Curiosity + Learning = A Dream + (– Illusion) (–You). The SCN Encourager


Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 11.25.04 AMMy formula works!

C + L = D + (–I) (–Y)

Trust me on this…

just this once.

Don’t knock me off track by double-checking my calculations with someone who’s actually good at math.

I’m convinced my ground-breaking formula is tangible proof that a negative YOU factor (created when selflessly “giving” of yourself) when multiplied by the always negative ILLUSION constant results in a widespread PLUS for encouraging the growth of dreams.

Yeah, I can now hear you mumbling, “what kind of knucklehead sends out an email about a math formula right before a holiday weekend?”

But I wanted to follow-up on yesterday’s Dreams vs. Illusions perspective.

Cindy likes to call my perspectives “circular roundabouts,” but I like to use the word “perspective.”

It sounds more school communicator-ish.

It’s not that Cindy’s description is less accurate, but as you know, I like to err on the side of brevity.

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 11.44.52 AMSeveral readers responded to yesterday’s Encourager by indicating that they see the learning miracles occurring in their schools everyday very much like magic.

While their musings about magic obviously can’t compare to the concrete prescription for how dreams are made offered in my whiz-bang equation, who am I to argue?

My circular roundabouts (er, my perspectives) already get me in enough trouble at home.

So, all aboard!

Let’s add MAGIC to the list of what dreams are made of.

Stephen Shapiro

Stephen Shapiro

Stephen Shapiro is a national speaker and has devoted the last two decades of his career in the study and implementation of innovation.

Although he’s never put in the laborious effort of constructing a new math formula like I have, I still appreciate his insights.

They’re rock-solid.

You’ll find his recent post on Magic and Creativity a gem.

There’s lots of mindset magic packed into it.

And don’t skip past the video clip at the end of his post; the 9 minute video interview with Armando Lucero, one of today’s most acclaimed magicians and performers.

Armando Lucero

Armando Lucero

When I watched the video, I thought, “Holy cow! What a powerful connection to what we do!”

And no doubt, there are additional connections I totally missed.

But you won’t them… and yes, I’m still aware that it’s a holiday weekend!

Just set aside a few moments for Stephen Shapiro’s post and the brief trick called “Wisp” shown on Lucero’s home page if you can.

It hurts to admit it, but you’ll get more out of them than you’d ever get out of my math formula.

Happy 4th!







Do you know the difference between a dream and an illusion? – SCN Encourager

Don’t worry. It’s not a question on a standardized test.

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 7.49.32 PMYou’re safe!

But as educators – the positive and intentional mind-mappers of dreams  – we can’t dilly-dally around the bases on this one.

We’re the ones who must hit this question out of the park.

Especially as we prepare for children to enter another season of learning in our schools.

The google-searched definition of the word illusion connects it to the distortion of our senses.

I think there’s a bit more to it.

An illusion is also something that is “not real” and has absolutely no chance of EVER becoming “real.”

That’s what makes an illusion an illusion.

Sure, it’s connected to the distortion of our senses… but there’s also an unyielding element of permanence attached to it.

An illusion will always be an illusion.

It doesn’t evolve into much of anything else.

dreamThis isn’t so with a dream.

A dream may seem like an illusion – and it may even seem just as unreal – but a dream is a far cry from an illusion.

A dream is dynamic; capable of growing and taking shape.

A dream can live for tomorrow and happily ever after.

And this is what we’re privileged to help make happen.

Dreams need us.

A dream will only become an illusion (a reality that’ll never be) if we allow it.

And, in tough and uncertain times like these, this is what we must guard against.

If not for our own sake, the sake of our kids.

Last weekend I heard a short podcast that outlined the four characteristics of a dream “on the move.”

An individual (even a child) possessing an inner dream which is “on the move” has:

1.  A clearly defined vision, one that can be articulated in some way,

2.  A written proof of his/her passion; be they poems, drawing, affirmations,

3.  An understanding of the obstacles that need to be knocked down, one right after the other,

4.  And a willingness to let others pitch in to help make the dream a reality.

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 9.10.21 PMIt’s incredible!

