Thursday, April 30, 2009

Opening Office 2007 Documents Revisited

I use Office 2003, yet when I received an e-mail from our State Department of Education with an attachment saved in Word 2007, I had no problem opening it. Within an hour, however, I received another e-mail from the same person saying they had gotten complaints from people who for some reason could not open the attachment. The new e-mail simply included all of the information from the attachment pasted in the text of the e-mail message.

The very next day, I received an e-mail with a Word 2007 attachment from another person in the same department. You guessed it, within an hour, I was looking at a second e-mail, this time with the same attachment saved in Word 2003.

I can only imagine how many phone calls, e-mails, and people who became involved over something that we all need to deal with.

Since that post, Office 2007 has become more prevalent, and the information in that post is even more needed now than it was months ago.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Talladega High School Jazz Band at Motor Sports Hall of Fame

I have a brag just a bit on the Talladega High School Jazz Band. They provided the entertainment for the International Motor Sports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony this past week. Their 45-minute non-stop, no repeat rendition impressed the huge crowd assembled for this prestigious event. Here are some of the sights from that evening:

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Another example of iSpeech

In the last post, we introduced Here is another example of the iSpeech converting text to sound. This is the Marc Antony's famous speech from the play Julius Caesar.
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears:
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answered it.
(Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest –
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men )–
Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome,
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor had cried, Caesar hath wept.
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then to mourn for him?
O judgment! Thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason! Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

Friday, April 24, 2009

iSpeech Converts Text to Speech

Copy and paste text in a window. Then highlight the embed the code and paste it in your blog. That's all there is to it with The account I established was free. Since that time, it appears they have changed to a 15-day free trial. While I am not exploring it any further, this may well be something of interest to others.

Would you like to hear the poem below? Just click on the object below it.

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that 's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair'd the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Festive Overture

For my friends from the band world who are visiting this blog today, here is the Shostakovich "Festive Overture" played by an ensemble from Julliard. They were the 1st place winners in the 2009 National Trumpet Competition.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Two Roads

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

At the close of my senior year thirty-two years ago, my closest classmates were preparing to enter the University of Alabama as Computer Science majors. To the surprise of many, I took a different road—education. It was a choice that has served me well and a field that has allowed me to use a variety of talents. It is a profession to which I have given much. It is a profession which has given back in return.

Two roads diverge again for me now. One path is familiar and comfortable. The other offers both a challenge and a chance to affect change on a larger scale, and it is that road I am choosing to take.

I will be retiring at the end of June.

If I had it all to do again, I would do very little any differently. Four school systems and 28 years brings one in contact with a wide variety of people. Along the road, I have been privileged to work with some incredible talent, and a fair share of it has been during this last 12 years here in this place.

Over a year ago, our school system revisited its vision and found that the words “moving forward” encapsulated how this system sees itself. The slightly longer “Moving forward to meet the demands of a changing world” recognizes that the world we must prepare for tomorrow will be different than the one in which we live in today. New tools and new practices will replace the old, and my desire is to be a part of the process for making that journey easier for others.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Moving forward,

Frank Buck

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"Grouping" Communication...The Principal's Challenge

The last post examined digital communication from the viewpoint of the recipient. While the well-worded, all-inclusive blog post reduces fragmentation for teachers, it presents a problem for principals.

When a thought crosses the principal's mind and needs to be communicated to the faculty as a whole, firing off a quick e-mail is easy to do. The principal can now call that task "done." Nothing needs to be written down. Nothing needs to be remembered.

Grouping that information into one blog post presents another challenge. When a thought crosses my mind, if I can't put it in an e-mail, where do I store it until time to compose the blog post? Moreover, how can I have one system that works whether the thought occurs at my desk, while I am walking down the hall, or whether I am at the grocery store.

Let me answer that question in two ways, one for those who organize their lives with paper, and one for those who organize their lives digitally.

For Those Who Organize With Paper
When I became a principal in 1997, the Day-Timer was my signature tool. If that term is foreign, read this post. That little book provided me with two facing pages for each day. The left-hand page held my appointments and to-do list for the day. The right-hand page provided a place to record notes from meetings, conferences with parents, conference with teachers, notes from phone calls, or any other information I might need later. I still have all of those old pages. They are neatly stored in three-ring binders.

