Why Apple Rocks!

Yesterday Firefox, my favorite browser, quit unexpectedly.  This is very rare, but it does happen.  It would not relaunch.  So I deleted it and reinstalled from a fresh download.  I launched it, but it would not launch and I got a crazy error message saying Firefox was already running.  Confused?!

So, I restarted my Mac.  Still no go, same error message.  So it was time for search and destroy.  I killed every file related to Firefox.  Restart.  Relaunch.  Still no go.

OK, google to the rescue.  Apple’s website had a useful article on what happened during the crash.  Some invisible file was corrupted.  It even showed you how to find it and delete it.  I tried.  No dice.

Screaming and frustration.

So, I decided it was time to restore my software to it’s original state by erasing the hard drive and reinstall the system software.  This is no easy task.  First step – backup all data.  That took a while.  Then find the system disks.

Panic!  Can’t find them.

OK, try the system disks from the Mac Mini.  Same OS, should work.  It does fine.  Formats the drive and then installs the OS 98 percent and then hangs up.  I try it again.  Same result.

So I try it without the iLife package (where it was hanging up).  It installs.  OK, I’ll deal with it.

I start updating the Mac with software, etc. and try to run the DVD player.  No go.  Then another program won’t run.  This is now too much.  I give up.

Safari is running, so I look up the Houston Galleria Apple Store phone number.  I am now at an all new low.  The tech teacher having to call for help.

The girl on the phone is polite, helpful and even makes an appointment for me at the Genius Bar with in 90 mins. of my call.  I pack up my MacBook, get in the truck and drive.  My iPod is seriously low on power, but it helps me chill out.

I get there 10 min. early and only wait 10 min. until I am helped.  They have me up and running in 30 min. – no charge.  Nothing but helpful associates who know their product.  This is why Apple is better than Windows or Linux.  You just can’t get this kind of customer service anywhere else.

Fat Police Strike!

TX State Calorie Police Bans Candy

TX State Calorie Police Bans Candy

No, I’m not talking about large officers of the law, I’m talking about the state of Texas.  As of next year, my district is banning all food sales by groups, clubs or organizations – this means no candy, sodas, bake sales, bbq plates, etc.  The state’s crazy and draconian rules are so hard to interperet the district just flat out banned all food sales.

We made nearly $2,000 by selling candy this year.  We really need a new fundraiser.

And it can’t involve taking students out of class either.  Those types of fundraisers (we used to do a girl’s football game) have been banned too.  Got any ideas?  Please comment – please!

Cool Links #39: Bonus Long Weekend Edition

If you’re like me, a long weekend is just another excuse to chill on the computer.  Especially when it is getting hotter like today here in Houston.  So, here’s some more cool links to cool off with:

1 – This is one I get all the time from my students – how can you lighten hair in photoshop?  Nicole Young has the answer in this video from PhotoFocus.

2 – The JEA has an insightful, but not helpful post on why high schools should keep their printed media alive.  They don’t, however, have any answers as to HOW they can keep them alive in the current mania of budget cuts and the added economic slump that is killing ad dollars.

3 – Dkzody, a yearbook teacher who is wondering how much longer the yearbook will survive at her school.

4 – Joseph Niepce’s wooden camera is going on display in a museum.  Cool!

The first camera

The first camera

5 – I love minimalist web design.  It looks great and loads fast.  I am always trying to get my students to get their sites pared down and here’s a great list of 40 examples of minimalist design.

6 – The dPS has a lengthly and helpful tutorial on How to Shoot Baseball. I’m sure it will work for softball too.

Back to school tomorrow.  Nearly done.

Cool Links #38: Memorial Day Weekend Edition

As we all celebrate a much needed three-day weekend, let’s all pause to remember the real purpose of the holiday on Monday – Memorial Day.  Please remember those who have served and given the ultimate price as well as those who served and only stood and waited, for they protect us too.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day

1 – This is why you don’t pre-slug your newspaper headlines.

Newspaper Slug Gets Published

Newspaper Slug Gets Published

2 – Great poster of retro cameras.

Retro Cameras Rock!

Retro Cameras Rock!

3 – Blogush has an excellent post on how we set our students up for failure and how we should or at least could be helping them to “race and always win.”

4 – Traditional yearbooks printed on paper are in danger of becoming extinct.  I know that at my school, sales have dropped about 2-3 percent a year for the last 15 years.  We now sell fewer than half the books we sold in ’98.