We’re active agents in strengthening all four characteristics of “dreams on the move” – even during the summer.

Me too.

Well, most of the time, that is.

The other night Cindy asked me if I’d ever tire of watching the Tigers on TV.

I told her that it would be an illusion to ever hope otherwise.

“Oh, but I can dream, can’t I?” she replied.


It’s a classic match-up.

Illusion vs. Dream.

Both under the same roof.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –






If ever I got mugged at gunpoint, I’d worry about how the media would report it. – SCN Encourager

Oh, how I’d wish they’d mess the story up.

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 7.51.42 PMEspecially the part about having only a measly $2.68 on me.

How embarrassing.

But that’s usually about all of the hard cash I can scrounge up.

My luck would never be so good that I could get robbed of $268, or any decent amount, and then later be able to hold my head up high in public once the word got out.

Fat chance.

What father with three daughters – and with weddings inching creeping up closer on the calendar – could hope otherwise?

Last month, one of the girls and her fiancé announced the date of April 9 for their big event.


Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 8.23.33 PMSix days before Tax Day… what a week that’s shaping up to be!

Maybe I should just stop complaining about the $2.68 in my pocket.

It might be the largest amount of cash I’ll have in my wallet for quite awhile.

Yes, I know it’s dumb to fret about this kind of stuff, robbery and news reports and all, but I do.

This is why I’m drawn to articles on the internet like this one:

10 apps you would find in a successful person’s phone

Now I worry about walking across an intersection someday, and get hit by a truck or something, and within seconds, first-responders and passer-bys will pick up my phone and see that I only have apps designed for  the “really average” on my phone.

Right now, I have apps that’ll tell me the weather, Detroit sports scores, what items to pick up the store, when to get get my car serviced, and where to find my phone when I misplace it.

Until this reading this article, I never realized how boring and routine my current roster of apps is.

(Which is so unlike me, of course!)

But this is all about to change.

I’m on a mission.

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 8.50.10 PMSoon, I’ll have these 10 apps on my phone and I’ll be ready to claim the future success that’s bound to come my way.

Other people can choose the roads less traveled for their personal journeys toward achievement and significance.

I’m charging straight ahead to the App Store.

I’m even going to spend some time with that new team communications app SLACK which is garnering rave reviews all over.

So, my days of worrying about muggers and getting run over by a truck are over.

I can envision the bright glow of success on the horizon.

I just hope I can get there before April!














Tech Tip Tuesday: Planning Your Own Conference

Yes, you can!

In my past life, I may have been an event planner.

Hello I Am the Event Planner Nametag StickerHa,ha… but I really do enjoy putting together special gatherings.

Naturally when our district (Boyne City Public Schools, MI) thought about hosting a technology conference 2 1/2  years ago, I convinced a good colleague and friend of mine to co-direct the conference with me.

While it has been a ton of work, we have held two (what I would consider) pretty successful conferences, while having very little experience planning something on this scale until now.

There’s certainly been a learning curve.

So, here are the “TOP 5″ essentials we learned while sweating over the details of our tech conference.  Of course, these five would apply to hosting any kind of conference.

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 8.34.06 PM#1 Use a software designed to sell tickets and sign people up. We opted for EventBrite for our registration process.

It’s super-simple to set up and use. Refunds are no problem whatsoever. You can check people in to the conference using EventBrite’s super simple app: EventBrite Neon. And once your event is over, they send you a check for the tickets you sold (less their small service fee). Totally reasonable.  And if you’re hosting a free event, they don’t charge you!

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 8.38.32 PM#2 Create a #hashtag. Ours was #boynetech.
You may want to start by searching your proposed hashtag on Twitter just to make sure that no one else is using it or has used it lately AND that you’re not so out-of-date on your acronyms that you create one that’s ‘not so appropriate.’

The hashtag helps to get people connected and fired up before your event even occurs. Then, during the day, people can tweet out what they’ve learned, links to resources, and even pictures of people connecting and presenting.

