IoT Basics for Educators

“IoT” stands for the “Internet of Things”. It’s a true #facepalm of a term – semantically meaningless, as far as I’m concerned. The shortest, and not necessarily best, explanation of the term is in this ~minute-long video:

So… It’s Just Sensors?

Yeah… mostly. Exciting, right? Queue the sad trombone music. I don’t really think we needed a whole new term for the facts that we are embedding sensors everywhere and that sensor-created data is being analyzed to provide new and interesting insights.

A Page Out of My Book

Generally speaking, IoT in Education registers as a solid meh for me; however, there are two situations where I personally would prefer IoT-based Education.

Performance Sports Training

Deadlift is an easy lift: you pick things up, you put them back down – literally. Every time you pick the laundry basket up off the ground and you do it properly, you’re more or less deadlifting.

Each time you deadlift, the motion itself is called a “pull”. In my current program, I do around ~60 pulls in rapid fire sets. In my last two sets, grip strength becomes an issue. In doing 12 rapid fire pulls in a row, at around pull #8, my grip strength fails. Between 8 & 9, I have to re-grip the barbell; and then again between #10 and #11.

Y’all… regripping really makes me mad.

I hate the thought of being foiled by my own hands. I usually end up with improper form on the pull right after a re-grip because of my emotions related to the re-grip.

I WISH I could have an auto-correction mechanism that would auto-detect the improper form, which starts from very first nano-seconds of the pull. I would love to wear one of those 3-D motion capture suits that would track my body position and then provide instantaneous feedback on my form so that each pull was a meaningful one, and none were wasted. In this way, a motion capture suit would provide an extra level of coaching.

A Better Experience at Alcatraz

Well, if you thought the last example was a real #firstworldproblem… this next one will really get you going.

Alcatraz is one of my favorite tourist destinations. It’s properly nerdy, an infovore’s delight. As a visitor, you get a headset at the entrance. As you walk around, let’s say to Al Capone’s cell, you’re directed to punch in a number to your headset. That number corresponds to a recording of the information you are to listen to about Capone’s cell. It’s a poor-man’s way of providing contextually-aware and very specific information at any given time.

The experience could’ve been better. What if Alcatraz gave me a headset with a sensor? As I walked past Capone’s cell, it would auto-register my location and provide me with contextually-relavant information without my having to key any codes in manually. iBeacons are typically the type of tech that enables this, and they are used in this capacity in museums and galleries. They are also used to provide context-sensitive information to people who have a hard time physically accessing information (what happens at Alcatraz if you physically can’t key the codes into your headset?).

Reality Check

The reality is that, while both examples are valid, they are a beast to implement.

  1. iPi Soft offers a freemium model for motion capture tech. I get exhausted just looking through the community group for it. Great tech, I’m sure – but I’m just not spending my time and energy implementing that.
  2. iBeacons have the same issues. This article comes to the same conclusion – they’re just too much work.

The long and short of it: for most of us, an IoT solution for Education isn’t practical yet. Chances are, if gaining insights from sensor data were a priority for the industry / topic you’re writing curriculum for, it would probably already have happened way, way before curriculum was ever a consideration. IoT is one of those things where, either its really worth it for your industry or it … well… just isn’t.


Blockchain/DLT Basics for Educators

You know TFW, as an educator, you read an instructional explanation of a topic and it’s just terrible. TFW all parts of your body want to hack away at it to get it fixed? That happens every time I read about Blockchain.

I get that it’s a “ledger”. That’s weird!

I get that it’s a peer-to-peer, distributed technology. Sure!

I get that you can assign contracts to the block. Got it!

This diagram explains how a block is a ledger and how the ledger is verified by the chain. (Source attribution for the image)


Are you satisfied with that explanation? I’m not.


What I don’t get about blockchains is : like…  why?

Why is the word “ledger” – which makes me think of the old guys in wigs issuing the first Lloyd’s of London re-insurance contract in the 1600s – associated with anarchist concepts such as deregulated banking?

