2009: The Year In Blog Posts

I just went back and looked at my last year’s blog output.  It was kind of interesting to see it all.  Not counting about 50 Cool Links posts, I read through all my other content and came up with a top 10 Best of Teach_J.

1 – I Don’t Read Newspapers

2 – What’s Wrong With High Schools?

3 – Money Does Make A Difference In Education

4 – Is Journalism Education The Problem?

5 – That Bloomin’ Taxonomy

6 – Why Apple Rocks

7 – 12 Simple Ways To Be The Best Yearbook Staff

8 – Yearbook Day Paradoxes

9 – Taking A Day Off, Is It Wrong?

10 – Cool Movie About Tricky Dick

I hope you enjoy the look back and let’s all have a happy 2010.

Cool Links #72: The One About The End of A Decade

Seems like a lot of end of 2000s stuff in the old link basket this week.  Loads of stuff though, hope you all like it.

1 – The Oatmeal has lots of great graphics and ideas, but some of them are not safe for schools.  I like this 10 Words You Need To Stop Misspelling.  NSFS, but could easily be adapted.

2 – Save the Media has some suggestions for the AP Stylebook – such as Twitterati, Twitterverse and Tweet.  Best takeaway – it is Tweet, not Twitter – when used as a verb.

3 – David Warlick of 2 Cents Worth has some great Questions for the Next Decade.   I agree that they are questions.  I wonder when we will stop wasting money on textbooks, when PDFs would serve us so much better.  When will we really devote more money to technology.

4 – The New York Times made a terrific icon chart with graphics representing various categories for every year of the past 10.  My fav icon – Starbucks.  The most interesting – Movies in the Mail, an industry that came, grew and will soon be gone in less than 10 years.

5 – Poynter Online has a super list of suggestions for Writing Teachers to include in their lessons and in their classrooms.

6 – Good Magazine has another interesting graphic that sums up 2009 in news stories, by showing each major story as a block in relative size to their importance.

7 – I already teach stance and how to hold the camera to my students, but I’ve never thought about teaching it like marksmanship.  Great idea.

8 – A lot of studies recently have shown that in the last 10 years internet use is up.  Really?  Wow.  Of course it is, there is so much more rich content available now then even just 2-3 years ago.

9 – This post is about brainstorming for bloggers, but I’d say these are great rules for brainstorming in nearly any area, especially yearbook and media classes.

10 – If you don’t have a staff application, you should get one for your yearbook, newspaper, broadcast or other class.  And it’s time to move into the online realm – how about an application made with Google Docs?

11 – I love TED Talks and this one is a really great one:  It’s not about the perfect Pepsi, it’s about the perfect Pepsi’s. This is what I’ve been saying about yearbooks for a while.  We need to stop making the Pepsi yearbook.  We need the flexibility to make a Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Slice and even more yearbooks.  With print on demand technology, the yearbook companies need to roll out flexible yearbooks before even more kids stop buying books.

12 – Where did everybody go?  They are no longer going to web pages, but to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube/Hulu.

13 – DSLRs are tough.  This Canon Rebel fell 3000 feet and lived to keep working.

Canon Rebel Falls and Survives

Canon Rebel Falls and Survives

14 – I’ve been looking for this for a long time – a film maker’s dictionary of terms.  Useful if you’ve worked in TV, but only dreamed about movies.

15 – If you’ve ever thought about creating a blog, you should read these 7 Secrets of Edubloging from Free Tech for Teachers – a great award winning site.

16 – I really like reading the new Texas Tribune online news site started just this year.  The Trib is a must read for Texas teachers, because education spending is the largest item in the state budget, so you can bet we take up our part of Texas politics and the Trib covers it.  This article on the divisions between the teaching organizations in Texas was interesting to a 15 year vet who never knew why we had so many.

17 – Again from the 2 Cents Worth blog, what was computing like in 2000 vs. 2010.  We’ve come a long way.

18 – Always funny – 50 Biggest flubs of the Year in Headline writing.  My favorite:

Chance of Rain

Chance of Rain

19 – As we move into a new decade, the Newsosaur says we need to emulate the journalists of the 19th Century, not the 20th.  Muckrakers of the world unite!

20 – Teach Paperless has a list of 21 Things that will become obsolete in the next decade in education.  Lets hope teachers are not one of those things.

21 – Finally, Scott McLeod recently spoke to the NEA and had some interesting things to say.  He recorded both his speech and the Q&A that followed, both are worth a listen.  I only have two criticisms of what he said.  1) He never answered the question of HOW do we get legislatures, Congress and school boards to start spending money in the right places and move the curriculum forward.  2) He also never gave a good answer to what do people do who are not able to master higher level thinking skills after we move to an information/creativity economy.

