Category Archives: Technology


The Bing Homepage on March 22 features “World Water Day,” a United Nations’ sponsored theme to promote awareness of the need for freshwater around the world.

* Above photo titled: ” Children getting water from the faucet in the slum area in Yauco, Puerto Rico,” 1942, Library of Congress

Thoughts of freshwater remind me about how lucky we are to have on-demand, clean water.

The lady who takes care of my 87 yo father-in-law is from Sierra Leone. She grew up in a small, rural village and had to walk several miles each day to get water from a well or a stream. It was dangerous and the water was often putrid.

It’s hard to imagine but even today yellow fever and malaria are prevalent in Africa and other third world regions and sicken millons and kill tens of thousands of people each year. During this time of the coronavirus, we may count our blessings that we don’t also face these other diseases which our nation conquered long ago.

Below is the story of how yellow fever and malaria were defeated. Meanwhile, when you turn on the faucet, say a little thanks for all the amazing ideas, people, and political systems that allow you clean water on demand.

How Yellow Fever and Malaria Were Defeated in the U.S., Cuba and Panama


  • History of disease
  • Use of geography in scientific research of disease


  • Cholera: bacterial infection that spreads through contaminated water or food, largely due to unsanitary conditions; cholera is rare now)
  • Yellow fever: a virus disease spread by a certain type of mosquito and that causes a yellowish tint to the skin due to liver damage; Yellow fever is eradicated from North America but still impacts Africa significantly, causing approx.. 45,000 deaths each year)
  • Plague: (a bacterial disease caused by Yersinia pestis and spread by fleas or exposure to an infected animal; the plague is rare, with about 600 cases per year)
  • Locus of infection: the geographic origin of a disease outbreak
  • Disease vector: the carrier or transmitter of a disease (such as a mosquito)
  • Pasteurization: mild heating of fresh water, milk, juice, wine and other foods that destroys pathogens while maintaining nutrients and allowing for greater shelf-life of the food or drink.
  • Germ Theory: the theory, developed in the mid-1800s, that identified a microorganism called pathogens, or germs, that cause infectious disease


Louis Pasteur: scientist who invented the pasteurization process and developed the Germ Theory

Maj. Walter Reed: U.S. Army physician who in 1900 identified the pathogen and vector of yellow fever transmission

Surgeon General George Miller Sternberg: U.S. Army physician who pioneered biomedicine in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries

Dr. Carlos Finlay: Cuban physician who in 1870 proposed that mosquitos were the transmitting agent, or disease vector, of yellow fever

During a particularly bad cholera outbreak in London known as the “1854 Broad Street Outbreak,” British physician John Snow discovered that cholera is not an airborne disease but was spread by bad water. He isolated the source of the cholera to a public water pump that had been contaminated by sewers and was spreading cholera to people who drank from it. Until then, people thought that cholera was spread by the air or touch, as are some viruses. He proved it was ingested, and then used his knowledge of London geography to isolate the location of the pump based upon prevalence of illnesses in that section of the city.  (By tracking the location of crimes, police use this same method to catch criminals.)

Using a similar geographic approach, Maj. Walter Reed, a U.S. Army physician, confirmed that yellow fever had a different “disease vector” than previously thought. While stationed in Washington, D.C., Reed observed that Army troops who suffered from yellow fever were regularly hiking through swamps along the Potomac River. It was thought they suffered from yellow fever from drinking from the river (yuck!), but Reed confirmed that the river was not the disease vector, as others who drank from it (again, yuck!) but did not hike through the swamps did not get the disease. Reed didn’t know exactly why the swamps transmitted the disease, but he knew that hiking through the swamp was the one commonality of the soldiers who suffered from yellow fever.

The geographic source of an outbreak is known as “the locus of infection,” and pioneers such as Dr. Snow (who isolated the source of cholera in London) and Reed greatly advanced the science and treatment of disease through these observations.