Why does anyone want a deregulated banking system anyway? Regulations, at a meta-level anyway, protect good people from being exploited by bad people.

Why do educators talk about blockchain? Why do we want this technology in our world? As we all know, you don’t need technology to create good education.

So, let’s break it down.

First: Paper Ledgers in Education

A blockchain is just an implementation of Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) (see reference). This begs the question: what is a ledger?

Wiki says:

A ledger is the principal book or computer file for recording and totaling economic transactions measured in terms of a monetary unit of account by account type, with debits and credits in separate columns and a beginning monetary balance and ending monetary balance for each account.

A ledger is just a record of transactions plus the reporting of the outcome of those transactions.

A digital ledger is just… well… digital – i.e. not on paper books.

So… your checkbook’s balance sheets (omg how OLD is Jyoti?) is a ledger. Your nutrition tracker in MyFitnessPal is a nutrition ledger. Your powerlifting weight- tracking journal is a ledger.

This then begs the question: where are ledgers used in Education? Ledgers really aren’t that common in Education but there are a few. Here’s an example:

When I started Uni, my first semester I took 4 courses. My university recorded those courses and my grades for the courses. The next semester, I took 4 more, and so on. By the time I graduated, my university had a ledger of all my educational transactions with them and the sum outcome of those transactions. As a result of my hard work and my university’s record of my work, my university was able to issue me a diploma as a summative recognition of the work I did there.

What about the other side of that equation: accreditation? Universities are issued and maintain accreditation via a series of transactions that are logged and summarized by an accrediting organization. That’s also a ledger-based system that results in the awarding of certificates.

So, basically ledgers are pretty much only used in Education to track and award some type of badge, credential, or similar designation.

I think it really is just that simple. Feel free to provide other or different examples in the comments.

Next: Why use Blockchain/DLTs for Education-related Credentials?

If a blockchain/DLT just digitizes the process of recording educational transactions and issuing credentials, isn’t that just… Banner? Don’t we have that type of software in spades in Education? Even in the 90’s, almost every organization that issued a credential did so digitally.

What value does a blockchain/DLTs provide over a software application like Banner?

Blockchains generally live outside “the man” – they are meant to be a peer-to-peer technology.

Remember the “D” in DLT is “distributed” not “digital”.

So, in the example of my University diploma – only my Alma Mater really has that book of record of my educational transactions and only my Alma Mater is the official source of truth for my diploma. Years later, when I went to a different Uni for my Master’s degree, my bachelor’s and my master’s didn’t end up on the same ledger, right? The record of my bachelor’s degree is entirely separate from the record of my master’s degree. So, if I want to tell someone to verify my two degrees, that person would have to go to two different institutions and verify two different ledgers.

However, if I personally controlled my educational identity on a public education blockchain, I could ask my two alma maters to issue transactions for me against that public blockchain. Then, when I wanted my credentials verified, I would just point the verifier to the public blockchain – instead making the verifier query two different institutions.

Ok… so that’s beginning to have value to me.

As a creator of workplace education, I would like my learners to be able to publicly get credit for the work they do when they go through my curriculum. What if they could tell a public blockchain they were enrolled in my course, and what if I could tell the blockchain they passed my course? And what if they (the learner) could do that over and over at any institution? That way, their blocks in the public blockchain become a record of their lifelong learning.

In terms of credentialing and verifying lifelong learning for adult learners, I do see potential of blockchain here as providing a single source of truth for an adult learner’s lifelong learning journey.

Read more about applications of blockchain in education here.

Read a good technical primer on blockchain here.

GDPR Basics for Educators

“The maximum fine for violations of the GDPR is the greater of 20 million euros or 4 percent of global revenue.”  Well, that’s something, isn’t it? When I read that, I decided to figure out: a) what is GDPR? and b) how does it impact educators? After searching a few months for a good high-level summary of GDPR, the best summary for lay people is the big blue infographic “The Rights of Data Subjects” I replicated below from here. This image is accredited to – a non-working domain.


