Friday, December 31, 2010

"Auld Lang Syne"

Straight No Chaser

or a more traditional version...

What the New Year brings to you will depend a great deal on what you bring to the New Year.
-Vern McLellan

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Jott offers another alternative to Dail2Do, discussed in the last post. I had used Jott back in the days when it was free. When they began to charge, I switched to reQall. Here is a video which highlights the features of Jott.

Monday, December 27, 2010


I am a huge fan of reQall and have been using it for almost two years to trap thoughts on the fly. Here is the original post I wrote on it. I recently learned about this alternative, Dial2Do.

There are two plans. The free plan allows you to record reminders to yourself and then receive them in e-mails. the "Pro" plan, at $3.99 per month, adds the features you see in this video.

After visiting the website, I do not see anything that would cause me to change from reQall. However, it does offer me an option in case reQall should one day go away. But I hope that day never comes.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Meaning of Christmas

The Linus monologue is has been one of the unforgettable moments of the Christmas season since my earliest elementary school days.

Friday, December 24, 2010

King's College Cambridge: Once in Royal David's City

A celebration of Christmas from the Chapel of King's College, Cambridge. The simple story of the Nativity is told in the familiar words of the King James Bible, and in poetry by Henry Vaughan, John Milton and T.S. Eliot.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

O Magnum Mysterium

Here is a rendition of one of the season's more beautiful works performed by a truly spectacular group. Enjoy the King's College Choir.

Latin text

O magnum mysterium,
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
jacentem in praesepio!
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera
meruerunt portare
Dominum Christum.

English translation

O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord,
lying in a manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear
Christ the Lord.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Nativity Carol : Kings College Choir, Cambridge

Written in 1963, this was one of its composers
earliest pieces. It was published in 1967
with organ accompaniment, and later
scored for strings by the composer.

Nativity Carol

Born in a stable so bare,
Born so long ago;
Born neath light of star
He who loved us so.

Far away, silent He lay,
Born today, your homage pay,
Christ is born for aye,
Born on Christmas Day.

Cradled by mother so fair,
Tender her lullaby;
Over her son so dear
Angel hosts fill the sky.

Far away, silent He lay,
Born today, your homage pay,
Christ is born for aye,
Born on Christmas Day.

Wise men from distant far land,
Shepherds from starry hills
Worship this babe so rare,
Hearts with His warmth He fills.

Far away, silent He lay,
Born today, your homage pay,
Christ is born for aye,
Born on Christmas Day.

Love in that stable was born
Into our hearts to flow;
Innocent dreaming babe,
Make me Thy love to know.

Far away, silent he lay,
Born today, your homage pay,
Christ is born for aye,
Born on Christmas Day.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Merry Christmas Darling

I have always been a Karen Carpenter fan. As a band director, I closed my first Christmas concert with "Merry Christmas Darling." Little did any of us know that Karen Carpenter would pass away shortly thereafter. Throughout my career as a band director, closing the Christmas concert with this beautiful selection became a tradition.

After posting this video and making mention of it on my Facebook page, I received this comment on that Facebook entry:

I love that song. Dawn and I were background singers on that recording, vocals on September 17, 1978 and video for the first Carpenter's Christmas Special on Sept. 24 (four days before Erin was born).

The comment was left by Dr. Brad Logan, a good friend from many years ago when he was choir director at the University of Montevallo. Brad has been the director of the Bemidji State University Choir since 1998. It's amazing how relationships intertwine. It is also amazing how much time you can spend face-to-face and then learn something new once you are separated by hundreds of miles.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Daily Motivator

Automobiles get out of alignment. When this happens, left to their own devices, they drift to one side. Without intervention, the car is soon in the ditch. We would never sit by and simply let a car drift off the road like that. We make little corrections along the way, little corrections which bring the car back to the center of the lane.

People get “out of alignment” as well. The negative forces in our lives cause us to drift to the negative side. Pretty soon, the “ox is in the ditch.” We all need those stabilizing forces in our lives to move us back to the center and remind us of the direction in which we are headed.

Several years ago, a great friend got me hooked on The Daily Motivator. Both then and now, 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 is in 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!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Google Sync and Outlook 2010

For Outlook users, Google Calendar Sync provides a superb way to view your calendar from any computer with internet access as well as a way to allow selected others to be able to view and even edit your calendar. I had written about the topic in this post.

The only problem is that those who have upgraded to Outlook 2010 found that Google Calendar Sync did not work with that version. That problem is no more. If you have Outlook 2010, read this post from Official GMail Blog which explains the solution.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Straight No Chaser 12 Days of Christmas

Straight No Chaser performs 'The 12 Days of Christmas' at their reunion show at Indiana University!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Crayons on the Dry Erase Board?

I had never thought of this idea, but would be interested to hear how well it works. Lifehacker recently posted Switch to Crayons for Always-ready Dry Erase Board Writing.

Has anybody tried this? How easily does the crayon come off?

Photo by laffy4k.

Monday, December 13, 2010

O Come, All Ye Faithful

O Come, All Ye Faithful, sung by the King's College Choir.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Power of One

I saw this on Mr. P's Blog, authored by Tucson principal Steve Poling.