Beforehand, people thought that diseases came from “vapors,” mud, or other things that had no relationship to the actual spread of disease, which often led to a worsening of outbreaks. For example, during the Medieval and Late Medieval periods in Europe, cats and snakes were considered “diabolic” and treated as pests to be removed. However, by ridding their towns of cats and snakes, the Europeans worsened the spread of the bubonic plague, which was carried by fleas and spread by rodents — which cats and snakes would have otherwise killed off. *

* Another devastating misunderstanding of science and causality led the Chinese government in 1958 to declare the “Eliminate Sparrows Campaign” to eradicate sparrows which they believed were capitalist pets and that were destroying crops. However, by killing off the birds, insects proliferated, including locusts, which destroyed crops and contributed to the Great Famine of 1959-61, in which millions of Chinese died.

Back to Walter Reed.

Reed’s superior, Surgeon General George Miller Sternberg, was a pioneer in the study of “bacteriology” and a follower of Louis Pasteur’s “germ disease theory” that had identified pathogens (a microorganism), or “germs,” as contributors to disease. (“Pasteurization” of milk and other foods that kill dangerous bacteria is named for Pasteur). General Sternberg sent Major Reed to Cuba, which the U.S. Army had occupied following the Spanish-American War, in order to further investigate yellow fever and other “tropical diseases” which were impacting U.S. personnel.

In the 1880s, the Cuban physician, Dr. Carlos Finlay, had hypothesized that mosquitoes from the genus Aedes were responsible for transmitting yellow fever by biting an infected person and then spreading it to someone else through another bite. Already aware of the locus of infection of yellow fever in the DC swamps, and familiar with Dr. Finlays’ ideas, Reed and the “U.S. Army Yellow Fever Commission” implemented a scientific process to identify the particular pathogen and disease vector of yellow fever. By deliberately exposing himself and a few others to yellow fever, Reed proved that the Aedes aegypti mosquito spread yellow fever bacterium through bites of an infected and then of another person. Now the path to eradication of yellow fever, proposed 20 years earlier by Dr. Finlay, was proved: mosquito control. As a result, yellow fever effectively disappeared from Cuba.

The U.S. Army then applied the strategy to Panama where the Canal was beginning construction. Previously, yellow fever and malaria there were thought to have come from the bad air of jungles and swamps of Panama.

An earlier French project (1881-94) to build an isthmus canal across Panama had failed in large part due to the high mortality rate of workers from malaria and yellow fever, having lost 200 workers a month. Ironically, at a “fever ward” in Panama built by the French, patients suffering from malaria and yellow fever were kept in hospital beds with the legs placed in cans of water in order to keep ants from crawling up. Sadly, these pails of water merely served to breed more mosquitoes that spread more malaria and yellow fever.

Armed with Dr. Finlay’s theory and Maj. Reed’s proof, by clearing standing water and using screens and fumigation to control mosquitoes, Colonel William Gorgas of the U.S. Army eradicated both yellow fever and malaria in Panama, and the Canal construction, one of the greatest human projects in history, went forward.  

While Walter Reed died in 1901 of appendicitis, the U.S. Army named its most important hospital for him, Walter Reed General Hospital, opened in 1909 in Washington, DC. 

Dr. Finlay lived until 1915 and thus saw the historic and life-saving application of his ideas. 

By controlling mosquitoes, two of the great scourges of mankind, yellow fever and malaria, were successfully controlled. While we here in the United States no longer worry about these diseases, both continue to afflict people around the world in impoverished areas that suffer from poor water drainage and sanitation and a lack of modern, controlled fresh water sources.

(I bet you didn’t think I’d get back to World Water Day!)

Wikipedia (various articles)

And here for an original article from 1897 by Italian Prof. Sanarelli claiming, incorrectly, that the bacillus iteroides bacterium was responsible for yellow fever:  Walter Reed proved Prof. Sanarelli wrong.

– Michael

Update: I just read that the rebuilding of Paris in the 1870’s with wide boulevards was intended to allow more sunlight onto the streets in order to reduce cholera outbreaks.

Do Smartphones make students dumb? Parents, how to teach your children to avoid distractions & use the cell phone off button

Tap, tap, text, text, click, click…  Are cell phones taking students from merely distracted to dum, dummer, dummest?

I suppose it depends on what “dumb” is.  If dumb means instant access to vast sources of information that don’t require memory recall to access, that’s hardly stupid. And if dumb means webs of instant connections for help, sharing, and getting things done, that ain’t so dumb, either.

