Wednesday, May 31, 2023

2023 Graduation Season

I've been feeling a little contemplative and reflective lately. I think the end of the school year has you doing that, much in the same way a funeral does the same. Hence the need for graduation speeches and eulogies for both of those events. Wise words to transition to the next step along the way.

If done well, a good eulogy and a good graduation speech stick with you for a long time.

Given that, when I ran across a few articles about graduation speeches from this year, it really struck me that these are all good words to live by. Some are wise. Some reverent. Some irreverent, but equally wise! 

May they serve as inspiration!

The Guardian's Michael Cantor's article: " 'To the Class of 2023, I Say Three Words: You Poor Bastards’: The Year’s Best Graduation Speeches ~Included here are excerpts and video from the following:

  • Patton Oswalt ~ actor & comedian, at William & Mary
  • Isabel Wilkerson ~ journalist & author, at Occidental College
  • Raphael Warnock ~ Georgia senator, at Bard College
  • Tom Hanks ~ actor, at Harvard University
  • Karine Jean-Pierre ~ White House press secretary, at Rice University
  • Sanna Marin ~ Finnish prime minister, at New York University
  • Nikole Hannah-Jones ~ journalist & author, at Spelman College
  • Oprah Winfrey ~ talkshow host, actor & producer, at Tennessee State University
  • Lester Holt ~ journalist, at Villanova University
  • Mae Jemison ~ astronaut, at University of Delaware
GatesNotes: The Blog of Bill Gates: 5 Things I Wish I Heard at the Graduation I Never Had

Image created at

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Have a Meaningful Memorial Day

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to summer. For many, sumer is the time when they really get out and explore nature. With the thrill of summer ahead (especially for teachers and students who are wrapping up their school year), summer is like the promised land.

But, rather than lumping this weekend right in with summer, I hope you find time this long weekend to honor, remember, and celebrate those who have fought for our country.

Image created at

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

ABCs of Artificial Intelligence

Earlier this month I posted that I was reading "The AI Classroom: The Ultimate Guide to Artificial Intelligence in Education" by Daniel Fitzpatrick, Amanda Fox, and Brad Weinstein. Since writing that, I have finished the book and it has given me both a lot of AI websites to investigate, and a lot of food for thought.

One of the things I have been thinking a lot about, especially when talking with people who are still very new to the concept of AI (and often times bringing the mega fear factor of "why would we open this Pandora's box?!"), is the fact that we have actually had artificial intelligence swirling about quite a bit over the last decade. Many times in subtle ways, but also in a great number of ways we haven't even considered as algorithms give us that "thing" we just so happen to be thinking about or discussing.

Given that, what has begun swirling about in my mind is an ABC list of AI, to show that while yes, it is a very powerful and growing phenomenon, it's been here for awhile!

Alexa and autocorrect

Big data and built-in bias (based on the models AI can be fed)

ChatGPT & other Chatbots

Deep fakes (where a video has been altered digitally and is believable with the intention to spread misinformation)

Email & document programs predicting your sentences you are about to type.

Facial detection & recognition 

Google search advertisements (based on your previous searches)

Healthcare-related AI virtual assistants which buy nurses and pharmaceutical companies (and those of us who use them) back time and money.

Instagram, Facebook, social media, & search algorithms

Jobs: machine learning engineers, data scientists, and natural language processing (NLP) engineers

Kitchens with voice activated lights, coffee pots, and reverse-engineered image to recipe generation

Language learning chatbots

Maps & navigation (it's more than just GPS)

Netflix's viewing suggestions

Opening your phone with Face ID 

Predictive text

Quantitative data processing in financial institutions which can apply automation and anti-fraud systems

Robotics like Roomba vacuums and more

Siri, "smart" home devices, and self-driving cars and other autonomous vehicles

Text-to-Image, Text-to-Audio, Text-to-Code, and more

Universe: Taking us beyond this planet to outer space. The Mars Rover is a great example.

Voice generators and voice-to-text technology

Wetware, or cybersecurity slang for the human element of IT (versus "hardware" or software")--human error accounts for most of the problems in tech data breeches

X, Y, & Z....These got hard. For them, go to Joe the IT Guy & his A-Z list!