The video reminds me of the favorite quote of a very good friend:

Alone, we can do so little. Together, we can do so much.
-Helen Keller

Can you think of a time when someone has sparked this kind of team work in your organization? What were the results?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Wexford Carol

"The Wexford Carol" played by James Galway, flute; Laurence Beaufils, harp

Friday, December 10, 2010

HARO...Help A Reporter Out

Those who write, and from time to time, need someone with specific expertise to provide input on their area. Some of us have expertise in certain areas, and our input would be valuable to authors whose work dips into our corner of the world.

Whichever your camp, HARO may be for you. Simply go to and complete the free registration.

Every weekday, I receive three mails from HARO (one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one in the evening). Each e-mail gives a brief sentence summarizing what a particular author is looking for. Clicking on the link reveals more information. The list of links are grouped by general topic.

When I was writing Organization Made Easy!, I used HARO to gather input on several topics within the book. I received more information than I could use, and what I was able to use indeed added to the quality of the book. So, whether you are a writer or someone with particular knowledge and skills in your own corner of the world, HARO may be for you. Give it a try.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Fantasia on Greensleeves

Enjoy Fantasia on Greensleeves by Ralph Vaughn Williams

For the younger readers, here is an activity which will give you more information on the piece and the composer.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Economy and Our Children

If you ask Americans their #1 concern about our country at this time, the answer is likely to be "the economy." For our children, our concerns become their concerns. Our fears become their fears. That which stresses us ultimately stresses them.

The National Academy of Pediatrics has produced a sheet entitled "Talking to Children About the Economy: Tips for Parents and Other Caregivers." Click here to download that handout. The sheet provides some very practical suggestions that may help to lessen unneeded worry and stress on our young people.

Monday, December 06, 2010

What Should I Read Next?

You have just finished a book, really enjoyed it, and are looking for another good book. Need some help? You can ask the Book Seer!

This amazingly-simply site allows you to input the title and author of a book you enjoyed. It will return a list of recommended books for your next reading.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

The Christmas Can-Can

"The Christmas Can-Can" is from Straight No Chaser's album, "Christmas Cheers!"

Friday, December 03, 2010

Sleigh Ride

Enjoy this rendition of the Sleigh Ride performed by the Boston Pops.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

How Delicious Helps Us Learn from One Another

I first explained the concept of Delicious in this post called is Delicious. Later, we examined the concept of "tagging" in this post.

Today, we look at how can be used to make the teaching profession easier for all of us. To illustrate the concept, imagine you are a teacher who has a SMART Board. Little by little, you come across excellent Internet resources related to the SMART Board. How can you save these for later reference?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Leading in a Web 2.0 World

This post is primarily for the benefit of those who, along with me, took an online course entitled "Leading in a Web 2.0 World" this past summer. The "final project" the class involves implementation of what was learned in the course and a presentation of that learning. During my presentation, a number of organizations, and then at the end of the presentation state that one can view them by coming to this post.

Audio Education Online
Eye on Education
Young Teachers
Zora Ellis Jr. High
Heights' Highlights
Staff Development for Educators
National Middle School Association
Your Own Blog in 10 Minutes or Less

Here is the presentation showcasing what I have done since taking the online course.

Monday, November 29, 2010

New York Philharmonic Principal Brass Quintet play the UWS Apple Store

The New York Philharmonic Principal Brass Quintet play a holiday concert at the new Upper West Side Apple Store to celebrate the launch of Alan Gilbert: The Inaugural Season iTunes Pass. The pass represents a season's worth of music for download at one low price. For more information visit

The Quintet features Principal Trumpet Philip Smith, Associate Principal Trumpet Matthew Muckey, Principal Horn Philip Myers, Principal Trombone Joseph Alessi, and Principal Tuba Alan Baer.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hallelujah Chorus: A Random Act of Culture

On Saturday, October 30, 2010, the Opera Company of Philadelphia brought together over 650 choristers from 28 participating organizations to perform one of the Knight Foundation's "Random Acts of Culture" at Macy's in Center City Philadelphia. Accompanied by the Wanamaker Organ - the world's largest pipe organ - the OCP Chorus and throngs of singers from the community infiltrated the store as shoppers, and burst into a pop-up rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's "Messiah" at 12 noon, to the delight of surprised shoppers.

This event is one of 1,000 "Random Acts of Culture" to be funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation over the next three years. The initiative transports the classical arts out of the concert halls and opera houses and into our communities to enrich our everyday lives. To learn more about this program and view more events, visit The Opera Company thanks Macy's and the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ ( for their partnership, as well as Organ Music Director Peter Conte and Fred Haas, accompanists; OCP Chorus Master Elizabeth Braden, conductor; and Sound Engineer James R. Stemke. For a complete list of participating choirs and more information, visit This event was planned to coincide with the first day of National Opera Week.

Friday, November 26, 2010

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

During the Christmas season, you will find a mixture of stuff about being productive along with some of my favorite Christmas music. To start things off, folks my age remember when Andy Williams had his own variety show. Nobody sings this one like he does.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Linus' Thanksgiving Prayer

Charles Schultz gave us some wonderful holidays specials to be enjoyed one generation after the another. Here is one of the classic scenes, Linus' Thanksgiving Prayer:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Attending National Staff Development Council Annual Conference?