BUT… dumb is as dumb does, so if these marvelous little devices are getting in the way of student productive academic outcomes, then we’ve got a problem. Continue reading

Laptop, Tablet, or Desktop? Google Docs or Office 365? Which technology is best for high school and college?

What’s best for school, a laptop, tablet, or PC?

Heading back to school always feels like a fresh start. And like a new set of clothes, getting a new device just makes you feel good.

But for high school and college students, freshmen especially, the choice of technology can really impact academic performance. The wrong choice can make school difficult or, worse, become an excuse not to do well.

Into the start of the 2016-17 school year, I thought it’s time for an update from previous posts here on the topic. The technologies haven’t changed much, but there are more options — and most importantly, more affordable ones.

Here for previous posts on the best technology for school:
College bound: desktop, laptop or tablet? PC or Mac?
The Best Computers for College: desktop, laptop or tablet? PC or Mac pt 2

What has changed significantly, though, is the “cloud.” Continue reading

Parents & Teens Beware: like diamonds & tattoos, social media posts are forever

gaming and social mediaSeemed like a good idea at the time…

Two recent Skype incidents remind us of the dangers of social media and the “instant age.”

One, an offensive albeit private joke ignorantly shared online, the other a deliberate spamming via Skype messaging remind us that parents can and should be aware of their teen student’s social media activities. Here are some warnings and suggestions, starting with the idea that with social media, private is never really private.

Likes, Moods, Tweets & Eternal Connectedness

You may have heard about how one Facebook “like” can expose a supposedly private account to a viral world (see CBS article on Five Hidden Dangers of Facebook)

And you have probably seen the news that broke recently about The Bong Hit That Cost an NFL Prospect 8 Million.  It wasn’t the use of the drug that cost him $8mm, it was the picture of it that ended up on Twitter on the biggest day of his life – 7 years after the picture was taken. Oops. Continue reading

Tips for Teachers: a quick & easy voice narrator for reading digital text out load

One of my classroom management tricks was to keep a set of audio files in my computer task bar to express some emotion or reaction to by or for the students.

The kids loved these, and it always drove engagement in whatever the topic. A couple sound clip examples I used are:

A quick link to the source file made for a one-click launch of the file, and they can also be linked to or embedded in a PowerPoint file for use at a particular spot in your lesson.

Microsoft used to include libraries full of these little sound clips as part of the Office Suite, but they’ve removed them and the old clip art files. So we have to find them somewhere else. There’s plenty of open-source sound clips out there, just be careful with copyright.

Or, you can create your own sound clips.

Watch here how it works:

I love being able to drop any text into the file, or even allowing students to type in their own answers to questions, etc. to be read aloud to the whole class.

Lots of possibilities here to enliven and enlighten your students. Have fun with it!

– Michael

Here’s the code for these Narrator files.
1. open Notepad
2. copy the code from below
3. use “save as” extension:.vbs (instead of .txt)
4. click on the .vbs file to launch

1. Input Box code:

message=InputBox(“Type in the box to say it!”)
set sapi = CreateObject(“sapi.spvoice”)
sapi.Speak message

2. Simple text narrator:

Dim message, sapi
Set sapi=CreateObject(“sapi.spvoice”)
sapi.Speak “woof”

Tips for Teachers: How to use OneNote for total organization and teacher efficiency

Even if you’ve never heard of OneNote, you probably already own it. And if you do, you already own one of the best organizational tools out there.

Today’s Tip for Teachers is how to use OneNote, a free program from Microsoft that is a potential game-changer for teachers.

What One Note Solves for Teachers

  • Paperwork
  • Managing Files
  • Storing and Finding Information
  • Meetings Notes
  • Efficiency
  • Anywhere Whiteboard

What is OneNote?

  • Digital Notebook
    • free
    • part of MS Office
    • use on any device
  • No files!! (database)
  • Syncs across all devices
  • Powerful search

Some uses for OneNote

  • Checklists & Brainstorms
  • Integration w/ Office & the web
    • phone app gives full access to OneNote
    • post websites to OneNote
    • post emails to OneNote
    • track meeting notes via Outlook or Skype
    • add or link files, spreadsheets
    • Cut/Paste
  • Whiteboard
  • Sharing
  • Other features
    • Password Protection
    • Voice note



Introducing “Tips for Teachers”: building efficiencies to free you to teach (and not waste so much time doing everything else)

The number one teacher complaint is time.