Educators need to be aware of GDPR across several dimensions:

  • A GDPR action guide for educators: Microsoft did a darn good job breaking it down here. If you only read one thing about GDPR, this is the doc to read.
  • FERPA vs GDPR: read this
  • GDPR and xAPI: see link above

It seems like you’ll need two key professionals to implement GDPR properly for your educational data records: a good IT person and a good lawyer. The more data you have, the more work you’ll be doing to get this right.

When Easy is Too Easy – The Perils of Over-Scaffolding

My strength and conditioning coach started teaching me the power clean – one of the Olympic lifts – a few weeks ago. It’s a complex movement that starts and ends in the standing position. You pull a barbell off the ground; as the barbell gets to above waist-level, you flip it in your wrists and land your wrists close to your shoulders with the barbell resting on your shoulders.

It’s easier to watch what it looks likes …


Learning the power clean is the same as learning any other complex strength movement: you learn technique first. Then you learn to move heavy weight using that technique.

The technique for the power clean involves a stick-like implement. We have a variety of “sticks” at our gym, including bars and barbells: the typical 45- and 35-lb barbells, the 10 lb “technique bar”, 10- and 15 lb curl bars, and super lightweight mobility sticks.

Mobility sticks are a new thing at the gym. I like them because they are fun to “play” with.  They are made of plastic. They are long and very lightweight. I can twirl one in one hand with no effort. If I ever had an occasion to just sit around and jab people, I might consider using a mobility stick to do it – there’s just enough oomph in the stick to be annoying but not enough to injure anyone.

When we started training the power clean, my expectation was that my coach would start me off on the mobility stick; it is the right shape of implement, and it is too lightweight to cause any injury if I performed the movement incorrectly.

The problem with the mobility stick, however, is that it is too lightweight. As an implement for power cleans, it is too lightweight to provide any type of realistic feedback.

At my level of strength, even the unloaded, 10 lb technique bar wasn’t going to cut it. My coach had me start with a loaded 10 lb technique bar. It had enough weight loaded on it to provide biomechanical feedback but not so much weight that I would injure myself with it by moving it incorrectly.

Using a loaded technique bar, I could feel all the places that were going to be issues for me: the initial pull and drag to the knees, the weird little half squat, and – the part that really stymies me – the wrist flip at a raised foot position.

All of that is easy enough to learn with no weight. It’s almost like a dance movement without weight. Weight, however, causes forces like gravity and centrifugal energy to be a real factor and a fear factor too.

In the “dance movement” form of the power clean, I’m not stimulated to start thinking about the grip strength I’ll need to pull the bar past my knees. It doesn’t cause me to understand why the half-squat is necessary to complete the motion. It doesn’t allow me to develop the right level of “fear” – in a sense – of over-rotating a heavy, weighted metal bar that close to my face.

The loaded technique bar did do all that, without the risk of injury. In that sense, it was the right start point for my journey.

What I challenge Instructional Designers with is: review your entry-level exercises.

  • Are they TOO entry level? Are they really just balls of fluff masquerading as instructional content? Are you wasting time and being inefficient with entry level exercises? Can you combine entry level exercises with mid level?
  • Have you, in your desire to properly scaffold your exercises, actually over-scaffolded?
  • Have you provided a variety of entry level exercises so that a self-directed learner can right-size their entry point into their learning journey?

Of course, there are times when you can’t break it down enough.

Send me your thoughts! I’d love your feedback.

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The Andragogy / Adult Learning Theory Glossary

dictionary, languageIsn’t it the case that the more you read, the less you know? The more I read about andragogy, that space occupied by “all the things I don’t know” grows larger and larger. This blog post will be a perpetual work-in-progress – that’s by design.

Call to action: If you want me to include a term, please make a comment about it, and I’ll review.

