Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Making Photo Albums on the BlackBerry PlayBook

My PlayBook has a great camera and taking pictures is easy. This post addresses two points any user would eventually have:
  1. What is the easiest way to transfer pictures from my PlayBook to my desktop computer?
  2. How can I organize photographs on my PlayBook?
I had been using my USB cable to "sync" PlayBook pictures with a folder on my computer. Organizing the pictures on the PlayBook into "albums" was something, however, which alluded me. After doing a search, I found others had the same question. Here is an option that is easy, gives me a better way to get pictures onto the PlayBook, and at the same times gives me a simple way to create albums on the PlayBook. This method does assume the PlayBook and the computer are both attached to the same Wi-Fi.

  • On the PlayBook go to "Storage & Settings." Turn on "File Sharing." Turn on "Wi-Fi Sharing."

  • On the computer, go to "Start."
  • In the "Search files and programs" line on your computer, enter your PlayBook's IP address. To find this address, from the PlayBook's home screen, swip down to reveal the settings menus. Go to "Wi-Fi." Click on the "?" in the lower left corner. Under "Diagnostic Information," go to "Internet Connection." The "IP Address" is what you will use. Begin with "\\" making what you enter look something like: \\

  • The window you will see includes a file called "media." Open it. 

  • If prompted for a username and password, the username can be found by going to your PlayBook's "Storage & Sharing" and then to "Network Identification." The username that you will supply is the username diplayed here. 
  • If prompted for a password, you will also supply whatever password you used in the "Password Protect" line on the "Storage & Sharing Screen." 

  • Open the "photos" folder and and create folders as needed within it. The folder names will correspond to the albums you wish to create.
  • Drag photos into the photos folder as desired.
  • You will probably also see photos in the "camera" folder which you wish to move to your newly-created album folders.Simply open a separate window and drag them over. 
  • You can rename photos, delete photos, and drag additional photos into or out of the folders you create.
  • Your results will appear on your PlayBook. Here are several albums I just created.

This technique makes transferring pictures from the PlayBook to the computer quick and easy. Creating albums is effortless.

I now have organized sets of pictures on my PlayBook. Plugging the micro-HDMI cable into a TV, any photo album can be displayed as a full-screen slideshow on the TV.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

Slide show created by Daniel Breitfeller. Music is Dogs of War from the Medal of Honor: European Assault soundtrack.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Make Your Summer Count

The final bell has sounded. Goodbyes have been said. The hallways are empty, and summer has begun.

You may be a student. You may be an adult whose job is in education. You may be the parent of a school aged-child. For just about all of us, the end of school and beginning of summer has an impact on our routines. For a huge percentage of our population, summer provides the largest block of discretionary time we will have all year.

Those three months will go back like a flash, and the bell will sound again. Students all over the country will complete that first writing assignment of the school year, the one entitled, “What I did during my summer vacation.”

What will you do on your summer vacation? How will you make your summer count? What skills have you wanted to learn? What new habits have you wanted to add to your life? If it’s going to happen, now is the time. Without some thought, however, August will be here and you will have little to show for it.

As you think back over your life, what are the summers that are memorable for you?
…The summer you learned to swim?
…The summer you learned to ski?
…The summer you learned a musical instrument?
…The summer you took that great trip?

Are you ready to build some more memories? Start by taking a blank sheet of paper and writing your own, “What I did during my summer vacation” letter. Write it as if August is already here. Write it from the standpoint of someone who is able to accomplish great things, because you do have the power to do great things. If you are a parent, work with your son or daughter as they craft their letter. As an adult, write your own letter. The little ones need to see that just because you are grown does not mean you stop growing. Having our story on paper is the beginning.

Now make it happen! Brainstorm the steps that will get you from where you are to where you want to be. Trap those steps with pencil and paper as you go. Make them as specific and clear as possible. Put the steps in whatever paper or digital planner drives your day so that making progress on your goal is integrated into all else you do.