If you are attending the National Staff Development Council Annual Conference in Atlanta, please join me for "Leadership Solutions Through Organization and Time Management" on December 8.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

New Services Available for Google Apps Customers

The new Google Apps account infrastructure gives you the convenience of accessing many more Google products while letting Google Apps administrators control which products are available to their users.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Nomination for Edublog Award--Best School Administrator Blog

Beginning this year, the Edublog Awards includes a category for the "Best School Administrator Blog." I think it is a great addition. Speaking from personal experience as an administrator, few things were as worth the time as blogging in terms of communication and being able to influence not only the direction of your own school, but to share with readers whom you may never meet. My nominee is a shining example of how a principal in a small town can use a blog to make a huge difference both to those in the community and to a world-wide readership.

Just shy of three years ago, Pattie Thomas became a brand new principal in the middle of the year at Raymond L. Young Elementary School. This K-6 school serves just over 300 students from Talladega, Alabama. I wrote this post to describe the impressions of what I saw in those first days.

Over the last three years, the school has improved in a every way imaginable. Not only are test scores and attendance up, but so is the feeling among the staff and the community that "a good place to learn and grow" is not just a motto, but reflects the child-centered approach at the heart of every decision made.

Through it all, Mrs. Thomas has used a blog to share the triumphs, the needs, and feeling of community at Raymond L. Young. Upon receiving her appointment as principal, she realized tardies, checkouts, and absences due to frivolous reasons were far too frequent. It was on the blog that she introduced the "Top Dog Club." As the prestige of being a "Top Dog" caught steam and attendance improved, the blog was right there to celebrate that success.

Following a newspaper article where Mrs. Thomas was quoted on the subject of bullying, it was the blog that allowed a concerned parent to write a lengthy, yet thoughtful comment. It was on this blog that Mrs. Thomas was able to respond with an equally thoughtful response that communicated not just to one parent, but to anyone anywhere in the world who chose to tune in, the philosophy and warmth that permeates the school. You can read that exchange here.

Elementary schools are places where memories are made, and this blog captures every one of them, whether it be a celebration of the holiday season, the sights and sounds of "Forever Young" Field Day, or the words of a student serving as a guest blogger.

Maintaining an 80-year-old building is no easy task, and with funding being tight, the school relies on outside supporters. Whether the project is the restoration of an auditorium, the replacement of a "mud pit" with fresh sod, or providing laptop computers for students, this blog has used the power of technology to open the doors of this elementary school to friends both near and far.

Take a moment to meet Pattie Thomas through her Principal's Message. Most of all, enjoy the blog, and see why they call Raymond L. Young Elementary School "a good place to learn and grow."

I am proud to nominate in the category for "Best School Administrator Blog":

Raymond L. Young (Principal Pattie Thomas)
Since this post was created, EduBlog received nominations from across the country and beyond. Nominations closed December 3, and the nominations were narrowed to 20 in this category. The Raymond L. Young blog was not selected for the "short list" from which people will vote. To view the nominees in all categories and to vote, go to The fact that the Young blog was not among the top 20 says something about the large number of principals who are blogging. Being a principal is a position where there is never enough time to do all one would like. Blogging is something that is worth the time. With the R.L. Young blog, it's worth the time to compose for it and well worth the time to read its contents.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Documentation: It's Easier Than You Think

Being selected to give the "Final Word" for the October edition of The Audio Journal was an honor. In this post, I talked about that experience.

Every teacher is counseled early in his/her career to "document," yet few people are every given a good system. And by "good,"  I mean it is easy enough you will actually do it--not for a day, not for a week, but for an entire career.

Here is the podcast that appeared as the "Final Word." Sometimes it's the little things that make a big difference. This is one of those times.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Survey Results are In! Learn About Google Docs Forms

In the post from this past Sunday, I asked for help with a survey. Take a moment to click that link and review the questions.

Here are the results. On a scale of 1 to 10, the average response for each question was as follows:

For a breakdown of each question, you can view this summary, automatically compiled by Google. You can also view the entire data set.

I composed the original post as part of an assignment for an online course I am taking. In addition, however, this is also an opportunity to show how all of this was done. Google Docs, which is where I created the spreadsheet to house the data set, has a function called "forms." You saw the form if you clicked the link at the beginning of this post.

How does the information get from the online form to the spreadsheet? It happens automatically. That's the huge timesaver! Never again do we have to distribute paper forms and spend time transferring information from those forms onto a spreadsheet or table. Google can do it for us! This video show how:

Want more detailed information? The following video is about nine minutes in length and provides a detailed demonstration:

This forms function is surprisingly easy and surprisingly powerful.

How could you use this tool in your personal or professional life?

Monday, November 15, 2010 Bundles

For those who use to shorten long URLs, the introduction of Bundles is pretty significant. Here is the idea: You want to send someone else not one, but several links. Rather than send each one individually, Bundles provides one shortened URL which takes the reader to your entire list.

