Too Much Information? Try Pottery!

I was listening to a teacher, Ron Carlos, demonstrating pottery a few weeks back, and he was telling students on how important it is for them to stay ‘in touch with the earth’ around them. This included being aware of the natural resources they have been blessed with. Creativity, he said, takes patience, and spending time ‘tuning in’ to the material. Sometimes, he said, it’s as if the clay in his hands decides what shape it wants to be.

IMG_0565It reminded me of the craft of writing. Many authors describe how the character they give birth to, often decides where to go and what path to take. Just like wad of clay, I suppose!

How does this apply to many of us? Many of us sleep with a cellphone by our bedside, and a wi-fi-connection within a few feet no matter where we wander. No wonder it is such a challenge to find ‘think time’ and creative time. We are victims of TMI  –which is an old acronym for ‘Too Much Information’, but also an acronym for ‘Too Many Inputs.’ And we can’t honestly blame anyone for it.

In a forthcoming workshop, I am planning on bringing up this topic of how important it is to be connected, but also to often (very often) be off the grid, so to speak.

Thank God, clay does not tweet!


Ranting and Whining – And you call this ‘social?

There was a time, not too long ago when social media was the place to be nice to others, and celebrate the ‘small world’ we live in.

What did we do with that?

A week seldom goes by without seeing humans whining and groaning like 14-year olds, complaining about the most mundane things, broadcasting what most people used to keep private in their petty-little spats, or rambling about the speed bumps we all face each day.

There are a 101 reasons why this is bad for us as a society – overuse of social media, that is. There’s a good summary of Why it’s bad for you here (and you probably intuitively knew most of these already.)

Just because we can screen-shot a conversation or an email, or tell our Instagram followers why someone makes us mad, doesn’t need we have to. I’ve written plenty on ‘Why Web 2.0 ought to make us more human’ but find myself having to call out those who turn this wonderful resource we call social media, into the most advanced anti-social media behavior.



Best of Mars Day at Salt River Elementary


Students learn about constellations, galaxies and the solar system




Students investigate a ‘new planet’



Session on 3-D printing



Zak Wilson talks about 3-D printing


Pictures from Tuesday’s Mars Day at my school.



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Posted by on November 13, 2015 in ASU, Education, STEM, Technology


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Zak Wilson demos 3-D Printing to my students

IMG_3466Always wanted to introduce a class on 3-D printing in my computer and technology lab.

Tomorrow, our students will have just that, as Zak Wilson, a mechanical engineer who recently spent 8 months on a NASA-sponsored mission, visits Salt River Elementary. He is our keynote speaker and presenter at Mars Day.

Why is 3-D printing suddenly popping up everywhere? Depending whom you ask, you’ll find out that the ‘maker Movement’ is partly responsible. It’s driving young people to rediscover the art and science of building things from scratch. Libraries began hosting these Maker spaces, and organizations began experimenting with ‘printing’ hardware from a bicycle to an engine transmission. The latter by a mechanical engineer, for a Toyota! Not to mention the medical industry, and the space industry.

Which brings us back to NASA. There’s a 3-D printer on the International Space Station. One of the astronauts recently printed a 4 1/2 inch ratchet wrench, out of plastic. Zak, featured here, printed many small items in the Mars dome, and we will find out more about this.

More about the previous Mars Days, here if you are interested.

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Posted by on November 9, 2015 in Social Media


Playing to the cameras – Politics as usual

In the swim suit contests for our future president, the conflict of style vs substance is hard to miss.

These debates are, after all political theater, set up by TV networks. Sometimes I wonder if we have the right to even complain that it is such a frivolous affair, and we hardly come away with substance about a candidate.

So this month, in my column, I covered it from the premise that the candidate who really masters the ‘camera angle’ of this theatrical exercise, is the one who could win.

If you watched the incident in Iowa a few months back, when Donald Trump was interrupted by TV journalist Gorge Ramos, from Univision, you’ll know what I mean. The cameras rolled, and as crass and disingenuous as Trump was, he demonstrated camera mastery.

It’s no longer Public Relations 1.0. The groundswell of offline and online conversations is creating new possibilities. It’s possible now to follow real-time commentary in the Twittersphere, On Facebook, Instagram, or via ‘Vine’ while a campaign speech is being delivered. And these short burps of commentary, are fed by what comes to us via the camera soundbite.

 If you want to read more on this it is here.


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Instagram ain’t for everyone, but sadly it’s a mass medium

I’ve been extremely sceptical about Instagram, and not just because of who own’s it, but because of what a pathetic wasteland it was becoming. That was more than a year ago.

This was soon after lawyers were also going after Instagrammers with intellectual property lawsuits (Janet Jackson’s legal issues, for instance). And it was about the time when a bulk of preteens and teenagers began to adopt it as their social bragging network, populated by selfies.

But then I discovered the real Instagammers, those passionate photographers with an eye for detail, who didn’t really need the canned filters that come with the app. People like my niece, Melissa Bocks, for instance who captures the most amazing moments in and around London. When you follow such people, you begin to feel you should not be licensed to even use your camera phone!

I believe that it’s about time Instagram separated the wheat from the chaff, before it becomes just another social network. Take a look at these pictures, and see what I mean.


















London, St. Pancras Square – by Mel Bocks


















Sugar candy vendor, Madampitiya – by Nazly Ahmed

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Posted by on October 28, 2015 in Social Media


Mars Day taps NASA, StarLab and HI-SEAS Crew Member

StarLab_1It’s fun to have an event such as Mars Day at a time when there’s so much more being discovered about the Red Planet. Like the excitement about flowing water, a few weeks ago.

For this year’s Mars Day at Salt River Elementary, we feature three interesting facets of Space exploration and discovery.

StarLabThis is an inflatable planetarium that will give younger grades an interstellar experience. It comes to us through ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration. Just the idea of having a planetarium come to the school turns science into something more experiential. Added to that we have a great outreach team that gives students a ‘tour’ of the night sky, and a hands-on table-top experience.

hi_seas_3Zak Wilson is one of the crew on the Mars Habitat experiment last year. He will be here to conduct concurrent sessions, and be our keynote speaker. Zak, who was part of a 6-member crew lived in a Martian habitat (seen on right) for eight months! It was situated on a volcanic terrain that resembled Mars. More about this experience here.

ASU/NASA. And last but not least, we have the team from ASU’s Mars Space Flight Facility conducting hands-on sessions with grades 3,, 4, 5, and 6. This is the fourth year of our collaboration with this group.

Mars Day 2012 - Kody EnsleyHere’s how Mars Day has evolved.

In 2012, we had our students talk to Kody Ensley, a
Native American who interned at NASA, and worked on Robonaut,

In 2013, we featured Commander John Herrington, former Space Shuttle commander,and the first Native American in Space.

In 2014, we had the Hi-SEAS Mission team, and Dr. Jack Farmer from ASU.


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Posted by on October 23, 2015 in Education, Events, STEM


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