Introducing “Tips for Teachers,” a series of blog posts, videos, lessons, and ideas from LLC on helping teachers get through their routines and days more efficiently – so they can focus on what they love and what they’re there for: teaching kids.

Tips for Teachers will focus on teacher processes and the use of technology to build efficiencies in every day tasks.

Some coming posts include:

  • Using Outlook to get in control communication, tasks, calendars, and email management.
  • Using OneNote for organization, brainstorming, and task management, as well as some of its other cool features such as email integration and whiteboard.
  • Power of a WordPress teacher or class website.
  • Using an SMS system for student reminders and increased workflow.
  • Grading by voice recording and sharing feedback with students and parents by voicemail propagated through email.
  • How to make a simple, quick voice to text reader to use in the classroom or to help kids read texts you assign.
  • Outsourcing your grading.

Teachers, get your time back!

Check back for these and more coming Tips for Teachers, and follow us on Twitter, Vimeo, or Facebook.

Or subscribe to Tips for Teachers here:


Some background thoughts on why I’m so concerned about teacher efficiencies

by Michael Bromley, founder and president of LLC & the A+ Club

Schools throw huge resources at teachers: Learning Management Systems (LMS) , smartboards, software, copy machines, computers… but how many PD days were ever spent learning how to use them, and if there were any, what follow-up support was there?

My ten years of classroom teaching was always tainted by administrative disdain for my time. We were given tools and expected to use them – without real ongoing support on how to actually use them.

For example, if your school provided you with the Microsoft Office Suite, I’m guessing there was never any PD attached to it, much less any serious guidance on how to use it effectively. Just look at how much a business will spend on teaching its professionals how to use Microsoft Office. A quick Bing search yields $2400 a day for training of 12 employees, or a four-day intensive course for $480 per student. Or, what about a $20 per month subscription to Nope, not for schools. They’ve got too much money to spend on other things and none for your personal efficiencies and time.

Sure, at my school we had a couple demonstrations on a new system (never anything on MS Office, which most teachers thought consists of Word and PowerPoint.)  I was even asked to show other teachers some of my use of technology during a staff meeting or a PD or two.  But there was never any follow-through and no ongoing individual attention to helping teachers use these tools or build efficiencies. (Some of these same administrators even asked me privately to show them some of my tricks.)

Our tech guy knew hardware but wasn’t much help on how to actually use the things as a teacher. The best support we got was from the students helpers who could actually make a sound system or video work. Meanwhile, every time I dropped through the teacher lounge, I’d be asked to show another teacher how to do this or that on the school LMS or some other computer thing.

It’s something about education that its resources are seen through the lens of budgets and allocations, but not actual use.

Here are two stories to demonstrate it

1. When my daughter started attending my school, I was suddenly not just a colleague but a parent.  Now I saw my colleagues” grading habits, their assignment postings, and I heard the good and the bad from my daughter every day on the way home from school.

One of the most shocking things I discovered was how little her teachers used the very basic LMS program, Edline. It was a total waste (such as the teacher who put up assignments but had them repeated every day of the year, including weekends).  Assignments and grades were posted randomly if at all, and so many answers to my questions as a parent that could have been answered through Edline turned into email and hallway chases. And I was in the same building with them every day, so what about the frustrated parents who couldn’t get the answers I could only get through a personal shakedown?

I told our principal and facilities vice principal about my observations and how I personally had to spend minutes  every day that turned into hours every week helping my colleagues do simple things on Edline that nobody had bothered to show them before and how the school should really help its teachers learn how to use the system. The two of them laughed at me. Literally. They laughed, and I walked away.

So it was back to helping my colleagues one at a time and day to day figure out how to easily and meaningfully put up their assignments and grades for students and parents.

2. When my school replaced blackboards with whiteboards,  I purchased my own projector to take advantage of the ready-screen whiteboards represented. The school had one or two projectors that we were always taken, so I got my own. Now my kids had the benefit of my desktop in every class, and I had the benefit of prepping to it rather than hoping I could get one of the other projectors.