Let's take an example. On this blog, I have talked about the iGoogle page several times. I took the URL for each of those posts and "bundled" them. To view the bundle, go to

How do you create a bundle? First, choose each URLs you want to include and paste them in the "shorten your links" window at the site. Once you have entered each of your URLs, look for the button labeled "Bundle" and click it. Follow the directions for naming the bundle, providing a description, and make note of the URL.

The applications for education are endless:
  • A teacher could identify all of the links he/she would be using for an entire unit, grading period, or course and "bundle" them under one URL. The bundled URL would then be made available to students.
  • A principal could identify a variety of URLs related to a professional development unit and "bundle" them under one URL.
  • A school system could identify a variety of links to news stories related to the programs, athletic events, fine arts events, etc., and bundle them under one URL.
For those who are using QR Codes, you can even turn the "bundled" link into a QR Code.

I am just learning about this function, so I am sure there are nuances still to learn.

What uses do you see for Bundles?

American Education Week and the "Blueberry Story"

Jamie Vollmer used to be one of public education's biggest critics. Propelled to fame when People magazine proclaimed his blueberry ice cream to be "the best in America," Vollmer was fond of telling everyone that "schools should be run like a business." The Blueberry Story is all about the day one of public education's biggest critics became one of its biggest supporters. I invite you to read that story by clicking here.

Vollmer's message today is that of the incredible responsibility placed upon our schools, and that educators cannot do it alone. During American Education Week, there is perhaps no more appropriate message than this need for each of us doing what we can to help American public education.

"There is a place in America to take a stand: it is public education. It is the underpinning of our cultural and political system. It is the great common ground. Public education after all is the engine that moves us as a society toward a common destiny... It is in public education that the American dream begins to take shape."
—Tom Brokaw

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Little Help Needed With a Survey

I need your help with a short survey. I will report the results through this blog later this week and also explain a little about the technique I am using. It's unbelievably easy and unbelievably powerful.

The survey is now closed. It was used to show how easy it is to collect information using Google Docs. Several posts later, this explanation becomes clearer.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Welcome, Cabrio!

Almost one month ago, I posted a tribute to Skipper, our beloved Sheltie who died four months shy of his 14th birthday. A day later, one of my dearest friends from my college days sent me this:

One last word of farewell, Dear Master and Mistress. Whenever you visit my grave, say to yourselves with regret but also with happiness in your hearts at the remembrance of my long happy life with you: "Here lies one who loved us and whom we loved." No matter how deep my sleep I shall hear you, and not all the power of death can keep my spirit from wagging a grateful tail.
                                                                                        -Eugene O'Neill

I found that this message was part of a longer work. When the family dog, Blemie, was near death from old age, Eugene O'Neill wrote The Last Will and Testament of An Extremely Distinguished Dog to console his wife, Carlotta. The words are written as if they are coming from Blemie. You can read that beautiful piece of prose here.

The segment my friend sent to me serves to remind us of the memories of unconditional love our pets give to us. It was, however, another paragraph in this essay which spoke to how we should move into the future...

One last request I earnestly make. I have heard my Mistress say, "When Blemie dies we must never have another dog. I love him so much I could never love another one." Now I would ask her, for love of me, to have another. It would be a poor tribute to my memory never to have a dog again. What I would like to feel is that, having once had me in the family, now she cannot live without a dog!

It is with that spirit that we felt  the best way to honor Skipper was to provide a home for another homeless Sheltie, as we had done for Skipper years ago.

Davonia contacted rescue organizations and looked at pictures of almost 1,500 Shelties from around the country in need of homes. Out of all of them, one particular little dog caught her eye, one called "Cabrio." We don't know a great deal about Cabrio's background. He was picked up as a stray and rescued from animal control by the Bright Hope Animal Rescue located in northeast Tennessee. It was there he acquired his name and where he would spend the next couple of months awaiting someone to choose him and give him a "forever home." He has that home now.

Cabrio is estimated to be about 3 years old. He was shaved when taken in by the rescue due to the condition of his coat, so we are looking forward to watching his full coat come in over the next year.

I heard it said once that the worst things are never the last things. As much as we know in our heads that pets' lives are temporary, it is difficult for our hearts to accept it. Having another furry friend to teach and love, as we had done with Skipper, and with Lassie before him, and as we are doing with our other Sheltie Bonnie Lass, is one more reason to look to the future as a friend.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

On This Veteran's Day

Veteran's Day is called by various names and celebrated in various ways by friends around the world. In England, they call it Remembrance Day. The playing of Nimrod, one of the movements of Edward Elgar's Enigma Variations, is a tradition on this day.

Veterans Day is a opportunity not only to carve out some time from our lives who remember those who gave their own, but to celebrate all that we enjoy. Today is also my Davonia's birthday, my wife of 21 years. Nimrod happens to be one of her favorites.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Freedom is not Free

As we aproach Veteran's Day, a remembrance to those who paid the ultimate price to preserve the freedom we all enjoy.

