Announcing the CASTLE Advisory Board

Thank you to everyone who expressed interest in serving on the CASTLE Advisory Board. We had many, many more applicants than we possibly could take. Although having too many people who are willing to serve is a wonderful problem to have as an organization, it also meant that we had to make some extremely difficult decisions. We will do our best to try and tap into everyone's expertise in other ways...

Below is our new advisory board. As you can see, we strove for diversity of thought, professional role, and geography. Many of the individuals below also are bloggers (which probably isn't too surprising).


  • Dave Dimmett (Indiana). Assistant Principal, Harrison High School, Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation.
  • Scott Elias (Colorado). Assistant Principal, Loveland High School, Thompson School District.
  • Greg Farr (Texas). Principal, Shannon Education Center, Birdville Independent School District. Alternative School Administrator of the Year, Texas Association of Alternative Education.
  • Dave Keane (Iowa). Principal, Keokuk High School, Keokuk Community School District.
  • Central office administrators

    • Barry Bachenheimer (New Jersey). Director of Instructional Services, Caldwell-West Caldwell Public Schools. Google Certified Teacher. Ercell Watson Award (Educator of the Year), Montclair State University.
    • Kurt Bernardo (Ohio). Technology coordinator, Orange City Schools. Ohio Technology Coordinator of the Year.
    • Dr. Greg Davis (Iowa). Executive Director, Management Support Services, Des Moines Public Schools. Co-chair, Consortium for School Networking CTO Council.
    • Dr. Shabbi Luthra (India). Director of Technology, American School of Bombay.
    • Andy Torris (China). Deputy Superintendent, Shanghai American School.
    • James Yap (New York). Director of Instructional Technology and Data Management, Ramapo Central School District.
    • Teachers

      • Clay Burell (South Korea). English / Social Studies teacher and technology coordinator, Korea International School. Apple Distinguished Educator.
      • Dan Meyer (California). Math teacher, San Lorenzo Valley High School, San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District. Cable industry Leader in Learning.
      • Ben Wilkoff (Colorado). Virtual resource teacher, eDCSD, Douglas County School District. Edutopia / Yahoo! National Totally Wired Teacher Award.
      • Media specialists / technology integrationists

        • Carolyn Foote (Texas). Librarian, Westlake High School, Eanes Independent School District.
        • Tim Stahmer (Virginia). Instructional technology specialist, Fairfax County Public Schools.
        • Higher education

          • Dr. Jon Becker (Virginia). Assistant Professor, Educational Leadership, Virginia Commonwealth University.
          • Dr. Michael McVey (Michigan), Assistant Professor, Educational Media and Technology, Eastern Michigan University.
          • Dr. David Quinn (Florida). Assistant Professor, Educational Administration and Policy, University of Florida.
          • National, international, and other organizations

            • Rowland Baker (California). Assistant Superintendent, Santa Cruz County Office of Education. Co-director, Technology Information Center for Administrative Leadership.
            • Dr. Stuart Ciske (Wisconsin). Educational consultant, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
            • Dr. Ann Flynn (District of Columbia). Director, Education Technology, National School Boards Association.
            • Wes Fryer (Oklahoma). Director of Education Advocacy (PK-20), AT&T. Apple Distinguished Educator.
            • Doug Levin (District of Columbia). Senior Director, Education Policy, Cable in the Classroom. Treasurer, Partnership for 21st Century Skills.
            • Sylvia Martinez (California). President, Generation YES.
            • Ewan McIntosh (Scotland). National Adviser: Learning and Technology Futures, Learning and Teaching Scotland.
            • Erin Reilly (Massachusetts). Research Director, Project New Media Literacies, MIT Comparative Media Studies. National School Boards Association 20 to Watch. Cable industry Leader in Learning.
            • Big Think Edge
              • The meaning of the word 'confidence' seems obvious. But it's not the same as self-esteem.
              • Confidence isn't just a feeling on your inside. It comes from taking action in the world.
              • Join Big Think Edge today and learn how to achieve more confidence when and where it really matters.

              To boost your self-esteem, write about chapters of your life

              If you're lacking confidence and feel like you could benefit from an ego boost, try writing your life story.

              Personal Growth

              In truth, so much of what happens to us in life is random – we are pawns at the mercy of Lady Luck. To take ownership of our experiences and exert a feeling of control over our future, we tell stories about ourselves that weave meaning and continuity into our personal identity.

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              Yale scientists restore brain function to 32 clinically dead pigs

              Researchers hope the technology will further our understanding of the brain, but lawmakers may not be ready for the ethical challenges.

              Still from John Stephenson's 1999 rendition of Animal Farm.
              Surprising Science
              • Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
              • They hope the technology will advance our understanding of the brain, potentially developing new treatments for debilitating diseases and disorders.
              • The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.