One of my favorite things to do after conferences is go back through the Twitter feed for the specific hashtag and see what I missed (because you can’t get to every single session…). Perhaps the best part of this, though, is that you are doing some advertising for your conference.

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 9.11.51 PM#3 Make it different.
We scatter in lots of variety and ‘flair’, if you will, into our Boyne Tech Conference.

First, it’s in beautiful Boyne City. Our slogan for Friday (the day of the conference) is: Learn. Network. Connect.

For Saturday, it’s : Beach. Golf. Relax.

Our “Team Boyne” downtown businesses and Chamber members work hard to help us out however they can.

Also, we do a BBQ on the pristine shores of Lake Charlevoix the night before. It’s totally free and you get to chat with some of the people you’ll see the next day…with burgers, dogs, and some great tunes by one of our teachers who is also an awesome DJ!

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 9.20.30 PM#4 Nail down sponsors.
As a teacher, this is always the toughest one for me.

Most of us don’t like approaching people asking for sponsorships. It’s awkward. But ya know what? Many business people want to see you have a successful conference, so we boost them at every opportunity in return.

We make sure to give our financial sponsors several shout-outs at our event and I’m sure they gain some potential new clients.

Plus, we’re not shy about extending a “whatever you can give us” option.

Our local bakery donates half the donuts, the Mexican restaurant gives us their amazing chips and salsa, and several local tech companies provided us some free stuff – that’s always popular.

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 9.30.59 PM#5 Google Drive.
I know, I know, but after all…  it’s Tech Tip Tuesday, remember!

Rebecca (the co-director) and I have an elaborate system of folders in Google Drive with documents, budgets, conference programs, and so on. It’s our life-saver.

If I meet someone while I’m out and about who seems willing to consider a sponsorship, I simply email them the sponsor application with all of the details from my phone.

Our folders in Google Drive keep everything we created previously for our conferences all in one spot and make it easy-peasy to make tweaks and also bring in new ideas for next time.

So, there are my “Top 5″ conference planning tips.

And be sure to check in next Tuesday.

I’ll share the top tips I took away from the conference itself.

Do those fuzzy and squiggly “CAPTCHA” letters drive you nuts? – SCN Encourager

Well, hang in there!

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 6.53.16 PMYou’re helping digitize libraries all around the world.

No fake!

Dr. Nancy Colflesh, Ph.D. who spoke at MSPRA about “cross generational communications” last Thursday in Petoskey, Michigan would understand why and how this happened.


I’m still wondering why the CAPTCHA developers just didn’t take their money and run.

That’s sure what I’d do if big money starting flowing my way.

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 6.50.14 PMBut Dr. Colflesh told us that younger generations are not as singular in their purpose.

Although seeing “my generation” located on the generational spectrum closer to Henry Ford and Eleanor Roosevelt and light years away from Taylor Swift and Channing Tatum is somewhat embarrassing, Dr. Colflesh’s point is undeniable.

Every individual in every generation accepts and reacts to their own life’s “defining moments” more in line with the similar actions of their peers, rather than in ways more typical of the previous generation.

In other words, the young developers who got rich after rolling out CAPTCHA were going to keep a-going until they found a way to channel their success into making a significant difference in the world.

It was predicatable.

Seeking to a attach a good cause to their revenues is part of their generational DNA.


I would’ve been perfectly content driving to and from the bank knowing that CAPTCHA was running strong  and that 200 million CAPTCHAs were being typed out by folks like us every day. ($ Ka-ching!)

But not the young CAPTCHA developers.

It bugged them that if typing in just one CAPTCHA took 10 seconds, this meant that 500,000 hours in total was being squandered every single day fussing with these dang things.

So, reCAPTCHA is born –

and is now a major player in the worldwide effort to digitize books.

Here’s how.

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 7.38.43 PMWhen literacy organizations scan books, usually all goes well unless the books are more than 50 years old.

Then the books usually have yellow and crinkly paper that bog down the process.

