Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Grading For Whom?

Back in the day I wrote a time or two about grades and grading. I'm currently reading a seemingly unrelated book that made me think about grades and grading through a new lens. For whom are we grading? The most common answers seem to be for colleges, for parents, and for students. Perhaps we should take a little time and look at each of those more closely.

For Colleges
It is certainly true that college admission's officers like them a good GPA. But it's also true that there are quite a few high schools that don't use grades and their students still get into college. So clearly grades aren't required to get into college, they are just a convenient shortcut for admissions officers (and perhaps also for high school counselors and teachers). And, of course, only about 30% of students in the United States complete a four-year degree, so we're definitely not grading for college for the other 70%.

For Parents
Many parents certainly do seem to care about grades. Or do they? I think many parents want to know the following:

  • Is my student learning?
  • Are they working hard?
  • Are they being a good human?
  • Is my kid going to be okay?

Grades really don't answer any of those questions particularly well, especially in comparison to other information we can provide to parents.

For Students
While there are certainly some students who don't appear to care about grades, most teachers would say that a large number of students care about grades on a scale from moderately to intensively. But, much like their parents, I think what they really want to know is the following:

  • Am I learning?
  • Do you think I'm being a good kid?
  • Do my teacher and my peers like me and do I fit in?
  • How can I keep my parents off my back?
  • Am I going to be okay?

Grades certainly can be used to keep parents off your back, but do a really poor job of addressing the other four, again especially in comparison to other kinds of feedback we can give them.

So for whom are we grading? Perhaps it's for us, for teachers. If that's the case, then why is that? Maybe it's for some of the following reasons:

  • Because we've always done it that way.
  • Because it's really hard to give more meaningful feedback and if we didn't have grades we'd have to figure out a better, more difficult, more time-intensive way to fulfill the various purposes of grades.
  • Because grades are one way to help control and manage a classroom of students who often don't want to be there.
  • Because if we got rid of grades, what else might we have to take a look at and perhaps change? We might have to examine all of the assumptions we currently hold and even reexamine what we even believe to be the purpose of school (or, perhaps more accurately, the purpose of education). That's scary.

 I wonder how you would grade those answers?

Sunday, June 03, 2018


If there is anyone out there who is still subscribed to this blog via RSS, which may be unlikely given the dearth of posts in the last year or two, this is just a heads up that I retired from teaching last week so there will likely be no further posts on this blog. I suppose it's possible I will get inspired to write some more about education, or even find an encore job related to education that gives me fodder to write some more here, but I wouldn't count on it.

Thanks for all the learning on this blog over the years, and thanks for all the retirement well wishes I've received via Twitter. After 31 years of teaching (and being Director of Technology at AHS for most of those as well), I felt like I was no longer contributing as much to my school as I wanted to. I didn't feel like I was adding that much value, nor was I learning that much myself, so I felt like it was time.

For those who have asked "what's next?", my immediate plans are to help my (aging) parents and to get my daughter to Fort Lewis College and be available to support her during her freshmen year if she needs it. After that, we'll see. I have lots of interests that I might choose to pursue, either in a volunteer or paid capacity. particularly in the area of sustainability (if you're interested in hiring me, here's a resume I made as an example for my web design students). In the meantime I'm still offering free financial advice to Colorado educators and I hope to start blogging there more often around financial topics.

Thanks for letting me process and think out loud here over the last 13 years, and thanks for helping me become a better teacher and person.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Social Media: Abstinence Only?

There has been a lot of discussion in my neck of the woods lately regarding the effect of social media use on our students (I teach in a high school). This is partially due to our own experiences dealing with teens and social media, partially due to some recent tragedies in our community, and partially due to a recent article in The Atlantic.

This is an important and necessary conversation to have with our students, and one we should be having all the time, not just when tragedy strikes. But one response that some folks have been advocating concerns me - the idea of having "technology-free" days or weeks. To be perfectly clear, I am not saying this is always a bad idea and, for some folks, this is probably a good thing. But that's the key idea, it's good for "some" folks. But I worry that this is another case of the "adults" suggesting a one-size-fits-all solution in the hopes of solving a complicated problem with a simple solution.

