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DEMML

Distributable Educational Material Markup LanguageTM

News:

First Alpha version of schema published.

Though it is still rough and only covers the fundamental constituents of a DEMML™ topic, the DEMML_0.1 schema is available for viewing here.

Created DEMML™ blog site.

It took me a while to get around to creating a blog but it is finally up. (Updated July 8, 2009)
click here...

Added new Features and Benefits page.

DEMML is truely unique but I seem to have a hard time getting people to see that. Hopefully this will help. (Updated Dec. 10, 2007)
full story...

New Powerpoint about Communications Systems

full story...


History:

How DEMML™ was Invented

Necessity truly is the mother of invention.
full story...

About: Grant Robertson, the inventor of DEMML™

Step Into the Way-Back Machine...

When I went to grade school, they had two libraries, one for the first through third graders and one for the fourth through sixth graders. By the middle of second grade I had read all of the science books in the first library. For some stupid reason, they wouldn't let me go to the other library till I was in fourth grade. So, I started going to the public library. I practically lived in that place. All the librarians knew me by name. I read everything I could get my hands on that had anything to do with science or how to do practically anything, plus lots of science fiction. I'm not saying I was a prodigy or anything. There were always a few kids who got better grades than me. I guess I just cared more about the "big picture."

High-school was the absolute worst time of my life. Let's just leave it at that.

When I went to college, the first time, I majored in biology in the pre-med program. I was going to be a transplant surgeon. The program was incredibly focused on chemistry and I got the clue that I was being trained to be nothing more than a dispensing arm of the pharmaceutical industry. That, compounded with the articles I was reading about doctors being sued for malpractice by the AMA for not performing unnecessary hysterectomies, really turned me off to the medical industry. I liked computers and a friend even hinted that I could transfer over to his college and get in on the ground floor of a new computer science program they were starting just for him. But I thought that actually working in computers would be nothing more than rearranging lists of data on green and white striped paper for businesses. Not a lot of foresight there, I can tell you. So, when I got a summer job fixing burglar alarms that paid more than I had ever made before, I decided to just keep it and not return to school. That's right, I dropped out after 2 years with a 3.65 GPA. What the he** was I thinking?

Got married, got divorced, joined the Marine Corps and kept A-6s from falling out of the sky over Irvine, CA for four years.

Work Life:

After the Marine Corps I got a great job working at the California Museum of Science and Industry in Los Angeles. It was like a dream come true for a complete science nerd like me. I learned a lot about designing exhibits for the best educational value. But I got homesick for Kansas City, and let my family convince me to move back home. That is the only job I regret leaving.

I did some electronics work, then started working for a printed-circuit-board manufacturing company. After plotting film to make circuit-boards for 3 years, I convinced them that they needed a real network manager and that person should be me. With no real training I learned how to administer an AIX system and how to set up a Novell network. After working there for seven years with only one 3% raise I decided to move on. I got a job at some other manufacturing plant but when I was offered a position as the network manager of a small hospital, I jumped at the chance. I was able to take a network that had been going down three times a day and clean it up so that it didn't go down for over a year. But the politics got to me and I decided it was time to go back to school. I sold my house, gave away a lot of my stuff and was all set to move to Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, the home of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, where Mosaic, the first web browser, was invented.

Love Intervenes, but Finally Back to School

Just before I moved, I met a woman and fell in love with her. She lived in Lawrence, Kansas so, in the late Fall of 1999, I moved there instead. I worked for a small computer consulting firm for a while before starting my own business. I successfully ran a small business for three years. Then I unsuccessfully ran a small business for two years after that. The problem was that I made people's computers too darn reliable and I didn't know how to get new customers fast enough. I essentially worked myself out of a job. I lost everything: my house, my car, and most of my stuff. A friend suggested that if there was ever a time to go back to school, this was it. After being dirt poor for two years I was able to get plenty of financial aid. By the way, the woman and I broke up but we are still good friends.

Necessity is a Mother

When I first started back to school I wanted to be a "computational physicist." I was working on two majors: math and computer science. I wanted to get those degrees first, before even starting on the physics because the kind of physics I wanted to work on would require lots of math and lots of computation. But it just didn't feel as if I was learning the math fast enough. I was still getting 'A's but it was taking me six grueling hours almost every night to grind my way through the textbooks. Math has never been my strong suit, but this was ridiculous. Some of the explanations were so terse as to be indecipherable. So I dropped the math major and just stuck with the computer science merely because it was something I could do. I was heartbroken.