Unfortunately with all the holiday eating, I’m up to +3.  Ouch.

Best In Show: Journalism and Tech Blog Awards

As I have been recently spurned by a prestigious teacher blog, which shall remain nameless – I will now give out my own end of the year awards.  I went through my RSS reader and checked every entry.  This is also a good year-end idea.  I found more than a dozen blogs that were DOA (Dead Online Assets).  For a blog to qualify for this list, they had to have regular posts at least 2-3 a month.  They had to have posts as recently as December and most importantly I have to like the blog or find it insanely useful.  Some categories have multiple winners, because they are just that good.

Best Resource Sharing Blog:

Free Technology For Teachers

10,000 Words

Best How To Blog – Reporting

Advancing The Story

Best How To Blog – Video

Bob Kaplitz Blog

Edit Foundry

Best How To Blog – Photo

Digital Photography School

All Wedbdesign Info: Photoshop

Best Industry Blog


Best Industry Blog – TV Station

Viewfinder Blues


Journalism Professor Blog

Notes From A Teacher

Journalism Teacher Blog


The Scholastic Scribe

Teacher Blog

Betty’s Blog

Happy Chyck Wonders

Technology Teacher Blog

Teach Paperless

Best Teacher Podcast

Wicked Decent Learning

Administrator Blog

The Principal’s Page

Best Collection of Teacher Written Blog Content

The Teacher Chronicles

Pictures of the Day

Wall Street Journal Photojournal

Best Humor Blog for Journalists

Overheard in the Newsroom

What The Duck

Probably Bad News

Merry Christmas and A Better New Year

Holiday Lights

Holiday Lights

I actually took this photo myself.  Happy Holidays from blustery, windy Houston.  And to all a good night.

Cool Links #71: The One With Holidays, Yearbook Pages and Dreams of Snow

It’s been a long semester, but we’re finally at Christmas Break and we have sold a few more books than last year.  We also have more pages done than ever before.  And finally, last night I had a dream of more snow in Houston.  Not likely I know, so I’ll have to deliver a blizzard of links.

1 – While 2009 may not have been a wonderful year for most, it was a great year for photography.  The Boston Globe has a terrific slide show of more than 40 iconic photos of the year.

Barack Obama sworn in as US President

Barack Obama sworn in as US President

2 – Madatoms.com has a graphic that shows the past, present and future decline of journalism.  As terrible as your worst post-apocalyptic science fiction nightmare.

3 – The Digital Photography School just keeps posting photo nuggets for us to all enjoy and use, like 10 Reasons to Turn Off Your Auto Focus.

4 – The whole post is being written using Google Chrome browser for OSX, but of course you can already get it for Windows (XP/Vista).  Not sure why it is not available for Windows 7 yet?    It’s fast and I’ve had few crashes.  To me it is the best of Safari and Firefox.

5 – Next up is an 8 minute video of newspaper headlines that have appeared in The Simpsons.  Funny.

6 – My Canadian friend, author of Notes From A Teacher, has an insightful list of 10 Things that His (journalism) Students Need To Keep In Mind.  Best takeaway – 10. There are many more than 10 things that you need to keep in mind.

7 – Graphjam, always fun, but often insightful had this juicy nugget about where cable news is today.

CNN Take Note

CNN Take Note

8 – These are a cool Christmas gift (And if anyone wants to send me one I won’t complain) keyboard skins for applications.  I’d love one for Final Cut Express.

Keyboard Skins For Apps

Keyboard Skins For Apps

9 – Thank you The Economist for putting teeth into the argument against pay-walls.   I’ve been saying for the last two years that I would never buy an online news subscription or pay micropayments for news because I read TOO MANY newspapers online.  The only way I’d ever consider paying, would be if I could pay a single small monthly fee ($5-7 US a month) that would allow me to read ALL the newspapers, or if they ALL joined one service where I could pay a small fee to read.

10 – Cyberdotnet blog says there will be journalists in the future. I agree.  We just won’t work for “the man.”  Journalists will have to be freelancers who work for many news organizations, plus produce content for their own branded site.

11 – The Teacher Chronicles puts forth 20 Ways You Can Upgrade to Become a Teacher 2.0.  Best Takeaway – 16. Ask your students what they do on the web! Make a list of the websites they mention and make sure you check them out!

12 – I’ve been watching a thread on the Teachpaperless blog about the wonders of technology and what they can do to replace schools and even teachers.  But The Teacher Chronicles has a list of Six Things Technology Can’t Do For You.

13 – I recently lamented the speed and capacity of the Internet service at my school, but in other ways we’ve done a good job at keeping up with technology.  I really agree with this post from The Teacher Chronicles of 11 Ways To Upgrade Your School into School 2.0.