I watched the flag pass by one day.
It fluttered in the breeze
A young soldier saluted it, and then
He stood at ease.
I looked at him in uniform
So young, so tall, so proud
With hair cut square and eyes alert
He'd stand out in any crowd.
I thought how many men like him
Had fallen through the years.
How many died on foreign soil?
How many mothers' tears?
How many Pilots' planes shot down?
How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?
No Freedom is not free
I heard the sound of taps one night,
When everything was still.
I listened to the bugler play
And felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just how many times
That taps had meant "Amen"
When a flag had draped a coffin of a brother or a friend.
I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.
I thought about a graveyard At the bottom of the sea
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No Freedom isn't free!

Kelly Strong, 1981

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Most Popular Posts

Blogger has added a "stats" tab. It has evidently been there since May, but I just noticed it a couple of weeks ago. One of the neat features is the ability to see which posts have the most hits. Here are the top three posts:
  1. Test Item Analysis Calculator (from June 10, 2010) What if students could sit down computers, take a test, and have the computer return to the teacher a spreadsheet containing the student names and their answers. Furthermore, each answer is graded correct or incorrect, an average calculated for the student, and item analysis performed on each question. That what this post is all about. If this is something that your school would like to pilot, email me and let's talk. This post has received 498 hits.
  2. Understanding Facebook Privacy Settings (from July 6, 2010) While we love to communicate through Facebook, we are understandably concerned about our personal information falling into the hands of strangers who have questionable motives. This post received 171 hits.
  3. 20+ Ways to use the Flip Video in the Classroom (from August 21, 2010) This post explores exactly what the title says. It has received 139 hits.

Friday, November 05, 2010

The Campaign is Over...for Now

Election day is behind us, at least for now. My mailbox now gets a rest from the daily stack of political advertisements. Too many of them do nothing but attack the opponent. Most fail "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" test. Virtual all reflect more on the resourcefulness of the ad agency than the actual ability of the candidate to do the job.

The billboards and the buttons are pretty, but do they really make the case for who can do the better job? Why do we spend so much money on something that has so little to do with ability?

As technology gets more sophisticated, the tactics grow in frequency and intrusiveness, which brings up the worst offenders...the "robocalls." I long ago lost count of how many times creative thought has been interrupted by a recording of little substance and sometimes even less truth. Enough is enough. The game is reminiscent of the "Spy versus Spy" spots in MAD Magazine during my childhood days.The strategies got more elaborate, yet in the end, somebody and somebody loses.

There are good uses of technology, and below is what I think is one of the best. The candidates made use of a technology that was still fairly new to political campaigns and a technology that had become common to most homes...the television. If you have never heard this debate in its entirety, the 50th anniversary of it is a good time to step back in time.

Kennedy v. Nixon was like Lincoln v. Douglas with one notable exception. The former could be viewed by an entire nation.

Why can't we use technology to get back to that? Let's put the candidates face-to-face on stage. If one starts to stray from the truth, the opponent stands right there to call the offender's hand. Let's use the power of technology to record those events and make them available as video posted on the websites of our daily newspapers. Some of that is being done, and it's a step in the right direction.

And let's give some of the other a rest. For sure, let's stop the robocalls, so that we can get some work done. Let's rethink the huge amounts of money spent on slick ads and instead focus of that which really speaks to the job someone will be able to do.

No single candidate is to blame for a system which has gotten out of hand. Every snowflake in the avalanche pleads "not guilty." When one candidate spends a mint on slicks ads, the other is pretty much forced to do likewise. When one starts the robo calls, the other must follow. When one plays loose with the truth, its tough for the other to still take the high road.

Maybe I am the only one who feels this way. But make no mistake...look at the worst of this campaign season, and left unchecked, it will be far worse the next time around two years from now. Let's take the idea of  Lincoln and Douglas, bring it to everyone like Kennedy and Nixon, and use the power of the Internet to make the face-to-face debate the bread and butter of the campaign.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

What Football Games are on TV?

Like so many people this time of year, I am always interested in my options for watching college football. Television schedules are not set far in advance. Even game times are listed as "TBA" as close as two weeks before a game.

I found a site that gives me the information I need in a very concise form:

As you see, the site lists games only for the future, so that as the season progresses, I am not scrolling through past events. The game time (listed in Central Time) and television network are listed. Games for the future along with time and television commitments as known are listed.

In Outlook, I created a task that reads "Plan football games to watch" followed by the URL. In Outlook, this URL is a clickable link. I set the task to repeat every Friday. So, every Friday, that task appears, I click the link, and I now see a complete list of every televised game.

By the way, credit must go to LSU for maintaining this site. Ironically, that's the next game for my home team, the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Monday, November 01, 2010

60 Second Recap

Plot summaries are certainly no substitute for reading the book, but if time is short and you simply need as brief overview, this site is for you. 60 Second Recap provides a short video explaining the major themes of the book. You will find the old standards that we all read in high school. New selections are being added to the site all the time.

If you have an iPhone, there is even an app for that.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers are great instructional tools. There is an old adage that "a picture is worth a thousand words." Graphic organizers provide that picture. Write Design Online provides examples of many varieties of graphic organizers. the site is well worth viewing.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Your Own Blog in 10 Minutes or Less

"Your Own Blog in 10 Minutes or Less" is both a blog and a workshop. The workshop in one that I have presented in various forms for several years and is designed to take people who have no background at all with blogging and allow them to leave with the knowledge and the motivation to establish a web presence through a blog.

