Saturday, October 31, 2009

The "Sixth Sense." Could It Be in Our Future?

This demonstration is from Pattie Maes' lab at MIT. It's a wearable device with a projector that paves the way for profound interaction with the environment. When we look at how far technology has come in the last 10 years, such as the sophistication of the Internet you are using to read this now, imagine where we could be 10 years from now. This demo makes for some fascinating conversation.

What do you see here that is good? What do you see that concerns you?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Get Organized--10 Take-Aways

The National Middle School Association has asked its presenters for a list of "10 Take-Aways" from their presentations. At first glance, to try and reduce several hours of well-chosen material to 10 points is tough. I must admit, however, the exercise was eye-opening. Summing it all up in 10 points forced me to look not only at tools but to look at principles which emerge again and again regardless of the tool. I have often said that if I go to a workshop and come away with one point that is life changing, I would consider my time well spent. To be able to offer people 10 of them makes me realize the importance of the material and its relevance to the world of today and what's coming tomorrow.

So, here are the 10 Take-Aways for my participants:

  1. An educator's world is complex and becoming more so with each passing year. Staying on top of all of our responsibilities requires a system.
  2. We do what is easy; therefore, our system must be easy.
  3. "Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now." Thank you, Alan Lakein!
  4. Make the decision, "When do I want to see this again?" and put it in your system so that you do. However, your system should allow you to answer the question, "What if I need to see it before then?"
  5. Tickler files keep your desk clean and ensure that papers resurface on the desired date.
  6. A digital signature tool allows that which arrives digitally to stay digital. It offers the advantages of portability, shareability, and searchability.
  7. Education is a cyclic business. Getting good at identifying repeating tasks makes life easier.
  8. Documentation is easier than you think.
  9. You can be a master at follow-up. The "bookmark" system shows how.
  10. Stress is feeling the whole world is caving in. Organization is keeping all of the balls in the air by giving each one the right amount of attention at the right time.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

National Middle School Association

If you are attending the National Middle School Association Conference in Indianapolis, please join me for Get Organized! Time Management for School Leaders. Details are here.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Best $10 You Will Ever Spend

My life is on my BlackBerry...or at least as much as I can reasonably store there. There are those times when I have to jot something quickly or draw a quick sketch. In addition, I do need some way to carry credit cards, business cards, and so forth.

In my shirt pocket, you will find a little memo pad that ran me around $10 at an office superstore. It's manufactured by Buxton. Simply putting "Buxton Memo Pad" into a Google search will return plenty of hits.

In the pocket on the left side, I keep about half-a-dozen business cards, a couple of major credit cards, and my driver's license. Credit cards receipts, business cards from other people, or other miscellaneous little pieces of paper also go right up front on that left side until I can get home and handle them. The right side features a memo pad. A pocket underneath the memo pad houses my insurance cards just in case.

The whole thing measures 4 3/4" high X 3" wide X 3/4" thick. The best thing is that I carry no wallet! Money goes in a magnetic money clip in my left front pocket. Pictures are digital and stored on the BlackBerry. The memo pad handles the rest.

One little tip. The memo pad includes a couple of pen loops and a pen. I found the pen loops to get in the way big time, so a pair of scissors took care of that problem.

While the BlackBerry is certainly my signature tool, that $10 memo pad provides the perfect companion.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What's Not Working?

Conveniences are all around us. From microwave ovens to electric pencil sharpeners, we have an abundance of tools that make our lives easier—provided they work. What a handy tool we have in that electric stapler—only it doesn’t work because it’s out of staples. How about that empty tape dispenser in your desk drawer?

This week, I challenge you to look at what’s not working in your world and do something about it. The electric stapler sits unused because it’s out of staples and you haven’t refilled it because you are out of (or can’t find) more. You have been meaning to order more but you keep forgetting. The next time you think about needing staples is—you guessed it—when you go to use that stapler and find it’s still empty.

As you come across these little annoyances, take a second to decide what needs to be done to fix it, and jot it in your signature tool. Don’t put getting staples on the list for today. Instead pick a day about a week out and start a list of little items to get. A week from now, you can handle that whole list at once.

Fixing the problem is the first step. The second step is deciding how to avoid the problem in the future. Think about this one—at your house, when do you decide you need to buy toothpaste? Is it when the tube runs out and you realize there are no more under the counter? Or, is it when you take the last one from under the counter. In the first case, you have a minor crisis—you need toothpaste NOW. In the second case, you just need to put toothpaste on the grocery list and get it within the next few weeks.

Ask yourself the same thing about supplies in your classroom. Do you order more when you are OUT or when your reserve is low? What about textbooks? If a new student enrolled tomorrow, would you have books for him? If not, why not go ahead and put in a request now, so that when you DO get another student—and you will—that you are prepared. You own 7 umbrellas, yet you never seem to have one in the car you when a downpour occurs. What could you do to fix that problem once and for all?

What else in your classroom doesn’t work? What about that regular pencil sharpener where the handle has been loose for 2 years? What would it take to fix that? You have two desks that are awfully wobbly. What would it take to fix them? Realize this is a thought process that seldom occurs to most people. Too many of us simply get so used to all of the things in our lives that don’t quite work that we soon stop thinking about them anymore.

