Cool Links #90: The One About Memorial Day 2010

As you may know from reading this blog from time to time, my father, grandfather, and several uncles were all military vets.  My family has a short history in America – four generations, but we have a strong history of military service.  So, it was instilled in me at a young age to show a heartfelt thanks to those who are and were the guardians of our freedoms.  This is especially true for those who gave their lives to defend our country.

As a teacher, I now have several former students who are serving in various branches of our armed services.  Thankfully, none are currently serving in a war zone.  I do want to send out my thoughts and prayers for all the young men and women who are in harm’s way this Memorial Day, they are somebody’s former student.  I am proud of all of the kids who have chosen to serve.

Now, on to the links.

1 – The end of the year is a time for reflection and planning.  Just for TV Teachers has a great and humorous list of things he likes and doesn’t like.

2 – Whenever you are creating a web page, you must wonder – what will it look like on a ____ (computer model), using _____ (operating system) in the ______ (browser).  Hongkiat has a list of tools that are useful for testing Cross-Browser compatibility.

3 – On a related note, many people new to creating web sites want to learn how to get a domain name as well as hosting for the site.  All Web Design Info has all the answers for these questions.

4 – If every journalist out there wrote about stories like this one, we’d have no trouble getting people to read newspapers/magazines.  This is the kind of journalism that people want to read.

5 – The digital Photography School has two related posts on understanding how the camera takes good photos – the first is about the exposure triangle and the second is your camera explained in plain English.

6 – I wish we could access Google Docs at my school, I’d love to use this technique to speed up the clean up of our yearbook index.

7 – Advancing the Story has 10 Tips to Help Get a TV News Job.  Most of these tips can benefit any journalist at any time.  The most difficult one: Tip #1. Previous professional experience.

8 – Thanks to Aaron Manfull at jeadigitalmedia.org for mentioning my site in his post 5 Ways to Learn without Taking Over Your Student’s Site.

9 – If you are like me, your journalism program is run on a shoestring budget and you have to save money wherever you can – like group photos.  I take them myself.  dPS has five tips for taking better group photos.

10 – Mindy McAdams, as always, makes online simple.  She wants us all to understand HTML 5 and some of the basic tags that will make life easier.

11 – Need something to read this summer?  Then fire up your RSS reader and check out these 100 Teachers Who Blog – including my pals The Scholastic Scribe and DKZody.   I’ll be adding MrTeachBad to my RSS reader.

12 – This is a great idea.  How to get your camera back when it was lost. I plan to do something similar with our photographers next year.  Great way to keep up with who took the photos.

13 – The 10,000 Words Blog has a list of 3 Important Skills for any journalist.  Most important – Math!

Have a great weekend and for those of you who are still not done with school yet – the light is at the end of the tunnel, and so are we.

Cool Links #89: The One About Broken Air Conditioners

Why is it that things always break down on weekends?  Saturday the A/C unit in my house decided to give it up.  We had a guy come out and look at it.  He got it running for most of a day, and told me he’d get a price on the part we need or a new A/C unit on Monday.  Even then we’ll still have to get it fixed.  How long will that take?  Or cost?  Should be a fun (not) week.  I wish I was as cool as these links.

1 – Seth Godin has a good idea about making new sales, or getting new people to read your site, or buy your product.  That idea is that you can spend a lot of time/money to get the ones who are far away, or a little time/money to convert the ones who are almost there.  Good ideas.

Time and Money for Converts

Time and Money for Converts

2 – We have to teach our video journalism students that TV stations and news sites are employing more solo mobile journalists than ever before.  They have to be able to do it all – shoot, report, edit and create.

3 – If you haven’t seen Nick Thune’s Yearbook Song, then now is the time to watch it.

4 – No one wants a yearbook controversy, but one school in Virginia may have to reprint their entire yearbook run this year due to inappropriate sexual comments by students.  Ouch.

Have a great end of the year week.

Cool Links #88: The One About Another New Principal

Last week our principal of only three years dropped a bomb on us via email – he resigned.  We now have a caretaker administrator to finish out the school year and no word on how or when they will search for/pick a new principal.  I’ve written off and on about the need to keep good lines of communication open with your principal.  But starting the dialog can be difficult and I’ve not often looked forward to the opening conversations with a new principal.  It’s sometimes difficult to discover just what makes each one tick.  What is important to them? How can you be a part of helping them with their goals, so that they might be more inclined to help you with yours?  I guess we’re in for four months of a roller coaster ride until school starts in the fall.

Now for the cool links:

1 – Teachers are at the end of the line and they just aren’t going to take it anymore!  (Thanks to the Principal’s Page blog)

2 – Need to learn basic masking in Photoshop?  Nicolesy will show you how.

