Cool Links #109: Not Taken By The Rapture

Contrary to popular opinion, I have not been abducted by space aliens, raptured away or joined a cult.  OK, maybe I did join a cult – or at least my son did – I was drafted by the cult known as Boy Scouts.  As a yearbook advisor, I already have very limited time. Now as a Boy Scouting leader AND still a yearbook advisor, free time has become a mystical concept that is heard about, but never seen.  I am not blog-fading, just trying to figure it all out.  With summer upcoming, I should be able to get back into a rhythm of blogging again.  (I hope.)  Now for the links…

1 – After months of indecision, the Texas Legislature has finally settled on the amount of pain to inflict on public school districts.  If you live here and want to know how bad it will be for the next two years, take a look.  Thanks to the Texas Tribune for providing our state with the best info on every twist and turn of the crazy pink building in Austin.

2 – I love photography.  Didn’t start out that way, but I love it.  I am intrigued by famous photos, especially of “regular” people who just happened to be in a famous photo.  Listverse has a Top 10 of the lives of people made famous by famous photos – especially what happened after the photo was published.

3 – Here is a great tool for creating visualizations for news stories called Many Eyes.  It appears to be free.

4 – Are our First Amendment rights in danger? They are when Police see cameras like this

How Police see SLR Cameras

How Police see SLR Cameras

5 – I recently wrote about how teachers in the US are taking the blame for a problem created outside of schools.  And Finland has been held up lately as the solution to all our problems.  But Finland and the US are nothing like each other.

6 – I deeply respect Mindy McAdams, I think she is one of the best professors in online journalism today.  I mainly agree with her post – that it is not stupid to major in journalism today, as long as the student understands the landscape.  They must be prepared to never work for a traditional news organization, or only work for one for a short time.  They must be ready to work for a small online startup, maybe even a series of them.  Their career will be very different from journalists of the past.

7 – Now this is a Facebook style photo that is worthy of being called a photograph.

Houston, that is going on my Facebook page.

Houston, that is going on my Facebook page.

8 – I love my Mac, but I hate waiting for Photoshop or Final Cut to render.  The Macintosh Performance Guide has all kinds of ways to help you get the most out of your Mac and the software on it, like the Adobe line of products.  Worth studying.

9 – This is turning into a “stuff I love” post, but I’ve had nothing but great experiences with the wonderful people at B&H Photo.  Apparently a camera they were testing (a used one) mistakenly ended up leaving their store with the photos still on it.  This gave the outside world a glimpse into the world of B&H.  I love the photos.  I love the fact that B&H is closed on Jewish holidays, just like I love the fact that Chick-fil-a is closed on Sundays.  I respect businesses that have a positive ethos and B&H does this well.  They provide a great service at a good price, by friendly people.

10 – Need a free, easy to use HTML editor look no further, just click on the link.

11 – At my school, we ditched our photo company a long time ago – too costly.  We now take our photos ourselves, and this means training the students on how to take a good portrait.  But what is good for a thin person, doesn’t work with someone like myself – someone who has a higher BMI.  dPs has a top flight post on how to photograph larger people.

12 – If you are like me, many of the photos in your yearbook are taken by staffers who never took a photo class.  They got a quick and fast version of it in yearbook class and they shoot most of their photos with a point and shoot – often badly.  Clifford Otto has a terrific post about how to hold your point and shoot to get the best photos.

13 – I know this is how many teachers and students feel about school right now.

Not sure you get 100% in May

Not sure you get 100% in May

14 – Do ethics matter in online journalism, maybe more so than ever.  Check out this post from Mindy McAdams with 10 Rules for Online Ethics.  Best takeaway – #2 Assume everything you write online will become public.

15 – Petapixel has the best explanation of depth of field I’ve ever seen.

16 – This is a fun site to teach kids about ISO, shutter and aperture – Camera Sim.

17 – I’ve heard that the kerfluffle over staging shots of presidential speeches has changed the official policy at the White House, but it is sad that they ever did it this way to begin with.

18 – This is pretty geeky and contains math content, but it is interesting – the f/stop scale is logarithmic because humans are bad at telling the difference in brightness, unless it is really big.