My concern is that instead of focusing on how to use social media well, we may be sending the message that the solution is to get off of social media for some amount of time (and perhaps do that on a regular basis). To be sure, that may be a good strategy for some of our students, but if we don't focus more on how they handle social media when they are not taking a break from it, I think we are missing the bigger picture.

The analogy that comes to mind is sex education. This is obviously a controversial topic for many folks, but I think the parallels are pretty striking. Teenagers are going to use social media, just like many teenagers are going to have sex. Our choice is to ignore it completely, address it with a simple solution that is unlikely to work, or address it with a more complete, complex and complicated approach that might actually make a difference.

The obvious comparison is to the "abstinence only" approach that is advocated by some folks for sex education. The argument is complicated, but many folks suggest that the only 100% effective "solution" to teenage sex is to avoid having sex altogether. Longtime readers of this blog won't be surprised that I don't agree with that approach, but agree with the much more comprehensive approach of talking about healthy relationships (including sexual relationships), as well as talking about practicing safe and responsible sex.

Part of my concern around "abstinence only", whether it is applied to sex or to social media, is the implied moral judgment that comes with it. It is not just that we are trying to protect our students, but that we are implicitly making a judgment on their behavior and trying to apply our own moral code to all of our students (some of whom may disagree with our moral code).

I'm a parent of a teenage daughter, so this is not just a theoretical situation for me. Like most parents, I would prefer that she not have sex until after I'm dead. But, barring unforeseen accident or illness, that is pretty unlikely, so we have had many conversations with her about healthy relationships, the physical and emotional impacts of having sex, and our belief that sex goes along with long-term, stable, and healthy relationships (note: there is still some moral judgment there, but we also talk about how she may come to her own conclusions that are different than ours), and that practicing safe and responsible sex is important.

While I am by no means a historian of this topic, I feel that much of the response to teen sex - and now to teen social media use - comes from our Puritan heritage in the United States. I would suggest this is not all that helpful for our students today, and that there is a fair amount of hypocrisy in some of the positions we take. By definition, almost all parents have had sex and, in the United States at least, the majority of them had sex before they were married. Similarly, when we wring our hands in angst over teen social media use, how many of us are doing that wringing via Facebook or Twitter? (Quick quiz - how many of you first came across that Atlantic article via some form of social media?) Plus we seem to be mighty picky in what solutions we advocate. As a friend of mine pointed out, we know that homework also has tremendous mental health implications for our students (and arguably more than social media), yet very few schools are advocating for a "homework-free" day or week (or month, or year).

So, what's my solution? Well, like the articles I linked to above demonstrate, as well as danah boyd's book - it's complicated. But I fear that when we advocate for "technology-free" days or weeks, we lose many of the nuances and are perhaps hoping for a "solution" that is quick and easy instead of being willing to do the hard (and on-going) work necessary to help our students be safe, responsible, and productive users of social media.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Should My Child Start Kindergarten Early?

So, I thought I might be done with posts on this blog, but an acquaintance asked a question recently that got me going, so I thought I'd share here as well. The question was, "My child will be 4 years and 9 months at the time Kindergarten starts, should I start Kindergarten 'early' or wait another year?" I, of course, had some thoughts. Here was my response:

My wife wrote a long email the other day in response [to the question]. She lays out some of the pros and cons of the different options. We pretty much agree but, not surprisingly, I will state my opinion a little bit more forcefully.

