Scan, capture, and save

I love paper. It lets me feel creative. You can brainstorm, sketch, and doodle. I get handed lots of paper. Unfortunately, it often comes with responsibility, i.e., not to lose it. That’s a growth area for me. I lose receipts, misplace business cards, and am horrible with forms. I then spend valuable time to retrieve the said paper.

What if, you could transform paper into a digital image and file it on the spot?

Scan now, search later

With Scannable for your iPhone, you tap, scan and store paper digitally. You take a piece of paper, lay it flat, and hit the scan button. It captures the information and turns it into a straight and sharp image. If the paper contains creases, it removes them and evens adjusts the contrast. Scannable then uploads it your Evernote notebooks. You get the option too to share it by email.

When you read, capture a recipe or text passage. Scannable creates a fully searchable image. In class, grab the whiteboard sketch or notes. You can search the handwriting later. Get handed a business card, upload it straight to your address book. It parses the data for you. At the clinic, send your claim forms directly to your insurance provider.

Scannable works to make time-consuming activities disappear and create surplus time for you.

If you use OneNote to save items, check out the Office Lens app.


Write, stretch, & enhance with AI

Writing is important. It captures emotion, expresses feelings and conveys ideas. It helps us break down our thinking and moves us from thought to story. We all write essays, documentation, and emails. Some of us complain about a shortage of time. Today students learn the basics of grammar through in class context. And, this works pretty well. Yet, it places most of the responsibility for student growth on the teacher.
We adopted laptops to gain efficiency and extend our learning. Not merely to reproduce workflows digitally, but also to provide access to tools not available in the physical world. Technology grants us endless amounts of information and enables collaboration to those brave enough. Now, technology that leverages artificial intelligence can help us improve our lives by better communication.  It provides users with grammar mechanics, as well as help on their writing with clarity, readability, and techniques. It goes so far as to gauge writing effectiveness with context-specific suggestions or flagging things like gendered or aggressive language.
When we write,  we want to test and measure to determine what works. It gives us perspective and provides confidence. When you can, continue to seek feedback from teachers, colleagues, and friends.  When you can’t, take advantage of technology to help you stretch your learning. The most important thing, continue the active process of doing.
Additional readings

How does an iPad Pro let me be more creative as a teacher?

It lets me be mobile and free to move. I teach from multiple places. And my laptop requires two hands, either you put it down and type or you balance it awkwardly and one hand type. iPad plus finger lets me flick through slides, pinch to zoom in or out and highlight relevant text.

The camera and Apple Pencil allow me to capture and document. I shoot whiteboard notes and student’s work, and any cool doodle I see. I draw arrows, smiley faces, and stars. Handwritten feedback lets me appear a bit more human in today’s digital world. Plus, it helps me connect and remember more about my students work. Apps like Office Lens let me scan and save anything to One Note, e.g., receipts, bills, flyers.

The Smart Keyboard adds flexibility. I tear it off or attach it as needed. If I need to provide more formal feedback, it snaps into place. In meetings or at professional development opportunities, I leave the laptop behind and carry less. Plus, I can write, draw, and type.

And yes, I need the laptop too. When I write for myself or need to create narrative comments, the extra screen real estate helps. I prefer to create screencasts and small videos on my laptop. Spreadsheets can be a challenge on the iPad. Occasionally, I do layout work where it helps to manipulate the entire page.

It comes down to workflow. I think a lot. I notice things and connect dots. The iPad allows me to capture, research, and play. The laptop enables me to digest and process the information I collected. Sure, I could get by one device. Fortunately, the school provides me both.

Does an elementary student need a laptop?

Ten years ago, laptops were our only choice. Now, teachers asked us why we use them instead of other devices? Based on dialog with teachers and school leaders, we created sandboxes where everyone could get in and play. Using iPad Pros & Apple Pencils, students and teachers took photos, sketched, marked-up worksheets, and wrote notes. We saw an increase in mobility and a rise in tactile learning. Students handled objects then photographed them. They jumped between pages, stretched text, manipulated objects, and drew Chinese characters. We found that the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil delivered more by design and intent than our MacBooks. If you are a flexible learner who is open to new ideas, please join us to learn why the change made sense for us. We will deliver a blueprint of how we changed the status quo. We promise to push comfort zones, go hands-on, and reflect on our areas for growth.

The above proposal will be presented at at an education related conference in 2019.

I know a guy

 Is the replace not repair big store anonymous employees world we live a good model for us as a culture? Yes, prices are low, the selection is immense, & convenience is king. What of the minimized or entirely missed opportunities to make and grow personal connections, to learn about others?

I grew up in the “I know a guy” family. You repaired your car; changed your oil. You went to see Duck at the autoparts store. He did body work on the side too. If you needed something welded, you went Sipple’s. You went to Silverglade’s for cheese and Bolte’s for coffee and exotic spices. No, it was not always quick, yet it became a bit of an adventure in itself. If these guys didn’t have it, they “knew a guy” who would. If you needed if fast, well more adventure ensued as you set off to find what you needed.

Geniuses replace our electronics. Store get bigger and buy other stores. Or we avoid stores and order online. Again, I get it, low price, selection, and convenience. Where is the adventure? The stores I mentioned above were frequented monthly and often weekly. We knew who worked there. I learned of their families, their challenges, and could even get inspired. Jim, of Bolte’s, had a Solidarność, Polish trade union, connection. He told stories and handed out buttons. Who doesn’t love a rebellion against oppression story? Loosely put, we were collaborators. They gave us items we needed which we used for our families. We then went on to create our own stories.