19 –  The owners of Leica Camera were the Oskar Schindlers of the photo world.  The untold story of how they snuck Jews out of Germany before and during WWII.

 

I have more, but I’m saving some for later in the week.

 

Silence is Acceptance: Teachers Are NOT the Problem

Idiots in Austin and Washington

Idiots in Austin and Washington

I’ve been a classroom teacher for sixteen years.  I didn’t even know if I would like this gig when I started out.  I came from a background in newspaper and TV.  But I wanted something with more stability and weirdly enough a better paycheck – that was back when beginning teachers made $26,000 a year in Texas.  They make a bit more now.

But lately teachers have become the enemy.  Our “fat paychecks” and “grand retirement” packages are just too much for taxpayers to handle.  God forbid teachers make a living wage and be able to raise a family.  It is not enough that we already sacrifice time, money and effort above what we are contracted to do.  We are one of the lowest paid professions that requires both a 4-year college degree and continuing education after being hired.  So many teachers pay for supplies out of their own pockets that the US Federal government recognizes this fact with a $200 tax deduction.

Most teachers get to school an hour before the first bell and stay 2-3 hours after the last bell, making for 9-10 hour working days at school.  This doesn’t take into account additional time at night and on weekends grading papers and planning lessons or calling parents.

Of course we don’t “work summers” and lay around the pool all day for three months.  Not likely.  School ends here after the first week of June, and teachers return to school the second week of August.  This gives you eight weeks off.  But teachers often are called in for curriculum meetings, staff development, teaming meetings and a hundred other things.  Many teachers also go in several days before they are “on the clock” to start getting their rooms ready for the first day of school, since many schools no longer give teachers time to do this anymore.  Nearly all of these “extra duties” are non-contracted and unpaid.

Next year in many classrooms, there will be 30-35-40 students packed into a room designed for 25.  The desks will be wall to wall and right on top of each other.  The computers will not be upgraded any time soon, and should one stop working, you will have to do without.  This is how we prepare our students for the 21st century?

If you have too many English language learners, or special needs kids – forget about asking for a co-teacher or even an aide.  They too will be gone.

Some districts are considering replacing their librarians with secretaries or getting rid of the library totally.  Same with nurses:  replacing RN’s with cheaper LVN’s or having several campuses share a nurse.

High schools in the Houston area will lose their Deputies soon.  Too expensive says the county.  Schools will have to hire their own officers or lower cost “security guards.”

Don’t even start on textbooks, some haven’t been replaced by the state in a decade.  I’ve heard that some districts have started double checking the mileage line to make sure that every student who is outside the legal limit walks to school or is brought by a parent, not a bus.  I wonder how much longer until they tell us we can’t have air conditioning until it is above a certain temperature.  The double paned windows in my classroom don’t even open.  There are other classrooms that have no windows.

If you are lucky after 30-40 years of this, you can get a pension, and live off of 60 percent of your former salary.

Many complain that teachers don’t do a good job compared to the “golden age” of the ’50s-60s.  Back when ruler toting teachers apparently were 10 feet tall and shot fire from their eyes.  Those teachers didn’t have the level of expectations we do today.  If a student didn’t cut it, they failed them and sent them off to work in a factory or in the fields.  Today, we are expected to make sure every student gets a 21st century education.  But we still use some methods that haven’t changed in 100 years.  Why – because we are told to do so.

The same politicians who are using teachers as a tackling dummy, are the ones who like to mandate everything from the number of school days to the allowable calories in the cafeterias.  There is more paperwork and regulation in schools than in nearly any other business.  Yet, along with the regulations, there never comes an increase in funding for compliance.  We must do more with less.

Less is not always more – many times less is simply less.  And as educators, we need to stop pretending we can keep doing more with less.  We can’t!  We are part of the problem.  We keep taking it.  We need to stop agreeing that we can do more.  We can’t.

If you live in Texas, or even other states – this is probably true there too.  Join the Protect the Classroom movement, call – write – or email your state legislator and senator.   This is going to hit EVERY school – yes the ones in your neighborhood too!