To this day, you could go back to any one of those binders and flip to a Thursday. On that right-hand page would be a running list...a running list of everything I wanted to include on the Friday Memo. No matter where I was, my Day-Timer with with me. No matter where I was, when a thought struck me that I needed to communicate to my faculty, I opened that book to Thursday's page and let that thought roll right down my arm and right onto the paper.

On Thursday afternoon, there were all of my notes, all in one place, serving as a reminder to put them on the Friday Memo. That was easy, easy enough I would actually do it.

For Those Who Organize Digitally
The process is the same; only the tool is different. Those who organize digitally need one place to put all of those bits of information that are later to come together. In addition, the system needs to remind the user at the right time. That's why in the Day-Timer, that list of items for the Friday Memo was on Thursday's page. Thursday was the day I composed the Friday Memo. Thursday, therefore, was the day on which I would need to be reminded.

If I were doing the same thing today, my task list on Outlook (synced to the BlackBerry) would include a task labeled "Friday Memo." That task would have a due date of Thursday. Throughout the week, as new thoughts occurred while I was at my desk, the drill would be to click on Thursday's date on Outlook. I would then be looking at Thursday's tasks. Double-clicking on the task that says "Friday Memo" would open the note section where I would be keeping that running list.

If I was out and about when a thought occurred, I would pull out the BlackBerry, press the "convenience key" (which is programmed to take me straight to the task list), and start typing "Friday Memo." I probably would not have to enter more than "F-R-I" before the list would be narrowed to the task I want. Hitting one key opens the task where I would see everything collected to that point for the Friday Memo. I would then simply add the new thought.

When Thursday rolled around, the task that says "Friday Memo" would be sitting there to serve as a reminder to add each of those ideas to the Friday Memo.

Those are the "nuts and bolts" of how to grab hold of the messages you want to communicate and then present them as a whole. If you are looking for ways to spend less time composing e-mails to faculty, I guarantee that if you have 12 things you need to tell them, it will take less time to compose a blog post covering all 12 than it will to compose 12 e-mails spread over the course of a week. When we look at the time spent on the couple of lines of pleasantries that typically begin each e-mail and the rhetorical thanking everyone for their cooperation at the end of the e-mail, we can quickly see that there is a great deal of wasted motion and empty words.

In addition to the principal blog mentioned earlier in this post, the blog I used with my faculty is located here. While the blog is no longer being maintained, it serves as a model for what a blog can be. I have learned a great deal over the three years since I left the principalship and given the chance to do it all again have many ideas that would have made that blog even more effective than it was.

Grouping communication. It's the principal's gift to a faculty to turn fragmentation into focus.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Dozen Scattered E-Mails or One Neat Blog Post? - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more
Fragmentation is a real and growing problem in today's society. We know that to produce anything of quality, we must focus and maintain that focus for a period of time. Today's society, however, is moving in the opposite direction at warp speed. Phones on our desks, phones in our pockets and purses, and e-mails break our focus and do so regardless of where we are. We ignore the important matter at hand and turn our attention to the interruption because there is a slight chance that it might be important, or at least that it might be interesting.

I conducted a hands-on blogging workshop at the NAESP earlier this month. During the session, one of the participants identified a great use for blogging in his school that goes straight to the heart of solving a problem at his school.

This principal had been using e-mail as his way of communicating with faculty and staff at his school. E-mail provides a quick way to get the message from our brains to the Inbox of the recipient whenever a thought crosses our minds. To that extent, e-mail works great. To fully understand the problem, we must look at it from the viewpoint of the recipient, especially if we are responsible for communicating to the same group of people on a regular basis.

To the recipient, our communication comes in fragments spread across time. Whether or not what we send in our e-mails is actually acted upon the way we intended is largely dependent upon the maturity of the organizational system of the recipient.

You may need to read that sentence another time or two to let it sink in.

The recipient may or may not make a thoughtful decision about what the message of the e-mail means to him/her, what needs to be done about it, and enter the "what needs to be done" part in the signature tool right then and there. If the personal organizational system lacks maturity, those e-mail messages will simply sit in a jumbled mess, and massive amounts of details will slip through the cracks.

There is a better way. It is a solution that will help the disorganized person. It is also a solution that will comes as a favor to the organized person.