5 – I teach in a school with a high rate of students on free lunch.  This article in the Washington Post hit a chord with me, but it was almost the very end before the lightbulb went off.  There are many good and sensible reasons that poor students don’t feel a sense of urgency about anything.  The take-away was on the last page of the article “No sense in trying to hurry when you are poor.”

6 – This article about “Why journalists deserve low pay,” has made the rounds of the internet this last week, it’s been tweeted and blogged, but I’m going to blog it again anyway.

7 – The The Impotence of Proofreading

8 – Eight awesome layout solutions to improve your web page’s design.

9 – Too bad this site hasn’t been updated in about a year, but they have several great tutorials such as mixing audio in garage band and creating lower thirds in final cut.

10 – Advanicing the Story blog has a post on using web stories to add interest and information to your broadcast stories.

11 – Silber Studios has a terrific short about how Ansel Adams created the magic of his Moon at Half Dome shot.

12 – Circulation figures for all the top US newspapers in a fun and creative graphic.

13 – How my students work.

If it wasnt for the last minute, nothing would get done around here

If it wasn't for the last minute, nothing would get done around here

14 – The Creating Lifelong Learners Blog has an excellent selection of iMovie ’09 resources.  We no longer use it after transitioning to Final Cut, but it is still a great choice for those who can’t afford FCE or don’t want to deal with the learning curve.

15 – Tom Brokaw, the former NBC anchor, gave a great speech at this year’s SPJ convention.

Have a great holiday and if you see a soldier, sailor, airman or marine thank them for your freedom and their service.

What A Great Looking Bunch!

Finally found a copy of the photo we took last year in Arizona at the ASNE Reynolds Foundation Journalism Teachers Fellowship at Arizona State.  I highly recommend all high school journalism teachers apply to one of the five ASNE two week workshops.  Professionally, those two weeks were the best time I’ve had as a teacher.  As June speeds closer, I miss my compadres from last year and hope that they are all doing well.

2008 Reynolds High School Journalism Fellowship at Arizona State University

2008 Reynolds High School Journalism Fellowship at Arizona State University

Media Rock Stars

The kids in my media classes might sometimes feel like nerds, but in reality, just like the guy who invented USB, they are rock stars! I love this commercial.

Cool Links #37: The End is Near Edition

With only three weeks of school left, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  But they are three very busy weeks.  Lots of performances that we need to shoot video and stills of for the web site and video podcasts. So, here are some tasty cool treats to help you keep it together until the end of the year.

1 – Making Teachers Nerdy has a top flight list of free public domain music and images for student use in projects.

2 – Seems like yearbooks are going out and unfortunately making news – in the worst ways.  This one from Tampa, Florida is a real head scratcher and nearly not safe for school because of the content of the news story and the yearbook. And then in Arizona, a teacher was put on paid leave after two inappropriate remarks were found in the yearbook.

3 – As usual, another perfect post from the digital Photography School – An Introduction to Shooting Sports Photography.  A number of great take-aways:  Best one is use a radio.

Listening to the broadcast of the game while you work will give you a play-by-play account so you can understand exactly what is going on.

4 – This photo is simply amazing.  The detail in this gigapixel photo is incredible.  In the future we won’t need zoom lenses.

5 – Here in Texas, journalists have been operating without any kind of official state protections for journalists.  But now Gov. Rick Perry has done one of his rare good acts, he signed a Shield Law for Journalists.

6 – It is always great to see someone who sees a future in journalism for those who are willing to try to keep moving in whatever direction today’s journalism takes you.

7 – Google rolls out some really great and useful web search options.

8 – The Buzz Machine has a post that more than suggests it is time for newspapers to drop the paper.  News must FIND the consumer, not the other way around.  That’s how news works in the digital age.

9 – The Washington Post has a terrific MediaStorm project gallery with a number of great multimedia shows with audio, photos and video.  Worth a look.

10 – The Guardian (UK) has a terrific read about the writing of the novel 1984 by George Orwell.  The tale of how he was able to complete this masterpiece is nearly as interesting as the book itself. Worth reading anything written by the man who penned these rules.

Orwells Rules of Writing

Orwell's Rules of Writing

11 – The News Videographer blog has a scary post about how dangerous it is to be too complacent when behind the eyepeice of the camera.  I too know how dangerous it is to ignore how close that football player is before hitting the button and then the ground.