Image from and

Saturday, May 20, 2023

World Bee Day: May 20th

Since 2017, the United Nations has commemorated May 20th as World Bee Day to draw attention to bees (and other pollinators) to showcase how vitally important they are to our food system. The date was chosen to commemorate Anton Janša, a beekeeper and bee expert from Slovenia (born in 1734).

This year's theme is "Engaging in Pollinator-Friendly Agricultural Production" to heighten awareness how valuable pollinators are to flowering plants--many of which are major food items in our groceries such as fruits and vegetables, and even nuts and seeds. A healthy bee population indicates strong biodiversity, which is important in many ways to our planet's ecosystems....not to mention our human health!

"Without bees to pollinate crops, yields on about 35% of agricultural land worldwide would suffer, and 87 of the world's leading food crops would be affected."
To further highlight the importance of bees and Unesco's Women for Bees organization, program godmother Angelina Jolie was in a March 2021 photoshoot of National Geographics photographer Dan Winter's to bring attention to the importance of bees. No surprise, it has resurged this year in honor of World Bee Day.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

One Green Thing: Top Take Aways from the Book

Earlier this year I wrote a post all about the seven service superpowers from One Green Thing--Heather White's book and website. Created to help combat eco-anxiety, Heather uses this assessment tool to help focus people to their strengths and point them in the direction of inspired activism.

Earlier this winter I read her book. It was excellent. Not only does it talk about eco-anxiety, what it is and how to cope with it, but it gives some very actionable ideas, all centered around the 7 "service superpowers." [To learn more about that, check out my post on that subject.]

While my highlights were many, here were the elements I found most striking and serve as my top 6 thematic takeaways (and reasons why you should read her book for more information).

The Bad News First. 
But don't worry, as there is a lot of good news too.

Eco Anxiety Is on the Rise
One thing Heather quoted was "The Eco-Anxiety Trifecta" which she said is comprised of "anxiety, loneliness, and environmental stress" (p.145 from Heather White's book, One Green Thing: Discover Your Hidden Power to Save the Planet). [All quotes from this book will be tied to parenthetical page numbers.] She's largely talking about Generation Z (aka: anyone born after 1997) With generalized anxiety, suicide, and depression on the rise since 2011--along with increased screen time and then a pandemic--anxiety and loneliness go hand and hand. (paraphrased from p. 145). Since 2018, the United Kingdom has had a "Minister for Loneliness" (and other countries like Japan are beginning to follow suit). Layer in the fact that people and news outlets are finally now talking about the climate crisis (whereas for years it was a largely absent news topic), it has given our Gen Z'ers a lot of concern about what we adults have left them. 

Striking Statistics
These statistics startled me.
  • "Only 8% of plastics are recycled." (page 6)
  • "A study commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund found that we eat about a credit - card size worth of plastic each week." (p. 196
  • "Most families throw out 3 kg [6.6 pounds] of otherwise edible food a week." (p. 267) This then leads to the following two statistics: 
    • "Food waste generates 8% of global carbon emissions." (p. 181)
    • “If food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third-largest emitter of CO2, after China and the United States. ” (p.181)
  • "The fashion industry contributes 10% of global carbon emissions." (I)
All of this leads me to think (after a decade of writing this blog): How is this possible? Shouldn't the numbers be so much different after so many years? Shouldn't we be doing better? As with politics, I'm finding we aren't always as quick to learn or move in a forward direction as I think we should. Some of this is due to greenwashing. We feel like we are doing a great job because we are "recycling," but recycling is a complicated system, and many of our infrastructures can't handle it all...leaving us to believe we are nobly doing the right thing for our environment, but then things start falling through the cracks.

Biodiversity keeps our planet healthy. Unfortunately, as animal species diminish, we start creating a less diverse plant and animal system, which sadly then can create major issues. This is called "zoonosis" where habitat distruction and overcrowding leads all more susceptible to disease. Insert pandemic outbreaks here. (Paraphrased from p. 220-221.) Because of this, we need to work to protect our threatened, vulnerable, and endangered plants and animals from higher levels of endangerment and extinction.