What if a teacher received a once-per-week concise communication that contained everything they needed to know? What if all we asked our teachers to do was check a blog once a week and to set aside a few minutes one time a week to look at what had been carefully constructed and record in the signature tool what needed to be done about each item? Would that represent a time-saver for teachers? You bet.

The principal in the blogging workshop realized that he could replace his series of e-mails with one post to his faculty. All of his previous communication would also be right there in neat posts one after the other in reverse chronological order, not scattered all over someone's e-mail Inbox.

As a first-year principal, the best thing I did was instutute the "Friday Memo," that one-page well-thought-out document that gave teachers everything they needed to know for the next week. Announcements, instructional tips, calendar events, birthdays, inspiration, was all there.

When e-mail became available in our school system, we were the first ones to use it and we used it well. E-mail, however, did not replace the Friday Memo. We used e-mail for things that e-mail was good at doing, and we used the Friday Memo for "batching" communication, giving teachers more time to teach.

The Friday Memo was eventually replaced, and it was replaced with a blog. The idea was post a week containing everything the faculty needed to know. But now, we could include links to other sites teachers needed to visit. Now, we could post pictures. Now, all of the communication from previous weeks was automatically stored for future reference.

If you would like to see an example of a principal who understands the value of the blog as a communicational tool with faculty, take a look at what first-year middle school principal Kerry Palmer is doing at Trinity Presbyterian School (Montgomery, AL). He "gets it," and our profession is desperate for leaders who understand how to help teachers cope with the time crunch.

Using one blog post to replace a dozen blanket e-mail messages takes some organization on the part of the principal. That is the subject for the next post.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Few Quotes to Brighten Your Day

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Your Own Blog Review - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more
Thanks to everyone that came to today's session on "Your Own Blog in 10 Minutes or Less." Hands-on workshops present their own unique challenges in that everyone comes with slightly different backgrounds and levels of expertise. Our group did a great job!

It was so good to see a every single computer occupied. It lets me know that this is a subject that is relevant to many people.

As I circulated, looked over your shoulder, gave individual help, and hung around afterwords to answer you were having about your creations, I was impressed with how much you absorbed and how creative you were.

We have all hear that the "one-shot" workshop does not work. If the blog you created today lives and grows and becomes something to which you add at least weekly, then this one-shot workshop will have worked.

Furthermore, through the power of Web 2.0, this workshop does not have to end here. If there is something that you wish you had asked or something that just didn't "click," you have not missed your chance. With one click, you can add a comment or ask a question.

You now have at you fingertips a tool to communicate with your family, your school, your community, or the whole world. It's all up to you!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

My Favorite Principal Blog

During my final year as a principal (before moving to the central office), I started a blog to communicate with parents and a blog to communicate with staff. Creating and maintaining the blogs was a joy and provided one of those creative outlets that we all need in order to stay fresh. The two of them, along with two blogs I created at the district level, have served as an inspiration for other principals in our school system to create their own. Aside from our small corner of the world, many principals around the country have found blogging to be a key element in building a culture where communication is frequent and positive.

In this post, I want to share my favorite principal blog. A little background is in order first. When Pattie Thomas became principal at Raymond L. Young Elementary School, she felt there were far more tardies, checkouts, and absences than necessary. Rather than dwell on the negative, she saw the situation as an opportunity to accentuate the positive. That was the start of the "Top Dog Club."

A "Top Dog" is someone who has no absences, no tardies, and no checkouts for an entire six-week grading period. Unlike the yearly "perfect attendance" award, getting sick one day does not blow your chances. You get a new chance to be a top dog every six weeks!

Mrs. Thomas used the blog as a way to let parents know about this new award within her first month as principal. Here is that post.

Has the idea worked? A picture is worth a thousand words. Can you believe a school with 315 students would have this many boys and girls go for an entire grading period without being absent, checking in late, or checking out early?

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then pictures that dance to music ought to be worth even more. Here is one reason why this is my favorite principal blog:

If you are a principal looking for a way to connect with stakeholders in a positive way , take a little time to scroll through the year's worth of posts on this blog:

Friday, April 03, 2009

Welcome Participants in "Your Own Blog in 10 Minutes or Less"

This post is written for those attending my hands-on workshop, "Your Own Blog in 10 Minutes or Less" at the NAESP Convention in New Orleans.

These are the sample blog that we will view:
The site we will use to create customized title banners and other images is

For instructions on how to to remove the Blogger navigation bar, click here.

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.