              The image of an undead brain coming back to live again is the stuff of science fiction. Not just any science fiction, specifically B-grade sci fi. What instantly springs to mind is the black-and-white horrors of films like Fiend Without a Face. Bad acting. Plastic monstrosities. Visible strings. And a spinal cord that, for some reason, is also a tentacle?

              But like any good science fiction, it's only a matter of time before some manner of it seeps into our reality. This week's Nature published the findings of researchers who managed to restore function to pigs' brains that were clinically dead. At least, what we once thought of as dead.

              What's dead may never die, it seems

              The researchers did not hail from House Greyjoy — "What is dead may never die" — but came largely from the Yale School of Medicine. They connected 32 pig brains to a system called BrainEx. BrainEx is an artificial perfusion system — that is, a system that takes over the functions normally regulated by the organ. The pigs had been killed four hours earlier at a U.S. Department of Agriculture slaughterhouse; their brains completely removed from the skulls.

              BrainEx pumped an experiment solution into the brain that essentially mimic blood flow. It brought oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, giving brain cells the resources to begin many normal functions. The cells began consuming and metabolizing sugars. The brains' immune systems kicked in. Neuron samples could carry an electrical signal. Some brain cells even responded to drugs.

              The researchers have managed to keep some brains alive for up to 36 hours, and currently do not know if BrainEx can have sustained the brains longer. "It is conceivable we are just preventing the inevitable, and the brain won't be able to recover," said Nenad Sestan, Yale neuroscientist and the lead researcher.

              As a control, other brains received either a fake solution or no solution at all. None revived brain activity and deteriorated as normal.

              The researchers hope the technology can enhance our ability to study the brain and its cellular functions. One of the main avenues of such studies would be brain disorders and diseases. This could point the way to developing new of treatments for the likes of brain injuries, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and neurodegenerative conditions.

              "This is an extraordinary and very promising breakthrough for neuroscience. It immediately offers a much better model for studying the human brain, which is extraordinarily important, given the vast amount of human suffering from diseases of the mind [and] brain," Nita Farahany, the bioethicists at the Duke University School of Law who wrote the study's commentary, told National Geographic.

              An ethical gray matter

              Before anyone gets an Island of Dr. Moreau vibe, it's worth noting that the brains did not approach neural activity anywhere near consciousness.

              The BrainEx solution contained chemicals that prevented neurons from firing. To be extra cautious, the researchers also monitored the brains for any such activity and were prepared to administer an anesthetic should they have seen signs of consciousness.

              Even so, the research signals a massive debate to come regarding medical ethics and our definition of death.

              Most countries define death, clinically speaking, as the irreversible loss of brain or circulatory function. This definition was already at odds with some folk- and value-centric understandings, but where do we go if it becomes possible to reverse clinical death with artificial perfusion?

              "This is wild," Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times. "If ever there was an issue that merited big public deliberation on the ethics of science and medicine, this is one."

              One possible consequence involves organ donations. Some European countries require emergency responders to use a process that preserves organs when they cannot resuscitate a person. They continue to pump blood throughout the body, but use a "thoracic aortic occlusion balloon" to prevent that blood from reaching the brain.

              The system is already controversial because it raises concerns about what caused the patient's death. But what happens when brain death becomes readily reversible? Stuart Younger, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University, told Nature that if BrainEx were to become widely available, it could shrink the pool of eligible donors.

              "There's a potential conflict here between the interests of potential donors — who might not even be donors — and people who are waiting for organs," he said.

              It will be a while before such experiments go anywhere near human subjects. A more immediate ethical question relates to how such experiments harm animal subjects.

              Ethical review boards evaluate research protocols and can reject any that causes undue pain, suffering, or distress. Since dead animals feel no pain, suffer no trauma, they are typically approved as subjects. But how do such boards make a judgement regarding the suffering of a "cellularly active" brain? The distress of a partially alive brain?

              The dilemma is unprecedented.

              Setting new boundaries

              Another science fiction story that comes to mind when discussing this story is, of course, Frankenstein. As Farahany told National Geographic: "It is definitely has [sic] a good science-fiction element to it, and it is restoring cellular function where we previously thought impossible. But to have Frankenstein, you need some degree of consciousness, some 'there' there. [The researchers] did not recover any form of consciousness in this study, and it is still unclear if we ever could. But we are one step closer to that possibility."

              She's right. The researchers undertook their research for the betterment of humanity, and we may one day reap some unimaginable medical benefits from it. The ethical questions, however, remain as unsettling as the stories they remind us of.

              Ashes of cat named Pikachu to be launched into space

              A space memorial company plans to launch the ashes of "Pikachu," a well-loved Tabby, into space.

              GoFundMe/Steve Munt
              Culture & Religion
              • Steve Munt, Pikachu's owner, created a GoFundMe page to raise money for the mission.
              • If all goes according to plan, Pikachu will be the second cat to enter space, the first being a French feline named Felicette.
              • It might seem frivolous, but the cat-lovers commenting on Munt's GoFundMe page would likely disagree.
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