile.

At the conclusion of the speeches, we waited for one last view of our candidates, hoping for a photo moment. A short time later we were reward for our patience. Governor Romney and Paul Ryan came out to us, hopped up on a picnic table and took the time to present their message to us in person. Thanking us for being there and building excitement for the next few months leading up to November. It was exciting for all of us.

Last fall I had the chance to see President Obama speak during his American Jobs Act bus tour in Jacksonville, NC. His bus tour was like Governor Romney's, fly in and then take a bus for a few stops in the state and then fly to the next state. A true bus tour would take too long and not accomplish enough in this age of information. I am just happy to have been able to see both. And, based on what I have heard, I think the direction we need to go is on the Romney and Ryan bus!

To my Liberal friends, I appreciate your willingness to accept the words I am sharing through our country's support of "freedom of speech." We live in tough times and for those of you who know my story, you know I believe in what the conservative party is doing to make our country stronger. My family and I were in the 99% before it was cool, and through patience, hard work and sacrifice we have survived. As a former small business owner, I know the best thing the government can do is reduce corporate taxes and, within reason, reduce regulations that kill business and not build it. While I may not change your point of view, I do ask that you look at the "change" that has occurred in America resulting from the current administration and reflect on whether or not it was the change you wanted.

Most importantly, I ask my conservative friends to do your best to support our candidates. It is a right, a privilege, and a responsibility of all Americans to get out and vote!

Click here for more information on the Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan Campaign.

- Ken

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sharing my passion for narrative learning and games

I am writing this post tonight from my hotel in beautiful (but stormy) Wilmington, NC. It is here that I am both attending and presenting at the Global Learning Technology Conference on the campus of UNC Wilmington.

The Halls of Education at UNCW

Details, Details

Your ABCs

Front Row Seats

Being the first year of this now to be annual event, the population is relatively small, but very focused and dedicated to the application of learning technology to improve outcomes in education at all ages. There are participants from K-12 schools, Colleges and Universities, and my current favorite, corporate learning. The mix is fairly even and the topics range from LMS systems and online learning to games in education. 

Speaking of games in education (which I will also be tomorrow afternoon) the keynote presentation "Let the Games Begin" by Lucas Gillispie was absolutely awesome. The work he is doing with applying game theory to K-12 education is right on target. If you are unfamiliar with his work, please check it out at He provides free resources for all to learn more about this emerging model for education.

As for my presentation tomorrow, it is titled "Problem-Based Learning using Game Masters, Storytellers and Gamification." Feel free to click on this link to view and/or print the presentation and notes in its entirety.

- Ken

Thursday, May 10, 2012

My daughter, a poster child for learning in the 21st Century

(see our post on Dr. Allison Rossett's page, too.)
It is my humble opinion (and rather biased, I will admit) that my 8th grade daughter, Darby, is a prime example of what it means to be a 21st Century student. She is well on her way to a lifetime journey of learning, limited only by having enough time to obtain all the information and skills she desires. And just how does my prodigy achieve this array of abilities? Is she a savant? Is she genetically enhanced? No, she has simply grown up in the generation that acknowledges the classroom is just one small element in the larger educational picture. And, like those “Where’s Waldo” pictures she and I shared when she was little, she now searches for anything, anytime, anywhere courtesy of the technology of today.

Last year I had the opportunity to see her in action first hand. I was hospitalized for over a month, during which Darby came to stay with me for a full week. Not wanting to get behind in her schoolwork, her 21st Century learning skills and adaptability kicked in and she not only kept up with her work, but completed her assignments in half the time required by her peers. The following is her version of the story…


Working outside of school would have been very difficult if I didn’t have all the resources I have today. When my dad fell ill this past fall and I knew I had to be with him, I brought along some clothes, my laptop, cell phone, and my iPod Touch 4. I visited my dad every day in the hospital, bringing along my laptop and iPod.

I acted like it was a regular school day. I would set up my laptop and go straight to my school email. Every middle school student at my school has a school email that connects them together on the same server. My best friend would email me after every class, telling me my assignments. I had no textbooks with me, but that was OK since we all have online text books.

So the only problem I had would be math, a subject hard to learn without guidance and initially we thought there would be no way to send me worksheets in a quick manner. Then my math teacher found a way to send worksheets by scanning them into the computer and then emailing them to me. I was able to fill them out using the highlighter and sticky note option in Adobe reader giving me a place to write my answers. I then emailed them back to my teacher. I even took two math tests during the two weeks I was gone. I couldn’t allow myself be behind by two weeks, besides when your alone and bored in an unfamiliar place, you begin to miss school, even the class work.