Hang on to your letter. Re-read it weekly throughout the summer. With the letter as your compass and your paper or digital planner as your roadmap, you can make it happen.

This could be the summer to remember. It’s up to you. What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Principal Center Webinar Follow-Up

Thanks to those who participated in the Get Organized! webinar series these past 3 Tuesdays. Also thanks to Justin Baeder, Director of The Principal Center for hosting this series. This post serves as a follow-up to the series, and especially as a follow-up to the third session..

Staying Connected
If you liked what you heard and would like more, here are several ways you can keep in touch:

If you are interested in adding to your iGoogle page some of the same gadgets I have on mine, here is an easy way to get them. As you click each link, you will be taken to a page that describes the gadget and lets you click a button to automatically add it to your iGoogle page.

Google Bookmarks
Google Reader
Yahoo News
Facebook URL Shortener
MapQuest Driving Directions
Area/Zip Code Lookup
Document to PDF
Google Map Search
Portfolio Monitor
Flight Status
Time Converter

Here is how to make iGoogle (your homepage).

Want to set up a Dropbox account? Here is an easy way for you to set up an account and get an extra 250MB of free storage for both you and me. Click here to sign up.

I have written a short e-book which explains how I use Dropbox. For information on downloading for free, go here. 

Google Docs Forms

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

Here are 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!


    Create your own reQall account for free.
    Also check out Vlingo.


    For answers to questions others have posed in the past, take a look at these two posts:
    Webinar Follow-Up: Answers to Your Questions (Part I)
    Webinar Follow-Up: Answers to Your Questions (Part II)

    Again, thanks for participating in the webinar series. If one of your goals for the summer is to "Get Organized!" I hope the three hours we spent together will give you a great start.

    Monday, May 21, 2012

    What I Keep in Outlook "Notes"

    You use Outlook, but do you make use of all of the modules Outlook offers? I have addressed one of the underused powers of Outlook in my e-book on Outlook Tasks. This post examines another under-utilized area of the program, the "Notes" module.

    Notes is a place for holding reference information. Nothing there requires action. The great thing is that Notes, along with Calendar, Tasks, and Contacts syncs with my BlackBerry. therefore, no matter where I am, I have access to the information in Notes.

    Here are examples of some of the Notes I keep in Outlook:
    • AA-ZZ Information-Here is a list of account numbers, membership numbers, login information, pin numbers, etc. When I check-in at a hotel and they ask if I have my rewards number handy, I go to this note. When I am on the phone and a salesperson asks if I have my account number handy, my answer is always "yes." The number of cards I carry is narrowed to my driver's license, several major credit cards, and insurance card. Everything else is simply stored in Notes rather than carrying the physical card. After a while, this Note got to be lengthy, so I have broken in up into "AA-ZZ Information A-C,"  "AA-ZZ Information D-F" etc.
    • Accident Information Sheet-If I were involved in a minor accident, what information do I want to be sure I collect? Instead of trying to think it up on the fly, here is a list.
    • Best Times to Buy Items-Prices on lower on certain items during certain months or certain days of the week. I have that list handy no matter where I am.
    • Bio-I never know when someone is going to need my bio to introduce me or to include on promotional material. I have it handy no matter where I am.
    • BlackBerry Troubleshooting-Cures for common problems or instructions for common routines are available here.
    • Cabrio-Cabrio is a Sheltie we adopted. In this one note is his microchipping information, the type of food he eats, and a record of his weight at each trip to the vet. I have a similar note for our other Sheltie, Bonnie Lass.
    • Canada Smartphone Tips-Here is my game plan for using my Smartphone in Canada so that I do not incur a small fortune in data use charges when traveling there.
    • Classroom Information Observation-Although I am no longer a principal, if I were called upon to conduct a "walkthrough," here is a list of what I could be looking for.
    • Coconut Dream Cake-I don't do much in the kitchen, but this is my specialty, and it's delicious. I have the recipe in Outlook and synced to my BlackBerry.
    • Computer Information-Here, I have the product key, service tag, and other information about each computer in the house.
    • Constant Contact Color Scheme-What are the exact colors I use in my monthly newsletter template? This note tells me.
    • Delta Skymiles Partners-Here are the Skymiles numbers for me and my wife along with a list of all the rental car and hotel chains which partner with Delta.

