Sunday, June 24, 2007

"Shower" a new teacher with gifts

We all know what life can be like for the new teacher. He or she walks into a classroom that may be totally bare of even the basics. All-too-often, other teachers have divided up anything of value left by the last teacher. This "Dear Abby" letter from today's Birmingham News offers a wonderful way to endure that a new teacher begins a career with the essentials:

Dear Abby: I teach aspiring elementary school teachers in a credential program in California. The family of one of my students came up with a great way to celebrate her graduation from the program and help her prepare for her new career as a teacher. They threw her a "teacher shower."

To help her start her classroom library, each guest brought a hardback copy of his/her favourite children's book. She was also given baskets of teacher supplies such as Sharpie pens, Post-Its, stickers and coloured paper for the school copier.

I know the shower meant a lot to my student, and in states like California, where teachers often spend hundreds of their own dollars for classroom supplies, throwing a teacher shower can be a terrific way for families and friends to show their support for the new teacher.

Julie, a Teacher's Teacher

Dear Julie: Dedicated teachers are among the unsung heroes in our society. They guide and shape the members of future generations, and rarely receive the credit or the income they deserve for their efforts. I love the concept of a teacher shower to help young, idealistic educators get off to the start they need, and I hope the idea will be popularized not only for new teachers, but also more experienced educators who would find it helpful. I'm sure there are many.

Friday, June 22, 2007

When you teach, you learn

It never fails that when I teach a workshop, I wind up learning something new. Such is the case with the latest session I conducted Wednesday for the Jacksonville State University Inservice Center.

Thanks to Haylee Black for putting me on to a neat trick for opening multiple pages at once when you open your browser. After the workshop, she was sharing what she had learned with her husband when they stumbled upon this ability. She shared it with me in an e-mail, so I got busy researching it.

You probably know how to change your homepage. You probably also know how to open a new tab so that you can go back and forth between multiple websites. Suppose, however, that there are several sites you use every day and you would like all of them to come up at once (on separate tabs) when you open your browser. There is a way for this to happen:
  1. Open your browser.
  2. Create a new tab for each site that you want to open automatically.
  3. Go to Tools>Internet Options (or on Firefox, Tools>Options).
  4. Click the "General" tab in Explorer (or "Main" tab in Firefox).
  5. Click "Use Current" in Explorer (or "Use Current Pages" in Firefox)
  6. Click "Apply" and "OK" in Explorer (or simply "OK" in Firefox)
  7. To test it, close your browser and reopen it (or simply click the "Home" icon).
How would a teacher use this? Think about the sites you pull up every day on your computer:
  1. Your school webpage
  2. Your search engine (Google, Yahoo, etc.)
  3. Renaissance Learning (If you use the web version)
  4. STI Classroom
With this trick, you could have all 4 of those sites come up, in different tabs, each time you open your browser. Of course, you could have different computers configured to open different tabs. The computer you use for yourself might open STI Classroom but not Renaissance Learning while one for student use would have no need for STI Classroom but a huge need for Renaissance Learning.

When I teach, I always wind up learning. Isn't this a neat profession?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Installing a counter on your blog

If you are creating a blog, you might be interested in having a counter. The most basic advantage is that you can see how many people visit your blog. You can go further and generate reports which show how many hits you have on any given day and how many are new visitors as opposed to returning visitors. You can also see what percentage of people viewed your blog for only a few seconds versus those who stayed for 20 minutes.

The counter I use is StatCounter. It is a free service. Clicking on the link will take you to that site. You will be asked to choose a login. The site will walk you through step-by-step as you select the style of counter you would like as well as numerous options.

In the final analysis, the StatCounter site will return a block of html code. You will highlight and copy it. StatCounter gives you step-by-step instructions on how to insert that code into your blog template. (Don't worry. It's not nearly as complicated as it sounds.)

If you have a blog, installing a counter is one of those little things that will make a big difference.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Great time at JSU!

If you are visiting for the first time as a result of the workshop at JSU, welcome! In the archives, you will find a great deal of information that I hope you will enjoy.

Thanks for coming to the workshop. I thoroughly enjoyed the day.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Increasing productivity with dual monitors - Custom comment codes

Microsoft has released an article regarding the benefits of multiple monitors. The story is located here.

My set-up at work includes two monitors. I have been using this configuration for a year and love it! Here is a post I wrote when I changed jobs/offices/computers and went to this arrangement.

Bob Rankin wrote a great article that provides the technical aspects for those those would like to pursue the idea further.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Teacher blogs to communicate with students

During the session on blogging from AETC, several people asked about examples of teachers who are using blogs with their students. A quick Google search and a little "surfing" turned up several that I think are worth a look.

