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 http://nyphil.org/itunes

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 www.randomactsofculture.org. The Opera Company thanks Macy's and the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ (www.wanamakerorgan.com) 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 www.operaphila.org/RAC. 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 EduBlogAwards.com. 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

Bit.ly Bundles

For those who use Bit.ly to shorten long URLs, the introduction of Bit.ly 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, Bit.ly 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 http://bit.ly/bundles/drfrankbuck/2

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 Bit.ly 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 Bit.ly 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.