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Ian O'Byrne

The best way to achieve complete strategic surprise is to take an action that is either stupid or completely contrary to your self-interest. - Robert Gates In issue of TL;DR. Subscribe at #strength


Ian O'Byrne

Managing your passwords

4 min read

One the first steps in discussing privacy and security in online spaces usually involves your passwords. The challenge is that far too many of us have awful passwords, or terrible systems to handle these passwords.

There are several things we need to assume as we work with digital tools.

  • You will be hacked
  • You have already been hacked and don't know it
  • You will have to change your passwords quickly when you are hacked
  • You will most likely have to change passwords often

Changing your passwords frequently is one of the simplest things you can do to protect yourself from digital threats. Now that we have that out of the way, let's consider how to effectively manage the situation. In this post I discuss using a password manager, and two possibilities for creating challenging passwords.

Use a password manager

Password managers are a smart way to keep track of your passwords. A password manager is a giant vault that stores all of your passwords and uses one master password to let you log in. Keep in mind that no system is perfect...even password managers. You have to trust the company controlling your passwords to let you know if they have been hacked.

I use LastPass. I know plenty of other people that use 1Password and KeePass. Each service provides different features that you can review. The benefit of a password manager is that they will often warn you about security breaches of services and recommend that you change your passwords. Password managers will also create meaningless, random passwords using a variety of characters, symbols, and lengths.

How I use LastPass

I install the LastPass Chrome extension, which is automatically synced across all computers that I use. When I sign in to my computer and start up Chrome, a pop-up will ask me to log in to LastPass using my master password. The LastPass Chrome extension works well on Chromebooks as well. 

I also use two-factor authentication with LastPass as well. I'll discuss two factor authentication in another post.

I also install LastPass on my Android phone/tablet as well as my iOS devices (iPad/iPhone).

Create challenging passwords

If you do have to create a password that you'll need to remember, I have a couple tricks to check out.

Use song/movie lyrics

Use a song lyric (or movie line) to create a challenging master password. Keep in mind that you should use this password once, or use it as your master password for a password manager. Pull out the spaces, add a random character or two, and add in some capital letters.


If you want to make it even more challenging, eliminate letters, or swap them out for other characters. Start with a line like:

Living off borrowed time, the clock tick faster.

Eliminate some of the letters and substitute the characters to get something a bit more random.


Create an algorithm

If the song or movie lyrics do not work for you, I recommend using a formula or set of rules for your password system. Once again, this might not be the perfect solution...but it should get you started.

To create your algorithm, identify a base layer of your formula. This could be an important name, birthday, or series of characters. As an example, you might use your dog's name, street you grew up on, and the year of your birth.


This initial sequence would be the base layer of your password system. From there, you would add the name or the product or service you're logging in to somewhere in the sequence. You'll just have to remember the rules of your algorithm.

If you are logging in to Google, your password might look like:


If you are logging in to Facebook, your password might look like:


Develop a system

One of the key takeaways from this is the need to be aware of your passwords and develop a system. One password for everything is not an option. You need to be aware of your passwords, or the system used to manage them. You need to be prepared to change any/all passwords at any moment. 



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Ian O'Byrne

Exercise on learning from the view from above

On the final day of Stoic Week 2016, we are asked to consider our relationships with others and society in general. The handbook and daily prompts for the week are available here.

The reflection for this day is from Meditations, 2.3 from Marcus Aurelius:

The works of the gods are full of providence. The works of Fortune are not independent of Nature or the spinning and weaving together of the threads governed by Providence. All things flow from that world: and further factors are necessity and the benefit of the whole universe, of which you are a part. Now every part of nature benefits from that which is brought by the nature of the Whole and all which preserves that nature: and the order of the universe is preserved equally by the changes in the elements and changes in their compounds.

In this I believe that Marcus Aurelius is reminding us of our connection to nature, but also identifying a possibility for us to not be over attached to perspectives and actions outside of our own.

As indicated in previous posts, we have a lot that we can learn from our partners, friends, and colleagues. We can also learn from nature and our environment. The challenge is that we need to focus on our own goals and direction in life while striving for a life filled with virtue.