3 – Daniel Pink is on to something with motivation 2.0, he identifies the problem – old carrot and stick motivation doesn’t work in a web 2.0 world.  But he doesn’t say how to set up the right conditions for new motivation to work.

4 – This is just too punny.

But I Didn't Shoot The Lowercase

But I Didn't Shoot The Lowercase

5 – The Blogush Blog discusses why change in schools comes slowly and sometimes not at all.

6 – When you are designing, sometimes you need to draw it out before you create the design.  Hongkiat has some great tools for offline web design.

7 – If you are like me, you don’t throw away a camera until it dies.  But when is the right time to let go of an old DSLR?  Find out how many photos you’ve shot (actuations) – the Digital Photography School can help show you how.

8 – How many times has this happened to your Student TV News show?  Too many I’ll bet.

Insert Error Here

Insert Error Here

Short week.  That’s all folks.

The One About Yearbook Day

We simply call it “Yearbook Day.”  The day we give out the yearbooks and really find out what people think.  We get to hear about every misspelled word – unfortunately mostly names.  We find out about every little mistake we made – and the big ones too.

Our day went fairly well, despite the fact that we didn’t have an external monitor adapter for the new iMacs.  But we got by with an old Mac Mini.  But the prom photos were not on the hard drive we brought – only the iMac.  Such is life.  The slide show went fine.  The kids listened to music and signed books.  We heard a lot of positive comments about the first-ever all-color yearbook at our school.

Then the real issues started rolling in – and both were our fault as far as I can tell.  The first was a girl, a senior girl, who we misspelled her name, EVERY, SINGLE time in the yearbook.  Ouch!  I think it was spell check.  Her name is unique.  We need to come up with a system to identify uniquely spelled, “common” names, so that spell check doesn’t butcher them.

I handled the issue as best I could.  She was very distressed and I explained to her that it wasn’t personal against her, we were very sorry, and we know that she is upset.  She calmed down some, but I don’t think I was able to make her less upset.  I apologized again and eventually went off to deal with the next fire.

The next fire came later in the day.  A group of sophomores went to a club sponsor and let her know we accidentally got the wrong photo in the wrong photo box for their club’s group photo.  So, now we have to order crack and peel stickers in order to get the right photo in the right box.  Happiness.

And in the meantime, seniors have been hounding me – “why aren’t the prom photos on the school web site yet?”

But I’m mainly happy that we were able to get through the day with only a few problems.  Let’s hope the rest of the week goes as well and no more problems pop up.

Cool Links #87: The One About Prom Craziness

Last night was Prom.  Yesterday was insanity day.  We had our seniors out most of the day to get ready for Prom.  Some of the sophomores were at a Field Day, the Ballet Folklorico dance team was performing somewhere, there were AP Tests, and we were getting ready to prep for Yearbook Day!  Too much craziness for one day.  So, after another 16-hour day, it was time to sleep.  Now, it is time for cool links!

1 – As a yearbook advisor, I’m always on the lookout for a way to sell more yearbooks.  I think I may have found an advantage.  According to businesspundit.com, women make 70 percent of consumer purchases.  That is not a typo – 70 percent.  So, even though they are about 52 percent of your student body, the girls or the moms will make the decision to buy most of your yearbooks.  This may explain why girls dominate yearbook staffs.  Yearbooks are a consumer purchase.  They’re just more into it.

Women Make 70 Percent of Consumer Purchases

Women Make 70 Percent of Consumer Purchases

2 – If you teach video production or broadcast journalism, then you know how difficult it can be to get cutaways or b-roll.  Then you’ve got to watch this video. (mildly not safe for school)

3 – Is journalism about access?  In some ways it seems that the only journalism making any money these days (business, sports, entertainment) is about access.  Adam Westbrook takes this debate up with a piece on his blog.

4 – I love PHDcomics.com and this one is spot on.

Things You'll Never See In A Newspaper

Things You'll Never See In A Newspaper

5 – The JEA has a good presentation about the reasons why students should think internet publishing first.

6 – With Youtube changing from FLV to HTML5 on their site, I need a new way to download Youtube videos to use in class.  I prefer to use the Google Chrome browser, but you will need to download Firefox for this one, the Easy YouTube Video Downloader.  It works pretty good and lets you choose several formats to save your videos in.

7 – Dateline: Silver Age is an homage to both the “Silver” Age of Comics and to the many journalists who have had to pen a headline in a newspaper.  I love the site, it is so much fun.