    You have just seen a few examples, and even at that, I am only to the letter "D."

    Since Notes is a part of Outlook, I can "drag and drop" into or from Notes. During my days as an elementary principal, I had a Note containing driving directions to my school. Whenever someone requested directions, I could drag the Note to the "Mail" button, and Outlook would create a new e-mail containing the directions. If I am planning a trip and need a reminder on what to pack, I drag and drop my "Packing List" from Notes to Tasks and immediately Outlook creates a new Task listing all of the items.

    I think you can begin to get the idea. "Notes" gives me a place to put reference information. If you use Outlook, but have not used Notes, I recommend it as a useful place to store all of that miscellaneous information you often access.

    Friday, May 18, 2012

    "Wear Suncreen" (and Other Advice for Graduates)

    Advice to the graduating class..."Wear Sunscreen." The lyrics are taken from a famous essay — written in 1997 by Mary Schmich, a columnist with the Chicago Tribune.

    Wednesday, May 16, 2012

    Webinar on Demand: "Manage the Flood of Incoming Information"

    I enjoyed presenting this webinar for CLAS (Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools). It has now been posted so those who were not able to hear it live can still benefit.

    If you feel overwhelmed by the flood of information which comes to you on a daily basis...e-mails, phone calls, interaction with people (both planned and unplanned), meetings, etc., this webinar may be your answer. Length is approximately 40 minutes.

    Friday, May 11, 2012

    Using "Application Shortcuts"

    One little trick can often mean a huge difference in productivity, and this post attempts to offer just that for BlackBerry users. In short, we are going to change one menu setting from "Universal Search" to "Application Shortcuts." To make this change:
    1. Click the "menu" button (the one which has the BlackBerry logo on it).
    2. Choose "Options" from the menu which displays.
    3. You will now see a drop-down menu which has two choices in it: Universal Search and Application Shortcuts. Change the setting to "Application Shortcuts" and save. That's it!
    Why Do We Make This Change?
     With Application Shortcuts enabled, you are able to access a number of apps with the touch of one key:
    • L opens the Calendar
    • T opens Tasks
    • A opens Contacts
    • D opens Memo Pad
    • M opens Messages
    • C composes a message
    • N opens BlackBerry Messenger
    • B opens the Browser
    • U opens the Calculator
    • K will lock the keyboard
    • O opens Options
    Anytime I want to look at my tasks, pressing "T" brings up the list. Just think how much easier that is as opposed to scrolling to it! Note that all of these shortcuts work when you are on the Home screen. So, if you are looking at your Calendar and want to switch to your Task list, first you will escape out of the Calendar so you are back at the Home screen.

    How did I know what shortcuts were available? How can you remember this list of shortcuts? Once you set your menu to "Application Shortcuts," you will notice that when you scroll over various icons, not only will you see the name of the icon display, but many of them have a letter underlined. The underlined letter is the keyboard shortcut.

    So Do I Lose Universal Search?
    You can have your cake and eat it to. There is one more shortcut to learn. "S" takes you to Universal Search. Here you can enter a keyword and the BlackBerry will find it in any of the core apps on your BlackBerry.

    Do These Instructions Vary From One Model to the Next?
    The instructions I have given are for BlackBerry OS6 and OS7. If you are running OS5 or earlier, you have a similar technique. Instead of changing Universal Search to Application Shortcuts, you are going to turn off "Dial From Home Screen":
    1. Go to "Options" (the icon which resembles a wrench).
    2. Choose "Phone Options."
    3. Choose "General Options."
    4. On the next screen, look for "Dial From Home Screen." Change the setting to "No" and save.

