Driving with Phone in Hand

In this spring of this year I decided to use parts of my lunch-hour to observe drivers in downtown Calgary to see, generally, how many drivers are using a smartphone while driving. The quick answer is that it’s about 7%.

Texting while driving is something that worries me a lot. I’ve done work in the past about digital environments and presence, and I know that while someone is texting, they are simply not fully present behind that wheel – no matter how good of a driver they think they are.

I see people texting and driving all the time, so I decided to do a bit of observing and find out what the numbers are like. Calgary is especially suited for this because there’s a “plus 15” system throughout downtown, a second story walkway that offers several enclosed bridges overtop of roads, where an observer can see clearly into moving vehicles.

My goal was to observe 5000 cars over the spring and summer, however, because of life and then a change in my working conditions, I stalled at 900. It doesn’t look like I’ll get back to counting cars anytime soon, so I may as well post some results before this project becomes a distant memory.

I observed for 10 sessions, usually 100 cars at a time, for a total of 62 cars out of 900 that were holding a phone in their hand. This is 6.8%.

Two things were surprising to me, that this was a lower % than I expected (my initial guess was 10%), and that the results for each session were very consistent (6-8 per each 100 car session).

There were some limitations and worthwhile notes to make:

  • obviously, this is a small sample size. Although the consistency is enough for me to feel satisfied.
  • This is downtown driving, which might be different than suburb driving.
  • I didn’t count cars where I couldn’t see one of the hands – potentially missing many phones.
  • I also didn’t count professional drivers (taxis, work vans, buses, etc.) because of course they would never text and drive.
  • All observations were early afternoon on a weekday. Results might be different at different times or on weekends.
  • I tried to be objective, but there’s no denying that I am very anti-texting and driving, and that could have skewed numbers somehow

7% of texters is high, especially because I drive past several hundred other drivers even when I simply go up to the grocery store, and it only takes one to cause an accident.

For me, the fact that people simply can’t pull themselves away from the screen, even while operating a moving vehicle, is the best argument for mass deploy of self-driving cars. The sooner the better.

Link to my spreadsheet: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1RjkWEEYb32ku4yVfLJMlcBRpkWhPna7W9ur_051hRD4/edit?usp=sharing




Making People More of What They Already Are

“That lesson is that things are most compelling when they are allowed to be exactly what they are.”


As are people.

One of the most difficult messages to communicate to my students this term has been that they are the most important person, that they are in control, that they are the adult in the room, that each one of them, as they are, are at the center of the class.

The students seems to expect magic, yet many do not realize that they are the magicians. I’m just there to assist, pushing at the right time for them, handing them the sized hat, applauding when the rabbit hops out. Or maybe it’s a dove, if they prefer birds.

I teach at my best the more I get to know my students as they are, and who they are. I’m so skeptical of education that trends away from this.

EdTech Support

We need not throw in our hand. Instead, it is clear that we need to re-engineer both, to ask not what is the best way to use technology, but what is the best way to engage, excite, and instruct students, and then ask how technology can contribute.


This article shows the negative side of trying to introduce edtech without direction or support. In addition to using technology intentionally, I think the question can also be asked: who will support classroom instructors in the use of technology so that the burden isn’t on them to figure the pedagogy and literacy of it out?

Becoming fluent in a technology is time consuming for anyone, especially when it’s not part of workflow.


How to Reciprocate

“Mill’s defense of the feelings and the imagination has two components. The first is that bringing analytical power to bear on a problem is not enough, especially if one’s goal is to make the world a better place. Rather, one must have a certain kind of character: one must be a certain kind of person, a person who has both the ability and the inclination to take the products of analysis and reassemble them into a positive account, a structure not just of thought but also of feeling that, when joined to thought, can produce meaningful action.”


How to Think is a short book about the process of thinking, good, honest, productive thinking.

The idea that thinking isn’t thinking unless it includes a “positive” outcome directed from our human being (feeling) toward a potential for action, is a great idea. It’s an idea that would include ethics in design, substance with know-how, and individuality with mass, complexity perspectives. It is a worldview that includes reciprocity.

