More Thoughts on Amtrak

It’s hard to believe that just a few short days after my first trip on Amtrak from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia a train crashed shortly after leaving the Philadelphia station on its way to New York killing at least seven people, and injuring many more.

I won’t pretend to know anything about rail safety, so I’ll keep my comments brief with the hope that this tragic incident will encourage those with authority to ensure rail travel is safe and reliable in the U.S.

I hope the families of those who have been killed find peace during this difficult time and that the injured recover quickly.

60 in 60 Conference

The 60in60 Conference will quickly prove to be a most useful conference for busy teachers interested in gathering copious amounts of information about the ever changing technological landscape as quickly as possible.

I had the pleasure of meeting Brandon Lutz at an event in New York back in 2012. There, Brandon gave his 60in60 presentation in which he demonstrates 60 educational web tools in 60 minutes. Rapid fire, drink from a fire hose, more information that you could possibly use in an hour. I came away with a number of useful new tools that I still use today. I really loved the presentation, and I also was fortunate to meet a like-minded educator in Brandon.

Since that time, Brandon has taken his 60in60 presentation on the road and regularly presents at various conferences, and this weekend marked his first full 60in60 conference. Brandon and the Bucks County Intermediate Unit (where Brandon now works) hosted the event and invited me to participate by delivering a mini session: 10in10 on Flipped Learning.

If you attend Brandon’s 60in60 session at a conference like ISTE, you will leave with 60 great tools in your toolbox. If you attend the 60in60 conference, you could discover hundreds of tools for your classroom with very little redundancy in the presentations. Actually, I was a little worried that the same few apps and services would keep popping up in all the sessions, and although a small handful made a regular appearance (I’m looking at you Kahoot!), the majority of the tools shared were unique to each presentation.

Lest you think 60in60 sounds like a boring sit-and-get, let me assure you that this is an exciting opportunity to learn a lot very quickly. The 60in60 conference is not designed as a workshop, it is not an place to macerate in a crock-pot for hours on one topic. If you are looking for detailed training on a particular program or service, this conference is not for you. 60in60 focuses on breadth over depth, and there is a place for this sort of conference in our educational landscape. This is not something you would attend multiple times in a year, it is not long-term PD. Go to 60in60 once a year, gather a massive amount of resources quickly, go home, and play.

Brandon describes the 60in60 concept as “a few people doing the hard work of researching a testing these tools so you don’t have to”. I can’t even imagine how long it would take me to individually uncover, explore, test, and begin to use all the products and services I learned about at 60in60.

This conference was refreshing and invigorating, and if you hear that Brandon Lutz or the 60in60 conference is coming to your area, drop what you are doing and go!

Thoughts on Amtrak

I travel a lot, and my family only owns one car, so I typically fly or rent a car. This week I was heading to Eastern PA from my home in Pittsburgh to participate in the 60in60 conference hosted by Brandon Lutz and the Bucks County Intermediate Unit (upcoming post on that event soon) and I decided to take my first voyage using Amtrak from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia.

I’ve used rail service in many countries around the world including some maglev/high-speed rail in Asia, but this was my first long-haul train ride in the U.S.

I was pleasantly surprised.

NPR ran a story a few years ago about massive delays in the North West part of the U.S. due to Amtrak sharing rail lines with oil tankers and shipping trains. The passenger trains seem to take the lowest priority, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

U.S. rail travel is nothing like rail travel in other parts of the world. Today it will take me seven and a half hours to travel what it would take me 5 hours to drive, and if this were a Japanese Shinkansen (bullet train) it would take about 1.5 hours. The rest of the world uses trains to commute, and the train stations have the same bustle as an airport. The U.S. appears to use trains to meander from one location to another.

My co-passengers are the most relaxed travelers I have ever encountered. When I fly, everyone seems stressed, rushed, and nervous. Everyone on the train seems aware that Amtrak is not the most efficient means of transportation, but are completely ok with it. They all seem confident that they will get to their destination eventually, and they are going to spend their time enjoying a book, chatting on the phone, or taking a nap. It’s great to be able to wander around the train rather than being tied to the seat on an airplane.

Even as I sit, waiting for another train to clear a section of single-track which has delayed us by 15 minutes, I’m not too concerned about whether or not I’ll make it back to Pittsburgh tonight. I mean, it’s happy hour on the train, so beer is only $3, and the WiFi connection is strong. What more could I need?

If you need to travel, have some time to kill, and you want to relax on your journey. Give Amtrak a whirl.

It’s Been a While

Hello world.

It’s time for me to start writing again.

If you’ve known me for any length of time, you’ll know that I had a fairly active online voice in the education world up until 2012. With the exception of a few guest blogs and some random tweets from a conference, I’ve been largely silent for the past three years.

Curious about where I’ve been, what I’ve been up to, why I went silent, and what is next? Check back soon for updates.