Short Answer: Wait

Longer Answer:
  1. It totally depends on the kid. For a student to start Kindergarten early, they need to not only be intellectually ready, but also socially and emotionally. Somewhere north of 99.7% of kids are not ready in all 3 areas. (That’s a totally made up number, but one I feel confident is roughly accurate.)
  2. For the three out of a thousand kids who are ready in all three areas, the answer is not necessarily to start them early, but to ask yourself the question, “What would the different outcomes be in starting them early versus waiting a year.” There are three possible answers: Starting them a year later would be worse for them, about the same for them, or better for them. I know of no research that really answers this question, mainly because it would be very difficult to do good research on this topic. So, assuming an equal split among those three possible outcomes, we’re now down to one in a thousand kids who should start early. The question to ask, “Is your kid that one in a thousand?”
  3. From a “risk management” perspective, it also makes sense to wait. There is little or no downside to waiting (perhaps better for one in a thousand), and lots and lots of possible upsides. There is little upside to starting early (perhaps one in a thousand), and lots and lots of possible downsides. Statistically, it’s a no brainer.
  4. This one falls under philosophical or, if you prefer, my pinko commie liberal bias. What are we “accelerating” them toward? They start Kindergarten a year younger, so what? That means they start first grade a year younger. Then second grade. They graduate a year younger from high school and, if they go to college, perhaps a year younger from college. Which means they start a full time job a year younger. Which means they conceivably retire a year earlier sometime after 2090… What’s the effin point? The Hurried Child by Elkind is an oldie but a goodie, and I think even more relevant today given the rapid pace of change today and going forward. Let kids be kids, there’s plenty of time for them to have a good life.
So, like I said, a little bit more forcefully than my wife :-). Here’s what she wrote the other day:



Okay, my personal opinion (and I know that Karl feels even stronger about this than I do and he agrees) is that I would wait. My experience has been that it has been better for those kids who do wait than for those who go early but again every child is different. I am also heavily influenced by the research coming out of Finland that shows great results in holding off on school until later and then even when they do start, not beginning reading instruction until age 7. However, there are many people who disagree with that.

Here is a list of things to consider that might be more personal to you:

1. the emotional, social and academic maturity of the child
2. your local school's thoughts on this issue
3. what the child will do instead of going to Kindergarten for that year
4. your reasons for going either way - some parents hold boys out a year so that they are bigger for sports, some parents start earlier because they feel like their child is gifted and would be bored if they waited a year, etc.
5. how your child fits into the neighborhood social group if he will be going to a neighborhood school
6. how interested your child is in school
7. your child's size - will they be very small in their class or if they wait will they be very large
8. how does it impact your family - other siblings, cost of daycare, convenience of drop off and pick up, length of day (either in school or daycare), financial benefit of not going to daycare, mature enough to feel comfortable on a daycare bus to and from school

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book called Outliers and he had a section on "redshirting" kids for Kindergarten. He did lots of research and feels like it is always better to wait but there are plenty of people who disagree with him. Here is a link to my search for his thoughts, research and the research of those who disagree with him - good place to start.

Hope this helps! Let me know if I can answer more questions or explain my thinking better.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Why You Should Go Solar


Cross-posted at Fisch Financial.

Let me be clear up front, I'm passionate about sustainability, particularly the use of sustainable energy, and I believe climate change is a very serious threat. I think everyone should be concerned, not just for themselves, but for their children as well, so I of course think you should go solar. But, even if I didn't believe all of those things, you should still consider going solar for financial reasons. We put solar panels on our roof at the end of 2009. That's only 8 years ago, but there's been tremendous change in the solar energy industry since then. In 2009 solar panels were much more expensive than they are now (and the continue to get less expensive), and they weren't as efficient as they are now (and still getting incrementally better each year). On the flip side, the incentives (at least in Colorado) were much better then than now.


We purchased a 5.04 kW system from Standard Renewable Energy (SRE) and they installed it. (They've since been bought by GridPoint and no longer do solar installations, at least in Colorado.) The total cost was listed as $38,307, but then there was an "instant rebate" from SRE of $10,080, which took what I would consider the real cost down to $28,227. But we didn't even have to pay that as, at the time, the combined utility and state rebate for that size installation was $17,020, which means our out-of-pocket cost (the check we had to write) was $11,207.

But it gets even better, because that doesn't take into account the federal rebate, which turned out to be an $8,693 tax credit on our 2009 taxes, so we effectively paid $2,514. At the time SRE showed the break-even point to be between 3 and 4 years, but we estimated it at more like 5 (they had built in 10% electricity rate increases each year). We didn't track it exactly, but we estimate the break even point was at about 4.5 years, which means that since mid-2014, our electricity has been close to free (not completely free, as we still pay a grid-access charge).