During this time, I had to send in two “article of the week” assignments.  These require you to read an article from CNN, the New York Times, News Week, etc., highlight important things, make comments on what you have underlined and write an 8-10 sentence review on the article. So all I did was use my common sense and my excellent ability to work with Microsoft Word. I copied the article into Word and used the highlighter option to mark the key items, and then I used the comment feature and made my comments wherever I felt was necessary.  After I made all my comments, I did a page break and wrote my 8-10 sentences on the articles, like the one I did on how “texting can affect your driving.” Thanks to spell check, I made sure everything was ready. Then, using my student email, I sent it straight to my English teacher.

The last assignment was for Language Arts and it befuddled me a little, but then an idea hit me right on my head. What I had to do was make vocabulary note cards. The first problem that occurred to me was I had no clue what the words were let alone their definitions. Sending a text would be too big and take too long for any of my friends to enter in class, so what they did was a little more creative. They took a picture of the words and definitions with their cellphone cameras and posted it on my Facebook wall. Now I had the exact word with the exact definition. No text abbreviations or all the confusion that comes with that. This assignment requires you have to have the word written on the front of a note card with an additional seven times for spelling practice, then on the back you have to write the definition and how to use it in a sentence. Unfortunately a computer can’t legibly take large pictures of all fifteen note cards together, so I took my iPod touch 4 and used its camera to take pictures, front and back, of each note card. For each picture there is an option to email the pictures, post on Facebook, etc., so I emailed the pictures to my teacher and bam, got a ten out of ten on the assignment!

Growing up in the twenty first century has opened many educational doors for me. If I don’t understand something all I have to do is hop on Google to find the answers. I have some of the best teachers at my fingertips including Khan Academy, a site that really helped me with all of the math I was learning. My smart phone was with me so I could look up anything at any time. Going to school could become such a brand new thing. This is a great study and it raises a huge question. Do we really need teachers? I got along fine without one; can every child get around without one? Maybe we can use teachers in the classroom to help with homework and receive our main learning from online teachers.


When I hear how far behind we are in education in the United States - many other countries are facing this as well - I have to question which generation is being used as the baseline. I believe, if we provide more “guide on the side” instead of “sage on the stage,” teaching them more about how to fish for what they need and less about feeding them a morsel at a time, we will be pleasantly surprised with the outcome. These children want to learn. As Darby said, " Maybe we can use teachers in the classroom to help with homework and receive our main learning from online teachers." I know in her experience using the Khan Academy, she was able to pick and choose from a variety of instructors until she found the one who presented the material in a way she could understand it. With a network of similar subject matter experts in all subjects (see MIT and Harvard's new OpenSource college courses for example) and for a variety of demographics, students from around the globe may finally have equal access to the best instruction for their own personal condition. These students will find a way; with technology and access we just need to let them.

- Ken and Darby

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Half Way There...

Wow, where does the time go? Last post in January and now it's May - sorry folks lie intervened. So here is the "Reader's Digest" condensed recap:

Recovered from surgery and back on my feet - nice war wound for the beach this summer. Passed my second anniversary at Ingersoll Rand and loving it more each day. Davidson/Cornelius is a great place to be for us during the High School years. Kids are doing great - sports, play, honor role, music, etc. I completed the first half of my grad school work with a 4.0 average - latest project is here and I successfully hosted one of the sessions at the East Coast Games Conference again this spring - "Game Mastering Problem Based Learning." Trudie is doing great - she is on the Cathedral School and Diocese of Raleigh team working on the new Cathedral in Raleigh and stays extremely busy juggling the rest of our lives. Our family has had its ups and downs over the past few years and we are fortunately in our up swing this year. And, to top it all off, I finished installing the hardwood floors I started last September (the week before I almost didn't make it) and the house in Raleigh is now ready to become the Sorority House for my oldest next year.

Whew! Probably missed a million things in between, but that's the short version. So what's on tap for the summer? Well, no school for me - the courses I need are unavailable this summer. That means for the first time in a long time I will be focused on actually vacationing with the family and not kind of vacationing while balancing school or work or whatever. Isaac (I.C.E. Ike) and I will be producing his music for YouTube airing and working on his track skills. Darby is doing theater in GA and starting cheer leading for the high school when she joins us out here in July. Alex is directing at the theater in GA this summer! She starts her junior year in college in the fall. Trudie and I will get some well needed "us" time. We will all have our annual beach trip and plan on taking advantage of the National Whitewater Rafting Center in Charlotte. Izy and I may try to hop over to see Grammy and Grampa at Dollywood if we can coordinate our schedules.

I look forward to writing more this summer. Hope to not have four months go by the next time.

- Ken