Police Baffled By Newspaper Headlines

Police Baffled By Newspaper Headlines

8 – When you are creating a web site, you need that site to run in a lot of places.  I’m not talking about Denver and Boston, but Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Explorer.  And you need it to run on mobile devices too.  Noupe.com has a terrific list of sites that can help you optimize your web site for every type of browser and platform.

9 – I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before, but the SnapFactory Blog has some great tutorials, called Digital Photography 1-on-1.  They are for beginning and intermediate photographers.  They are available on their Youtube channel too.

10 – Want a simple way to develop grid-based web design systems?  Webdesignledger has everything you need – tons of links for grid based web design tools.  And who doesn’t like to design on a grid?

11 – Wired Magazine is stepping up for fair use.  In an online article, they note a study that says Fair Use of copyright material adds nearly $7 Trillion to the US economy alone.  So, I wonder just how much damage has the DMCA done to our economy?

12 – Where do computer threats come from?  You’d be surprised.

Where Computer Threats Come From

Where Computer Threats Come From

13 – Just funny.

Hall Monitor

Hall Monitor

14 – I’m a big fan of Rebooting The News, which comes from the author of Scripting The News.  I love his idea of creating three simple rules for computer standards that are similar to the rules for robotics by Isaac Asimov.

Have a great Yearbook Week and I hope you get your books in soon or finish your Fall books soon.

Why Don’t They Treat Us Like Professionals?

I’m not talking about the students or the parents.  I don’t expect students to understand the professional world, it is my job to teach them how it works.

I’m not talking about parents either.  As a parent myself, I can understand, if not always agree with, the urge to irrationally protect your offspring regardless of the offense or lack of responsible action on the student’s part.

I’m talking about administrators and politicians.  Those in charge – the great “they.”

I came into teaching 15 years ago after spending five years working in broadcasting.  I worked for two television stations, a commercial one (FOX) and a non-commercial one (PBS).  At both stations I was treated better, although paid much worse than most teachers.  TV is not as glamorous as it looks.  Let me give you some examples.

1 – Lunch.  It is insane that teachers (and students) are expected to wolf down lunch in 26 minutes.  This can not be good for digestion and often forces us into making unhealthy choices based entirely on speed.  There is no time for food preparation, you must have your food ready to eat.  You also do not have time to get anything done either.  If you are a really quick eater, you might have enough time to go to the bathroom.   I would be willing to stay at school 30 mins. longer every day, in order to get a reasonable lunch time.

2 – That brings me to another sore spot – going to the restroom.  You simply must hold it until you have a conference period or if you are really fast, during a passing period.  I am currently lucky, my classroom is directly across from a restroom.  This was not always the case.  My old classroom was fairly far from the restroom and it was a challenge to get there and back in the time allowed for passing periods.  Students face the same dilema, only they get to add in the humiliation of dealing with the whims of teachers ranging from the unreasonable to the tyrannical.  I feel sorry for them, and try to treat them with as much respect as possible, as long as they don’t abuse it.

3 – Keys.  Most teachers don’t get a door key to the school building.  So, if they want to come in and work (unpaid mind you) on a Saturday or holiday, they must find someone to let them in to the building.  It is like a child saying “mother may I.”  When I worked in TV, they gave me a set of keys to the entire facility on the first day I worked there.  I was expected to be a professional and use them appropriately.  If I didn’t, I would be fired.  Simple as that.  That’s how adults work.  I am fairly lucky, in that I have a building key and code card.  But I have to fill out a lot of paperwork each year to keep them during the summer months, even though I’m already on contract for the following school year.

4 – Supplies.  At both TV stations I worked at, even the really cheap one, if you needed office supplies to get your job done – all you had to do was ask.  There was usually a procedure for obtaining the supplies, but it was very rare that you were told you couldn’t have something you needed.  Usually, that only happened when you needed something really expensive – like a TV camera or 100 boxes of video tape.  Then you better have a really good reason.  Schools seem to have the worst supply chain possible.  Items are doled out with an eyedropper or give in certain rationed increments.  Other times you are flat out told no.  This often makes it difficult to teach, without the proper materials.  No other profession would put up with that, they simply would tell their boss, it can’t be done without the proper materials.  And yes, I’ve had that irrational station manager that expected the impossible – but even he was quick enough to know the difference between “I want a new gadget” and “I need this to get the job done.”  We always seemed to get whatever we needed when a car dealership wanted a commercial made in three days or less.