About 30% of the letters and words in older books are unable to be  determined by electronic scanners with accuracy.

Using the reCAPTCHA service, all of the letters and words that can’t be figured out by an electronic book scanner are sent over to CAPTCHA, where you guessed it. The letters and words get posted in CAPTCHA and we get to try our hand (and eyes) at figuring it out!

Not that we get paid anything for any of this aggravation mind you, but I guess we should all feel okay now that usually when we find ourselves struggling with one of those CAPTCHA images, we are aiding the cause of digitizing the world’s old books.

And together, we’re sending in about 100 million “manually corrected” words and letters per day via reCAPTCHA, or the equivalent of about 2.5 million books per year.

Considering that 200 million CAPTCHAs are processed daily, our aggregate accuracy rate is 50%.

Is that very good?

I don’t care.

I’m proud to be part of the generation that says “It’s good enough. Can we eat now?”

I think this is also yet one more “duty” we perform as inadvertently assigned without any increase in pay.

And boy, I hope the younger generation is happy!


7260 cartoon







MSPRA, FOIA, MASB… and OMG! – SCN Encourager

There’s nothing like a little “FYI” time in charming Petoskey.

Especially with a state mandated July 1 deadline looming.

But thanks to Gerri Allen, the Executive Director of the Michigan School Public Relations Association (MSPRA) and Dianne Litzenburger of the Char-Em ISD, the pent-up anxiety felt by many school communicators due to Michigan’s new Freedom of Information Act “website posting” requirements was reduced considerably.

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 9.50.54 PMMSPRA’s summer drive-in conference on June 25 reviewed the ins an outs of the FOIA mandate from A to Z with attorneys Brad Banasik from MASB and Jennifer Johnston from Thrun Law guiding the way.

If you haven’t been following what the state is now requiring school districts to post pertaining to FOIA, probably the best (and briefest!) help I can offer is this link to my own district’s website, Holland Public Schools. 

You’ll see the basics of what the state is requiring.

At least it will give you an idea of the puzzle pieces you’ll need to pull together if you haven’t done this already.

You can also be assured of the link’s accuracy – since I had nothing to do with it.

It was posted to the website by our Human Resources office more than 10 days ago.

(And yep! I’m still breathing a big sigh of relief!)

The MSPRA conference agenda was a full one.

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 11.03.33 PMDr. Nancy Colflesh was on the agenda to speak after lunch about “Communicating across Generations.”

I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, but a powerpoint slide projected by the attorneys during the FOIA presentation unintentionally aided Dr. Colflesh’s cause.

The slide displayed a list of all the “written” items subject to FOIA.

It listed (per the law MCL 15.232 h): “…handwriting, typewriting, printing, photostating, photographing, photocopying, and every other means of recording and includes letters, words, pictures, sounds, or symbols, or combinations thereof, and papers, maps, magnetic or paper tapes, photographic films or prints, microfilm, microfiche, magnetic or punched cards, discs, drums, or other means of recording or retaining meaningful content.”

Being the quick wit that I am, I turned toward the “younger” school communicator sitting next to me and whispered, “What’s a drum?”  (haha)

“I don’t know,” she replied. “What are microfiche and punch cards? Do you know? There’s a lot of stuff on that slide that I’ve never heard of.”

“Uh, forget it,” I grumbled.

So much for cross-generational chit-chat.








An unusual word of caution preceded one of my first experiences with school surveys

“Don’t mention the Coast Guard.”

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 8.28.57 PMThat’s the parent-teacher conference tip a high school sophomore whispered to me years ago, as she and her mother departed from their conference with a history teacher, and I rushed in to take their place at the table.

I had waited in line for an hour for my turn to speak with this teacher, in a line which snaked around the room with other impatient parents, most of them accompanied by their yawning students.

I’d met with each of my daughter’s five other teachers in the amount of time I’d been awaiting an audience with her history teacher. I was eager to finish. I’d left my daughter at home to care for her younger siblings, and had promised her duty-free time to review for a math test the following day.