Connections are messy, yet a good story though entertains forever. What do you value? In a world of fake news, comic book adaptations, sequels, reboots, we need our own adventures to tell. Can’t repair your own phone, prepare your own food. Frustrated by personal and public transport, design a better option. Youtube videos all the same, create a better one. Don’t own any quality tools, get to Sears before they go bankrupt.  Be a flexible problem solver. I understand; life is hard, money needs to stretch, convenience trumps most everything, and we all feel entitled. My point, take action. Get out there, whether real or virtual, connect and collaborate.  Create your own stories, learn more about yourself, and make new acquaintances. More important, tell your stories, entertain and inspire others. Be “the guy” others know and call when they need help.

Mind, future, now!

Do you regularly… Open twenty plus tabs in Chrome? Comment on bad design? Overthink standardized test? Connect the dots for meaning? See the bigger picture? If you answered “yes” twice, read Daniel Pink’s  A Whole New Mind: Why Right-brainers will rule the future.

Why should you care?

The days of the knowledge worker are gone. Automation will take jobs. Big data will make decisions. And we are going to live a lot longer. So, what will set you apart? Dan argues we need to pair right brained characteristics of design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning with the left brained proficiencies such as logic and order. Those who can master the pairing , which Dan calls high concept high touch, will succeed in the future.

What can you do about it?

We are all designers! Sure the majority of our designs don’t get beyond imagination. Yet, we all sketched one out on a napkin. The point, we are all curious by nature. Even if your knowledge of design comes mostly from encountering “bad design,” that’s okay. Creativity is applied imagination.


Stories, we like them. One, they excite us more than facts and statistics. Two, they talk to us personally. The challenge, the sum of all knowledge is now available to us instantaneously and for free. If you can’t tell an engaging story or at least fashion context out millions of hits, you are just another statistic.

Connect and arrange the open tabs. Like an artist who draws/paints what s/he sees, you follow the links, connect the dots, and see the patters to synthesize relationships. Your symphony comes by corralling the pieces of the seemingly unrelated and creating knowledge.

Know what others feel, empathy. Don’t sweat the details of systemization, sequence, and logic. Artificial intelligence does this and processes staggering amounts of data quietly, quickly, and without complaining. Fortunately, logic doesn’t alway work with humans. So, it is better to be fuzzy around the edges yet attuned to desires and feelings. Those who can toggle between systematizing and empathy get the bigger picture.

Play is good. We succeed when we are having fun. Learning is not memorizing facts. We learn when we encounter interesting facts. We connect them to form an interpretation that creates knowledge. Play more and tap into the unlimited potential of the right brain to do anything.

We are born for meaning, not passive consumption. In this world of abundance with supersize drinks, binge watching, and mall after mall of the same stuff, it is easy to forget. Meaning rounds out the big picture and helps provide purpose. There’s no instant meaning in the future, yet you can draw upon design, story, symphony, empathy, and play to create it.

Cool brain image by by Austin Kleon @ Creative Commons

Design, innovation & our future: why should we care?

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses. – Henry Ford

We are by our nature curious! We see patterns, ask questions, and draw conclusions. Occasionally we ask more questions. If we don’t get answers that make sense, we wonder. Not always for ourselves, for others too. We see things through their eyes. Often, we don’t stop there. We go beyond wonder and take action. We take a few notes, make a sketch, and connect a few dots. I would argue, we are all designers provided we work at it; else we risk becoming a group of passive consumers. We must care about design because the world does not need faster horses.

Future ready
I never let my schooling get in the way of my education. – Mark Twain

We can no longer accurately predict the future. Social media strategist, blogger, data miner, drone pilot, who knew these would be jobs? 1 We are creating artificial intelligence (AI) that does the amazing, drives, writes, and grades. We replace TVs, phones, and computers, not fix. Cars run for ten+ years. The future looks good. Yet, if we eliminate more jobs then we create, what will we all do? This is why we need our curiosity, interesting questions, and our ability to care; it defines our “humanness” if you will. We need to focus our educational efforts on our uniquely human qualities, which cannot be duplicated; else what job is next.

Creativity & innovation
Repetition is the death of magic. –Bill Watterson

Self-driving cars, stores where you don’t line up,2 and AI that writes poetry3 all seem wildly creative and innovative. Yet, so many products are poorly designed or lack empathy. We wait in too many lines. And standardized tests still define our future. We are in an age of transition. We struggle with how to teach creativity and define innovation. The top ten grossing films in each year of the first decade of the millennium, seventy-four of the one hundred were sequels, adaptations of an earlier work, or based on comic book/video games.4 Going forward, we need to be comfortable with the dynamic nature of terms like original, inventive, fresh, surprising, risk, better, and useful. Algorithms/AI cannot yet solve complex problems, build social collateral, or be empathetic. Remember when we used to play in the sandbox? We build stuff, worked with others, and sought feedback from parents. Teamwork can be infectious, if we let it. The future needs creativity and innovation and people who question authority. Let’s get back in the sandbox and keep magic alive.

What can we do?
Every great design begins with an even better story. – Lorinda Mamo

Don’t wait! Curiosity, wonder, the design cycle, these are not top down movements. It is not going to come from admin, the school board, or even parents. We are all creative provided we give ourselves the permission. Celebrate good design when we see it. Call out bad design, but be prepared to ask questions, to step up, and offer insights and solutions based on research. Critics only and passive consumers need not apply. Stop just reading and discussing what defines creativity, innovation, and design and take responsibility for our future! Go create a story to own. There no shame in failing, so why not do it with a little style?

Note: this post is a result of an on going collaborative between myself and  John McBryde the Director of Origins Education. Without his guidance and friendship, it would look quite different.


1. 10 jobs that did not exist 10 years ago – Digital Marketing Institute
2. Amazon to open convenience store with no lines – the two way breaking news from NPR
3. Google’s AI has written some amazingly mournful poetry – Wired
4. Everything’s a remix part 1 – Kirby Ferguson