Climate Justice
Social justice is tied to environmental justice. The climate crisis leads to greater incidents of extreme weather like drought, wildfires, hurricanes, as well as water pollution. This then can impact more and more people. "Malaria, diarrhea, malnutrition  and heat stress will be the biggest causes of death." (p. 135) Sadly, the biggest countries for polluting wind up heavily impacting other smaller more vulnerable countries. So wealthier countries like the US who are creating some of the bigger problems are gifting these other countries a pretty crummy gift.

Additionally, within our own country, it tends to be the black, indigenous, people of color who are living in poorer areas, near harmful factories spewing off waste and polluting the air. They are further from the green spaces, making the areas concrete, heat jungles more so than white neighborhoods, so overall health is worse, and as a population, they are more vulnerable. Equity and climate change and justice go hand in hand. (Paraphrased from p. 158)

The Good News, As Promised!

The "Brené Brown of Environmentalism"
The Foreword of One Green Thing was written by Erin Brockovich. Might have heard of her. She called Heather "the Brené Brown of the environmental movement because she makes environmental action personal, doable, and joyful" [Forward, page x] It is through the collective action of small steps which grow upon each other that momentum is created. Fun and easy repeatable habits become rituals, making it more likely for you to keep doing it. The more you do it, the more you inspire others to do it. These are the basic tenets of Heather White's philosophy. (Paraphrased from page 6-10.)

With each of the 7 superpowers in the book, she dedicates a chapter to each. She also gives concrete coping methods to help you decompress (in ways that are ideal for each "superpower"), while also giving you ideas on how to be energized to work for our planet. She also invites laughter, joy, community, creativity, and humor. Even if it is laughing at yourself, it opens up for a release and helps you embrace both the positive gains and helps make the difficult times more manageable. (Paraphrased from p. 148.) I know I for one had lost a little bit of the joie de vivre with the monotony of the pandemic. We need to remind ourself that we all feel better with a little bit of laughter. Yes, things can be difficult and overwhelming and serious... but life was meant to be lived, and that includes laughing and lighthearted approaches too. Especially if it helps us maintain our motivation and our momentum!

The Benefits of Being Outside
When we get outside and connect to nature, it provides a lot of benefits. It addresses our stress, slows our breathing, and can increase our general sense of health and wellness. Even just 5 minutes of time outdoors can lower our blood pressure. It's all about balance--we live live indoors and online and 24-7 connected. Our physical, mental, and emotional health need a break. We are made to spend time outdoors--walking, observing, and taking part in nature. More schools are connecting educational programs with environmental and outdoor education. (Yay! Maryland was listed, alongside with Oregon & California, as being leaders!) This in turn helps students strengthen their critical thinking skills. (Paraphrased from page 225.) In order to create generations of kids who care about nature, we need to get them out there and show them what it is like to be an environmental steward.

Small Steps Make a Big Difference & Final Thoughts
Some of us get stopped (by our own selves) when we feel we can't "do it all" or make a huge difference or do it perfectly. We may fall into the rut of a "what's the point" mentality. But the collective, small green things all add up. Take for instance this statistic: "Close to 70% of Americans are experimenting with more plant-based protein." (p. 180) This is powerful when you look at the following fact: "the ten most climate-damaging foods, in order from most to least harmful based on emissions required to produce them, are beef, lamb, butter, shellfish, cheese, asparagus, pork, veal, chicken, and turkey." (p. 180) Any flexitarian approach to reducing your meat intake helps the planet. Do you need to go all out vegan or vegetarian? No! Every little thing helps. Taking on small green actionable things feels wholeheartedly doable. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. In between counts.

This book is full of the many ways you can take small steps to make a difference. I love that it's geared to fit your personality through these 7 superpowers, meaning you can more easily be guided to what feels natural. Just think of the collective difference we all could make if we did just one green thing!

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Happy Mother's Day

With it being Mother's Day weekend, I was thinking of my mom, of being a mom to my children, to the grandmothers in my children's lives, and to all the other moms who are out there in so many ways: aunts, friends of family, confidantes, and more. We are moms to our kids in our classroom, in the same way that female coaches are to their athletes, and day care providers are to their little ones. 

All of those thoughts led me to this poem by Denise McKay, which strikes a chord to the heart of what it means to be a mother.

Honor and celebrate all your mothers out there this Mother's Day.

