Thursday, July 20, 2006

You never know what today's mail may bring...

Going through today's mail, I opened an envelope containing a complimentary copy of "Pro Principal," a newsletter for school principals. The "cover story" was a feature our use of blogs at Graham Elementary School!

Amy Shannon, the editor for the publication had contacted me some time ago after having read my article in Principal magazine. I was quite surprised to see the article, especially displayed so prominently and with such coverage of our school.

My thanks to Shannon for spotlighting our school system.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

What if your hard drive crashed today?

If your computer's hard drive crashed today would it mean:

An inconvenience? You would simply load your backup onto another computer and continue to do use your documents. A new hard drive would be purchased, the operating system and programs reinstalled from the CD-ROMS and then your documents re-loaded; or

A catastrophe? All of your documents have been lost forever because even though you know you should do a backup, for one reason or another it just hasn't happened.

If the answer is the later, whether you realize it or not, it impacts the way you work with a computer every day. As long as lack a system for backing up, you cannot trust your computer. You unconsciously avoid getting too attached to anything stored on it, because you realize it could all be gone in an instant.

In reality, data is much safer now than ever before. A decade ago, a fire, flood, or tornado could destroy every record in a school with no hope of retrieval. Today, even though a natural disaster could destroy the contents of an entire building, the data stored on a backup off site is safe.

The content of the "My Documents" folder at school are backed up, and that backup is at my house. Likewise, I have backed up the "My Documents" folder on my home computer. That backup lives at school.

Being able to trust that I am not going to lose digital data gives me the peace of mind which keeps me from feeling the need to print everything. Digital data is much faster that finding paper even in a good paper filing system.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Two new blogs

A year ago, I established two blogs. One was designed to communicate with teachers and staff in the school where I served as principals. The other was designed to communicate with parents. How easy it was to write a quick post and have it available for the reader in minutes! No Xeroxing, no stuffing paper into mailboxes, and a complete history of all of my posts neatly archived. Who could ask for more?

As I move from my school to the central office, I have already begun to suffer from withdrawal! How will I be able to communicate with teachers throughout the school system? How can I get our message out to parents and community members?

I guess the answer now is the same as it was a year ago--a blog (or two). This evening, and were born! The biggest difference between these two blogs and the ones I have created in the past is that I am inviting others to become members of these blogs. Central office personnel and principals seem to be the most logical choices. I figure that with all 7 schools posting to these two blogs, there will always be fresh content and people will continue to visit the blogs.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Two monitors

I have been seeing a great deal lately about the effects on productivity of having two monitors, so we are starting the new job with that setup. In this shot, I have Outlook on one monitor and my web browser on the other.

One example of how this setup is wonderful came Thursday. I was putting together a PowerPoint presentation which consisted of screenshots from the Internet. Normally, this task would have entailed maximizing the browser, hitting “Print Screen,” minimizing the browser, pasting the item in the PowerPoint, and then continuing that process until complete.

With two monitors, I simply open the browser on one and PowerPoint on the other. As I move the mouse, it travels from one screen to the other.

In the pencil/paper world, we often lay two pieces of paper side-by-side. Often, we are referring to one while we write on the other. At other times, we are comparing the two. We would never dream of putting one paper on top of the other and exchanging their tow positions countless times. However, that’s exactly what we have been doing with our computers for a couple of decades. With two monitors, my digital world has caught up with a good idea from our paper world.

Bulk storage

What in the world is this? Is this the most recent version of these policies? Do I really need to keep this?

The job I am starting is the 5th position I have held in schools since beginning my career in 1982. In each case, I found myself asking these kinds of questions about material I would run across. I have found that time answers those questions. The best route is to put it away, and then look at it again some weeks or even months later. By that time, the answers are usually obvious.

“Bulk storage” is a great answer. In my last position, as principal of Graham School, one shelf in a closet served as my bulk storage. Anything to be handled in the future that was too bulky for the tickler files went there. A repeating tasks on my list would remind me to examine that shelf and take action on what I could.

In the new office, that two-door cabinet in the center has been nominated for the task of bulk storage. As I have come across notebooks, etc. for which I had questions, I made the appropriate entry on my to-do list, and added to the physical item to the bulk storage cabinet. The plan is not to even look in that cabinet for several weeks. By that time, I will have worked through my list, asked the proper the people the proper questions. When I do open that cabinet again, the value of each item and where it needs to go should be much more obvious.

More on moving an office

June 6

The last of the bits of painting were completed towards the end of the day. I could now move in one filing and get boxes of file off of the floor.

June 7

The goal for today was to get the office in its final form with the exception of window treatments and diplomas/plaques on the walls. I also had quite a stack of papers that had accumulated during the week.

Here are a couple of shots of the office as it looked at the end of the day. The to-do is plenty long, but the papers are out of site. I want work from my list, not a stack of papers. Part of today was looking at each paper, making decision about what needed to be done, putting the actions in my list, and including in the list where to go to put my hands on the paper.

Along the course of the day, I made stacks of materials to deliver to other schools. I had come across many individual sample books for 1st and 2nd grade. I delivered those to one elementary school so they could be passed on to a teacher for her classroom library. Several thick notebooks which pertained to the high school were delivered there. I even unearthed a copy of the high school’s SACS review from 1968!

I came across multiple copies of materials that were doing nobody any good sitting at the central office. One was a wonderful handout on troubleshooting a computer. I put the copies in the mailboxes of each school.