12 – Is Stephen Colbert right?  Are America’s newspapers on a death watch?  Read the New York Times (a newspaper you know) to find out.

13 – Upload speeds, laptops, deadlines, HD, SD, online quality?  Which one takes precedence?  The One Man Band Reporter blog has a mix of recipes for mixing up the best video in the field for transmission over the Internet.

14 – If you use a Mac (and you should), then you need to know every way there is to relaunch the finder.

15 – Went to see the new Star Trek movie this last week and I liked it.  I liked this post even more – what photographers cna learn from Star Trek.

16 – More from the dPS, an incredible step-by-step guide to fixing multiple problems in photographs using Photoshop.

1 7 – Just a little sign that is probably found in every yearbook staff room:

You have nothing to lose but...aw, well finish this caption tomorrow.

You have nothing to lose but...aw, we'll finish this caption tomorrow.

I guess I’ll finish this post next week.  🙂

New Media and Old Equipment

Like arsenic and old lace, media and beat up equipment go hand in hand.  This year, with a fairly experienced staff in both broadcasting and yearbook, we were able to keep most of our gear in functioning fashion through the end of the year.

But we do have about four dead and two dying tripods, two beat up-but barely functioning video cameras, an aging SLR, a quartet of tired mac minis, missing mics, damaged headphones, and the end of the line for Photoshop 7.1.  Old equipment eventually has to be replaced.  It can not be made to keep running past its expiration date.

But schools across the land are tightening their belts, allocating more resources to test taking training, and trimming the budget everywhere they can.  I doubt that we will be able to replace all of the equipment that has failed or must be replaced for next school year.  This does not even begin to describe our training budget – non-existent.  We have one new software package this year and will get at least one new one next year.  Without training, I will be the one-eyed man in the colony of the blind.  Sure, I will be king – but they will be lucky to end the year as one-eyed men.

Tech teachers know this, we teach an expensive subject.  The quality of the education we can deliver is directly related to equipment, software and training we can afford.  And unfortunately none of it comes cheap.  We stretch our budget every place we can.  We squeeze as many years out of each computer, camera or other equipment as possible.  Even software doesn’t get upgraded until it just won’t load on the newest machines.

But in many ways it means that we are always behind the times and short on gear.  Lets hope that the new career clusters my state is putting in place will help to put some focus on our plight and maybe even shed a little money our way too.

Cool Links #36: Prom Edition

Last night was the Prom for our school. I was up past my normal bed time.  But I did get to see my 17 seniors all dressed up and looking very nice.  They clean up nice.

Procrastination - Yearbook students are doing it right.

Procrastination - Yearbook students are doing it right.

1 – The Web Design Ledger has 30 Extremely Elegant Serif Fonts – I am personally fond of

Roman Serif

Roman Serif

Liberation Serif

Liberation Serif

2 – I know that I am a Mac Fan, but here is a list of 45 Free Useful Thumb Drive Applications that is almost entirely Windows based.  Best ones – Open Office portable, portable anti-virus, PC repair system, and VLC media player.

3 – Mindy McAdams has a superb list of take aways from a recent 1-hour tools course she taught in multimedia journalism.  Best take away:

Some students tried to get around the equipment requirements by borrowing from friends, etc. Then they complained when their grades were low because of the poor quality of their work. When I said, “You’re supposed to read the manual and figure out the proper settings on your camera,” they said, “Well, it’s not my camera, and it’s a different one from the one I borrowed last time.”

4 – Youtube user texarky posted this video, but I’m not sure it makes his point.  It does it’s job so well as a video, that it really shows the power of THAT medium.

5 – The Columbia Journalism Review has a long, but serious article about how long, serious journalism has been a crusade for awards instead of giving the customer what they want.  I agree with him on principle.  Our school’s yearbook got caught up in that same hunt.  We were winning awards, but not giving the students the book they wanted and the sales suffered.  We then started to look at what the audience wanted and at first awards plummeted, but sales began to recover.  And then as the audience got more of what they wanted, what do you know, the awards came back too.  Good coverage of the audience can be good journalism.  They are not mutually exclusive.

6 – The One Man Band Reporter blog just keeps knocking them out of the park.  This week it was a post on how to get people to take you seriously as a SoloMojo.

