Friday, July 29, 2011

Hey Bubba...

I believe in routinely asking myself, “Hey Bubba, how are you going to make…the next 15 minutes…matter?

This quote is just one of countless pieces of advice and words of wisdom from Tom Peters in his book The Little Big Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence. In short, what you see is an example of a blog turned into a book.

Don't let the thickness of the book, 538 pages if you count the index, scare you. You don't necessarily have to read every page or read the book in sequence. A very complete table of contents will let you find just what you are looking for from this off-the-cuff, straight-forward work.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


While at the National Middle School Association convention back in November, I met the vendors for

The site is designed for upper elementary through high school. The whole site is free. Students do their work on computer. No login is needed. Their work is scored instantly. There is an option for students to e-mail their scores to their teacher. All they have to do is type the correct e-mail address.

I especially like this link:

The link puts the whole site in chronological order as the school year happens. So, when Constitution Day rolls around, and you are required by law if you take federal funds to do an activity related to the Constitution, you can do vocabulary activities instead of listening to the principal recite the Preamble or some of the other “just-do-it-and-get-it-done” type activities that take place all too often around the country.

The site is one well worth exploring. The price is certainly right and the content looks great.

Friday, July 22, 2011

"In the First Place"...Tricks to Help You Remember

It is often said that necessity is the mother of invention. A challenge sits before us, and none of the tools in our bags of tricks seems adequate to handle the job. That was certainly the situation for me in one particular college class many years ago. Meeting that challenge changed the way I approached studying for every test ever since.

The class was called "School and Society," basically a history of education. The professor was exceptional. The class was extremely interesting. It was also extremely intense. But one thing was odd. Class meeting after class meeting came and went with no mention of a test.

Finally, the day came when a test was announced, a test which would consist of one question. When the professor gave examples of questions from past tests, it was obvious that a general knowledge of the material would not be enough. To be prepared, I would need to be able to recite all of my notes from memory from beginning to end or from any starting point in the middle. I counted the pages. There were 57 of them, and the information was pretty detailed. While I had always been good at memorization, nothing had prepared me for this. I needed a new approach.

As luck would have it, I ran across a little paperback entitled The Memory Book. The first page of chapter one was designed to begin a discussion of memory systems throughout the ages. It took only one page to give me what I needed to approach not only this test, but every single exam I faced through every collegiate program thereafter.

Authors Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas talked about a technique used by the ancient Romans and Greeks when they delivered long speeches from memory. The orator prepared the speech by associating each part of it with a place in his home. The first point would be associated with the front door, the next point with the foyer, etc. As the orator delivered the speech, he would take a "mental trip" through his house, talking about each room as he came to it. This technique was called "loci," or "places." It is from this early memory technique that the expression "in the first place" originated.

I read no further. Starting at the beginning of the 57 pages, I began associating each major topic with a room. I visualized certain people in each room, people discussed at that point in my notes. I mentally placed pictures and posters on the walls, each reminding me of details about that topic.

As it turned out, I needed more than the rooms in my house. I included the music building and the church I attended at that time. But when all was said and done, I could literally recite the entire 57 pages as I mentally walked through each room in my house, the music building, and the church. Now I was ready!

The one-question test required me to discuss the history of American education from its beginnings to the point where our class discussions had stopped. That material turned out to be the final 10 pages of my notes. I was able to supply every detail about those 10 pages.

I made an "A," but more importantly, I had a technique that would serve me well through four graduate programs and all of the exams and "comps" that would accompany them. After learning about "places," the lowest I made in any class was an "A."

I have thought a great deal about The Memory Book since that experience 30 years ago. I was delighted to have found something so simple that made such a huge difference. Maybe it could make a difference for you as well.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

SDE Midwest Conferences Wrap-Up

If you like the idea of using iGoogle as your browser's homepage and want to include some of the gadgets I have on mine, check out this post.

Want to setup a Dropbox account and not only get your free 2GB of storage but also get an extra 250MB? Click here to set up your account. Using that link gets you the extra 250MB (plus gives me and extra 250MB as well).

In a time where tablets are becoming popular, conducting classroom walk-throughs is an extremely practical use of collecting and organizing data.

As promised, this post gives the steps for creating a walk-through form using Google Docs and then getting that walk-through form onto your tablet.

  1. Design your walk-through form on paper. You may wish to begin with a paper form you are already using. Only after you have thought through how you want the form to look should you go to the computer.
  2. Log into your Google account and go to You will see a list of all of the Google Docs you have already created.
  3. Click “Create New” and choose “Spreadsheet.”
  4. In Row 1 enter each of the questions that will go on the form. (Examples: Teacher name, Subject, Resources Being Used, Objective/Essential question posted?, Student activity, Number of students not actively engaged, Teacher activity, Level of questioning, Overall comments). Press the tab key to go from column to column. Note: You do NOT need to have a column for the date. The date and time of the walk-through will automatically be gathered for you.
  5. From the “Tools” menu, choose “Form” and “Create a form.” You will now see a form with your column heading already listed. Below each item will be a short blank where you could enter a response.
  6. While some fields lend themselves well to a short answer, for others, a drop-down list, series of check-boxes, paragraph text box, etc. will be a better fit. As you move the mouse down the page, each item will turn a beige color and display a series of icons to the right. Click the pencil icon to decide what type of response you want and create your list of checkboxes, items on drop-down list, etc.
  7. Each question will display a “make this a required question” checkbox. It is a good idea to check this box. That will keep you from overlooking an item. Click “Done" when you have finished editing that item.
  8. At the top of the form is a button called “Theme.” Click it, and you can choose from an array of attractive looks for your form.
  9. At the very bottom of the form, you will see “You can view the published form here” followed by a rather long URL. This is a very important step! Highlight and copy that link.
  10. By this time, Google Docs has probably prompted you to save the spreadsheet. If not, click “Save.”
  11. Now we want to get this form on your BlackBerry PlayBook, iPad or other tablet device you will be using in the walk-throughs. You can also use the form with a Smartphone, although the size may be too small for you to use comfortably.
  12. Open a new e-mail on your computer, paste the link from the bottom of the Google Docs form in the body, and address the e-mail to yourself. Send the e-mail.
  13. Go to your PlayBook, iPad, or other tablet. Check your e-mail, looking for the one you sent to yourself.
  14. Open the e-mail, and click the link. You should now be looking at your walk-through form.
  15. Your tablet should offer you a way to save a URL as a “shortcut” on your home screen. For example, on the PlayBook, you will tap the hollow star and choose “Add to Home Screen.” You have now created an app for the walk-through form.

