Category Archives: Personal

Living Next-Door to a Digitally Connected World

I live in what must, by any reasonable definition, be termed a “rural” part of Ohio, at the edge of what is considered the Ohio Appalachian Region.  I also live in the smallest (by enrollment) and largest (by square miles) public school district in the county.  Education today is as dependent upon reliable high-speed Internet as it is dependent upon water and electricity.

So, how many public wi-fi hotspots are there within the boundaries of this district?

Zero.

Additionally, there are many residences within the district (mine included) with no land-based high-speed Internet option.  At home, we rely on smartphones as our connection to the Internet – via a direct cellular connection, or using the smartphone as a “hotspot” to connect a laptop.  Our only other option is satellite-based service, which currently runs in the neighborhood of $70 per month before taxes, fees, equipment, and installation.  This is simply unaffordable for many, especially in a district with two-thirds of elementary students and half of junior high and high school students qualifying for the free or reduced-priced lunch program.

So, how does the Internet Improve my daily life?

Or perhaps the better first question to ask is, does the Internet improve my daily life?

The answer to the second question is a resounding YES, despite the seeming lack of access – and here are some important reasons why.

  • Living where I do means a trip to a shopping mall or department store is a serious time investment – at least 45 minutes one way.  Being able to research and purchase goods online and have them delivered to our door is an incredible time-saver.
  • My wife and I both work full time.  Communicating real-time with our children’s teachers is not always an easy task.  The Internet helps us keep in touch asynchronously, sending messages when we are able, and keeping up with information via the school website and social media.
  • A trip to the bank is not always convenient.  Being able to manage finances from the device already in our hands is another great time-saver.

In our rural, sparsely-populated part of the world, one might think that the lack of options for connectivity would make the Internet less of a benefit for us.  On the contrary, we find it to be an indispensable tool in leveling the playing field for us with nearby communities with abundant resources.  For some, having high-speed Internet in their homes makes some activities of daily life more convenient.  For us, the smartphone helps make some activities of daily life possible.

Connect Ohio, a subsidiary of Connected Nation and non-profit in Ohio, is working to bring the benefits of universal broadband to Ohio, ultimately changing lives through technology. It is leading the effort to increase high-speed Internet access, adoption, and use to diversify the economy and ensure Ohio’s competitiveness in the connected global economy of the twenty-first century. For more information on how Connect Ohio is working to improve communities and lives across Ohio visit http://www.connectohio.org.

To learn more about how the Internet improves daily lives follow @ConnectOH and #ConnectingOH on Twitter and Facebook.

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Starting a new chapter

On Wednesday, August 26, 2015, I will be starting the next chapter of my life.  I have accepted a position in the IT Department of Wilmington College as a Customer Service Coordinator.  I will be responsible for designing and delivering professional development and technical assistance for students and staff on technology applications.  I will also coordinate the Help Desk, staffed by students.

Every interaction I have had with Wilmington College in the past has been a positive one, so I was thrilled when the opportunity came along for me to join their team.  I was so enthusiastic about the offer, I tweeted about it.  Soon after, I received a tweet back from Wilmington College, welcoming me to the family. Tweet from WC, "Welcome @mdroush".

A tweet is a small thing, but the value system behind sending a little message like this acknowledging my enthusiasm is a big part of why I’m looking forward to getting started with this new phase of my life.  #WeAreDubC #GoQuakers

Refocusing on the “Why”

I’m looking for a new job.  It’s a bit nerve-wracking.  I know I am capable of doing valuable work, but the great difficulty is always in finding someone who has a place for me.

Rules of the Red Rubber Ball, book by Kevin Carroll
Rules of the Red Rubber Ball, book by Kevin Carroll.

During this time, I decided to re-read a little book that has been one of my favorites for the last few years.  The book is “Rules of the Red Rubber Ball” by Kevin Carroll.  In this quick read, Mr. Carroll lets the reader into his life, and guides the reader through the experiences that helped inspire him to accomplish what simply would not have been possible in a passionless system.  I needed to re-read those words as I prepare for whatever comes next in my professional life.

Because, whatever I do for a job, my passion and my mission are still the same.  I want to help every person (especially K-12 students and those who work with them) learn to be able to define and achieve what the highest level of success means for them.

This led me back to a favorite TED video from the TEDxPugetSound event, Simon Sinek on “How great leaders inspire action”.  I’ve dealt for a long time with a world that is compulsively focused on the “what” and sometimes the “how” of education.  Some have concluded that there is no value in spending time and thought on formally defining the “why”.  Some have concluded that it is dangerous to define the “why”.  They may be right.  But, just as a full physical examination cures nothing, it is a necessary step in learning where curative resources must be focused. 

I am refocusing myself on my “why”.  In practical terms, this has made it much easier for me to look at possible job opportunities and decide whether to pursue them.  It’s not just about whether my skill set matches the job expectations, it’s about whether the work matches my life’s passion.

I’m spending a lot of time with my “red rubber ball” this week.  Rather than keeping me from finding my next job, I firmly believe it is helping me find the next job that will help me continue pursuing my purpose and my passion.

I wish the same for each and every person who reads this.

Ch…ch…ch…ch…changes

I’m making some changes.

For a few years, there have been some things that just weren’t quite right, or like they should be for me. This was a tough decision to come to, but I have resigned from my job as part of the Region 14 State Support Team, and as Technology Coordinator for Hopewell Center.

My wife, Angie, has been, and still is, a rock for me, and I couldn’t have made it through the last several years, or the last several days, without her. Thank you, sweetheart.