14 – I am a huge fan of Black and White Photography, here are 40 Beautiful Examples of why it rocks!

Big Ben from Metro

Big Ben from Metro

Hope this finds you and yours having a wonderful holiday season.  I’m still at +/- zero.

Cool Links #70: The One Where I’m Not Bitter

This last week the nominations for the 2009 Edublogs were released – and despite reading two of my pal’s blogs where I was nominated, I did not end up on the official nomination list.  But as I said in the title, I’m not bitter.  Maybe I’ll take a page from my friend the Scholastic Scribe and create my own awards. Well, on to the links.

1 – Ever want a cool Twitter Web 2.0 style logo?  Well, now you can create one in seconds at Twitlogo.

2 – If you want to feel old, even if you are a 20- or 30-something, just watch this video of the decade according to 9-year-olds.  You know them, they were the Millennial Kids born in the year 2000.  I know one personally, because he is my son.

3 – This really scares me as a journalism/media teacher – just as it looks like the massive job cuts may be slowing or even stopping in the news business, there are many big news companies ready to outsource production jobs to large central locations, possibly even off-shore.  It really looks bad for kids who want to pursue a career in nearly any type of media.

4 – This next post is going to be useful for me, my kids are weakest at interviewing.  This is especially true if there is any resistance on the part of the subject or if they don’t know who to interview. They’d rather just give up and look for another story, no matter how boring.  They’d rather it be easy.

5 – As a school teacher, we need to see the writing on the wall, or the screen, that delivery of content via print is seriously outmoded.  Video and interactive web content have supplanted text a long time ago.

6 – This is a great post for photography teachers out there from the Digital Photography School – 23 Popular DSLR Lenses.  They have great lists for both Nikon and Canon.

7 – Videomaker Magazine has a super video on YouTube titled, The Seven Deadly Sins of Camerawork.  Well worth your time to watch.

8 – “Print” media really needs this to get here and fast – tablet form factor devices for e-reading of books, magazines, newspapers and more.  This is how media needs to be served in the 21st Century.

9 – Jeff Jarvis of Buzzmachine asks Is Journalism Storytelling?  The answer is yes and no.  Journalists provide information, but much of that information is now available in other places today.  Journalists must also be storytellers to put all that info into context that people can understand.

10 – The 10,000 Words Blog has a timely post of 20 Must Have Gifts For Journalists.  If anyone wants to buy me the iPod notepads, that’d be great.  Of course an iPod Touch would be nice too.

11 – I’ve always said that photographers are artists.  There’s long been rumors that Leonardo DaVinci used a camera obscura to paint the Mona Lisa and I also love the movie “The Girl in the Pearl Earring.”  But now there is photographic proof that Norman Rockwell was a swell photographer as well as a great artist.  He shot his subjects for his famous paintings.  Here’s a second link to an NPR site about it.

Norman Rockwell - Photographer

Norman Rockwell - Photographer

12 – The Web Show OPEN investigates what makes the TWIT Network operate and why it is so important to the way media of tomorrow will be small, niche and powerful.

13 – I love these.  I may even start my Spring Semester in broadcast journalism with these and have the students adapt them for their own.  They are Jim Lehrer’s 8 rules of journalism.  Full transparency – I used to work for PBS.

14 – Give an Orange a camera and find out what happens.  It may not be journalism, but it is photography.  Yes, I’m now facebook friends with an ape.

15 – PBS.org has also put up a number of their older documentaries – like this one about the LA Times from the 1970s? or 1980s? Definitely set on the wayback machine.

16 – Luminous Landscapes has a number of tutorials about photography posted online, like this one about histograms.  They are thorough, helpful and well-illustrated.

As of today, I’m back to +/- zero for my weight challenge.  So I guess that’s good, now have to keep on the treadmill and see if I can get to negative numbers next week.

Cool Links #69: The One Where We Made No Jokes

What an amazing pick-me-up we were given in Houston this week.  It really made us all feel better.  Now I just hope we can sell a few more books this final week of yearbook sales. Wish us luck.  On to the links.

1 – I’m pretty sure that I’ve blogged about this before, but I can’t find it anywhere on my site, so maybe not.  This is a short documentary style story about a pressman who still creates outstanding typography using a letter press.  Worth a watch.

2 – This was an interesting watch – the decade 2000-2009 in seven minutes.

3 – As a high school teacher especially, we have to at least understand the talk.  That is the lingo of teenagers.  In the world of the 21st Century, that means text speak, slang and more.  Teacher 2.0 has a short list of hot terms.

Emo Grass

Emo Grass

4 – It is sad how many unconfirmed numbers are flying around in both online and traditional news outlets.  This is not journalism, and needs to be crushed.  My own journalism teacher held the threat of an F over our heads for an error of fact in any story turned in. This goes well with an article about fixing mistakes from J-Source.ca.