Watching what others have done with their blogs is interesting. It seems those who produce incredible results are those with moderate amount of technical knowledge but a huge amount of creativity.

Your Own Blog in Minutes or Less is also a blog, and it is a blog about blogging. Blogging includes some basic concepts that can be used repeatedly. The vision for this blog was for to be a set of post, each of which would demonstrate a concept. I would take a sets of actual posts I had used in other blogs at other times and bring them together in this one place. A little explanation wold then follow of what each post was demonstrating.

I recently updated that blog with a new look and new "gadgets" down the side. While I originally thought I would compose a series of posts and the project would be complete. My thinking now is that there will be more posts to come on that blog. As new material is added there, it will also be highlighted here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Need Help?

Are you tired of recorded messages? When you need help, would you like to speak to a real person? If so, I have a website for you:

Enter the name of the company and you will see a phone number along with instructions for how to get to a real person.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Extended Daylight Saving Time...One More Reminder

Thank goodness for all of our electronic devices which are smart enough to know when Daylight Saving Time kicks in. They simply adjust themselves. That's all great and wonderful...until Congress steps in and changes when that "kick in" is going to be.

That's exactly what happened in 2007. Electronic devices manufactured after that pose no problem. They change according to "Extended Daylight Saving Time," this year which occurs on November 7.

But what if you still have some electronics that are pre-2007? Don't be surprised if they "fall back" on a week too soon. If that happens to you, take a moment to read some suggestions as to what to do.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Public Wi-Fi...Are you Safe?

Free public Wi-Fi seems to everywhere. That's a good thing. We can work from the local coffee shop or the airport. The benefits, however, come with risks. How safe are you? How much sensitive information resides your laptop that others could access?

Lifehacker published this post which gives some very practical tips on keeping your data safe while you surf on public Wi-Fi.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Where is That Command?

For anyone who is familiar with Word 2003 and then moves to Word 2007, finding where items are located can be tricky. There is a great reference site that will allow you to choose any Word 2003 command and see where that same command is found in Word 2007.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Skipper (February 6, 1997-October 17, 2010)

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

Author unknown... 

Skipper came to us unexpectedly. His owner had died. The family did not want him. Neighbors called the Humane Society about a dog tied up in a backyard in the dead of winter. Friends at the Alabama Sheltie Rescue thought of us and asked if we could foster him until a home could be found.

Skipper was a funny sight when we got him. His fur was so badly matted that once he had been rescued from the cold, there was no option but to shave him. But after only a couple of days, we decided he had found his forever home...with us.

Bonnie now had a playmate, and Skipper had a new lease on life. That was almost seven years ago.

But, as all of us know, our pets lead very temporary lives, and there comes the day when we have to say goodbye.For those of us who let our furry friends get close to our hearts, making that decision is not easy. Today, that was the decision that Davonia and I had to make. Just shy of 14 years old, Skipper made that journey to Rainbow Bridge.

Two years ago, a good friend sent me a letter written from the point of view of an aged pet. Now is a good time to review it. Goodbye, old friend. I just hope that we were able to enrich your life as much as you enriched ours.

Google Apps for Education

More and more, we are seeing school systems and universities adopt Google Apps for their e-mail and productivity package needs. Here is a video, a little under 11 minute long, which explains the concepts involved simply.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Attending National Middle School Association Convention?

If you are attending the National Middle School Association Convention in Baltimore, please join me for these two presentations, both happening on November 5:
Your Own Blog in 10 Minutes or Less (2:00)
Data That Matters: Using a Balanced Scorecard to Summarize and Organize Data (3:45)

Here is a brochure for the event.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Best School Websites

In today's world, often the first and possibly only impression may people have of a school is through how it portrays itself on its website. For some, a website is something to get "done," and then move on. For others, the website lives and breathes, and is as ever-changing as the world in which we live.

If you want see some really good ones, you are at the right place. In April, SchoolE announced its winners of the best school district websites in America. You can read the article or visit the websites of the winners.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Most Popular Posts

Blogger has added a "stats" tab. It has evidently been there since May, but I just noticed it a couple of weeks ago. One of the neat features is the ability to see which posts have the most hits. Here are the top three posts:
  1. Test Item Analysis Calculator (from June 10, 2010) What if students could sit down computers, take a test, and have the computer return to the teacher a spreadsheet containing the student names and their answers. Furthermore, each answer is graded correct or incorrect, an average calculated for the student, and item analysis performed on each question. That what this post is all about. If this is something that your school would like to pilot, email me and let's talk. This post has received 508 hits.
  2. Understanding Facebook Privacy Settings (from July 6, 2010) While we love to communicate through Facebook, we are understandably concerned about our personal information falling into the hands of strangers who have questionable motives. This post received 173 hits.
  3. 20+ Ways to use the Flip Video in the Classroom (from August 21, 2010) This post explores exactly what the title says. It has received 140 hits.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Documentation and "The Final Word"

Those who have attended Get Organized! workshops have heard me talk not only about the importance of documentation, but the ease with which this skill can be implemented...provided you have a good system. Those who receive my monthly newsletter heard a little more about that topic last month.