My heart and my passion in work is still to help every kid get the opportunities they deserve in education, because every student can learn, and can learn to define and achieve what the highest level of success means for them. Whatever I do for work from here, that will still be my mission.

Many of you on here are my friends because of work affiliations. I am grateful for everything you have taught me, and I look forward to learning more and continuing to do awesome things for the kids who need it most.

PARCC AAF Workgroup Reflections

PARCC = Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.
AAF = Accessibility, Accommodations, and Fairness.

On Monday, February 23, 2015, I had the honor of being invited to take part in a workgroup with educators from members of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).  The purpose of this workgroup was to assemble information and lay out an “Educators Guide” to the PARCC Accessibility Features and Accommodations Manual.  That manual describes the rationale for, and the function of, certain features that are built into the online assessment platform.

I was part of a group charged with (among other things) developing a presentation containing information that would be most applicable for educators who work with students with disabilities.  My colleague from Ohio, Ron Rogers (Ron’s blog, Ron’s Twitter) of OCALI, was part of a similar group focusing on developing similar materials for educators in their work with all students.

A brainstorming session resulted in a thoughtful list of ideas, categories, and points of emphasis.  They also meandered in several directions, as brainstorming sessions often do.  The expertise of the representatives around the table was clearly evident, and it would take some expert facilitation skill to bring the cacophony of ideas into a unified message.

Here are the important points that percolated to the top:

– Accessibility features and accommodations do not reduce learning expectations for students with disabilities.

– Students with disabilities are expected to participate in the assessments, but expectation is not enough.  Accessibility features and accommodations also enable a wider range of students to participate in assessments than is possible with paper-and-pencil assessments.

– Accessibility starts with “access”.  All the accessibility features and accommodations in the world may be available on an assessment, but they will have no effect if access is not provided in the regular learning environment.

When are teachers supposed to take time out of their instruction to teach kids how to operate the technology for the assessments?  They’re not.  The types of accessibility features included in the assessment are precisely the same type of accessibility features that can be used to aid learning the material.  We haven’t done our students any favors if we have them take online assessments after spending their school year doing paper worksheets.

This isn’t about teaching to a test.  It’s about teaching students, with a framework of standards as a guide.  What’s the difference?  It’s the difference between helping me learn how to read, and helping me learn how to pass a reading test.

On a personal note, I have a daughter who has been diagnosed with Autism.  Right now, I have very little confidence that this assessment will provide her a good opportunity to exhibit her mastery of skills and concepts she learns.  I have no doubt of her capability to grasp the standards.  I just don’t know whether she will have the willingness to participate in the online assessment when and where the school expects her to.  This is not anything that is broken about her, it is something that is broken in the current assessment system that relies on a moment-in-time analysis of performance.

But, I can’t make it better by sitting on the outside and whining about it.  I can hope to make it better by rolling up my sleeves and collaborating with some great minds. I’m optimistic about the guide material that will be produced as a result of our work.  I know the system is not perfect, but every step that gets us closer to an entire education system – goals, materials, methods, and assessments – that is truly Universally Designed and refuses to exclude any student due to their disability is a positive step worth taking.

My Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS Awareness

If you aren’t familiar yet with the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS Awareness, I don’t know what you’ve been doing for the last couple months.

My dauglydia_icebuckethter, Lydia, took up the challenge, and nominated me.  Because she’s just sorta awesome that way.

Her friends and siblings were more than happy to help douse her with multiple helpings of icy water!

My little boy, her (half-)brother, Quenton, was fascinated with the video.  He loved watching her get splashed and sloshed and soaked!  After he watched the video a few times, he asked the golden question, “Why did they dump all that water on her?”

We explained that there are people who have a disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and they need help.  So, people are using this as a way to pass the word around and challenge each other to do a little bit to help.  Along with the water, people are donating to various funds that help people battling ALS.

“So is Daddy going to get water dumped on him now?”

“Yes.”

“Cool!”

“Do you want to help dump water on Daddy?”

“No, I want water dumped on me, too!”

Right in the feels.

So, tonight, Quenton and I are going to take the ice bucket challenge.  As hot as it’s been lately, it’ll probably feel good!

I’m proud to make donations to help this cause.  In my work supporting awareness of Assistive Technology with educators, two of the resources I use a lot are of people who are battling ALS.

One is former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason.  His blocked punt in the first post-Katrina game at the Superdome is one of the great mashup moments of sports-meets-real-life.  Microsoft has developed a short video (2:25) that shows some of what Steve is able to do using Surface tablet technology.

The other is Jason Becker.  Jason is an exceptionally gifted musician, but ALS began taking away his ability to play guitar.  Jason uses some powerful Assistive Technology to communicate, and also to continue to exercise his gift for music and share it with the world.

If you are looking for a place to donate money to help with the fight against ALS, I strongly urge you to consider visiting TeamGleason.org and JasonBeckerMovie.com to show you what your money can do.

Learn.  Give.  Make a difference.  Make a positive difference in someone’s life.

“Never give up. Don’t ever give up.”

The ESPY’s are tonight. You probably don’t care. To be honest, I won’t be watching either.

But one of the greatest moments in TV history ever took place on March 3, 1993 (the ESPYs were in March back then), when Jim Valvano accepted the Arthur Ashe Award. Nobody thought he was really going to be able to stand up when he was introduced, much less walk to the podium and give one of the best acceptance speeches ever.

Laugh. Cry. Think. That’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day.

And, above all, never give up. Don’t ever give up.

Watch the video, and consider making a gift to The V Foundation for Cancer Research.