If you also wish to have the form on your Smartphone, you will repeat the process on that device. Check your e-mail on the Smartphone and open the one containing the link to the walk-through form. Click the link to display the form. Now turn that URL into a desktop shortcut. How this is done will vary from one Smartphone to the next. For example, on a BlackBerry running OS6, click the icon just to the right of the URL address bar. Choose “Add to Home Screen.” You have now just made the walk-through form into an app! You will find its icon on your home screen.
    You are ready to start your walk-throughs! Each time you finish a form and touch “Submit,” the data instantly goes into the Google Docs spreadsheet. Each entry is date and time stamped for you!

    No more filling out forms and then recopying that data somewhere else! Your data is neatly stored in rows and columns on your Google Docs spreadsheet. Less time spent on paperwork. More time spent on helping good teachers get even better. Life just got easier!

    Monday, July 18, 2011

    Mnemonic Devices

    Mnemonic devices are artificial memory aids. They can be great time savers for students attempted to commit their notes to memory. Here is a site which provides mnemonic devices in a number of categories:

    I would be interested in any feedback that you have after looking at the site.

    Friday, July 15, 2011

    NextUp...Keeping Your Meeting on Schedule

    Do you find it hard to keep your meetings on schedule? Do attendees tend to go on "birdwalks"? NextUp is a very simple online tool to keep you on schedule.

    Simply go to the website. No account is needed. Name the meeting. List the agenda items. Assign a time limit for each one. Click to start your meeting and watch the timer count down the time remaining for the current agenda item.

    Wednesday, July 13, 2011

    Meetzi Helps Organize Meetings and Keep Them on Schedule

    We know that a meeting should have a purpose.We know we should prepare an agenda and distribute it before a meeting. We know we should stick to that agenda.

    With all of that knowledge, why are there still so many bad meetings? What can we do about it?

    Meetzi is a free online tool that can help. Prior to the meeting, Meetzi allows you to do each of the following:
    1. Define the purpose of the meeting
    2. Build the agenda including the person responsible for each item and time allowed
    3. Invite the meeting attendees
    4. Attach documents to the meeting invitation
    5. Establish a dollar per hour value so that you can see how much the meeting is actually costing in terms of people's time

    During the meeting, Meetzi does each of the following:
    1. Displays the agenda, complete with the presenter for each topic and allotted time
    2. Keeps up with the time so that you can see if you are on schedule

    After the meeting, Meetzi allows you to send notes to all meeting attendees. Not bad for a free resource. Give Meetzi a try!

    Monday, July 11, 2011

    Conducting a Classroom Walkthrough Using Google Docs Forms

    Thanks to everyone who came to my sessions at the Differentiated Instruction Administrator Summit sponsored by Staff Development for Educators. In a time where tablets are becoming popular, conducting classroom walk-throughs is an extremely practical use of collecting and organizing data.

    As promised, this post gives the steps for creating a walk-through form using Google Docs and then getting that walk-through form onto your tablet.

    Friday, July 08, 2011

    How Secure is Your Password?

    In a digital world, keeping our data secure is essential, and a large part of that is password security. How secure is your password? Want to put it to the test?

    At How Secure is My Password? you enter your password and instantly see an estimate of how long it would take a computer armed with the proper software to determine your password.

    Wednesday, July 06, 2011

    Coming to SDE Conferences in Las Vegas or Chicago?

    Coming to the SDE Administrator Summit in Las Vegas next week? What about the Midwest Differentiated Instruction Conference in Chicago later this month?

    If so, I hope ou will join me for the following sessions:

    SDE DI Administrator Summit
    • The 5 Keys to Successful Organization & Time Management
    • A Day in the Life of the Digital Administrator
    • Your Own Blog in 10 Minutes or Less
    • Free Digital Tools That Increase Productivity

    Midwest Differentiated Instruction Conference (Chicago)
    • A Day in the Life of the Digital Administrator
    • Your Own Blog in 10 Minutes or Less
    • Get More Done! 5 Keys to Organization & Time Management
    • Free Digital Tools That Increase Productivity

    Monday, July 04, 2011

    Fife and Drums for the 4th

    This is the 3rd U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard) Fife and Drum corps (filmed in 2007). Enjoy their music on this Independence Day!

    Friday, July 01, 2011

    The 60-Second Recap

    Don't have time to read the book? Or maybe you do have time to read the book but first just want a quick overview.

    In either case, The 60-Second Recap is worth a look. The videos are entertaining, and the library contains the "golden oldies" we remember from our high school English class.