This month, a short podcast on documentation is being featured as "The Final Word" on The Audio Journal. The Audio Journal is a monthly "executive briefing" on CD that is mailed to over 3,000 busy educators who choose this method as a way to stay on top of trend and ideas in their field. The companion website distributes the same material through streaming audio. My thanks to Dr. James Cisek, who extended the invitation to be featured as "The Final Word" in the current edition. People who have been featured in this segment recently include Harry Wong, Tom Peters, Warren Bennis, and Lou Holtz, so I feel pretty honored.

But, this blog is not about me; it's about getting the word out to other people about easy tools and techniques which improve our ability to work and play. Thanks to Dr. Cisek for bringing part of that message to the 3,000+ subscribers to this professional development series.

You can not only listen to the podcast but take a test-drive of the entire site for 7 days absolutely free. Click here, and after responding to the agreement statement, choose the "I want a no-obligation 7-day free trial" option. Happy listening!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Keyboard Shortcuts Using Google Instant

About 3 weeks ago, I composed this post on Google Instant. I am a huge fan of using keyboard shortcuts instead of the mouse. Google Instant has introduced a couple of news features which make the service easier to use.
As you type and Google produces a list of possible completions, you have the ability to use the down-arrow key to move to your choice. The results change with each highlighted choice. Once you get to the one you want, press .
Now, use the down-arrow key to select the choice from the search results. Press .
This video illustrates the concept:

Friday, October 01, 2010

Introducing Dropbox

Dropbox is a free site which allows you to store up to 1GB of information. If you sign up for a paid account, you receive even more storage. The advantages this service provides are two-fold:
  1. You can upload documents to Dropbox and then access them from any computer which has Internet access. You would simply log into your Dropbox account and open your files. 
  2. You can share a file inside Dropbox with someone else. When you need to collaborate with someone on a project, simply upload the documents to Dropbox. After sharing the files, you and your colleague can both access and change the documents.
Dropbox simply requires you to establish an account. I was up and going with this nifty tool in just a few minutes. If you have to access files remotely on a regular basis or collaborate with others on documents, this one could be a huge timesaver.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sending Large Files "We Transfer"

We have all run into the problem of needing to send a large file to someone but either our e-mail system or their e-mail system rejects the file because of its size. "We Transfer" is a free website that provides another way for your party to download get the file.

  1. Go to
  2. Click on the "+" sign next to "Add Files."
  3. Enter the recipients' e-mail address, your e-mail address, and compose a message.
  4. Click the "Transfer" button. 
That's it! There is no account to create. I did find the time required to upload the file is long, so be prepared. Oh course, you can still do other things on your computer while the file uploads.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Enhanced Tickler Files

Tickler files are great for papers that we need to see on a particular future date. Decide on the date, throw the paper in the tickler file, and forget about it. The paper comes back on exactly the right day. But what about papers which have no specific date associated with them?

I received this e-mail from a reader:

Dr. Buck,

I really enjoyed your session. I am ready to set up my Ticker Flies!!!

Should I may files like this:
Files January – December

What about odd and end kinds of things that do not really fit in the above? Did you mention a alphabetized file? Would that be in the box as well or in a file cabinet? Suggestions, please???

Here was my answer:

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Google Priority Inbox...Do You Really Need It?

Handling the volume of e-mail has been a challenge for the knowledge worker for quite a few years now. This short video explains an attempt to help the situation for those who have g-mail accounts.

As the video demonstrates, mail is sorted into high priority and everything else with the idea being that you would handle the high priority items first and then everything else...let's see...when you "have time."

Here is my question, "How many 'low priority' tasks do you already have sitting around?" Do you really need more items in your already overgrown backlog? As soon as mail is marked "low priority" and we give ourselves permission to ignore it until we have more time, it becomes part of that haze that never has our full attention, yet constantly reminds us that something is being left undone.

There is a better way, and it consists of doing exactly the same thing with your e-mail inbox that you do with the mailbox that sits outside your house--empty it daily. Every day, we take the mail from the mailbox and then make decisions about each piece. Junk mail goes into the trash can immediately. Never in a million years would we make a pile of junk mail to go through later when we had more time. The pile would be so large we would never want to tackle it.

Getting the e-mail inbox empty is a matter of making decisions, making them one right after another, and making them quickly. Here is the drill I go through with every e-mail:
  1. Is this something for which there is no remaining value? Is so, hit "Delete."
  2. Is this something someone else should be handling? If so, forward the e-mail and include somewhere in that e-mail  the tilde (~) sign. I have a rule written in Outlook that if an e-mail includes the tilde sign, a copy of that e-mail goes in my inbox. Point #4 discusses what to do with the copy.
  3. Does this information contain information about somewhere to be? If so, use the "drag and drop" feature on Outlook to create an appointment. Give the appointment a date and time. All of the details from the e-mail automatically appear in the note section of the appointment.
  4. Does the information relate to something to do? If what is needs to do is reply to the e-mail, and you can do so quickly, reply now. If the e-mail relates to something to do, and that something can be done quickly, go ahead and do it now. If the e-mail will take a little more attention, drag and drop the e-mail on the "Task" button, and Outlook creates a new task. Amend the subject line to clearly articulate the task. Then, ask the very important question, "When do I want to see this again?" Assign a start and due date based on the answer to that question.
  5. Is the information simply reference information? In other words, there is nothing that needs to be done right now or at any predictable time in the future, but it is information that if needed could be found quickly. Two options are available. One is to drag that information to the "Notes" icon. The other is save it on the computer's hard drive wherever similar information would be stored. For example, if I am sent an e-mail containing a lesson plan on the solar system, I would save it on the hard drive with other science lesson plans.

