Monday, February 28, 2011

Coming to NAESP?

If you are a K-8 administrator, make your plans to attend the NAESP National Conference. The weather in Tampa should be a contrast to the unusually cold temperatures we have experienced lately.

I will be presenting a session entitled "Data That Matters: Using a Balanced Scorecard to Summarize and Organize Data." The data is April 9 beginning at 4:15. Hope to see you there!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Steering Clear of Cyber Tricks

It's amazing how many people people still find themselves tricked by "something-for-nothing" e-mails and messages asking for personal information. This short video points out some of the perils and pitfalls.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Featured Free Resource--Paper Daily Planning Page

Do you organize with paper and are looking for a good page layout? Click here and download a daily planning page.

Throw it on a copier, cut the pages in half, hole punch, and they are ready to use. You will see a place for appointments, ample room for your task list, and a spot for your "Fab 5." The blank facing page is where you will be able to record notes from phone conversations, meetings, and other information which comes to you on the fly.

The page includes reminders to word tasks clearly, to group them, and provides a place where you can answer the question, "How Did You Make Today Count?"

Monday, February 21, 2011

Webinar Series Developed

The Illinois Principals Association is spearheading a project to make available a library of educational webinars, each from 15-30 minutes in length. Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Wisconsin are the states involved.

This video provides some information on the project:

Ed Leaders Network 2011 from Illinois Principals Association on Vimeo.

I produced a set of webinars for this project, which is scheduled to roll out on March 1. Presently, one webinar is being featured as a sample, which anyone can access, and that featured webinar just happens to be one of mine.

The description for this segment reads as follows:

Are you drowning in paper? Would you like for it all to disappear and resurface exactly when you need it? Learn how to use tickler files to keep your desk clean and all paperwork flowing easily. Let your system handle the paper. Your productivity goes up while your stress level goes down.

Click on the image below to hear the webinar.

Friday, February 18, 2011


Your teachers may like this for those times children are needing to read from the computer screen but the text is too small, there are too many words across one line, they want a serif font (or non-serif font), or the screen is simply too cluttered.

 Readability is a website designed to help.

This video explains the concept and gives directions for adding the Readability button to your toolbar:

Readability : An Arc90 Lab Experiment from Arc90 on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

On Getting from "In" to "Empty"

The post from January 23 spotlighted the seminars for the McGill University Distinguished Educators Seminar Series. I received this e-mail from one of the participants, a teacher from Montreal:

I met you January 21st. Here I sit, February 14th with a completely empty inbox in front of me. It took a while, but for the first time since I started e-mailing (maybe 14 years ago) I have been liberated. Not only is it stress-free to see an empty inbox, but it speeds up the performance time of my e-mail platform.

You were right Frank, and I would never have believed the benefits of emptying my inbox until I actually achieved it!

Thanks a million!

That sort of feedback means a great deal and illustrates how even one concept, used consistently, can make a big difference. I have returned after being out of town for two days. When I left, my inbox was clean. Now, there are 122 e-mails in my inbox with just the critical ones having been handled on the road from my BlackBerry.

One of the tasks for this morning is to get from 122 back to zero. We are all just a few days from being out of control. The good news is that in those times, we are also far from being right back on top...if getting control is the priority.

I always feel better when everything I have to do is visible on one list, worded clearly, with like items grouped together, and with the "fab 5" identified at the top of the list. An empty's an sign that we are not just handling that which is screaming the loudest. It's a sign we control the whole picture, that we are giving each responsibility in our lives a little attention at just the right time, and that we are making it look easy.

Monday, February 14, 2011

How Many Ounces in 5 Pounds?

I love Google's ability to convert measurements. I can enter into the search window "32 ounces in quarts" and Google returns "1 US Quart." I can enter "5 miles in kilometers" and get "8.04672 kilometers." It doesn't get any handier than that for a quick conversion of one number to another.

But what about if you have to do quite a few of those conversions? Converticious is a website which will convert one measurement to another. The advantage of this site is that you are not having to type the unit of measure. Instead, you see your choices and click the appropriate one.

That being said, the site does have its limitations. I can enter "10 dollars in Yen" into Google and get "835.4000 Japanese yen" as my answer. Converticious will not convert currency, or at least not yet.

Thanks to Jennifer Malone for making me aware of this site on her blog, Eaton Educational Insights.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Quick Translations for an Entire Word List

I have been a fan of Google's translation tools for some time. Recent developments in GoogleDocs includes spreadsheet formulas which will allow you to enter a word into one cell and view its translation in another cell.

Here is one example of this technique:

In Column A of this GoogleDocs spreadsheet, you may enter any foreign word or phrase. In Column C, you it's English translation is revealed. What about Column B? It's there, but I have adjusted the width so it is almost invisible. The formulas in Column B are actually quite important.

You can duplicate this spreadsheet for yourself. After creating a new GoogleDocs spreadsheet, you will need to create two formulas:

In cell B2, enter =IF(A2="","",DetectLanguage(A2))
In cell C2, enter =IF(A2="","",GoogleTranslate(A2,B2))

Next, you will need to take these two formulas and "fill down" as many rows as desired. Finally, adjust the width of Column B so that it is as narrow as possible.

Let's take a look at what is happening with those formulas.
The part of the formula which says "=IF(A2="",""..." is simply saying if the cell if Column A is blank, leave the corresponding cells in Column B and Column C blank as well.