    The shortcuts listed above will now work with your phone.

    The application shortcuts are not available on the Pearl (where a single key represents more than one letter of the alphabet).

    One small change can make a huge difference. In my opinion, switching to Application Shortcuts is the #1 BlackBerry productivity tip.

    What is your favorite productivity tip for your smartphone?

    Wednesday, May 09, 2012

    What's a "Super App"?

    The BlackBerry receives its share of criticism for lack of apps. With over 500,000 apps available for the iPhone, 400,000 available for Android, the 60,000 available in BlackBerry App World pales by comparison. Of course, when you take into account the amount of duplication, the difference grows smaller. Taking into account sources stating that 26% of downloaded apps are used only once, the difference grows smaller still.

    With any platform, you find apps whose names continue to be mentioned again and again. They appear on every list of the "must-have" apps. With the BlackBerry, popularity is not what makes something a "Super App."

    The primary characteristic of a "Super App" is the way it integrates with native BlackBerry apps, such as the Calendar. This post covers three Super Apps which make my life easier.

    BlackBerry Travel
    If you do much travel, and especially if it involves flying the friendly skies, BlackBerry Travel is huge. To illustrate, I place a call to a hotel to book a stay. That's phone call, and then I hang up and do nothing else. In a few minutes, I received an e-mail not only from the hotel, but also an e-mail from BlackBerry Travel reviewing all of the details (type of room, confirmation number, room rate, check-in and checkout times, etc,). Most of all, the BlackBerry Travel App went into my calendar and entered the hotel stay on each day along with creating a name for the trip itself (which I could edit).

    A link in the note section of each entry opened all of the details about the hotel stay or a birds-eye view of the trip as a whole. I could see flight arrangement and rental car arrangement that I had either made, or notification that there were none associated with that trip. I can make those additional arrangement from inside the BlackBerry Travel app. I also saw all of my LinkedIn connections who live in the area to which I was traveling.

    When a flight has been delayed, BlackBerry Travel notifies me by e-mail. When it's time to check-in, I get a reminder from BlackBerry Travel along with a link that takes me straight to check-in.

    Certainly, I am capable of entering this trip information on my calendar myself and making sure I have a hotel room for each day between my flight's arrival and departure. I could also sign up for an alert from the airline for each flight. But when this app does it all for me, life becomes easier.

    What makes BlackBerry Travel a "Super App" is the way it interacted with my calendar and my LinkedIn account. By the way, it's free.

    BlackBerry Traffic
    In short, BlackBerry Traffic is a GPS. It interacts with the GPS location on the BlackBerry to determine the starting point. It will interact with e-mail to send a pre-formatted message announcing your expected arrival time and the address to which you are headed to anyone you wish.

    The app will search for nearby gas, food, etc. and even telephone your selection with one touch. While we have all paid well over $100 for a GPS, not to mention charges for updates, BlackBerry Traffic is free. Again, the interaction with your email and the BlackBerry's GPS location makes this application a "Super App."

    When you open Poynt, you first see the current temperature at your GPS location. The program will allow you to find people, businesses, gas, food, movies, or events. With movies, for example, you can start by searching for movies or for theaters. Either way, you wind up with the ability to view trailers, buy tickets, and get directions to your location. When you decide when and where you want to go for your movie, Poynt will put that information on your calendar.

    The "People" section will allow you to input a name, address, or phone number. No matter which of the three you choose, you are given the other two pieces of information together with how far they are from you. Mapping the location is also easily done.

    The ability to interact with your GPS location, place information on your calendar, and interact with your phone makes this application a "Super App." Poynt is free.