The pictures show the finished product. Still to be done are getting curtains for the windows and hanging things on walls.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Moving an office

At one time or another, most all of us move—either from one home to another, one classrooms to another, or one office to another. My major project right is a job change. After nine years as a principal, I have moved to a central office position with the same school system. The change in position entails moving from one office to another. I thought others might be interested in how I handled, and am still handling) the process.

July 1
This was the first official day of my contract. Even though it fell on Saturday, Davonia (my wife) and I were at the new office. The first item of business was to clear everything out of the office and paint the 10x10 office. One challenge was that one entire wall was lined with filing cabinets, so during Day 1, everything was painted except the two walls blocked by filing cabinets.

Lots of stuff went straight to the dumpster and lots of other stuff went into books for me to go through as time permits.

July 2
We moved all of the boxes from the old office to the new one. The two buildings are only a block apart, so we were able to make the move by loading boxes in the car and making several trips. We did move one piece of furniture—a bookcase, which I simply put on a set of hand trucks and rolled down the street. We were able to unbox books and get them directly on shelves.

One thing that made the move easier was to go thought everything in the old office and do the cleaning out on that end. Taking the time to perform the task on the front end meant that I was not moving junk from one place to another.

July 3
The focus for today was two-fold. First was the task of ridding the office of the filing cabinets that were eating up a full 20% of the floor space. The second task involved the computer—getting one set up in the new office and clearing things off of the one I was leaving behind.

The morning was spent unloading, filing cabinets in two areas (a total of 10 filing cabinets), moving the 5 newly-emptied filing from my office to an off-site location, and finally loading the files—5 filing cabinets worth off-site and another 5 filing cabinets worth in another area within our central office.

The computer was a challenge simply because much of the information on it is information the new principal will need. At the same time, I did not want to leave behind memos I had written, a myriad of Outlook tasks and appointments from the past, and access to e-mails from the past.

The process consisted of burning files to several CD-ROMs. Backing up “My Documents” took care of the majority of what needed to be copied. I also burned to a CD-ROM by Outlook .pst file and Outlook archive files and well as the bookmarks from Foxfire.

The next step was to go to the new computer and import my pst file into Outlook. That process went off without a hitch. Of course, that process only brought in the data. Doing all of the setup to get Outlook to look the way I want, archive what and when I want, etc. was something I had to do. Once all was right with Outlook, I synced my Palm and held my breath. It worked! The initial setting I used was for the desktop to overwrite the Palm.

With Outlook safely in place, I returned to the computer in the old office and began the process of deleting files the new principal would not need. A great deal of time was spent going through Outlook to delete appointments, tasks, and contacts that would be of no benefit to my successor. I have many repeating tasks set up in Outlook, and all that are relevant are still there for the new principal. The work I left unfinished is there, along with a complete calendar for the coming year.

Did I mention my new computer is set up with two monitors? In the last few months, I have read in countless sources about the value of two monitors. Right now, I have Outlook on one monitor while I compose this post on the other.

July 5
After taking off July 4, today was the first real day on the job. I got to the office at 6:30 and began going through and throwing away. A pair of meetings encompassed most of the morning and early afternoon.

A new desk arrived mid-morning, and being able to load it got several boxes off of the floor.

That evening, Davonia came up and the final two walls received a much-needed coat of paint.

July 6
Today, I am beginning to see really being able to get back to work on projects. I loaded all of the “My Documents” files onto the new computer. I downloaded and installed Firefox, SpyBot, and SpyBlaster. All of the Firefox bookmarks imported easily.

Where do we go from here?
The one big question mark is the phone system. Several people at the central office have changed locations within the building, but phones have not been rerouted. I am getting calls for the person who was in this office before me. As a quick fix, I am going to change the voice mail message to tell people how to call the person who has just vacated this office, and invite anyone who was really trying to reach me to leave a message.

I still have several boxes to go through. My plan is to spread it all out and determine:
Where is there duplication? (Duplicates get throw out)
Can I find this same thing in digital form? (If so, the hard copy gets thrown out.)
What stuff do I simply not know what to do with. I had found from the four previous jobs I have held that if I just put it away for a couple of months, when I look at it again, I will almost certainly know what should be done with it.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

More on Blog Settings

When you create your blog, you have a number of options under the "Settings" tab. Here are a few suggestions regarding the choices available to you:
  • "Basic" link- Answer "Yes" to every choice.
  • "Publishing" link- One way to help other people find your log is to check "Yes" to "Notify"
  • "Comments" link:
  1. Who can comment?-Select "Anyone"
  2. Comments Default for Posts?- Select "New posts have comments"
  3. Back links- I have selected "Hide"
  4. Show word verification for comments?- Selecting "Yes" keeps spam from being posted to your comments
  5. Enable comment verification?- Selecting "Yes" sends comments to your e-mail for your approval. This feature prevents inappropriate material from being included in comments.
  • "Archive" link- "Monthly" is a good choice. Answer "Yes" to "Enable post pages."

In the July 2005 issue of PC Today, Vince Cogley gives several suggestions for increasing traffic in your site:

  • Answer "Yes" to "Enable post pages." and also enable your site feed. Enabling the site feed will allow others to "subscribe" to your blog.
  • Answer "Yes" to "Notify"
  • Add your blog to Google's index by going to