YLYB #71: Football Finale or Playoff Pitstop

Tomorrow we play our first, and hopefully not last playoff football game.  We have made the playoffs three other times since I’ve been the yearbook teacher here.  We have not advanced before and we’d really like to see what the second round is like.

Football fridays are a lot of work, but it’s all worth it when the team wins and everyone gets to celebrate all the hard work of taking photos and shooting video.  Wish us luck.

Cool Links #100: The One That Took A Century

I know it seems like I haven’t had a links post in a long time.  And that is because I haven’t.  I haven’t had a free Saturday since school started.  Every week has been a blur, football games, pep rallies, family events and more.  So, here are the much awaited links.

1 – I like the fact that the new Twitter web site design uses the Golden Ratio.

Golden Ratio

2 – This is just an absolutely incredible photo.  I am always telling my students that they have to find a new way to look at the same old thing.  And who hasn’t seen the space shuttle being pulled out to a launch?  But, have you seen it this way?

Space Shuttle New Way

Space Shuttle New Way

3 – This took a lot of guts.  The valedictorian of this school chose to criticize the quality of the education she received, even though nearly everyone would agree she got the very best.

4 – Here is a list of web sites all web designers should be looking into.

5 – My students were actually included on overheard in the newsroom.  “B-Roll is like a screen saver for your life.”

6 – This is just funny.

I Can Takez Photoz

I Can Takez Photoz

7 – Six reasons your travel (or anytime) photos suck.  Same reasons any of your photos suck.  From SFGate.

8 – Before and After Magazine – don’t enlarge things just to fill the space.

9 – How to speak during a broadcast without making breathing sounds.  Via Advancing The Story.

10 – Red and Blue are the most powerful colors on the web.  Great graphic from the Cool Infographics Blog.

11 – This is a funny front page.  Not sure if it is photoshop or real.

No News

No News

12 – How do people really watch the local news at home?  They don’t give it their full attention unless you give them a reason.  Thanks Bob Kaplitz.

13 – The city of Chicago gives citizen journalists the same right to credentials as professional journalists.  I say this is a win for Journalism.

14 – How To Open A Book from the Principal’s Page.  I think I’m going to put a copy of this with every new yearbook this year.

15 – This is really for much earlier in the year, but you can add it to your next year file – 15 Terms Every Yearbook Staffer Should Know.  Thanks Yearbook Blog.

16 – The Texas Tribune has a great audio piece about Why Everyone Can’t Go To College.

YLYB: #25: Feel The Heat

It was hot at the football game yesterday.  The temp was about 94, plus humidity.  And the scoring was both early and often.  We won 48-0.  I saw three of my former yearbook editors in the stands during the second half.  Despite the heat, we had a pretty good time.

The game was actually really quick – 2 hours and 15 min. including halftime.  I think they may have evoked the slaughter rule in the second half and run the clock continuously.

The best part is that the first half was played in the daytime.  Because it was a Saturday game, we started at 6 p.m.  The sun was still up at halftime.  We got a lot of great photos in the daytime sunlight.  Because our school colors are black and gold, our home – black uniforms don’t show up well against a night sky.  So, it is always exciting when we have a daytime or even early game where we can shoot in the sunlight.

I am excited about our next game, because the band should be wearing their uniforms by then.  Due to the hot Gulf Coast temperatures, our band wears jeans and white polo shirts the first three weeks.  I think they are smart to do so.  Those black band uniforms must be sweltering.  But they do look better than the polos.

YLYB #22: Staff Shirts

Today I got the final artwork for the yearbook staff’s shirt for 2011.  It is basically a low-res version of the cover, both front and back.  It has fewer colors, due to costs and it says yearbook staff on the front.  But I think it looks really good.  The price is right too, so we are going to use this same company to get shirts for our fundraiser too.  We’re going to make shirts that look like the Buc-ee’s shirts.

Buc-ees

Buc-ees

If you’re not from Texas, you may not know about the awesome place called Buc-ee’s.  It is the best road stop ever.  They have it all – food, gas, drinks, snacks, junk you don’t need and t-shirts.  Plus they have the cleanest bathrooms ever.  You don’t pass up a Buc-ee’s.  Oh, and grab some beaver nuggets.  Yummy.