  • Brandi Caldwell, a teacher at Mountain Brook High School, composed Mrs. C's Senior English Blogs. From her last post there, it seems the school system began blocking Blogger, so you will see a link there to another venue she now uses. Here, you see Mrs. Caldwell composing the posts and her students responding with their comments.
  • On Mrs. Myrmel's Classroom Blog, we see a blog used as a tool for a 3rd grade teacher to communicate with parents.
  • At the Room 303 Blog, Mrs. Huff's students compose the posts. The most recent posts at present relate to student insights into The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Other students post comments where they respond to what their classmates have composed. This one is definitely worth a look.

Do you know of other examples that would benefit teachers who are interested in using a blog in their classes? If you do, please leave a comment.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Thanks for a great response!

The last couple of days have been a great experience for me. Thanks to those who came to the Outlook session, the blogging session, or the "It's About Time" session. It's good to hear from you that the message of using technology to make your life easier is one that is needed, and the things we are talking about are practical and doable.

I also want to thank The Daily Home, and in particular staff writer Samantha Corona, for the coverage they gave to my receiving the Chiquita Marbury Technology Innovation Award. The morning following the awards ceremony, this article appeared on the front page. This morning, The Daily Home included this editorial. I have been saying for a number of years that newspapers are eager to print the good that is happening in schools; however, we must take the initiative to keep them informed. Samantha and the entire staff serve as examples of writers who help us put our best foot forward.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Keeping little eyes away from inappropriate material

People can take just about any good thing and find a bad way to use it—the telephone, the automobile, prescription medicines. The list could go on and on, and the Internet is a candidate for that list. This post addresses the potential for someone reaching inappropriate material through a blog.

Sure, I realize that anyone sitting unsupervised at a computer and looking for inappropriate material will find it quickly without ever visiting my blog. I do, however, want to remove the possibility that by visiting my blog and clicking on link, a youngster could be seeing something he or she has no business seeing.

By far my biggest concern is the link at the top of Blogger blogs that says “Next Blog.” At first glance, it looks like a good feature. You can visit blog after blog you never knew existed, and you can find some real treasures. You can also find some real trash. You could be one click away from a blog featuring pornography, profanity, or hate speech.

You will notice this "Next Blog" option does not exist on this blog, or any of the other blogs I have composed (,, or One simple measure prevents someone reading your blog and being a couple of mouse clicks away from trouble.

I wrote about this same topic in November of 2005. Since that time, Blogger has gone through an upgrade. The instructions that worked before no longer work now. What follows is a set of directions which will work. Thanks to Rakesh for providing directions which will work with the new Blogger.

Removing the Navigation Bar
  1. You will probably want to print this page of my blog to reference during the process.
  2. To remove the Navigation Bar, you are actually going to edit the html code just a bit.
  3. Go to and log into your blog.
  4. On the dashboard, click "Settings."
  5. Click the "Template" tab
  6. Click the "Edit html" tab
  7. Find the line of code that consists of the word "head" surrounded by the < > . It will be near the top.
  8. Click the mouse to insert the cursor at the end of the line. Hit "Enter" to give yourself a blank line.
  9. Highlight and copy the following text. Paste this text starting in that blank line:

!-- code to add --
style type="text/css"

You are going to enclose 3 of the lines you just added with "< >" signs (leaving off the quotation marks). You will add these "< >" signs to enclose the first, second, and last lines of code you pasted. These three lines are the ones that said "
!-- code to add --," "style type="text/css"" and "/style"

Once you have done this, click "Save Template." You can now click on "View Blog." If you have done it correctly, the navigation bar will be gone.

That’s it! I doubt the folks at Blogger would be happy about my doing this and even less happy about telling you about it. I am more concerned about being an accomplice to youngsters seeing stuff they shouldn’t than I am keeping folks happy.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Thanks for coming to the session!

If you are visiting here for the first time as a result of coming to one of my sessions at AETC, welcome! The reason I started this blog three years ago was for the sole purpose of continuing a line of communication with those who attend workshops.

You will find a great deal of material as you click the links for past months. I hope you enjoy what you read and will come back often.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Analyzing data with spreadsheets

Over the years, spreadsheets have been one of the biggest times avers I have found. A few minutes spent thinking through what I want a spreadsheet to do and setting it up to do so saves hours of repetitive calculations.

If you are in the school business and want to learn how to use Excel to analyze your data, I have a recommendation for a great place to start. School Data Tutorials provides detailed instructions on setting up spreadsheets and writing formulas. The site uses Camtasia Studio to produce the tutorials, meaning you hear the instructor talking to you, view the instructor's screen, and see every move of the instructor's mouse. It's as if the instructor were sitting beside you. Best of all, the examples are germane to analyzing data in an educational setting.

P.S. Thanks to Jan Borelli for putting me onto this site. Jan is principal of Westwood Elementary (the Hippest School in America), located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. You can read some of her thoughts at Dr. Jan's Blog.