A couple years later the school got a donation for smartboard systems that used ceiling-installed projector that interacted with a device attached to the whiteboard.  Cool stuff. They put it in my classroom — yep, and left it at that.

The audio wires weren’t installed properly, and the tech guy couldn’t figure them out. So I bought my own little amplifier and set it up myself. The VCR system just didn’t work right, so I bought all my videos on Amazon and ran them straight from my computer. And so on.

The smartboard system had a magic wand that worked by interacting with a static electric field that was projected across the white board projector area by the attached device. However, the two 8-foot whiteboards were connected by a metal band that ran down the middle of that projector placement. Static-electricity field + metal band = I could only use half the smartboard screen at a time. The kids and I laughed it off every day, but it was a true annoyance that was daily wasting my time and impacting my lessons.

Moving the projector was an option, but I knew that would be difficult as it was a permanent installation in the ceiling. Why not, then, just cut one of the 8-foot whiteboards in half, move the other one to the middle and the two 4-foot pieces to the side? I asked the vice principal of facilities (the one who laughed at my idea for a PD to instruct teachers on how to use Edline) for help. He was furious. How dare I question what the donors had given me! Alright,  whatever.

See horse. See cart. The wrong one is in front.

Here’s the problem: administrators perceive teachers as service providers for the wrong set of clients. Students and families are not their clients, policy, pedagogy and the Department of Education are. If focus were upon students and parents as the real clients, schools would be very, very concerned about every aspect of a teacher’s day, especially how their teachers use their precious time to support their clients. Instead teachers are providers of pedagogy, test results and public policy.

What would I do as an administrator?

Good teachers know who their real clients are.  Everything else is backup and resource for the core aim of teaching.

My dream school is one in which kids truly are first, and in which teachers drive their teaching and not the school. The school’s job would be to support, guide, and help execute what the teachers themselves decided they can do best. Just dreaming here, but isn’t that what we believe we’re supposed to do with kids — and if so why, then, don’t schools approach teachers the same way?

Anything we can do to make a teachers’ day go a little quicker, a classroom a little more productive and effective, and to help along a teaching process or to lessen a frustration, I figure there is at least one kid who learned just a little more that day and one parent who felt good about it.

Yes, it is “all about the kids,” but it’s helping teachers help kids that concerns us. In our A+ Club student support program, we help kids help themselves. Through Tips for Teachers we hope to help teachers help themselves help kids, one efficiency at a time.

– Michael

How teachers can use WordPress blogging to enhance student engagement

Every teacher’s goal is student engagement, both in and out of class

Strong Stuff
Strong Stuff

The more our students act on our lessons and expectations outside of class, the better they function in class. Nothing new there.

And the difficulty to achieve it in part explains the annual Professional Development (PD) flogging with the latest, greatest solution to student engagement: “Differentiated Learning,” “Flipped Classrooms,” “Student-Centered Learning,” “Cooperative Learning,” and so on, that attempt to trick students into suddenly caring about our lessons and classrooms.

I’ve tried them all, and I know you have, too. Continue reading

The Best Computers for College: desktop, laptop or tablet? PC or Mac? pt 2

Choosing technology, especially deciding between laptops, desktop, and tablets is not getting any easier.

The reason: they’re getting to be all the same! 

In my post a year ago, College bound: desktop, laptop or tablet? PC or Mac?, I analyzed the best bet for your college computer purchase. I hoped that students and parents would weigh carefully between laptops, tablets and desktops, as each has specific advantages and disadvantages. I measured price, utility, usefulness, and durability. Given the number of readers on that post, I’m hoping it has led to one or two more informed purchases. Continue reading

Breaking the Technology Barrier

Breaking the Technology Barrier: Using Technology in Education

Guest blog post by Harvey Hammond of

The rapid advance of technology has helped the education sector immensely. Education sector has started widely using the technological help by which students are getting exposed to various technological techniques. In the present day educational setting mobile phones, laptops and iPhones are fast occupying the place of textbooks and libraries. Education sector has witnessed a significant change with the entry of technology in to it. Technological advances are largely used in education for which teachers have had to update their soft skills in order to be able to handle the tech-savvy situation in classrooms. Continue reading