5 – Dress codes.  I’ve worked with administrators who don’t care and others who care too much.  But every couple of years, someone in the system decides to crank up the dress code.  One year, we were told we had to wear a button up shirt and tie with slacks (men) or dress/skirt/pantsuit (women) every day.  This is just not sane in a school.  As a broadcaster, I was never told what to wear.  I was expected to dress appropriately.  I covered city council meetings (oxford shirt, tie, slacks, sometimes even a jacket) and I slogged out to interview city workers clearing a creek (stream to non-Texans) in a polo shirt, jeans and boots.  As a teacher, I know to dress up to go a  school board meeting or when attending a professional development session off-campus.  But, when I’m showing my students how to shoot outdoor sports, I’m not going to wear a tie – especially in our sultry south Texas fall months.  (95 degrees, sunny and humid)  Just set the expectation that you should dress professionally.  That is different for a PE coach, than for a culinary arts teacher, than for a math teacher.

6 – Collegiality.  I wish I could say that teachers work well with others.  But they don’t.  Maybe it is the nature of our jobs – we work alone, usually, in a setting where we are “in charge.”  So, when we are called to work together, everyone wants to be in charge and we are often worse than our students at playing well together.  I’m not trying to paint all teachers with the same brush, but I think that our lack of day-to-day group skills eventually gets to all of us.  When I worked in broadcasting, this was not the case.  Sure, there were many days where I was given an assignment to do by myself.  There were also times where I was in charge of others or working for someone else.  But many times, I was in a team with equals and we had to figure out how to get stuff done without anyone being “the boss.”  I think it came down to time spent together.  In TV, you are a part of the crew.  You work, eat and have fun together.  Some weeks, you see your co-workers more than your family.  That’s not often the case in teaching.  We don’t often get to work and spend time together doing anything other than meetings.  Meetings don’t build bonds.  If anyone on a campus can work well as a group it is usually coaches, they understand the value of teamwork.

7 – Paperwork.  The longer I teach, the worse it gets.  Of course much of it is electronic these days, but that does not make it any less odious.  The amount of time spent filling out forms required by the campus, district, state and federal authorities is insane.  And don’t even think about taking a student on a field trip or do a fund-raiser for your student group.  Then you’re really into it.  Mounds of paperwork or screen after mind-numbing screen of online forms to fill out.  Don’t forget your passwords and logins.

8 – Meetings.  We love to have meetings.  The one time educators do spend together is the time they dread the most – meetings.  We meet for the worst things – staff development, state mandates, federal guidelines, etc.  Most meetings are prescribed by a higher authority and deal with data, legal issues or soul crushing program details.  Few teachers, and few administrators like meetings.  So, why do we do it.  In an age of email, online tools and web seminars – why do we still insist on making people sit in a room to watch a power point presentation.  I know my district and campus are finally seeing the light.  We have a lot more of these kinds of things available online, but I know that department, team and content area meetings still hog a lot of time away from our primary job – teaching.

9 – Pay.  Let’s get to it.  Teachers don’t get much respect in America – not from parents, students or the community.  And I think it is due to the fact that we are not paid what we are worth.  Teacher’s education level exceeds their pay more than any other profession I can think of in America.  And in the U.S., our culture equates earning money with respect.  Many people who would make great teachers choose other careers because they would like to make more money.  Then we wonder why we have shortages in areas like Math, Science and Special Education.  This isn’t the 1950s anymore.  Gone are the days when a college educated woman had two choices – teacher or nurse.  The teaching field hasn’t learned in 40 years that it is in competition with other careers for the best and brightest women and men.  If you want the best, you have to pay them and treat them the best.  Just ask Google.  If schools recruited like they do and treated their employees like they do, we would crush every standard thrown our way.  But as long as they treat teachers like proletarians or worse replaceable cogs, then as a society we will get what we deserve.

Post Script – This is not a diatribe against my own campus.  In general, I’m treated pretty well – as are my fellow teachers.  But much of that is at the whim of our campus principal.  Should he get a promotion, retire, transfer or be fired – we would be faced with a new principal and new rules, be they good or bad.  Too much of what we experience as teachers comes down to how well our building level leadership decides we should be treated.  I’ve usually had good principals, but I have had a few bad ones and some just plain nutty ones too.  And that is not the basis for professionalism.  I’m glad that there are good principals out there looking out for their teachers, but there are bad ones too.  And I think teachers live in constant fear of losing a good principal, or even a decent mediocre one.  But I do think that we in education sometimes take the road well travelled, instead of trying to find better solutions to our problems.  Because if we as teachers want to be treated like professionals, WE must act like professionals.  Too many times we tolerate our peers to behave in unprofessional ways and then sit back and gripe when the rules are changed so that bad actors don’t have excuses.  This doesn’t make us more professional, it makes us less so.  We must stand up for the teaching profession each and every day by acting in a manner that will make parents want to entrust us with their most precious possessions – their children.

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