    For information on other BlackBerry "Super Apps," read this information related to the following Super Apps (all of which are free):
    • AccuWeather-Get local weather for your GPS location, weather anywhere in the world, daily forecasts in your e-mail, and forecast for each day on your calendar.
    • ScoreMobile-Put a team schedule of your choice in your calendar. Get scores and notification of game start times.
    • Pageonce-Syncs online banking, bills and travel accounts. In general, the program puts all of your personal finances in one place.
    • eBay-Places reminders on your calendar of when bids of interest are closing and receive alerts when another bid has been placed.
    • 1-800-Flowers Mobile-Allows you to order flowers for special occasions, checks your calendar for special occasions and alerts you. The app also integrates with your address book.
    • Foursquare-Alerts you when friends are nearby and allows you to get recommendations on what to order at restaurants.
    • Urbanspoon-Suggests a restaurant in your location. You can narrow to certain cuisine, price range, or neighborhood.

    If you already use any of the Super Apps, I would welcome your comments on what you think about them. If you try one based on what you read here, let me know about it.

    Monday, May 07, 2012

    Thank a Teacher Today

    Like all professions, teaching has both those who are outstanding and those who are less than adequate. All too often, the best and the worst are lumped into generalizations which do not accurately depict either extreme.

    Teacher Appreciation Week is May 7-11. It offers a time for us to recognize the teaching profession as a whole. It also offers each of us the opportunity, on a personal level, to single out that individual who made a lasting impression on us.

    You have read this post, watched the video, and I would image are thinking about a particular teacher who made a lasting impression on you. Does this teacher have any idea the impact he or she made in your life? If not, what do you intend to do about it?

    With social media being what it is today, reaching out to someone else has never been easier. With this week being "Teacher Appreciation Week," there is no better time than now.

    Friday, May 04, 2012

    How Will You Say Goodbye to Graduates?

    This month, schools everywhere are planning activities which will send its graduates to the next stages in their lives. I this post, I share one such tradition we started in the elementary school where I was principal. It was designed to add a keepsake for each of our students as they left us for junior high.

    On Awards Day, each 6th grade student walked across the auditorium stage to receive his or her diploma. With it was another piece of paper. Except for the name, the wording was the same:

    Dear {Name of student}, 

    Your completion of elementary school is a big step in your education. At Graham, we congratulate you on the interest and dedication which have brought you to this important milestone in your life. 

    Your learning experiences, however, have only begun. It is our hope that you will approach the next grades with eagerness equal to your abilities and take advantage of the many wonderful opportunities open to you. 

     It has been our pleasure to have been associated with you through your elementary school years. We are convinced that this school will always be proud of you as you progress along education’s path. 

    We shall continue to watch your achievements with interest and pride. 

    Best wishes, 

    What made the letters unique were the signatures at the bottom. Each letter was signed by the adults in the building who had formed a relationship with that student. No two students had the same set of signatures.

    The process was simple. I had created the text of the letter and mail merged it to a spreadsheet. The names of our 6th grade students were pasted into that spreadsheet. We then were able to print a set of letters, each with the same text except for the student's first being inserted.

    In a faculty meeting, I explained the process. I had signed all of the letters and passed the folder to the 6th grade teachers. Since we did some changing of classes, the 6th grade teachers signed all of the letters. The folder would then be passed to the 5th grade teachers. They would sign letters for any of the student they had taught or any student who whom they had established any sort of relationship. Over the next couple of weeks, the folder would work its way to each grade level, to the music teacher, librarian, counselor, lunchroom staff, and custodians.

    Any staff member could sign any letter they wished. When the folder was returned to me, it contained letters rich with signatures of the people who had worked with each student though the years.

    On Awards Day, each 6th grade student received a letter with good wishes for the future and the signatures of the people who had helped shape elementary school memories.

    Several other principals with whom I have shared this idea also use it successfully. As you are planning the close of this school year, perhaps this idea is one you can use.

    What end-of-school traditions do you have at your school that might benefit others?

    Wednesday, May 02, 2012

    Data That Matters

    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 entitled "Leading Data-Based School Reform." The "final project" is to come back six months later and show how I am implementing concepts related to this topic. 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 demonstrate a tool I created, explain how others can use it, and provide it as a free download.