The real meat is in the last part of the formula. The "DetectLanguage (A2)" returns an abbreviation for the language. I am not really interested in that part, so I made the column very narrow. Having that value, however, is important for the calculation which happens in Column C.

The portion of the second formula which reads "GoogleTranslate(A2,B2)" instructs the spreadsheet to look at the value in A2 and translate if from the language indicated in B2 into English.

The advantage of this spreadsheet over the translation tools which have long been a part of Google is that you may enter an entire list of words or phrases and see all of their translations at one time.

University of Montevallo Awards Dinner

I was very honored to be presented the University of Montevallo "Outstanding Alumni Award for Regional Inservice Center and AMSTI." The dinner and ceremony were held in a beautiful setting, and it provided an opportunity to see old friends, some of whom were being honored in others areas. I received my Educational Specialist degree from Montevallo. Davonia graduated from Montevallo and for the next 10 years worked in the music department there.

Thanks to Rebecca Richardson and Deb O'Hara for their nomination and continuing appreciation of my work!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Parade of PowerPoint Games

Games using PowerPoint are fun for students yet take some skill to construct. Thank goodness someone else has done the work for us! "Parade of Games in PowerPoint" presents a number of different types of games (flashcards, Jeopardy, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, etc.). In each case, you may download a sample game or download the template. Downloading the template allows you to put your own materiel into the PowerPoint.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

An Environment of Interruptions

In these disparate environments—cockpits and hospitals and IT workgroups—the right behaviors did not evolve naturally. Nurses weren’t “naturally” given enough space to work without distraction, and programmers weren’t “naturally” left alone to focus on coding. Instead, leaders had to reshape the environment consciously. With some simple tweaks to the environment, suddenly the right behaviors emerged. It wasn’t the people who changed, it was the situation. What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem.

The above paragraph is taken from Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. The chapter is entitled "Tweak the Environment" and the subject is interruptions and their impact on performance. Statistics show that we are interrupted, on average, every eight minutes. Not only do we lose time due to the interruption itself, but the time to recover, to regroup our thoughts, and get back into the flow of our work can often take more time than the length of the interruption itself.

To make the problem worse, we live in a world that gives us more and different ways to interrupt each other. We carry phones in our pockets and whip them out when it is convenient for us. We give little thought to what the person on the other end might have been doing. We live in a culture that looks upon an "open-door policy" as a good thing.

Let's face it, to get anything done, we have to have uninterrupted blocks of time. I talked about this subject and how we can each carve uninterrupted time for ourselves in this post. But what if we are the leader of the organization? What if we are in a position to tweak the environment?

School leaders are in such a position. As a principal, we made necessary announcements at one time first thing in the morning, and then the "all call" feature of the intercom was not to be used again for the rest of the day. Every time the intercom comes on, instruction is interrupted. When a parent wanted to talk to a teacher, going into the classroom to interrupt instruction was forbidden.

Minimizing interruptions was a theme that resonated even during the summer when constructing the schedule. In elementary schools, students leave their teacher for physical education, music, and other specialties, in addition to going to lunch. Where possible, we put two specialties back-to-back, giving the teacher the largest blocks of uninterrupted time possible. the last thing we wanted was for a teacher to get his/her students back and have only 10 or 15 minutes with them before the class had to go somewhere else. Such a situation would only result in wasted time every day. 

Every good thing we do for our students is done through the dimension of time. Preventing interruptions helps us get the most out of the time we are given. Protecting the time of our colleagues helps them be more productive. We can and we must "tweak the environment." The right behaviors are then sure to follow.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Alabama Child Nutrition Directors Winter Workshop

Thanks to Elaine Vaughn and all of the child nutrition directors from around the state who attended Thursday's session. The weather forced us to cut things short, but thanks to Web 2.0, communication can happen through ways other than face-to-face.

The fifth of the Five Keys to Organization & Time Management is the ability to handle multiple projects. This handout is for those who attended the session and explains the concept. Use the password we talked about during the workshop to open it.

Friday, February 04, 2011

It Couldn't Be Done

When most people say, "It can't be done," what they really mean is, "I don't know how to do it." In today's world of limitless possibilities, proclaiming, "It can't be done" generally puts one behind the eight-ball. Worse yet, when we settle for "It can't be done," we stop looking for answers.

This poem is for all of those out there who have survived the naysayers and made things happen:

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done,
But, he with a chuckle replied
That "maybe it couldn’t," but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

Somebody scoffed: "Oh, you’ll never do that;
At least no one has done it";
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle it in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start to sing as you tackle the thing
That "couldn’t be done," and you’ll do it.
—Edgar Albert Guest, 1917

What was true in 1917 is even truer today!

While they were saying among themselves it cannot be done, it was done.
                                            —Helen Keller

When have you been told, "It couldn't be done" but you did it?

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Crush It!

I recent read Crush It! The entire title is Why Now is the Time to Crush It!: Cash in on Your Passion. The book is written by Gary Vaynerchuk, a social media maven whose specialty is selling wine.

For those who wish to use Web 2.0 tools to let the world know what they have to offer, this book is well worth the time to read. The strength of the book is that it gives practical, easy-to-implement. I found some great ideas for the use of Twitter.

The author's style makes this book easy to read, enjoyable, and at 142 pages, can easily be read start to finish in a day. Don't be surprised if you find yourself consuming it in a single sitting.