The neat thing is that once the decision has been made about what to do, the e-mail can be deleted. The inbox is empty! I don't know about you, but I would rather see an inbox that is empty rather than a growing stack of "low priority" e-mail.

Has you tried Google Priority Inbox? 
If so, how do your impressions stack up with mine?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What Did You Create Today?

Will Richardson offers this thought-provoking article. In a world that is all-too-focused on bubbling in the correct answers on multiple-choice tests, Will challenges us to rethink what ought to be happening during the school day (and thankfully is happening in many places).

Is some of this already happening in your child's school? Please share.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Repeating Task System Podcast

I have spoken and written often about the importance of developing a repeating task system to take control of the tasks which must be completed not just once, but every year, every quarter, every month, every week, etc. In working with people one-on-one, I am finding more and more that the concept of repeating tasks is one which requires a great deal of review for people to truly "get it," and that is the reason for this post.

Today, the Eye on Education blog features a podcast I created on the subject. The text of the podcast is also included. Happy listening!

To listen to that podcast, click here.

Anybody have their own repeating task system set up? Is it like one of these?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Look at Harry Truman

A fine line separates the topics of time management and leadership. Leadership requires a mastery of one's time. In the blog All Things Leadership, Kerry Palmer discusses the leadership style of President Harry S. Truman. I think you will find the series of four posts enjoyable reading.

Be an Early Riser
Dress for Success
Read Voraciously
When at Work, Work Hard

Friday, September 17, 2010

Constitution Day and the Repeating Task System

"Constitution Day" was established by Congress in 2004. The legislation establishing it also set forth the requirement that all educational institutions which receive federal funds are required to hold educational programs pertaining to the Constitution on September 17 each year. 

When this legislation was passed, communication flowed as it normally does through the chain of command. Memos went from Washington to each state department of education, who in turn sent memos to school systems, who in turn sent memos to principals.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

Converting PDF to Word

Need to convert a PDF file to Word? It doesn't get any easier than this. Simply go to this site. You are three easy steps away from seeing the converted document in your e-mail inbox!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Converting PDF Files to PowerPoint

The Free Technology for Teachers blog featured this site for converting pdf files to PowerPoint. You may read the description here.

Anyone want to give their feedback after testing it out?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Google Instant

Judging from what is rolling off my RSS feed, Google Instant seems to be the news story of the week. This short video compares searching with Google as normal versus Google Instant:

Those who go to the classic Google page for their searches would experience Google Instant and figure out what is happening with no explanation. People like me who have an iGoogle homepage and search from there do not experience this new development.

So, if you haven't been to the Google classic page in the last few days, take a test drive and see what you think.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Change and "Crystal Clear Task Lists"

I recently read Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, written by Chip and Dan Heath. They are also the authors of the bestseller Made to Stick.

In the book, the Heath brothers say we must do three things for change to occur:
  1. Direct the rider
  2. Motivate the elephant
  3. Shape the path

Directing the rider and motivating the elephant are metaphors for appealing to the intellect and appealing to emotions, respectively.

What strikes me is the wording used to describe what one must do in terms of directing the rider. The authors state on page 17, "What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity. So provide crystal-clear direction."  We read on page 72, "Clarity dissolves resistance."

In the September 2010 issue of Fast Company, the Heath brothers further explore this concept in their article "Tase the Haze." One of their examples sounds exactly like a line out of the Get Organized! workshop:

Imagine that you have two items on your to-do list. One is "pick up AAA batteries". The other is "deal with tax issues." Guess which one is still unchecked four weeks later?

Replace "AAA batteries" and "deal with taxes" with the examples "buy shoestrings" and 'improve the math curriculum" and you could be sitting right there listening to me!

In both Get Organized! and Organization Made Easy!, we talk about the elements which go into making an "organized task list," a list that stands a chance of having the items on it accomplished. The first rule of an organized task list? Make the next step crystal clear.

Eye on Education featured this idea on their blog in November of 2009. You can read that post here.

The fact that the same idea shows up again worded in virtually the same way is simply evidence of its truth. Before we can make progress, we have to define what progress looks like. We must know exactly what is being asked of us. When worded in a crystal-clear manner, tasks become easier to do. Mountains become easier to move. Wasted motion goes away. Stress goes down. Productivity goes up. Take a look at your own to-do list with the filter of clarity in mind. How could you re-write so that items which have been sitting there suddenly start to get done?


Have you ever had an item that sat in your to-do list for what seems like forever? What did you finally do to get it moving?