So what's our "return on investment" on solar? Well, that's a bit hard to tell, as the solar panels are still operating great and effectively generating income for us, and we don't know how long that will continue or what electric rates will do. We spent $2514 at the end of 2009 and, so far, have "made" probably more than $4,000 in saved electricity bills. That's currently around a 6% compounded yearly return (with no associated tax liability).
Plus keep in mind with all of the solar options I discuss in this post, these returns are tax-free, unlike the equivalent equity or bond investment so, depending on your tax bracket, that could significantly close the difference in returns between going solar and investing the money in the markets.
As part of the agreement with the utility company, solar systems are generally sized to generate approximately the same amount of electricity you use in a year, plus or minus a bit. (You can choose to install a smaller system and generate less, but they don't like you to overshoot the mark.) Ours was sized at about 98% of our usage, although over the subsequent years we have actually used a bit less electricity (we installed new windows and replaced some appliances), so each year we typically have received a small rebate check from Xcel at the end of the year for the excess we've generated.

That was true until the beginning of this year, when we started again using more than we generated. This is because at the end of December we bought a used 2013 Chevy Volt, which is a plug-in hybrid. Much more on this in a future post, but basically because we are charging it each night, our electricity use has gone up and now surpasses what we generate. (To keep that "cost" in perspective, however, we still haven't had to put gas in the car, having driven it more than 3,800 miles and only used 3.2 gallons of gas so far.)

Being the sustainability guy that I am, I of course wanted to figure out a way to make that new energy clean energy as well. We still had some room on our roof (perhaps not the ideal orientation, but still okay), but it turns out that most solar companies don't want to add on to an existing system (I'm sure for liability/insurance reasons) and, since our system is still working great, we certainly didn't want to tear it off the roof and put a whole new system on.

So we began looking at alternatives and ended up purchasing 4 panels at a community solar farm operated by Clean Energy Collective. Community solar farms are big arrays of solar panels, typically installed in big open fields, that generate electricity and feed it back into the grid. Individuals or businesses can then buy a portion of the array and get credit for the electricity generated to offset their own usage. It's often called "roofless solar" and, in many ways, it's better than solar on your roof. Solar farms are generally more efficient (they can align the panels perfectly) and cost effective (cheaper to install on the ground than on a roof, as well as economies of scale). I still prefer putting solar panels on roofs, as then I know for sure it's new energy generation and it provided at the source, not simply purchasing already existing solar farm panels and feeding into the grid, although by purchasing those you are using up existing farms and therefore they are likely to build additional ones. But, because we couldn't easily add any more to our roof, this was a great solution for us.


The cost of this, of course, varies, but let me share the specifics in our case to give you an idea. Because we only needed to generate the additional amount of electricity we were using by charging the Volt, we only "purchased" 4 panels (which is the minimum) at the solar farm (located in Arapahoe County). We are effectively leasing the panels for 19 years (for initial customers it was 20, but because this farm has been in use for a little while, I guess we only have 19 years left). The cost for those panels was $3,050 out of pocket (ironically, more than our entire solar system after rebates in 2009).

Those 4 panels will generate 1.22kW. The way we get "paid" is that we get a credit on our utility bill from Xcel each month, currently 7.6 cents per kWh (that rises and falls with whatever the current rates are), as well as an 8 cent per kWh renewable energy credit (REC) that gets paid quarterly. The estimated yearly savings for 4 panels comes out to about $322. CEC then estimates that electricity rates will rise 4.8% per year. This is more realistic than the 10% SRE used back in 2009, but still perhaps a bit too high (unless a carbon tax is eventually passed, in which case it might be much too low). Using those assumptions they calculate a 9.5 year break-even point and a total return of "187%" after 19 years. Assuming no increase in electric rates, the return is about 4% per year compounded. Given that electricity rates will likely rise some, I'm going to guess it will turn out to be about 4.5% per year compounded.