To remain focused on events in your locus of control, the following activity known as "the view from above" is recommended. This is a guided meditation that is aimed at focusing on the bigger picture in life and understanding your role in the world.

The audio recording above is a recording from Donald Robertson. Alternatively, you can read the script for the guided meditation here. Alternatively you can review the following video here.

Ian O'Byrne

Examining your impressions

2 min read

On the third day of Stoic Week 2016, we were asked to develop a stoic approach by self-monitoring and focusing on mindfulness throughout the day. The handbook and daily prompts are available here.

The reflection of the day is from Epictetus, Handbook, 1.5:

Practise, then, from the very beginning to say to every rough impression, ‘You’re an impression and not at all what you appear to be.’ Then examine it and test it by the standards that you have, and first and foremost by this one, whether the impression relates to those things which are within our power or those which aren’t up to us; and if it relates to those things which aren’t within our power, be ready to reply, ‘That’s nothing to me’.

In this Epictetus is suggesting that we train ourselves to avoid being carried away in our own thoughts and feelings. Once again, we see this sentiment that something is "nothing to me."

To achieve this balance and avoid errors in our judgement, it is suggested that we "examine our imporessions." That is to say that we should examine and problematize our impressions, or thoughts, feelings, and sensations. In short, routinely problematize your perceptions about the world and your place in it.

To make this happen, it may help to employ some aspect of "cognitive distancing." In this psychological strategy you need to step back from your own reality, and examine your life and world from a distance.

We see this at times from great athletes or military figures that indicate that they can mentally step back from the field and see all of the pawns on the board and how they intersect. I believe this mental strategy may come with time, experience, and self-efficacy.

In this we have an opportunity to challenge negative patterns of thinking and the socially constructed narratives that we set for ourselves. By examining our impressions, we can regularly interrogate our own thinking and perspectives to ensure that we're experiencing reality.


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Ian O'Byrne

Marcus Aurelius on what we can control in our own lives

2 min read

On the second day of Stoic Week 2016, we were asked to identify what is in our control. The handbook and daily prompts is available here

In my previous post, I discussed guidance from Epictetus on what we can effectively "control" in our own lives and actions.

I find it relatively easy, and a bit simplistic, to follow the gudiance from Epictetus in our daily actions. It's a good reminder that we can only control your own controllables throughout the day. 

The challenge in this is sometimes life gets in the way, and we hope to extend this locus of control. For these situations, Marcus Aurelius provides a bit of guidance, that I believe acts as a corollary to the guidance from Epictetus. 

In Meditations, Marcus Aurelius presents the following:

The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.

In this, Marcus is indicating that in every action and situation, there is an opporunity to practice a virtue. When we have a problem, we know exactly what to work on. When we are stuck and have no idea where to start, we begin working on the obstacle in our path. 

Paired with the earlier gudiance from Epictetus, this indicates an opportunity to focus on elements that are solely within your control.

Specifically, you might ask yourself these two questions when you encounter problems, choices, or obstacles:

  • Is this solely up to me?
  • Does this keep me from being virtuous?

If the answer is no, then this is outside of your locus of control. It is nothing to you.


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Ian O'Byrne

If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear as it is, infinite. - William Blake

2 min read

One of the major stumbling blocks to changing perceptions and awareness of these "truths" that we've manufactured is that we do not want to recognize that we are wrong or mistaken. Furthermore, we do not want to admit to others (or ourselves) that these mistaken perceptions have distorted or modified our lives.

To counteract this, it is important to periodically challenge our beliefs and viewpoints. We need to problematize these perspectives and question their validity. We need to question their role and relevance in our lives.

In a normal state, our personality undergoes a constant process of reorganization. We routinely review, prioritize, and in some cases reject viewpoints and perspectives. In a misguided or neurotic state, the personality clings to beliefs that may be false or distorted. In these situations, a major crisis or event is required to force the individual to recognize alternative viewpoints and perspectives. 

If your mind and personality has been programmed or conditioned to accept and distort concepts and values, you develop a lifestyle and actions to support or justify your version of truth.You make assumptions that events are true or casual when neither is valid. You seek to prove these aspects to be correct, to make the facts fit your perspective. 