Cool Links #99: The One About Relaxing

As the song says, “Relax, don’t do it.”  Today is the beginning of the long march to Thanksgiving.  Holidays are few and far between for the next three months.  So, we must take today and relax as much as possible.  I smell a nap later, so here’s the links -

1 – Templates for TV graphics save time and effort, plus make your show’s look have some consistency, but inevitably someone forgets to complete the graphic before air time.

Add Caption Here

Add Caption Here

2 – Why is your fancy new iPad the size of a paperback book?  Or a better question is: where did all the “standard” sizes for books come from in the first place – sheep!

3 – The KRG blog has a list of 12 essential skills for aspiring journalists.  It is a good list, but it is missing one important skill – the ability to monetize your content.  Take some business classes.

4 – I  can’t remember if I have mentioned this resource before.  He does not have any journalism courses, but his story is inspiring. Khan Academy is a super resource for students struggling with math or science.  His free youtube channel has taught thousands.

5 – FORA.tv has a conversation with Bill Gates that focuses mainly on education.  Like so many others who have never taught, they think they can solve all the ills of education.  Gates’ magic wand is charter schools.  He forgets that unlike charters, many students in public schools do NOT want to be there, there is a deficit of parental support and we can not negotiate our way out of special education mandates.  He also doesn’t acknowledge the high burnout rate and lower pay for teachers in charter schools.  He also thinks that a third year teacher is better than a veteran teacher, because they work harder.  Working harder is not always working smarter.  I work plenty hard now, I know I’m a better teacher after 15 years, than after only two.  And finally, he wants to record every minute of the classroom day with a web cam.  How many parents would agree to having their children recorded?  He should stick to software that crashes and leave the classrooms of America alone.

6 – Just for TV Teachers has struck a nerve, or had his struck.  He wonders if all the time, money and attention devoted to high school football is worth it?  There are times where I wonder the same thing.  Don’t get me wrong, I played high school football and in the band.  I enjoy going to games and I love the game itself.  But in many states the insane amounts of money that are diverted to sports at the secondary level could be used to improve the quality and number of teachers, or purchase equipment and instructional materials that are sorely needed.  In a time where many states are slashing education budgets, how many have seriously thought about cutting sports or even cutting their budgets?  When times are good and there is more than enough money for all, sports are a luxury we can afford – but when belt tightening is required, why does the athletic department so often get a pass?

7 – This next post is just for fun – cardboard cameras.   Too bad they don’t work.

Cardboard Camera

Cardboard Camera

8 – News hits home, film at eleven.

News hits home

News hits home

9 – The clone stamp tool can be very useful when doing artistic or touch up work on a portrait – never for journalism.  All Web Design Info offers this tutorial.

10 – Is this the “next big thing?” The merging of TV station newscasts and newspapers.  Who knows, but the blog Reflections of a Newsosaur thinks so.

11 – My local newspaper here in Houston is closing it’s doors for good.  The last issue was tossed on my driveway last week.  It was published for 70 years.  I knew the editor pretty well and I know that the ever shrinking metro the Houston Chronicle never covered our area well before, they won’t be doing a better job with a smaller staff.

12 – Etaoin Shrdlu thinks that newspapers started dying when they stopped offering something of value.  He compares it to Starbucks.  You can get a cup of coffee for way less than $1 almost anywhere, but coffee at Starbucks is usually more than $3 and people line up to pay.  They do so, because Starbucks also offers both customization and a place to drink the coffee in a nice atmosphere.  Newspapers missed out in the past by keeping their price artificially low – this encouraged customers to see news as virtually free, even before the internet.  Since the internet, newspapers have missed the boat on customization.  They should have been creating systems for people to make their own custom news feed/page.  And finally, they also could have been a part of creating atmosphere – they should have found a way to get their newspaper in every coffee house in their readership area.

13 – Random Mumblings blog says that newspapers need to stop thinking about the paper edition.  They should focus on the web, because that is where people get their news today.

14 – If you ever wanted to know how to light a subject for a photoshoot – DIY photography has 13 video tutorials on how to set up lighting.

That’s a wrap – en

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