Is that a great return on investment? Well, no, not compared to investing it in equities (but, again, keep in mind there's no tax liability, so that boosts the return up some). If I was just trying to maximize my return, this would be a bad idea, investing $3,050 into an index fund would likely generate more return. But since I can generate clean energy, help combat climate change, and still earn a return that's better than a money market account and probably pretty equivalent to what bonds would return, I think that's a pretty good trade-off (as well as diversifies my investments a bit).

Now, if you don't already have solar on your roof, you should definitely first investigate the cost and return on investment for that (more on that below). But, if you don't own a house, or if you can't or simply don't want to put solar panels on your roof, then this is a great option. If you are interested, I'd recommend contacting Pete Stein at CEC ( or 720-623-0618), he was very thorough and helpful.
Full disclosure: If you mention my name and end up purchasing from CEC, I will receive a $200 referral fee. If you feel icky about that, don't mention my name :-). But keep in mind that if you do, you also will receive a $200 check after completion of your purchase and $100 will be donated to charity, which is why I decided to go ahead and include it in this post.
Since we already had solar on our roof, I couldn't get a quote for what it would cost to install solar now. Luckily, I have a friend who just installed solar in my neck of the woods in Colorado and he was willing to share his information. As I mentioned previously, much has changed in the solar industry since we installed in 2009. In addition to the changes in cost and efficiency, you now have many more choices of installers and many of them now offer solar leasing in addition to up-front purchasing.

My friend ended up going with Ion Solar and, so far at least, he's been very happy with them. Let's take a look at some of the details for his install. They installed a 4.85kW system, so roughly equivalent to the system on our roof. Their total system cost was $18,896, less the federal rebate of $5,669, for a net system cost of $13,227. There are no longer the huge state/utility rebates like when we installed ours, instead you now get a minimal REC from Xcel for the energy generated. (From the information shared with me, I can't tell how much this is or exactly where it figures in the calculations, but I know it's often less than 1 cent per kWh).

My friend chose to finance the system, which is basically a solar lease. The amount financed is the full amount of $18,896 at 4.99%, and they'll make payments of $79 per month for the first 16 months, then $91 a month thereafter for the remainder of the 20 years of the lease (this assumes that the $5,669 tax credit is then applied to the loan when it's received). In their calculations Ion assumes a 4% yearly increase in electricity rates and, based on this information, after 25 years they will end up $20,667 ahead.

How does that work? Well, each month the (average) amount they save on their electric bill is more than their loan payment, so they come out ahead. Ion even does a calculation where if you apply that savings to the loan payments, the loan is paid off in 15 years and the 25 year accumulated savings is then $22,743.

So what's the return on investment? Well, since there's no money put down up front, it's complicated. But for the sake of argument, let's assume they had decided to purchase the system for the net cost after federal rebate of $13,227. Ion estimates that over 25 years (factoring in the estimated 4% yearly increase in electricity rates) they will save $42,280, which is about 4.8% per year compounded (again, tax-free). Again, compared to investing in equities, that's not a great return. But given the good that you're doing, along with diversifying your investments and earning a bond-like return, I think it's more than worth it.

So what should you do? If you own a house, I'd suggest getting bids from several vendors for installed solar and compare, and perhaps also contact Pete at CEC to compare roofless solar as well. There are lots of vendors to choose from, but I would certainly include Tesla Energy (formerly Solar City), because I anticipate with their new Gigafactory 2 coming online shortly their prices will be very competitive. (In addition, if you happen to need a new roof sometime in the future, look into their new solar roof option. It's more expensive because it's tile, but when you factor in the electricity savings, it ends up being cheaper than an asphalt roof, plus it has an infinite warranty on the tiles themselves - you'll never have to replace the roof again.) If you don't own your own home, or for whatever reason don't want to install solar panels on your roof, then definitely contact Pete at CEC and get all the details.

Any of these options will give you a decent, but not great, return on investment, as well as contribute to a better world. In future posts I will talk more about the used Chevy Volt we recently purchased, electric cars in general, and why your next car should be electric, as well as about the opportunity to invest in solar directly.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Introducing Fisch Financial

Sorry for the departure from education-focused posts, although this is focused on financial education.