Poem art from 

Wednesday, May 10, 2023


I ran across 2 articles that got me thinking about the genre of "eco-literature:"
As an avid reader, the concept of "eco-literature" definitely has its draw for me. I loved the older elementary aged students Operation Redwood by S. Terrell French. Carl Hiaasen's "eco-adventure" books for young adults are always entertaining, as are the Calpurnia Tate series. I also adore a slew of picture books with an environmental slant. 

But I will say, "cli-fi" (= climate fiction) actually brings about a little more fear factor to my heart than even sci-fi does. I instantly picture the apocolypse and raging oceans sweeping down buildings. I worry about this genre--how depressing are these books going to be? Eco-anxiety is already at an all time high, along with the pandemic of mental health problems that seems to have followed the Covid pandemic. 

I've read a lot of environmental non-fiction books, and they all talk about how important it is to take action and how that is a major way to counter the doom and gloom. (Case in point, my posts on "A Trio of Messengers on Hope" and Heather White's One Green Thing book). I've read some non-fiction books that did not have this focus, and I felt like I was walking away with a slight state of despair. There needs to be some element of hope or inspiration, otherwise what is the take away? That the world will be wrecked if we don't do something. For those of us who are drawn to environmental issues, we already know that. More doom and gloom just kills all motivation and leads to doomscrolling our phone in a blob on the couch.

So, when I encountered these two articles about eco-literature, I instantly wondered if a good ol' fashioned rom-com read of escapism was what might better soothe my soul rather than the apocalypse of climate disaster. Secondarily, I took inventory of my list of books mentioned above. Perhaps the common denominator here are they are all books for pre-teens and teens, and maybe that's where the doom and gloom stays away!

But I read the articles anyway. And I didn't walk away frightened.

In The Wire's article by literary critic Rajesh Subramanian , cli-fi is defined as such:
"Cli-fi often ventures into the realms of sci-fi and/or speculative fiction when the narrative gets rooted in future or in an imaginary geographical locale. The litmus test is how far such fiction evokes in the reader a sense of urgency towards an action to save the environment, or, if they are capable of leaving a deep impression to humans conscious of their role in saving the earth."
He goes on to write:
"Eco-lit needs to delve deeper into portrayals of how environmental degradation leads to human agony, suffering and displacements; how citizens turn into refugees within their own country; how economic and political exploitation turn human life upside down and jeopardise the environment, thereby making it unsuitable for life in future. But it needs to be done as literature, as human stories of subtlety, not just the sterile badgering of activism."
Of course, it takes me back to high school English class and all the general themes of conflict in novels:
  • Man versus Man
  • Man versus Nature
  • Man versus Self
  • Man versus Society
  • Man versus Supernatural
  • Man versus Technology
Clearly, Man versus Nature as a thematic conflict isn't new.

Rajesh Subramanian goes on to discuss how it can't be moralistic or dogmatic, which some writings can take this slant. I felt that when I read The Overstory, and it felt heavy. 

As Alan Rossi explained in the Lit Hub article, "With the climate crisis as its animating force, new books are asking new questions about what it means to be a mind experiencing a world in crisis."

The world is in crisis. In more ways than one. So looking at that through the lens of books and characters and how they deal with it, maybe there are things to learn not only about the world, but about ourselves, in reading books with this slant. He goes on to analyze several books and how their themes are allegories to the environmental crisis in some ways. Interesting food for thought. In one book discussion in particular, he discusses how it focuses on how do the characters go about taking action.

He ends with a great quote about this genre:
"In this way, the new eco-literature is not just about the pending apocalypse or dystopia or climate change alone. Rather, these books are about how we encounter the world, which means they are about our minds. Everything begins in our consciousness, and these books point toward ways of reshaping that consciousness in order to really encounter the vast thing we’re changing."

Images created at

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Appreciating Teachers

Teaching is a tough vocation. People go into teaching (and stay in teaching), because they have a passion for watching minds grow, they are filled with optimism, and they hope to make a difference. But many people leave teaching because of the workload:  limited planning periods, state and district curricular standards and requirements, stacks of papers to grade, emails and phone calls to parents, standardized testing, creative problem solving and managing a room full of different individuals and emotions. In fact, researchers have noted that teachers make about 1,500 decisions a day (which breaks down to about 4 per minute in the typical classroom).

