Wednesday, April 30, 2008

GoogleDocs in Plain English

Do you need a place to store your documents online. Are you collaborating on a document and need for multiple people to be able to edit the document? GoogleDocs is the answer. This short video will help. Thanks to Lee and Sachi LeFever for producing this video.

Monday, April 28, 2008

881,000,000 Answers. Now What Was the Question?

Yesterday's post was about questions. Today, I put the word "Question" into a Google search. My search resulted in 881,000,000 hits. The first of those hits was the image of a question mark you see in this post.

How many of those 881,000,000 "answers" were of value? Were any of value? It's hard to tell, because the question was so vague. The 881,000,000 is evidence that in our world of technology, finding answers is no problem. Finding good answers, well that requires asking good questions.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Forget the Answer. Do You Know the Question?

Our world is moving forward at a blinding pace, and technology is leading the charge. No matter where we are on the continuum of "tech-savviness," there are those who look to us as being the "tech guru" while we are awed by others who are so much farther down the road than we are. Those who can solve the problems and find the answers are essential. There is, however, another group who is as valuable--if not more valuable. They are the ones who ask the right questions.

Perhaps the most memorable of these experiences happened some 20 years during a talk with the school system's transportation director. Those who work in small school systems wear many hats, and Jim was a prime example. He began to show me the paperwork nightmare that was his system for keeping up with field trips. Calendars with multiple pieces of paper stapled to them littered the desk. Invoices had to be typed at the end of each month for each school listing every field trip taken and the amount owed. In the midst of lamenting about his paper avalanche, Jim asked the question that over night changed that transportation system.

"Frank," he said as he glanced at the AppleIIGS sitting across the room, "is there any way the computer can help me?"

Jim knew little about computers, and at the time I knew even less about transportation. However, Jim was able to describe the kind of information he needed. It would be a conversation which would have long-lasting effects on both of us.

The next day, I was back in Jim's office with a database I had created on AppleWorks. The input screen was designed to parallel the paper request forms that were submitted to him. Input, thus, was made so simple he could delegate it to an assistant. Jim could simply assign drivers and then view reports which would show him information by date, by driver, or by school. Best of all, the labor-intensive task of typing end-of-the-month invoices was now a simple matter of running one report. What had previously taken hours now took less than a minute.

For years, that school district ran its transportation system from that simple database. Along the way, Jim found shortcuts. That tends to happen when average folk like you and me start to sit down and actually use technology. We get better. Eventually, we get very good at it.

Twenty years later, the names have changed, I have changed school systems twice, and technology has improved dramatically. The essential elements are still there, however. We still need people who can solve problems. And, we still need people who can ask the right questions.

My present school system has come a very long way in terms of moving from paper housed in filing cabinets to digital creations housed on our intranet. Spreadsheets we have designed locally are being used statewide. Above all, we are doing it all with minimal staff and with tools that practically everyone already has at their disposal. The key to it all is that we have a few people who have been around technology long enough to appreciate the promise it holds. When confronted with a problem that involves data or copying information from one place to another, their first thought is to ask the same question Jim asked 20 years ago.

"Dr. Buck, is there any we could get the computer to..." That's a question that those who have worked closest to me tend to ask frequently. "Yes" is the answer they tend to get, and then I can get busy figuring out how to do it.

We need those who can find the answers. But first, we need those who can identify the questions.

I am beginning to understand that we can never find an answer to a question which has not been asked. Whether we are good at finding the answers or good at asking the questions, we can all play a valuable part in the bigger game, provided we choose to play at all.

What questions in your environment have gone unasked for too long? What role can you play in asking them? What are you waiting for?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008 is Delicious

My last post explained “social bookmarking.” My choice is “” and I have been using it for almost a year. I no longer add any website to my “Favorites.” If the site is one I am going to use quite frequently, I add it to my iGoogle, which I talked about here and here. Less commonly-used sites will be saved to

Like the video said, the secret is in the tagging. The intriguing part to me is that you are allowed to have multiple tags for a single item. No more trying to figure out how to “cross reference” an item. All I have to do is think of the multiple categories by which I would think of an item I want to add. If I find a good site related to special education law, I can tag it “special education” and also tag it “law.” Now, anytime I want to find “special education” sites I have saved, that site will be amongst them. Likewise, I look for sites on “law,” that site will also be one of the hits.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Daily Motivator

A year or so ago, a great friend got me hooked on The Daily Motivator. I never ceased to be amazed at how often its simple message is right on-point with a current real-life situation. This site gives me a slightly different perspective, and a more positive perspective.

Education is a "people" business, and when we are dealing with a variety of personalities, the possibility of veering to the negative side is ever present. Pretty soon, the ox has veered clear off the road and into the ditch. A proactive approach, such as the message of hope this site provides each day helps keep us going down the center of the road.

I know there are those who say motivational sayings and talks don't last. Of course, neither does a bath. That's why you take one every day!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Scenes from "Get Organized With Outlook"

The room was packed Monday afternoon. The number of people who are very interested in how to use this program to organize their lives is encouraging. The greatest interest seemed to be as we discussed "drag and drop" to get the e-mail Inbox empty each day.

A short book-signing session followed the workshop. Out of the two large stacks which were in the NAESP bookstore (at least 50 copies), a mere three copies of the book remained.

Divine, the Living Grapevine

One of the neat attractions in the hotel was Divine, the Living Grapevine. Obviously a master of walking on stilts and sporting an amazing costume, Divine was a real hit. The pictures really don't do her justice.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

More Photos from the Gaylord Opryland Hotel

Today's post contains more photos from this beautiful hotel. Stay tuned for photos of "Divine, the Living Grapevine" and photos related to the workshop on Outlook.

I had written about Photobucket in this post. It's a nice touch, but a little bit of it goes a long way. I try not to overdo it.

Can I Sync My BlackBerry to Entourage?

Following the Outlook workshop at NAESP, I received an e-mail with a question regarding synchronizing the BlackBerry with a Mac. The Mac equivalent of Outlook is a program called "Entourage."

In order to sync a BlackBerry with Entourage on the Mac, you need a program called "PocketMac for BlackBerry." The direct link to the download site is here.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Scenes from the Gaylord Opryland Hotel

The NAESP Convention was held at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville. The next several posts will bring you scenes from that beautiful hotel.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

NAESP Review

If you are visiting this blog as a result of attending Get Organized With Outlook at the NAESP National Convention, thanks for stopping by! I was thrilled to see the overwhelming response and know just how much interest there is on organizing digitally. Maybe next time, they will give us a bigger room, because we certainly used every square inch of the one we had!

I hope you will come back often. In addition to the book and the material here on my blog, I have a set of approximately a dozen essays that follow-up or expand on the material from the session. If you would like for me to add you to the list of people who receive these monthly essays, simply e-mail me by clicking here and let me know you would like to receive them.

If you would like to talk with me about professional development for your teachers or administrators, simply e-mail me. I would enjoy the opportunity to make a difference in your school system.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Please Say "Thank You"

I was recently moved by an article written by Gary Stager for DistrictAdministration. In his article "Please Say Thank You," subtitled "The time is now to thank your heroes and mentors," Gary reminds of us of...well, exactly what the subtitle says.

Any of us who has had any success can surely trace much of the responsibility for where we are to someone else. Someone went out of his or her way for us, saw something in us that we perhaps did not see in ourselves, and nurtured those qualities. It reminds me of a few people I am overdue in thanking.

That article appears here. It's enjoyable reading. Thanks, Gary!