Introducing Fisch Financial. Financial advice for Colorado educators (and those they love). Absolutely free.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Preparing the Future for Our Students

We spend a lot of time in education circles talking about preparing our students for the future. And rightfully so (a large portion of this blog over the years has focused on exactly that). But I think it's important to also realize that we as educators need to be doing more to make sure the future is one our students can live, learn, and thrive in.

Most of you are probably aware that former Vice President Al Gore has devoted his post-elected-office life to addressing the issue of Climate Change. What you may not be as aware of is that he has an entire team of folks dedicated to helping him, and that that team is expanding all the time. I spent the last three days being trained as a Climate Reality Leader by Vice President Gore and the other amazing folks at the Climate Reality Project.

I was one of over 900 people from 32 countries that attended this training in Denver. We experienced three intense days, hearing from speakers including Al Gore himself (many, many times) and former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter (Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University), Dr. Henry Pollack and Dr. Kevin Trenberth (climate change science experts), Kevin Klein (director of Colorado's Homeland Security and Emergency Management) and Don Whittemore (former Incident Commander for the Rocky Mountain Interagency Incident Management Team), Leah Greenberg (one of the co-founders of Indivisible), Jules Kortenhorst (CEO of the Rocky Mountain Institute), and many of the previously trained Climate Reality Leaders.

These presentations included the latest science of climate change (things are even worse than what was predicted), the current political climate (not great at the federal level, much better at the state and local level), and the road ahead (very optimistic, the solutions are available, we just need the will to implement them, and quickly). We got to see Vice President Gore present the latest version of his famous slide show - in fact, we got to see it twice. Once the long version (2+ hours), then the next day a shorter, approximately 60-minute version.

Now that I've completed the training, I'm officially a Climate Reality Leader (joining 11,700 others).

What exactly does that mean? Well, first and foremost, it means I can go out and give the presentation, which is where I need your help. If you're in Colorado, I would love to come speak to your "group", giving the presentation (can be modified for just about any length of time, although anything shorter than 20 minutes would be tough) and providing whatever resources you need to extend the conversation. (If you're not in Colorado, I can connect you with another Climate Reality Leader who can come present.) Your group can be just about anybody, including:
  • the teachers/staff at your school, your class(es), your school club, your entire school community
  • your church, mosque, synagogue or other religious institution
  • your book club, bowling team, softball team, etc.
  • your family or neighborhood
  • your civic organization
This list is not exhaustive, any group, of whatever size, that is interested, I'll come and present (no charge!).

Second, I'll be involved in organizing to influence citizens, policy makers, and office holders on what they can do to mitigate climate change and accelerate our transformation to a sustainable economy. This can include everything from smaller, individual/family acts (think anything from LED lights to solar panels) to convincing your school, business, city or community to become 100% Committed. In fact, I'm organizing a Douglas County group right now so, if you're in (or near) Douglas County and want to help, let me know.

Finally, I'll also help you get more involved if you'd like to. That might include joining me in the Denver March for Science on April 22nd (unless, of course, you'd rather go to the March in D.C.), the April 29th People's March for Climate in Denver (or D.C.), applying for a future Climate Reality Leadership Corps training yourself, or volunteering for any of the many fine organizations that are working to address these issues.

I know there are many, many issues that you could devote your time to, and I encourage you to do so. But I feel that this is truly an overarching issue for all of us, as it literally impacts every single person on the planet, and will have an impact on all the other issues that you care about as well. It's also an issue that's solvable, the amount of optimism in the room was incredible, because we have all the solutions we need, it's just a matter of how much damage is done before we implement them.

As Al Gore said near the end of our training (paraphrasing), "I suddenly realized, this problem isn't going to take care of itself. I'm going to have to get involved and do something." Please get involved and do something - let me know how I can help.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Ten Shifty Years

Ten years ago this month* (*now last month because I haven't been able to get this written) I wrote about a PowerPoint I showed to the staff at my school during a faculty meeting. I don't have anything really profound to say (never have), but I did think it might be interesting to look at what has changed in those ten years. In a word: everything. And nothing. (Okay, three words.)