You need to identify a means to wipe these away and cleanse your perspectives.

Ian O'Byrne

Ideas without action are worthless. - Helen Keller

2 min read

In the development of new ideas, innovation and other acts of entreprenuership, our days are often filled with a glut of ideas. This includes interacting and mingling with others that bring ideas to our attention. 

In many spaces, these ideas are incredible and lead to new ideas and opportunties. Most times these ideas lead to a time suck that takes us away from our true goals and aspirations.

In my own work, I'm typically an ideas person. I come up with (possibly) too many ideas. My brain is always churning and trying to find new ways to hack the system and make it operate better.

I also try to execute on these ideas. Without execution, I think there is no value in identifying and thinking up ideas. It's all talk and blather.

My challenge is that I like to follow through on ideas as well. My reputation is important to me, and I want to be viewed as someone that thinks up ideas, innovate, executes, and follows through. I don't want to drop the ball on anything.

The challenge in this desire to follow through is that you need to identify objectives and goals on a granular scale. You also need to focus on being an ideas leader and not tied in to being a manager. Finally, there is a need to know when and how to kill things off and move on.

The first step is making sure that you allow your ideas to gel, and execute on these when they become actionable. 

Ian O'Byrne

Review of Chapter Submission for Handbook of Research on Teaching the English Language Arts

6 min read

Repositioning Online Reading To A Central Location In The Language Arts

Kervin, Mantei, & Leu

Review of Chapter Submission

Handbook of Research on Teaching the English Language Arts, 4th Edition


The submitted manuscript identifies a much-needed step in the advancement of the integration of technology in literacy instruction. The chapter is of high interest the educators and researchers that would use the Handbook as guidance in the field. The chapter continues to make the case for why we need this thread of instruction in the classroom, but also builds this case by providing a more global perspective to these activities. Finally, the submitted manuscript includes connections to other fields of research to make it more inclusive and connected to related work in the field. For these reasons, I recommend the publication of this manuscript in the Handbook of Research on Teaching the English Language Arts.

Making the case for the centrality of online reading

The Internet is the dominant text of our generation, yet we continue to have to make the case for why digital texts and tools should be authentically embedded in classroom instruction. The authors of this piece have been at the forefront of pushing this agenda and continue this important work in the submitted manuscript. The authors expertly frame this chapter for the handbook by starting with the framing of the social practices necessary for these new spaces and contextualize this with guidance from the worlds of economics and global development. With this subtle framing, they move on to paint a picture of the need for these literacies while considering a more global focus for this discussion. It is this nod to the more global aspect of online reading and literacy that I most appreciate in this submission.

As these new and digital literacies continue to become much more ubiquitous across global spaces, I believe we need to continue to push and advocate for those less fortunate that may not have access to these texts or spaces. If the inclusion and use of online texts in the classroom is a necessary and powerful element, we need to advocate for opportunities for all learners in global classrooms. Literacy is a powerful force and this is augmented by the influx of the Internet and other communication technologies. As governments and businesses increasingly monitor and adjust our online reading habits, we need a global population that fully understands the challenges and complexity associated with being digitally literate.

Connections to other fields and perspectives 

            In reviewing this chapter submission I also appreciate the nuanced changes in framing this work from previous examinations of online reading. The primary focus on disciplinary literacy recontextualizes this work within another dominant perspective in literacy education and research. This first theoretical perspective makes it easier for educators to align the reading of online texts with current initiatives that draw most of the attention in the English Language Arts classroom. Much of the challenge in carving out time for these new and digital literacies in instruction is that the Common Core State Standards and other frameworks often dominate the focus. The role and use of technology is often given a back seat, or ignored as educators and curricular coaches frame pedagogy. By focusing first on disciplinary literacy, the authors truly seek to reposition online reading.

            In the review of the chapter I was also excited to see a focus on theories of materiality and multimodality guiding this work. It is these examples of material culture that provide important perspective on the skills and practices associated with online reading. Furthermore, I believe this inclusion adds to the global perspectives that are imbued throughout this submission. This provides connections to other perspectives on new and digital literacies, and makes this a much more accommodating and inclusive guide to educators making room for online reading in their classroom.