7 – Copyblogger says that we should all write as if we are being watched!  Watched by the proofreading police. Don’t we want people to read our work?  Yes, we do!

8 – Both print and web designers can find a lot of usefulness in the 960 Grid System.  It is a basic grid system that allows you to have a huge amount of flexibility in your design.  The CSS code makes it really easy.

9 – Fun quiz:  Quick name the top 10 US newspapers.  Go! (no cheating)

10 – This is very cool, the evolution of the Photoshop interface.  Someone took a lot of time to screenshot all this.

11 – Memory cards are a wonderful invention that has made digital photography possible.  The digital Photography School has a pair of post on the all-important job of taking care of your memory cards.  Post 1 and Post 2.

12 – Grand kids: heck things our kids don’t get.

Kids just dont understand.

Kids just don't understand.

13 – Best use of a Yearbook theme in a video game character motif.

Video Game Character Yearbook

Video Game Character Yearbook

Lucky 13 this week.  Have a good prom season – take lots of photos.

Teaching Journalism: You Can’t Be A Paycheck Player

Somewhere, I heard that half of all teachers quit in the first five years.  The number for journalism teachers is actually much higher.  The yearbook company that my school has used for the last 15 years sponsors a luncheon every spring.  They encourage the teachers to stand, first the newbies (usually half the room) and then the experienced ones.  They start with two years, then go by five years until around 10 years there are only around 20-30 still standing.  The oldest veteran usually gets a gift certificate for $100 or so.

Teaching journalism is a tough, demanding job.  You can not be in it to just pick up a paycheck every two weeks.  If you want to do this job, then it must be like that old Navy recruitment phrase, “The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love.”

I know that there are a lot of journalists out there who may be looking at an unused teaching certificate that they were urged to acquire by a mentor in college.  There are others who may be looking into certification via alternate means in their state.  Both are perfectly good ways to get into the teaching field.  On the job training will mean much more than most of the classes you might take in college about teaching.

The real challenges will come when you actually get into the classroom.  You will be expected to teach writing, design, photography, desktop publishing, media ethics and law, marketing, advertising, public relations, first amendment rights, newspaper (both print and online), yearbook, broadcasting (both video and audio) and be able to master all the hardware and software to boot. You will often be expected to run the media lab with little or no tech support.  Much of what happens in your class is outside the domain of most school district IT personnel who are not used to supporting applications that are not part of Microsoft Office or their district’s basic software load.  This can be more true if you are a Mac lab in a PC school.

In addition, you will be expected to keep the books for your school assigned budget and any funds raised by your students.  At many schools, you will be expected to supervise student photographers or photograph many, most or possibly all school sports and events.  You will often be tasked with providing public relations for your campus – i.e. writing press releases when something good happens.

But that is not even the most demanding part of the job.  The real time demand is teaching students – as it should be.  You will be responsible for teaching them not only content, but how to work as a team on deadline.  They will need to learn how to revise their work without being crushed by criticism.  Many students will need to understand that they are actually allowed to make decisions about the content of their own work.  They must learn to balance their other activities (work, school and social) and their media class.

This is a hard job.  But the rewards are worth it.  When a student wins a state-wide or national award, the glow on their face is better than any paycheck.  When you see one of your students go on to a college that they really wanted to get into and then excell, it is worth it.  When the yearbook comes out and the students actually like it, it is worth it.

None of those things happen by magic.  It takes a lot of shepherding on the part of a good media teacher.  It is your job to first teach the skills, then help them sharpen their own saw, and finally to guide them – not lead them to making solid journalistic choices.

I can not tell you if this career path is for you or not, but I can tell you that you should seek riches or fame elsewhere.  You’ll never starve – there’s way too much pizza and snacks invloved for that.  But if you care about kids and want to see them succeed, and if you care about the future of journalism – regardless of the platform or even if they can make money from it or not – then this career could be for you.

If you only care about kids, then teach math or even English.  If you only care about journalism, then find a way to keep employed in the currently rocky times.  But if you care about both – I encourage you to do it.  We need more talented journalists who’ve “been there” – not just to tell war stories – but to teach, encourage and guide the next generation of journalists.  It’s an exciting time to be at the bottom of journalism so to speak.  The technology of today will allow these kids to do more journalism in new ways.  I know that I get more excited every day about the possibilities.