  1. Andragogy
  2. Assessment – formative
  3. Assessment – summative
  4. Epistomology
  5. Objective – learning / enabling
  6. Objective – performance / terminal
  7. Poiesis
    1. Definition: what should a student be able to do as a result of completing a unit of study (see: praxis)
    2. Is not: praxis, theoria
    3. Link:
  8. Praxis
    • Definition: “practice” – applying the theories you’ve learned
    • Is not:  theoria (thinking), poiesis (making)
    • Link: [Have not found a good one]
  9. Theoria
    • Definition: thinking
    • Is not: praxis, poiesis
    • Link: [Have not found a good one]
  10. xAPI
    • Definition: xAPI allows you to collect data about how learners learn so you can get insights into learner behavior and outcomes
    • Link:

Change Log

  • 20180713: 10 terms; added xAPI
  • 20180630: 9 terms; added poiesis and theoria
  • 20180623: Seminal blog; 7 original terms

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2 Key Concepts for Workplace Mentorships

BeFunky Collage

Today, I had a fun conversation with a dear friend / colleague about mentoring in the workplace. It was a conversation that crystallized some concepts I had kicking around in my head about what makes for good workplace or career-related mentors.

We agreed that: mentors and mentees should be friends first.

A few years ago, I asked an executive if he would take on a mentee I had in mind for him. I thought his response would be “no” and that he would be very concerned with protecting his time or even protecting against being “used”, in a sense, due to his position at the company. His key concern?… whether he would enjoy spending time with the mentee I had picked. I was surprised when he mentioned it, and even more surprised when he was adamant that I would find someone he would genuinely get along with.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised though. I have a number of mentors, and they all started out as friends before they became mentors. That makes sense. Friendship brings with it: love, trust, respect, open-ness. Without these things, can you have genuine, honest conversations? Can you really be open to receiving and valuing feedback from each other? Can you really want to spend time caring about someone else’s issues? Can you really want to spend time caring about whether you’re providing valuable feedback?

A friendship-based mentorship allows the mentorship to be bi-directional, where the role of mentor and mentee just depends on the day and the situation. 30 Rock explores this bi-directionality in the complex relationship between characters Jack and Liz:

The second tenet of workplace mentorships: mentees should have an achievable performance goal in mind that their mentor can help them achieve.

As an example, several of my mentors are heads of their companies. That’s by design: I am genuinely curious about what makes good leaders… well… good. I wanted to put myself in an ersatz lifelong leadership bootcamp, so I surrounded myself with people who I believe are great leaders. With these mentors, my performance objective is simple: can I learn more about active leadership by interviewing them about various leadership scenarios?

In this pursuit, I’ve done a number of fun and interesting interviews; as a result, I’ve amassed a set of detailed and nuanced stories of leadership-in-practice that have led me to deeper insights about leadership.

(What insight stands out? The higher up you go in a company, the weirder the situations get… executives deal with really weird, “truth is stranger than fiction” situations.)

More musings on mentorship:

C.R.A.P. in Instructional Design, Part 1: Contrast

If you’re not familiar with C.R.A.P. as a design principle, first start by reading about it here (and then come back to me):

In C.R.A.P., the “C” stands for “Contrast”, which occurs when two design elements are similar, but varied across a dimension of design including: color/shade, size, font face, font weight, shape, texture, position, orientation etc.  View simple examples on contrast as a design principle here: and here:

In design, contrast adds visual interest and legibility.

In instructional design, contrast implements instructional intent, including: emphasizing key points, establishing hierarchies within information, and differentiating meaning.

As an example, consider the following mapping of the relationships between the languages of Europe; in this info-graphic, how many design elements utilize contrast to establish differentiation or emphasis?



I counted three: color, size, and pattern. Color differentiates groups of language. Size emphasizes how many speakers each language has, relative to other languages. Pattern distinguishes lexical distance.

I will leave you with some caution – projectors throw a bit of a curve ball, and you should test how your content looks when displayed by a projector:

Reply to me with your favorite example of the use of contrast to evince instructional intent.