I tried continuing on with just the Computer Science degree but I just couldn't see going to school for two or three more years, learning things I didn't really want to know just to have a degree in something that would get me a job writing code I didn't care about for someone I didn't care for. On top of that, the textbooks still weren't any better, and - I have to say - the quality of the education I was receiving was not what I had expected, to say the least. As they say necessity is the mother of invention. I remember, I actually said out loud, "There has got to be a better way!" and I sat down to figure one out. That is how DEMML™ was born.

After I invented DEMML™, I wanted to take some classes in Education to learn how to design DEMML™ to best suit the needs of the Education community. I was told I would have to apply for and be accepted to the KU School of Education. One of the requirements was to volunteer 80 hours working with kids... just to take a couple of classes. Finally, a friend told me about Washburn University in Topeka, KS. They have a program where you can design your own degree, called the Bachelors of Integrated Studies. I transferred the very next semester.

Way too Many More Moves

I started at Washburn in January of 2008 and I really liked it. The teachers had far more time for their students and I could take all kinds of classes. Anything that I thought would help me finish DEMML™ properly. I have taken Educational Psychology, Educational Technology, The Psychology of Learning (which turned out to be about Behavioral Psychology rather than Cognitive Psychology), and even Grant Writing. My capstone project was the creation of part of the XML Schema for DEMML™. I have finished all of my requirements for my major (with all As I might add) and now just need five more credits of upper-division courses to finally earn my Bachelor's Degree.

While in Topeka I had met a woman and fallen in love. After being together for a couple of years she told me she had Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and had to move somewhere with a lot more sun than Topeka, KS. We decided on Tucson, AZ because it is pretty darn sunny and the University of Arizona has a graduate program in Information Science.

Now here is where things get really complicated. I will spare you the details, but suffice it to say: Things did not work out very well. After several years of breaking up and getting back together several times, with several moves around the country interspersed here and there, she is back in Tucson and I am in Austin. The whole ordeal left me pretty broken, both emotionally and financially. If it hadn't been for a couple of good friends giving me money and my son letting me stay in a spare room, I would likely have become homeless, and would not be writing this today. As I update this page (in April, 2017) I am still only barely treading water, both emotionally and financially. I have had a long, hard struggle with depression, anxiety, and heartbreak. A couple of years ago, I even had to check myself into a VA psych ward. I got so broke I couldn't afford to maintain the domain names for this website, and I was so depressed that I thought I would never be able to finish this project anyway, so I just let the domain names go. That was over two years ago.

Current Status

You'll be happy to hear that I am doing much better now. Though I am sure the depression and anxiety will always be with me, I now have hope that I will be able to finish this project and get it "out there" so it can start helping to save the world. I've been working at a tolerable job for almost two years now. It pays just enough to live on, but not quite enough to actually save much money. Austin is a pretty expensive place to live. My rent and utilities for a small, crappy studio apartment was costing me half of my take-home pay. So I had to make a decision: I could continue to live in an apartment and never be able to save up enough to get myself back into school, or I could live in my minivan and get on with my life. I chose the latter.

So, yes, I've been living in my minivan for almost a month now. It's not as bad as it sounds. There is plenty of room for a narrow, but full-length, bed in the back, as well as my most important stuff. I have a safe place to park, and I go to the nearest state park every day for a shower. Most people would have no clue that I am, technically, "homeless" if I didn't tell them. One of the first things I did with the money I am saving was to repurchase one of the domain names and set up hosting for this site.

My goal is to save up enough to finish those last five credits of my Bachelor's degree, then try to get into a graduate program in Information Science. I am convinced that the best "venue" for me to introduce DEMML™ to the world is through academia. I have done a lot of research, looking for just the right graduate program in a city where I would actually like to live. I have even visited a few universities and met with some of the people there. None of them seemed to be a great fit for one reason or another. But I recently came across the College of Information at the University of North Texas (UNT) and it almost seems as if it was custom designed for me and this project. The College of Information incorporates Information Science, Educational Technology, and Linguistics, the three most important disciplines necessary for completing DEMML™. I have not seen any other program where these three disciplines are taught together like this. In addition, they are housed in the same building as the Computer Science department. I would be in direct contact, every day, with all the people and knowledge I will need to help me make this thing a realty. On top of all that, Denton, TX seems like a really nice place to live. Ten years ago, if you had told me I would be looking forward to moving to a small town in Texas, I would have said you were crazy. But here I am, dreaming about it every day.

Wish me luck.

Next, you can read about: How I invented DEMML™...

First Published: April 15, 2007 — Last Modified: April 26, 2017
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