Have you cleaned out your desk lately? If not, put it on your to-do list. Out go the pencils with no points, the dried-up ink pens, the empty packs of Sweet & Low, and a host of papers that never should have been there to start with. You will be amazed at what you find there that you had no idea you had.

Why do people resist thinking through what it takes to fix the little broken things? I think the answer lies in that thinking through what needs to be done creates a long to-do list for people who already have too much to do and try to keep up with all of it in their heads. For those of us who have a “signature tool,” life is easier. We take a second to jot down what need to happen. We organize our list in a way that groups similar items together. Then, we handle a number of similar items all one sitting.

Get all of those conveniences in your life working and watch some of the stress in your life go away.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Time to Aim Lower?

I enjoy reading the thought of Dan and Chip Heath, authors of Made to Stick. In the March issue of Fast Company, they advise us to "aim lower." That sounds like just the opposite of what we have always been told about achieving success.

How often do we set lofty goals and then nothing happens? The goal seems like an insurmountable obstacle. What if we took the time, however, it figure out exactly what the first step towards completing that goals might be. Not the first 27 steps. Just the first step. What if we devoted just a few minutes towards pushing that goal forward?

That's what this enjoyable article was all about. The authors make some pretty valid points, and it's well worth the few minutes it takes to read it. To view the article, click here.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Did you Know 4.0.? Social Networking and the Computer in Your Pocket

This version of "Did You Know?" focuses on the changes in communication brought about by technology, and in particular changes brought about by the cell phones we carry in our pockets.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Demonstration of "Tagging"

In this 20-minute video, Chris Betcher demonstrates the use of tagging in Flickr and Delicious.

Chris Betcher has been teaching for over 20 years and is currently the ICT Integration Specialist at Presbyterian Ladies College in Sydney, Australia. Originally trained as an art teacher, Chris has drifted away from that role and into the teaching of computing and multimedia, professional development for teachers, network administration, and even corporate training for companies like Microsoft.

For more information about Delicious, here is one of my previous posts on that subject. That post also has links to several other posts regarding Delicious.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Gadgets on My iGoogle Page

For the MEMSPA members who attended Thursday's workshop and for the CLAS members who attended today's workshop, here is a post from some months ago regarding iGoogle. When you are getting started with any endeavor, it often helps to see another example. This post gives links to each of the gadgets I have on my iGoogle page.

Click here to see that post.

By the way, there are some great Halloween themes to choose from. On your iGoogle page, click "Change them" and enter "Halloween" in the search window.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Thanks to MEMSPA Participants

Thanks to everyone who attended the Get Organized! workshop sponsored by Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association. If you signed to receive the monthly e-mails, you should have already received your first one. If you did not sign up, you still can do so. Simply click here.

The spreadsheets that we demonstrated during the workshop are now on the Free Resources page of the my website. I will devote an upcoming post to the DIBELS spreadsheet and what it is designed to do.

As we talked about the using smartphones as a "signature tool," we discussed the possible mixed message that could be sent when the principal is seen using a smartphone while students are banned from using theirs. I don't know that I have all of the answers. I do think it is a topic worthy of a great deal of discussion. While probably none of us has the total answer, together we can fashion experience which keep learning in the center and put educational leaders on the cutting edge rather than bringing up the rear.

Vicki Davis is a technology educator in Camilla, Georgia and the author of the blog "Cool Cat Teacher." In August, she discussed how smartphones are used in her classroom. Her strategies and her thoughts are well worth the read. That post can be found here. Several posts on this blog follow-up on that subject. The dates of those posts run from August 20-26.

Friday, October 09, 2009

TED Talk on Twitter

In the year leading up to this talk, the web tool Twitter exploded in size (up 10x during 2008 alone). Co-founder Evan Williams reveals that many of the ideas driving that growth came from unexpected uses invented by the users themselves.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Setting Up a Twitter Account

You have heard about Twitter. Maybe you have thought about setting up an account. If so, here is a video which will walk you through the process.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Update on Anna's Climb

I wrote about Anna Curry and her quest to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in this post. Anna has now reached the summit and is on the downhill side of the journey. If you did not read the original post, I would encourage you to do so. Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is a feat for anyone. For someone who has been confronted with the physical challenges that Anna has, it's pretty amazing.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

NMSA Banner

If you are attending the NMSA national convention, I hope you will attend my half-day session.

Details are here.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Your Own Blog in 10 Minutes or Less

Several years ago, I built a one-hour workshop entitled "Your Own Blog in 10 Minutes of Less." Since then, I have presented the workshop in both a demonstration and hands-on format and used both live a live Internet connection and PowerPoint screen shots.

That workshop has inspired the creation of quite a few blogs. Every single school in my former school system has created a blog. Two central office blogs kept parents and employees informed about what was happening in their school system.

To supplement that workshop, I have constructed a blog to serve as a demonstration for some of the tools and techniques that one might want to learn as they construct their own blogs. The blog consists of just under two dozen posts. Each is a real post taken from a real blog. Accompanying each is an explanation of why that post is significant or what it teaches.

The plan is not to continuously update this blog. It is now in its "final form." To take a look at this blog, go to: