Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Could You Write a Book? If You Blog, the Answer is “Yes”

With all of the digital information we read, there’s still something special about a book. Watching the “pages” go by, even if those papers are digital, provides comfort. Seeing a book with our name on it provides a sense of accomplishment.

If you have a blog, you can turn it into a book in a matter of minutes, and do it for free. As a great side benefit, you will be backing up your blog in the process, so that if something happened or you wanted to move your blog to another service, you have all of your data safely stored on your computer.

First, you will make a backup of your blog. In your Blogger dashboard, click on “Settings.” Then click “Export Blog.” On the next page, click “Download Blog,” and you will be able to save a file to your hard drive with all your posts and comments. I have a repeating task in Outlook which prompts me every three months to backup my blog.

Next, let’s create our book.

The site we will use is called BlogBooker. Once at the site, click on the icon for the blogging service you use. You will then be prompted to browse for your blog export. Upload it and the site will create your book!

Are you authoring a blog that you know will be temporary? When the time comes that the blog’s purpose has been fulfilled, what better way to complete the project than turn it into a book? Store it digitally or print and bind it. Either way, you have something you can cherish.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Thinking About the Getting a Doctorate?

Since earning my doctorate 15 years ago, many people have asked my advice for how to navigate the waters. While people often have horror stories to tell, I must admit, I have none. In fact, the doctorate was the smoothest of my collegiate programs. The time from the first day of class to the day of the dissertation defense was two years and two months. Thinking about going for that terminal degree? Here is my best advice...

Start the Inquiry Early
Start contacting the university you want to work with at least a year in advance. When I went through the program, the university took a new group only one time a year, and that time happened to be in the spring quarter. You don’t want to get fired up about starting and then find out you missed the deadline to apply by a few days, and now you will have to wait a full year to do anything.

My suggestion is to start by contacting whoever is the head of your major area and ask for an appointment. Yes, you are asking to talk to an important person, but at the same time, you are probably held in high esteem in your area of expertise or you wold not be at this point. With your years of experience, your success in the classroom and possibly in the administrative arena, your other advanced degrees, and your obvious drive, who wouldn't give up an hour of their time to encourage you to enter their program? Your face is now associated with the name they will see on the application, and you will have been able to share with a key decision-maker your successes and your potential for added impact on the world of education.

You will probably have to take a standardized test (GRE, MAT, etc.) to be admitted to the program. Find out where these tests are given and how often. I found out a local university (not even the one where I was applying) gave the MAT every single day!

The Dissertation IS the Doctorate
The first time I heard a professor say, "The dissertation is the doctorate," I didn't believe it. Believe it. You will take classes, and they won’t be so much different from classes you have taken in the past. People don’t wash out of doctoral programs for failure to be able to show up on Tuesday night from 6:00-9:00. They wash out because they get to the end of the coursework, see this gigantic wall called the "dissertation" and think, “There is no way I can do this!”

Decide on your dissertation topic BEFORE YOU START THE PROGRAM, or at least form a general idea for your topic. Go to a university library and spend some time looking through Dissertation Abstracts International. When I started my journey, Dissertation Abstracts had just begun coming out on CD-ROM, and people were able to search by topic. By this time, I am sure the technology is even better.

Who else has done something similar to what you are considering? What new twist could you put on an exiting study? Is there something about your population that is different from the one on which the previous study was conducted?  What big hole exists in the literature? You will be able to find a topic you like and approach it somehow differently than it has ever been addressed before.

Start Writing Now
You are going to write a paper for every class you take, just like you did for your Masters and Educational Specialist degrees. The idea is that every time you have to write a paper, you will find some way to link it back to your dissertation topic. Every paper you write feeds the dissertation. From the day of the appointment with my chair when we hammered out a title, research questions, and method for testing the hypotheses to the day of the dissertation defense was six months. That's because I already had a wealth of literature review accomplished through previous papers.

I have seen far too many people write papers which have no value beyond the class they are taking. When they finish their coursework, they are looking at a blank computer screen and wondering how to begin. Those who have been feeding the dissertation all along the way already have a wealth of research and are ready to write.

The Secretary is Your Friend
Get to know the secretary in that department. Doctoral programs are often ripe with ambiguity. The secretary is often the one who takes ambiguity and turns it into something concrete. If you want a straight answer, a secretary who has become a confidant is a life-saver.

I guess the last thing should be the first thing: Why do you want to have the doctorate? If it’s something YOU have always wanted to do, sort of a dream that would be the cherry on top of the sundae, then go for it! Are there some doors you want to open that a doctorate will help? Go for it!

Regardless of the reason, you meet people. You expand your network. You will step out of your comfort zone. You will put in some time, and in the process become a better manager of your time than you ever thought possible. You will grow and you will start to realize that you have more to offer than you originally thought. If you have read this far, the wheels must already be turning. Good luck!

What about those of you who have already gone down this path? What are your thoughts? What can you add to the conversation? Thinking about starting on your doctorate and have something you want to ask?

Friday, August 26, 2011

If the World Were a Village of 100

If the world were to be reduced to a population of 100, what would it look like? This video gives some insight:

What surprised you the most? Is there a cautionary tale somewhere in there?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

So What's Google+ All About? (A Short Video)

I have been hearing lots of buzz but really didn't have a clue. What about you? Maybe this video will help some...

Monday, August 22, 2011

What is Wikipedia all About?

What is Wikipedia all about? Here is a short video which explains the concept.

Click here to view the video.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cell Phones in the Classroom...How Do We Do It?

Depending on where you live, cell phones in schools have progressed as follows:
  • A violation of state law
  • Not against the law, but banned from being on campus
  • OK to bring on campus, but must stay in the locker all day
  • OK to use between classes, but must never see the light of day inside the classroom
  • Maybe, just maybe something that can be used to promote learning and increase productivity

Over a decade ago, we were looking at handheld devices (primarily Palm) as being a significant breakthrough in how we could deliver instruction. At the same time, cell phones were becoming popular items in the backpack of students. Since that time, the two devices have merged, and they have merged with other existing devices as well. Now, you can make a phone call, keep a calendar, take a picture, and view a video (just to name a few) all on the same device.

The business world was finding the all-in-one tool to be a "must" for productivity. And if it makes adults more productive, we must ask the question, "Can it make students more productive as well?" More and more, people are beginning to feel the answer is "Yes." In an environment where we want technology yet lack the funds to purchase it, we also exist in an environment where students have purchased their own.

I would not for one second suggest we allow smartphones into classroom and then come up with ways to use them. That's a recipe for frustration and mediocrity. Instead, the question before us is what can be done best with a smartphone, and then loosen the restrictions that have kept best practice from becoming current practice.

I wish I had all of the answers, and I don't think any of us has them all. I do want to share one post that provides some of the nuts and bolts for moving from where we are with cell phones in our schools to where we could be. I recommend 10 Proven Strategies to Break the Ban and Build Opportunities for Student Learning with Cell Phones.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Importance of Organization with Technology and Teaching

Computers began to appear in classrooms almost 30 years ago. How best to integrate them into the learning process remains a popular topic. This guest post, written by Lindsey Wright, offers practical advice.

While the use of technology has been touted for awhile now as an essential part of the educational process, many teachers and administrators are baffled by how to integrate computers and other technological tools into the classroom environment and make them a meaningful part of learning. It’s not simply enough to say that you’ll designate time each week for students to work on computers or require them to type their papers. To truly integrate current technology with curriculum, you must be crafty, think outside of the box, and develop new organizational methods for classroom management.

Successful Models for Computer Integration

Science teacher Judi Heitz wrote an article way back in 1999 discussing the problems she encountered working with students. While some of her ideas are a bit dated, especially in an era in which the online school has become increasingly prevalent, her solutions for integrating computers into students’ academic lives still hold up. The first thing that is essential to successful classroom integration of technology is in making its use meaningful to goals of the lesson. Simply letting the computer be a means to an end is not enough.

As such, Heitz required students to communicate with each other via e-mail and use search engines to develop models for a genetically engineered product. While the computing requirements she set forth for the project might seem a bit lax for the current generation, the principles remain sound. Teaching students to work cooperatively across a digital medium is essential. So is teaching them to evaluate internet sources to broaden their knowledge base and develop original theory and thought. While genetically engineered products might not have been part of the basic science curriculum, by asking students to create their own genetically engineered products, Heitz introduced them to a new level of genetics and led them to explore it. Ultimately, as Heitz noted, the project taught the students to explore, to evaluate sources, and to work with one another to develop new levels of knowledge.

Another teacher, Kenneth Beare, who specializes in ESL, makes a number of excellent suggestions in his article “How to Use a Computer in Class” for successfully organizing a lesson that uses the computer. However, the primary thought to keep in mind when developing the lesson is to keep it simple. Having students dashing willy-nilly from the Internet to word processing to spreadsheets doesn’t help them or you. To create a meaningful lesson, the computer should be used as a facilitating tool. The goal should be to master a particular aspect of the curriculum while at the same time mastering a particular aspect of computing.

Beare also emphasizes that, as lessons are typically divided into warm-ups, introduction of materials, class work, and summary, it behooves the teacher to incorporate the computer aspect of the curriculum into at least two areas of the lesson. For an example, the teacher might begin class one day by introducing the topic and including a discussion of how the computer will be used during class work. During the introduction, the students will model the teacher’s use of the computer. Following this, the students will work to complete the class assignment, using the computer as a tool. The next day, a review of the previous day’s material might require them to complete a smaller-scale version of the assignment as a warm-up.

It is also essential that computers be integrated in such a way that students expect them to be part of the lesson. If it’s not possible for every student to have a computer at his or her desk, a computer work center is an excellent solution. As detailed on, there are a number of solutions that will keep computer centers running smoothly and facilitate independent use and detailed investigation by students. For instance:
  • Index cards or posters that provide computer instructions can help to keep students oriented as to the basic goals and rules of computer use.
  • Developing activities or assigning students to research or work on a particular website that corresponds to the lesson keeps the computer center relevant and current.
  • Lessons completed in one session tend to work best at computer centers, unless the students can work on the same lesson for several weeks.

By maintaining center organization and encouraging relevant study, the teacher can organize the computer center to foster creative thinking. These centers, due to their somewhat informal nature, are also great for encouraging group work. Keeping extra chairs at the computer center further encourages this, reinforcing the collaborative nature that characterizes good research and digital learning.

Computers don’t belong just in the school computer lab, nor should they be used only as word processors. Rather, the careful organization and integration of computers into the classroom means that students, regardless of their technological capacities at the outset, will learn valuable skills while broadening their knowledge of different subjects. Ultimately with careful lesson planning, a creative mindset, and a willingness to experiment in their organizational styles to discover what works best for them, teachers can integrate computer-based learning seamlessly into their classrooms.

Lindsey Wright is fascinated with the potential of emerging educational technologies, particularly the online school, to transform the landscape of learning. She writes about web-based learning, electronic and mobile learning, and the possible future of education.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Repeating Task System Revisited

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.

A couple of events forced me to dive into the world of podcasting literally overnight. I wound up putting together a podcast, less than 10 minutes in length, which not only explains the problem, but gives you three solutions.

To listen to that podcast, click here.

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

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Website Moving to a New Server

My website is in the process of being moved to a new server and may be down for a couple of days.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Welcome Back to School!

I have no idea who assembled these clips, but I never cease to get a good chuckle from seeing the collection. We all need a good laugh, and often it's the ability to laugh that helps us get through the tough times and not take ourselves quite so seriously. Good luck to everyone as you start a new school year!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What Can Speakers Learn from "Do You Believe in Me"?

In the last post, you heard an inspiring message from a young man which has shared countless times over the last few years. As a speaker, what can you learn from this speech? Read "How can you inspire your audience? Ask 10-year-old Dalton Sherman."

Monday, August 08, 2011

Do You Believe in Me?

I certainly do...after watching this.

The speaker is Dalton Sherman, who at the time was a 5th grader. The audience consisted of 17,500 teachers and other employees of the Dallas Independent School District as they prepared to begin their school year in 2008.

As school systems around the country crank up again this year, there is no better time than now to review what this young man had to say.

As you prepare to start your own school year, what are the beliefs that guide your actions?

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Helping Others Begin a Personal Learning Network

Renewing administrative certification in Alabama is done through the "Professional Learning Unit," acquiring a set of five over a five-year period. Thought retired from public education (although anyone who has kept up with me knows that I am not retired--just went a new direction ) I am still keeping this certification alive.

Six months ago, I participated in an online course on "personal learning networks." The "final project" is to come back six months later and show how I implemented what was learned. Because the course is designed for administrators, the expectations is that I show not what I implemented for my personal growth, but how the concepts impact others. Below is the "showcase" in which I give people a start (and firm foundation) into their own PLN.

What blogs are in my Google Reader? Here are 21 of my favorites and why. If you are brand new to the idea of an iGoogle page, click here for an introduction. If you like some of the links you see below, why not add them as subscriptions to your own Google Reader?

