Posts in technology
Interview with Fraser Speirs, iPad Expert

Yesterday I had the pleasure of interviewing Fraser Speirs of the Cedars School of Excellence.  Fraser has been a role model and guide for Morris Catholic and our introduction to 1:1 learning and in particular, the use of iPads.

Fraser is co-host of Out of School, an excellent podcast about schools and education.

His website is

About the Cast

First let me say that Fraser is perhaps the most humble guest we've ever had.  He is brilliant without being arrogant.  He is clearly a leading voice in the TechEd space and yet is still growing, learning and trying out new things.  He was gracious with his time and scheduled the cast knowing that the day after was his school's first day of classes for the new year.  

Enjoy the cast!  Click here to listen.

The Real Reason to Take a Break from Technology

You've seen them.  You've watched them at restaurants.  These are the folks that really, really need to take a break from technology.  They just don't know it.  Nice people.

These are the ones who love their iPhones.  So much so, in fact that they can't put them down.  Ever. 

And this is why I created Speak Digital.  My goal is to help readers not have to be slaves to their technology.  Sure, we love our gadgets but that doesn't mean that we have to take our phones to the bathroom.  (note: not a good idea)

Freedom- that's why we ought to take an occasional break from technology.  Breaks are good during the workday and help us to return with more bounce in our step.  Vacations are good for the same reason.  

Like an elastic band, we often need both push and pull.  I know that I do.  Thankfully I also am fortunate to work with folks who have the green light to tell me when I need to step away and take a break.

Life is so rich- full of relationships, experiences and fun.  The technology is just one part of it. Let's keep our eye on the goal- an exciting life that is intentional and freely chosen.

To assist in your freedom journey, here are some excellent resources worth your time:

*photo courtesy of fdp

Get Rid of Digital Clutter Once and for All (new eBook)

"I wasn't sure who that text message was from..." said my friend Jeanne.  It turns out that I had messaged her about a social engagement only to find that she didn't know who it was from.  As a result, the message was ignored.

Because my iMessage settings were cued up to send messages via an old email address that I never use, she was confused.  Our "conversation" via iMessage broke down as a result.  My bad.

Such is the case when you have too much digital clutter on your computer and in your head.  Digital clutter is much more common than we realize.  By "clutter", we mean any of the following:

  • Too many email addresses (or emails for that matter... can you relate?)
  • More apps that you can possibly use for your smartphone
  • A laptop or desktop computer that's slowing down because there isn't enough memory left 

And so it goes.  I'm not passing judgment on my friend Jeanne or anyone else wrestling with digital clutter.  Heck, I struggle with it daily.  Actually, that's why I'm sharing something special with you today.

If you watched my YouTube video on six tips for simplifying your digital life, you got a sense of six practical ways that you can streamline and clean out the clutter of everyday life.

So here it is, free for you for a limited time.  "6 Tips for a Simpler, Smarter Digital Life" is roughly 10 pages long and elaborates on my six points from the video.  You can download it here.

In "6 Tips", I share both personal experiences and also research pertinent to the following:

  1. How impactful digital clutter can be to your everyday life.
  2. What you can do about it TODAY.

"6 Tips" isn't gospel.  If you have six tips of your own, I'd love to hear them. My tips are simply that- my experiences that have made a huge difference in how I live and work.  People have told me that they make a difference in their life too so that's why I felt compelled to compile them in an eBook. 

If you like the book, let me know via email: or via Twitter.  

If you enjoyed this post, why not join the Speak Digital Network?  This is my free mailing list which gives you a backstage pass to my thoughts on digital life from a simple point of view.  We don't share your information with anyone, ever.

How Much Screen Time is Too Much for Children?

A few years ago I came home from a busy day at work at around 7pm.  Through the back door, ring the bell, wait in the kitchen, get hugs from my four kids.  I was a hero once again.

Fast forward to this past week.  Same routine except a different result.  Instead of being mobbed by my adoring children (as I like to remind them) in the kitchen, I just stood there on my own.  

The kids were busy.  One was using Cary's iPhone while another researching Legos on the laptop.  I had walked into another intense session of adolescent screen time.  

If you're like me, you occasionally wonder, "how much screen time is too much?"  You're worried that kids today will turn out to be antisocial, overweight and rude as a result of playing another round of MineCraft or watching more tweenager videos on YouTube.

I worry about those things.