Here are a few things I've noticed:
  • In 2006 we had No Child Left Behind (NCLB). In 2016 we have Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
  • In 2006 in Colorado we had CSAP and ACT for our mandated state testing. In 2016 we have CMAS (based on PARCC), PSAT and SAT for our mandated state testing.
  • In 2006 my daughter was 6 and starting first grade (part of the impetus for Did You Know?). In 2016 my daughter is a Junior in high school.
  • 2006 was one of the warmest years on record. Much of the world denies that climate change is occurring, that human activity is contributing to it, and subsequently decides to do little to change our behaviors. Every year since 2006 has been the warmest year on record. Much of the world denies that climate change is occurring, that human activity is contributing to it, and subsequently decides to do little to change our behaviors.
  • In 2006 Louisiana was beginning to recover from Hurricane Katrina and Representative Mike Pence held disaster relief funding for areas affected by Katrina hostage. In 2016, Louisiana is recovering from a storm we didn't even bother to name and Mike Pence is the Republican nominee for Vice President.
  • In 2006 we purchased a Toyota Prius. In 2016 we put down a deposit on a Tesla Model 3.
  • In 2006 police shootings of unarmed African Americans was in the news. In 2016 police shootings of unarmed African Americans was in the news.
  • In 2006 there was no iPhone (or anything similar). By 2016 more than a billion iPhones have been sold, and hundreds of millions more of similar phones.
  • In 2006 signs about cell phones appeared in my school. In 2016 pocket cell phone holders were made available to teachers in my school. 
  • In 2006 we used Microsoft Office in my school and Google Apps for Education was announced (just apps, no Drive). In 2016 some adults in my school still use Microsoft Office and every student and staff member not only has access to the apps, but unlimited storage on Google Drive.
  • In 2006 gay marriage had little political support and was extremely controversial. In 2016 marriage is marriage.
  • In 2006 more than 30,000 Americans were killed by gun violence. Since 2006, more than 300,000 Americans have been killed by gun violence, including two within the walls of my school.
  • In 2006 there was no iPad (or anything similar). By 2016 more than 300 million iPads have been sold, and hundreds of millions more of similar tablets.
  • In 2006 we purchased all of our electricity from the utility company (and paid a little extra each month to get some of that from wind energy through the utility). We paid over $1800 for electricity and gas. Starting at the end of 2009 we started generating our own. On a yearly basis we generate approximately 400 kWh more than we use. We paid less than $700 (new windows, better insulation, new furnace, on-demand water heater ... in addition to solar panels.)
  • In 2006 One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) was going to change the world with $100 laptops, although they cost more than $200 at that point. It didn’t. In 2016, we have sub-$200 laptops.
  • In 2006 we had just completed the first year of staff development in my school that included several demonstration classrooms that had carts of laptops in them. In 2016 every student at my school has a laptop computer 24-7-180.
  • In 2006 Twitter launched. In 2016 Twitter has over 300 million active users.
  • In 2006 Facebook was 2 years old and had about 10 million active users. In 2016 Facebook has over 1 billion active users.
  • In 2006 both The Denver Post and The Rocky Mountain News still printed stock prices in the print edition. In 2016 they don’t, and The Rocky Mountain News doesn’t exist.
  • In 2006 newspapers and TV are prominent in both breaking news and political coverage. In 2016 the websites of some newspapers and TV stations are prominent in both breaking news and political coverage, but most of the news breaks on Twitter and Facebook first.
  • In 2006 every U.S. President had been a white male. In 2016 we’ve had an African American President and odds are we are about to elect a woman President.
  • In 2006 housing prices were going through the roof, unemployment was at 4.6%, and the stock market was setting records almost daily. In 2016 housing prices are going through the roof, the unemployment rate is 4.9%, and the stock market is setting records almost daily.