  • Angela Maiers   Author of The Passion-Driven Classroom, Angela is an active speaker and has a great deal to offer on use of the technology in the classroom. She is very active in social networking.
  • BlackBerry Cool   BlackBerry is my tool of choice when it comes to managing my life. This blog helps me keep up with new developments.
  • Connected Principals   A group of authors write for this blog, sharing best practice in education. The blog received 6 Edublog Award nominations in 2010.
  • Cool Cat Teacher   Vicki Davis is a technology teacher in Camilla, GA. She writes on the uses of technology in her classroom, her views on best practice for use of technology in general, and pioneered The Flat Classroom Project (for which her students have received much notoriety)
  • Copyblogger   This blog is written for those who blog and wish to get better at it.
  • Daily Motivator   This blog brings words of encouragement to keep your life moving in a positive direction.
  • Educational Insights  Jennifer Malone is principal at Eaton Elementary School in Loudon County, TN. The blog is a collection of technology resources related to education.
  • eduflections   Julie D. Ramsay is a 5th grade teacher and author of the newly-published Can We Skip Lunch and Keep Writing. Her blog is all about best practice, especially as its regards technology in the classroom.
  • Eduleadership   Justin Baeder is an elementary principal in Seattle, WA. He writes primarily about productivity for the educational leader with much of it centering around use of technology.
  • Eye on Education   This is the company which published both of my books. Morgan Dubin is the primary author for this blog in addition to her spearheading the company's communication through Twitter and Facebook.
  • Free Technology for Educators   Richard Byrne is a teacher, yet somehow finds the time to write prolifically about just what the blog technology. This one is a must-read.
  • Heights' Hilghlights   For principals wanting to communicate with faculty and staff via a blog, Robin Gilbert's example is superb.She uses Google Docs as a parking place for documents she wants her teachers to be able to access and places links to them on her blog. The blog often features polls for teacher input, provides timely news, and is a vehicle for giving positive recognition.
  • Laura Stack-The Productivity Pro   Laura Stack is one of the most sought-after speakers in the country on the subject of personal productivity.
  • Lifehacker   This blog is generally about making life more enjoyable. It is slanted heavily towards technology, but there is a good bit of non-tech stuff as well.
  • Presentation Zen   If you speak before audiences with any degree of regularity, Garr Reynolds has a wealth of information on PowerPoint presentations in particular and any presentation in general.
  • PS22 Chorus   This elementary school chorus from Stanten Island, NY has taken the Internet by storm. Visit this blog and you will understand why.
  • Raymond L. Young   When it comes to capturing the warmth and character of a school, nobody does it better than Pattie Thomas. The audience for this blog consists of the parents and community that support Raymond L. Young Elementary School in Talladega, AL.
  • RIMarkable   Research in Motion is the manufacturer of the BlackBerry. This blog contains the latest information about the company and its products.
  • The Lettered Cottage   This blog is about home improvement. Moreover, it's a great example of how a blog can substitute for a website. The design is beautiful and can serve as a model for anyone.
  • Middle School Notes   Kerry Palmer is the middle school principal at Trinity Presbyterian School in Montgomery, AL. This blog keeps parents informed about upcoming events. Parents are highly encouraged to subscribe through Feedburner so that they receive the latest information via e-mail.
  • YoungTeachers   With this blog, Pattie Thomas has eliminated the need to produce a faculty handbook. Everything a teacher needs is digital and only a click away. Technology tips, best practice in the classroom, tips on parent relations, and positive recognition is all here

What are your favorite blogs? Leave a comment and let me know.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Can We Skip Lunch and Keep Writing?

Some questions are easy:
Is it important that kids write well?
Do we want them to write better than they do?
Would we like to use some of the technology available to help with the process?

Some questions are hard:

A new book written by a 5th grade teacher answers that question. Can We Skip Lunch and Keep Writing? by Julie D. Ramsay walks us through a year in Mrs. Ramsay's classroom, a year in which students take the kind of ownership for their learning we wish could happen everywhere. The book is written in language even the techno-novice can understand, yet touches on such a wide variety of tools that even the most tech-savvy will learn something.

Can We Skip Lunch and Keep Writing? contains so much dialogue, I truly felt I was right there in the classroom with the students. I started reading one afternoon and found I was two-thirds of the way through before I could put it down. By the next day, I was finished. It's specific enough, a teacher can use it as his/her guide for improving writing, finally figuring out how to incorporate technology, and finally making learning irresistible.

If you are looking for a "how to do it" book that delivers, this one is a must-read! School's about to start. You need to pick up your copy now.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Organization Made Easy! Do You Have Your Copy?

Are you beginning your teaching career? Are you moving to another school, have inherited a room left in disarray, and need to know where to begin? Are you a veteran teacher who for far too long has been hampered by disorganization and are determined to turn over a new leaf? Do you know someone else who fits into one of these categories? 

Organization Made Easy! was written for just these people. Every good things we do for students happens through the dimension of time, and the productivity we get from the time we have is directly related to how organized we are.

As you begin this school year, I invite you to do so with a copy of this book in your hands. You can pick up a copy here