Nobody wants a history teacher who isn’t a good storyteller, but this particular teacher was affable to the extreme. I was ready to add him to my Christmas card list the first time I met him.

He was especially chatty about his favorite subject, the U.S. Coast Guard. My daughter had briefed me that some classmates would often try to lure him into Coast Guard tangents, their egos elated if he would take the bait.

As I left the high school that night, I stopped at a table with a tray of cookies, where parents were asked to fill out a paper-and-pencil survey about their experience at parent-teacher conferences.

Huddling around the table was a dad – a neighbor – who didn’t answer any of the ranking questions asked. Instead, he scrawled, “Mostly fine. Curses to the Coast Guard!”

I’ve often imagined the bewildered school secretary, tasked with processing data from those forms, wondering how to interpret and tabulate that perplexing response.

As for the hurried me, I grabbed a cookie and survey and headed for my car. The cookie was consumed on the drive home. I intended to complete my survey from home and return it to school – really, I did.

But in reality, I discovered the survey under a floor mat when I cleaned out my car the following spring.

The advantage of school surveys

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 8.32.52 PMFeedback from customers and stakeholders is valuable information because it reveals perceptions, defines your current reality, and identifies potential issues.

School leaders can use the data collected to target communications and improve procedures.

Surveys can be used to take a pulse on building-specific issues, like “How did parent-teacher conferences go?” They’re also handy for capturing impressions of advisory committees, employee groups, and booster organizations.

Surveys are especially valuable for gathering intelligence on district-wide concerns, such as attitudes about impending capital improvement projects or identifying the least controversial areas for budget cuts.

If results of a survey will be used for strategic planning that requires community investment, it’s best to hire an independent researcher to conduct a scientific study. This type of research is crafted to balance demographics of respondents and prevent bias.

But school leaders can effectively survey targeted audiences themselves by following a few pointers, and using some great free or low-cost online tools that were not yet available when my daughter was in high school.

First, some tips for writing surveys:

  • Define and rank objectives. What must you know? What would be useful to know? What would be nice to know?
  • Keep it concise. The shorter the survey, the higher the response rate.
  • Use clear language that’s positive in tone.
  • Don’t force people into “yes” or “no” answers. Add “not applicable,” “undecided” and “I don’t know.”
  • Vary question types. Multiple-choice questions should have an “other” option because all options could never be listed. Use ordinal questions that require a ranking of options to reveal priorities. Ratio questions get at “how often?” or “how much?” Questions requiring respondents to scale levels of agreement or satisfaction work only if the intervals are approximately equal. Ask open-ended questions if you’re gathering opinions or stories.
  • Test-drive your survey with six or more people and study their responses. Are you asking any questions that are too difficult, confusing, or not getting at what you need to know? Nix any questions if the answer is obvious.
  • Include a comments section.
  • Make it easy for people to respond.
  • Publicize the survey with a due date. The larger the scope of the survey, the longer you’ll have to keep the survey open. One week is enough for a limited survey, but allow one month for a statewide survey.
  • Offering an incentive (like a cookie) improves response rate. However, offering something too valuable could bias the survey if people take the survey only to obtain the incentive.

Cool tools for writing surveys, collecting and analyzing responses

SurveyMonkey  Here’s an online tool with which almost everybody is familiar. You can do surveys with up to 10 questions and 100 responses for free.

Google Forms — Fully functional and you can do as many surveys and responses as necessary absolutely free.

QuestionProEasy to use and free, unless you need advanced features.

SurveyGizmo — An advanced tool that’s still pretty easy to use.

Zoomerang — Now part of SurveyMonkey.

LimeSurvey — Open source program that requires technical skills to implement.

FluidSurveys — Intuitive online survey tool with excellent analytics.

SoGoSurvey — It’s not free, but it is feature rich. It will chart and graph results.

Constant Contact — An excellent, low-cost tool.

Getting your survey out

A cookie-laden table at parent-teacher conferences is a good way to distribute a survey about parent-teacher conferences, but offering multiple ways to respond is better.