This type of deconstruction>construction also makes me think of how I read>write the world around me. How I have the ability to produce meaningful action via so many of the technology and mediums that I use.


More: I’ve highlighted a similar idea in recent books and tv shows that I’ve watched.

More: Also from How to Think is this fantastic quote “Knowledge may be analog, decision making is digital, that is, binary

(“Non-perspective” is useful, but it’s a starting point not an end point.)

Dreams of Education

I don’t quite know how to explain what I am about to say, but sometimes when I am falling asleep, it is my hands that begin to dream first, before my brain does.

Butt-dialing’ has emerged in recent years as a beautiful means of describing unintentional cellphone calls. The implication is that the butt has no intentions, and can carry out no actions, but by a technological glitch has done something by accident…


This is such an interesting blog post, because it breaks down into parts a whole (the human body) in intentional contexts that almost always consider that whole as a whole and nothing less.

I often find myself imagining the relationship of cells and organs to a body as an analogy for people and communities to a society. Obviously, this analogy is limited because of this idea of intention, but it’s also interesting to think that the presence/lack of intention in each of these examples is flipped: Generally, with the cells/body example it is the larger entity that had intention; and with the people/society example, it is the smaller one.

But, is this so obvious?

This post challenges my generalizations, and in doing so challenges the habitually anthropomorphic ways that I see the world.

Anyway, I also see a connection here to education. Breaking down an overarching learning goal, subject, or theme, and letting the individual skills engulf the body in change, slowly, skill by skill.

Recently, I try to get my student to not think of themselves as “learning English” but to add to their perspective that they are developing strands and skills like speaking for fluency, listening for main ideas, listening for chunks of words, writing for structure, writing for accuracy, and reading for pleasure, just to name a few.

Then, if they do this, they can start to feel the dream enter through that smaller skill, slowly engulfing the larger entity of learning English.

Maybe for them it’s as difficult as me considering that a part of my body, like the hands, have intention of their own. Or, that butts can dial. This is the dream, though. This is how it spreads.


More: about scale here and here

Destroy and Create

Learning requires forgetting.

This very morning I was listening to a 3-part podcast episode about destruction, death, and black holes. One of the themes is that with destruction comes creation. For example, black holes actually create galaxies as they destroy all matter. (although this idea seems under debate)

There’s a destruction that comes with creating, and also with learning. Listening as I rode into work it reminded me of, and helped me to understand better, point 4 on this list I came across last week.

I’m not sure how fine the line is that the podcast episode draws between the ideas of “destroying” and “decision making”, but there’s something to this in educational realms. As a teacher, I help my students practice and create knowledge that bring them closer to their goals, and at the same time destroy that which impairs their progress.

My students and I break apart what they know and bring to class; we look, analyze, add to, and remove from it; then piece it back together. Destroy and create. This is the process of thinking and education.


More: https://humanaturepodcast.org/

Human Nature is a good podcast about humans and their relationship with nature. Each episode usually presents the story of someone who has experienced a life change or has gone on a journey or had a thoughtful experience, and nature is involved. The stories aren’t all that ‘magical’ or epiphanic, they’re human.

Asking for Blog Suggestions

“Instead – I think most people would be better served by subscribing to small b blogging.”


I will be on hiatus from this blog and from twitter for a few months. DMs are still open, use email if you have it.

In case yon haven’t read the “Small b Blogging” post, the link is above. The article describes nicely the stabilization of blogging that seems to be happening now.

One of the inherent features of small b blogs is that they are difficult to come by way of the wind. It’s easy to find the Big B blogs (both in general, and within the topic specific ‘strong circles’ out there), but is takes a little effort to dig up people just writing what they think, what they notice, what they process, mostly for themselves.

I prefer following these types of small b blog, and preferably in a cross-section of many disciplines. So, I realize that I need to do a bit of work and a bit of asking.

Can you recommend a blog that you enjoy?