Actionable advice for the literacy educator

            The remainder of the chapter presents granular guidance for the literacy educator and pre-service teacher as they identify opportunities to make this happen in their classroom. Too often we hear that educators “don’t get technology,” this submission provides approachable, actionable advice for integrating online reading into classroom activities. The authors also do a stellar job of identifying and addressing most of the arguments, or counter narratives that may exist as we integration technology into literacy instruction. An example of this is evidenced in sections that address assessment practices, simulated assessments, and the basic computer skills needed to operate in these spaces. The authors effectively balance theory, perspectives, actionable advice, and questions that remain in this work.

            I also appreciate the focus on beginning with younger readers and connections between emergent reading and online reading. In far too many examinations of new and digital literacies we identify the skilled and less proficient use of these skills and strategies with a population of adolescent or adult learners. We understand that learners develop their learning and literacy roadmap for their future from Pre-K up through third grade and then beyond. Yet, very little is know about best principles associated with brining online reading and associated literacies into the context of emergent reading or soon after. The authors interject this discussion by bringing connections to online reading into the work and research in emergent reading. This has the potential to guide and motivate future literacy educators and researchers.

Repositioning a central location

            The submitted manuscript presents a necessary, and forward thinking chapter for the Handbook. I believe the materials attempt to situate the reader in the current milieu, and then prognosticate for that crystal ball that you requested. The focus of the text is thankfully shifted to a more global perspective. These threads are evident across the text and woven in to the conclusion. The theoretical perspectives are accommodating, and make for a much more inclusive read as educators try to identify places to embed online reading into instruction. Finally, the guidance and materials presented to operationalize this in the classroom is actionable and specific enough to guide all learners. I believe the authors have developed a piece that certainly carves out a spot in the English Language Arts classroom and in the process helps reposition it to a more central location.

Ian O'Byrne

March 15, 2016

2 min read

I came across this post by Tom Stafford that discusses "forgetfulness", or at least what I thought was forgetfulness. :)

The post discusses the "doorway effect", or at least the challenge that happens when you run into a room looking to do one thing, or grab one thing and you get lost or forget the one thing you were there for.

He provides a helpful analogy to explain what is happening.

These features of our minds are perhaps best illustrated by a story about a woman who meets three builders on their lunch break. “What are you doing today?” she asks the first. “I’m putting brick after sodding brick on top of another,” sighs the first. “What are you doing today?” she asks the second. “I’m building a wall,” is the simple reply. But the third builder swells with pride when asked, and replies: “I’m building a cathedral!”

This resonates with me as my mind is often lost in (what I believe are) the more pressing concerns or things I'm working on. As an example, I'm very aware of the two deadlines that I have today that I need to get done right after this post.

This also makes me think about professional development and working with learners. They might come at the problem from each of these three mindsets. Some need to see and understand the whole picture before getting started. Some need to start at point one and move on. It's important to remain considerate of each and identify their entry points as they get started.

Ian O'Byrne

March 8, 2016

2 min read

Yesterday I spent some time working on the post that will ultimately become my thoughts about launching the Digitally Literate courses (or whatever name I'll ultimately choose).

In thinking through the pricing structure, it was fun/interesting to think about the potential opportunities for monetizing that content, and the potential challenges with each one. The altMBA styled option seems the best fit...but it also seems like it'll be the toughest to get off of the ground running.

There won't be an application for the courses, but it will require the free course to be completed. In my mind, this seems like the best option for the program. It'll be a challenge..and I wlll iterate...but it seems like the best, most meaningful option.


While speaking at SCSU last week, I had the realization that this was/is a good option...and a needed option. Many of the faculty in attendance indicated that they knew they needed this PD. They weren't getting it from their institution. They wanted a place to make it much easier for them to just get the content and expertise they'll need.

One other woman I was speaking with at the end indicated that she just didn't know where to start. Her thinking was that she would value just being able to pay someone to just tell her what to do.