New data revealed that only 1 in 4 young teens are experiencing an appropriate level of screen time per day.  (If you're wondering how 'they' come up with the screen time levels, here's an interesting article.)

So how much TV and computer time should a kid have per day?  About two hours or less as it turns out.  On face value, this makes sense until you factor in that 8 in 10 teens have cell phones, with increasing numbers of those being smartphones with internet data.  I would have a hard time telling a teen to not look at their phone or put down their iPad.  During dinner- sure no problem.  At other times?  More difficult.  

And we're not even talking about school work that is posted online.  

The recommended "adjustments" for kids who spend too much time online are common sensical:

  • Use the internet in short bursts
  • Use safe filters for kids on the internet
  • Provide group activities such that kids don't build "their secret world" online
  • Talk... alot (and then some more!) with your kids about what's appropriate and what isn't

The internet is fairly neutral- it can be a cause for great good or for dangerous activity.  Our job as adults is to help kids navigate the online world so that when they are fully immersed in it, it's not so shocking that they get sucked in to something bad.

Back to my own kids.  

Yes, I worry about their screen time.  No I do not worry about their sociability or ability to be productive citizens because I see them around people and they're amazing kids.  Part of that is because my wife and I are vigilant with what our kids do online and because our faith is always a part of dinner conversations and talks in general.

How about you?  Are you taking the time to talk with your kids about their internet use?

5 Signs That You are a Digital Leader

The scene was intimidating enough- a huge conference table with ten folks on one side and one job candidate on the other side.  Like speed dating, the interviewers fired question after question at the candidate.  Finally, THE question that was on my page came due-

"Can you tell us about your own personal use of technology?"

The answer was telling.  All of his cards were laid bare on the table as it became clear that he was not (yet) a true digital leader.  He said with the slightest grimace on his face, "Well, I have an iPhone... I have some apps... I like computers."  And on it went.

Candidate Joe was a good guy.  He did have an iPhone and did answer as best as he could.  The issue was whether he was a deeply inspired digital leader.  He wasn't.

How do you know if you are (or are becoming) a digital school leader?  Here are some signs:

  1. You are truly mobile.  This is true if you need to charge your phone in the afternoon- a sign that you use your smartphone (you have one right?) a lot.
  2. You embrace social media.  You Tweet, use Google Plus, get Instagram, and understand the value of the new culture of sharing.  (you can follow me on all of these here)
  3. You collaborate online.  My team uses Asana but you can also use Slack or even Nozbe.  The key is in cutting down on email and working with a team via shared documents or virtual meetings.  
  4. You use a digital task manager.  I like Nozbe and Todoist the best but it really doesn't matter- find one you like and use it every single day.  Paper is great but when you manage 20-30 projects at a time, digital is the way to go.
  5. You respect email.  Responding to email within 24 hours is something you take very, very seriously.  I like Gmail and Airmail for Mac.

So with these in mind, are you a digital leader?  If not, can you choose one of the five signs and dive in within the next 24 hours?  

*photo courtesy of FDP

6 Reasons You Should Step Away from Technology

My wife said to me about three months ago that she thought I was getting sucked in to what she called "too much technology".  Naturally, I shrugged my shoulders and rolled my eyes.  After all, I'm the techie husband that gets asked questions about computers when folks come over for dinner.

A few days later, a parent at school asked how I did it all, being a dad to four little kids and running a school during the day.  I smiled and gave a nice answer as if to convey that everything was in check.  Unfortunately it wasn't.

Cary was right- I was getting too heavy a dose of tech each week and it was getting the better of me.

I wasn't enjoying Twitter on most days. LinkedIn was feeling sterile.  My Tumblr blog at work was being ignored.  All of that led me to realize that I needed to step away for a while.  Last week I finally declared a technology fast and it did me wonders of good.  I don't think I'm still fully recharged but thought it was the right time to jump back in.  

My posts?  They'll be shorter, simpler and more to the point.  

Why step away temporarily from tech?  Here are six reasons why it will make sense for you:


  1. You'll have more time for those you love.
  2. You'll find joy in silence.
  3. Simple things will matter more.
  4. You'll physically feel better because you'll have more time to work out.  
  5. You'll get more sleep at night and sleep better.
  6. When you return to tech, you'll have new insights to share with others.


How is technology getting the best of you these days?

Photo courtesy of CLS