  • In 2006 there were many sites where people went to find viral videos, including,,,, and YouTube. In 2016 it’s mainly YouTube and Facebook. (As a side note, this makes it hard to track historical views of older videos. I stopped estimating at about 60 million for various versions of Did You Know? - my guess is probably close to 100 million now - but it’s just a guess.)
  • In 2006 Instagram was still four years from launching. In 2016 Instagram has over 500 million active users.
  • In 2006 Hillary Clinton was a Senator from New York and the presumed Democratic nominee for President in the 2008 election, Barack Obama was a little-known Senator from Illinois, and Donald Trump was an obnoxious developer who was hoping the real-estate market was going to tank. In 2016 Barack Obama is a two-term President, Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee for President, and Donald Trump is an obnoxious developer who is also the Republican nominee for President and thinks Brexit is good for his golf course.
  • In 2006, President George W. Bush gave the first ever prime time Presidential address on Immigration and stated, ""We're a nation of laws, and we must enforce our laws. We're also a nation of immigrants, and we must uphold that tradition, which has strengthened our country in so many ways." In 2016 the Republican nominee for President wants to build a wall and have Mexico pay for it.
  • In 2006 Al Qaeda was the greatest threat to western civilization. In 2016 ISIS (ISIL) is the greatest threat to western civilization. (Some folks would argue that it’s actually second to Donald Trump.)
  • In 2006 U.S. public schools are “failing.” This was also true in 1996, 1986, 1976, 1966, 1956, 1946, 1936, 1926, 1916, and 1906. In 2016 U.S. public schools are still “failing.”
  • In 2006 Colorado spent $551 less per pupil than the national average. In 2016 Colorado spends more than $2500 less per pupil than the national average.
  • In 2006 NASA was still using the Space Shuttle and would be for 5 more years. In 2016 NASA uses SpaceX, ULA and others to launch into space.
  • In 2006 self-driving cars were thought of something out of the Jetsons. In 2016 self-driving cars are already here (and will be ready for mass adoption in the next five years).
  • In 2006 I was asking about core values at my school. In 2016 I’m still asking about it.
  • In 2006 I posted 2020 Vision, the third part in a trilogy of sorts. In 2016 just about every organization has a 2020 vision document, but schools are still focusing on the wrong things.
  • In 2006 Snapchat was still five years from launching. In 2016 Snapchat has over 1 million active users.
  • In 2006 it was estimated that 40 exabytes (4.0 x 1019) of new information would be generated. By 2016 it's estimated that much is generated each day (rounding a bit here).
  • In 2006 there were about 2.7 billion google searches performed each month.  It's now more than 3.5 billion per day.
  • In 2006 I wrote about graduation requirements several times. In 2016 my district has a graduation task force that is looking to revise our graduation requirements in light of changes to the state requirements.
  • In 2006 a student commented on my blog about being seen as more than just a number. In 2016 we seem to still be all about the numbers.
  • In 2006 “You” was Time's Person of the Year. In 2016 it’s likely to be “I” in the form of Donald Trump.
  • If I said “drone” in 2006 most folks thought military or talking for a long time. If I say “drone” in 2016 most folks think military or Amazon delivery.
  • In 2006 the typical microprocessor clock speed was approximately 5,631,000,000 Hz. In 2016, it is approximately 28,751,000,000 Hz.
  • In 2006 a TI graphing calculator cost around $100 and was the preferred tool for high school mathematics. In 2016 Desmos is (my) preferred tool for high school mathematics and is free (but many high school teachers still require their students to purchase a $100 TI calculator because they can use it on “the tests”).
  • In 2006 if I said “the cloud” everyone thought I was talking about the weather.
  • In 2006 no one had heard of binge watching.
  • In 2006 Uber was a newly released album.
  • In 2006 people bought paper maps and dedicated GPS devices.
  • In 2006 a human was still the best Jeopardy player.
  • In 2006 if I said "artificial intelligence" most people thought I was talking about aliens.
  • In 2006 Shift was happening. In 2016, it still is.
  • In 2006 I was worried that we were preparing students for our past, not their future. In 2016, I still am.