Post surveys on your school’s website and include the link to it in newsletters and social media posts.

Improve response rates by optimizing the survey to display correctly on mobile devices. You may be surprised how much feedback you’ll get from parents on smartphones while they‘re stopped at traffic lights on their drive home from your event.


What?!? It’s not “location, location, location” anymore?!? – SCN Encourager

I can’t believe I’m just finding this out.

Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 6.50.36 PMWhat’s next?

Will tomorrow’s breaking news suddenly announce “Hold onto your hat! This just in. Perception is not reality!

That’d be my luck.

Dang, it’s tough to see popular experienced-based maxims under attack.

I need them.

They help me navigate our current environment of unlearn, relearn, re-do, un-do, stop, go, and gluten-free.

But our learning never ends.

The word is starting to get out that the new mantra for school leaders and communicators should be “engage, engage, engage.”

If you want to win in the school outreach and marketing arena, this is the way to do it.

Forget the yappity-yap about “location.”

Skip joining in on those nearby metaphysical lamentations about “reality.”


We now have a new battle cry – engage, engage, engage.

And while this may be easy to remember (kind of like repeating “location” three times), don’t be fooled.

There’s a trap!
People CommunicationNOW we need to know the difference between “a crowd” and “a community.”

Attracting a crowd requires a different different set of tactics than does building a community.

And that’s the name of the game as we plan for the upcoming school year and update our district’s strategic plans.


So, whatcha’ think?

You may never think of your “parental involvement” strategies in the same way again.

But perhaps this is just the reality I’m perceiving today or influence of my present location.

I never can tell.





Even the math challenged among us can avoid the “dimension X” hiccup in GoAnimate

Tech Tip Tuesday

This tip doesn’t offer an old-time rags to riches “Horatio Aspect” ending – but this minor hiccup is gone!

hiccup3Last time, we conquered Hiccup #1 in GoAnimate, finding the right format to add lip syncing to the character on screen.

Today, we tackle Hiccup #2, discovering a nifty way to avoid those ugly black bars on either side of your video.

GoAnimate is a great, online service for creating animated cartoon videos. Their customer support is superb.

What I found lacking, though, for a newbie like me, was a big road sign on the web site telling me there were potholes ahead when it came to the aspect ratio (the dimensions) of the video.

Check out my adventure below:

What are your thoughts? Any questions? Please contact me at [email protected]

Innovation demands more than just than stepping outside of your comfort zone – SCN Encourager

Dang. I knew it!

The current hype about achieving great heights by stepping outside of “your comfort zone” doesn’t tell the whole story.

Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 7.17.56 PM You’ve probably seen some of the hype yourself.

It’s still trending.

And it’s still mostly true.

But take it from me.

It’s difficult to achieve much of anything when staying within a personal three-pronged comfort zone which consists of:
#1  a couch
#2  a remote
and #3  a ball game on TV.

(At least I have a comfort zone easy to clarify.)

Anyway, whenever I do step outside of my comfort zone, Cindy never expects to see much from me in the way of achieving great heights.

She’s often just happy we’re stepping outside for a walk with our dog, Macie.

That’s good enough.

Fortunately, she never expects me to be much of a creative INNOVATOR or leader, either.

Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 6.49.30 PMBecause there’s a second stage to inspiring, energizing, and implementing INNOVATIONS that goes well beyond stepping outside of one’s comfort zone.

And whoa, baby!

It requires even more tough action!

Like the unleashed dog in the photo – if you plan to create and carry out a significant innovation all the way through – you’d better be comfortable with breaking a rule or two.

For that’s the challenge of true innovation according to the experts.

You must be ready to step outside of your comfort zone.

And you must be ready to break a rule or two.

Now, isn’t that something fun to think about as you start your week?

And I’ll even toss in my own caveat.

You can’t step outside of your comfort zone and break any rules in total privacy and secrecy.

That’s what I’ve been attempting and the results have been very disappointing.