No wonder we come home tired! And, not surprising that many people leave the profession. Especially in the last few years after the educational demands of remote and hybrid teaching during Covid.

After 30+ years of teaching in at least 6 different schools (both public and independent), I abide by the fact that teachers are some of the hardest working people I know. We're certainly not in it to make our millions, but the dedication I have seen in so many colleagues is astounding. Even on our hard days (weeks, months, or years), we still go back... knowing it doesn't get any easier as the challenges change daily. Additionally, they change over time as new situations (like the integration and expansion of technology both in our classrooms and society) change up the challenges. No two days are ever alike.

For you teachers out there...

This year, it came with a bit of confusion. Teacher Appreciation Day is always the first Tuesday in May--this year, May 2nd. Since 1984, Teacher Appreciation Week annually falls on the first full week of May starting on Sunday--so May 8-12th this year (or May 7-13th, depending on how you look at it). Take for instance President Biden's 2023 Executive Order that he issued, proclaiming the week to be May 7-13, 2023. (This, by the way is a good read, if you haven't read it yet.)

Whether you celebrated Teacher's Appreciation Day or Teacher's Appreciation Week, I hope you feel appreciated. Honored. Celebrated. Important. We do a hard job... and we make it look easy. (And, I chuckle at the things we have to say daily that most people have probably never uttered.) Take time to celebrate you, my teacher friends!  Even better...celebrate with your own teacher friends and toast each other!

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week.

Images from and  

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

The AI Classroom: The Ultimate Guide to Artificial Intelligence in Education

My latest read is The AI Classroom: The Ultimate Guide to Artificial Intelligence in Education (The Hitchhiker's Guide for Educators Series) by Dan Fitzpatrick, Amanda Fox, Brad Weinstein. Given it was published March 23, 2023, which is about a month ago, it is about as current as you can get. But, even given that, ChatGPT-4 came out (as of March 13, 2023), and ChatGPT-5 may be out be end of 2023.

The world is moving fast! Which can be scary. As I shared in my March 29th post "Chasing Life Podcast Season 6: The Science of How Tech Is Impacting Our Brains" and in reference to seeing author Tom Friedman, people are resistant to change--especially when it comes with the speed of tech, globalization, and environmental climate change. Takes you to that old adage: "Denial ain't just a river in Egypt." 

As the book points out--the future is here and the future is now. And it brings about a lot of thinking about ethics. Not only when it comes to AI/Artificial Intelligence and the power of chatbots. Same is true when it comes to genetic research and editing with CRISPR (= "Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats"), animal testing, human medical trials, weapon development, and the idea of space colonization. A lot of this sounds like it come right from a sci fi movie or Star Trek episode. But, tracking the timeline of major inventions over the last 100-125 years, we have had a lot of innovation and change. Smart phones, computing, modes of transportation, medicine...innovation equal change. 

While I'm still mid-book with my reading, I'm fascinated by and curious how AI will impact schools. In some ways, I'm glad I teach technology in the elementary school. In some ways, it feels like we are still young and insulated. But even thinking about digital citizenship alone, with the prevalence of phones, computers, and other technology in every space and place for kids these days (schools, home, beyond), the trickle down is there. What used to be high school problems can now be middle school problems with social media and tech connection at play. In that same way, what was once primarily 6th-8th grade digital drama is now moving its way down to 4th and 5th graders' friendship issues. I'm sure it is the same with AI.

It's a good thought experiment for sure, yet I also am enjoying the practical side of this book as well. The book also focuses in on 4 major sections that can help maximize the effectiveness of AI for teacher productivity and teaching critical thinking skills: "The AI Uprising" (including that part about the future is now), "The AI Educator" (and what that looks like for teachers now), "The AI Tool Repository" (listing tools you can use immediately), and "The AI Horizon" (looking forward to where we go next in this AI world).

I highly recommend the book for anyone in education.... and for parents of curious kids. 

Kids are digital native and have been for the last 20+ years. It's important to see what kids will most certainly find fascinating, and it's a good way to get maybe one step ahead of them. Not to mention, this book and it's analysis of where we already are with AI is about as close to a crystal ball as we may get!

Image from and the second one was created at