5 – There is hope for the future of news.  David S. Bennahum wants to do for news, what McDonald’s did for fast food.  Turn it into a self sustaining franchise system that can be set up in any town in America.  Yes there is some localization, but it is mostly about keeping costs reasonable and focusing on what the local community wants/needs in a news organization.  I’ve been preaching this very model for a while.  I’m just not wealthy and not good at fundraising.

6 – The Epic Fail of news – Probably Bad News.  Funny, but not – all at the same time.

7 – If you are teaching interview techniques, here are 92 interviews to watch as good examples.

8 – Even with the hope of item number 5, I do agree with the Newsosaur, that we are likely to lose an entire generation of news reporters as newspapers and TV news programs fail, but before a fully functional web news system takes its place.

9 – This looks like a fun thing to try with students – Write or Die.  As they say, putting the prod in productivity.  This tool actually eats the words you’ve typed if you don’t keep typing.

10 – Lost Remote feels that local TV news is already dead.  I think that in many ways they are correct, but I also think that those of us who are immersed in digital online media think everyone is too.  But in reality, even large numbers of the under 20 generation still consume a lot of TV.  I think it still has some life left in it yet.  The internet still doesn’t do well during bad weather and under the crush of huge numbers of visitors (like during a crisis).

Unfortunately I am +2.5 pounds this week.  Ouch.  Too many events where there was food served.  I’ve got to eat less and exercise more.

Yearbooks Featured On Glee

I’ve not really been a fan of the FOX show Glee, but I heard that it recently featured an episode where the yearbook was a prominent part of the plot.  So, I had to check it out.

I was not entirely surprised to see that Glee parodies high school stereotypes to a T.  There are the over-aggressive, dumb jocks, the super competitive cheerleaders and the geeky drama kids in the glee club.  OK, cue every cliche about high school.

I did like a little bit of the episode.  I do like the Indian-American principal, who seems to run the yearbook as a yellow pages for the local chamber of commerce.  Ka-ching.  He is hard nosed and quick to make a buck from any club or organization.

Mostly, I enjoyed the somewhat true-to-life portrayal of the one stickler teacher who is quick to point out other’s wrong doing, but ready to break the rules to cover up her own short comings.  I think we’ve all known that teacher before.  I also enjoyed the over competitive nature of the same cheer-leading sponsor, and we’ve all know at least one of those teachers who is more motivated by trophies than by actually teaching the kids something.  (I’m not saying trophies are bad either  – as we have our share of awards on our walls.)

But I can’t say that I would recommend Glee.  The show seems, like most shows about high school, to portray the drama and the worst elements of high school without showing off the best.  Where’s the dedicated teacher who spends extra hours tutoring, or the band teacher who motivates his kids to do better AND teaches them skills like self-discipline and dependability.  I think if I had to watch it every week, I’d quickly hate the constant cliches.

But I do imagine that some kids/teachers would enjoy it.  It does attempt to portray drama/choir kids in a more positive light.  At least they didn’t portray any yearbook scandals.

Snow Day in the Great American South

We had a snow day today.  An actual, real, live snow day.  For those of you that live in more northern climes, this is no big deal.  But here in southeast Texas, it is huge.  We went to school this morning, and the snow really started coming down around 9 a.m.  By 10 a.m. they told us we were going home at 11 a.m.

I snowed fairly hard until noon.  This just never happens here in the sultry sunny south.  Most Decembers we sit out on the back porch and barbecue in shorts and a t-shirt.  It was in the upper 60s just two days ago.

Snow in Houston

Snow in Houston

I know in most northern states, a little snow flurry like this wouldn’t even phase the schools or the town.  But here in Houston they actually have records on how many times there have been snow since 1865 – 14 now.  We also don’t have snow plows, salt trucks or drivers who know how to deal with ice or snow.  So any kind of wet freezing stuff falling from the sky can shut down the whole city.

It did also have the added benefit of getting people into the holiday spirit.  I even heard someone driving around blasting Christmas carols from their car stereo.  I’m still watching snow fall outside my window.  Hope my wife gets let out of her school soon.  We probably have more than 40 school districts in the city and they each decide when and how to deal with weather situations.

Faster Internet for LOLz of Course

I was listening to Leo Laporte’s show TWIT the other day and he said something about “Cyber Monday.”  That is the made-up Monday after Black Friday.  Supposedly back in the ’90s and early 2000s, people would go to work on Monday to their “fast” internet connection and then find deals online.

What got me thinking is that I do remember the days of dial up internet at home and how frustrating it was to shop online before the days of DSL.  And I also remember going to school to download large files from fellow teachers and others.  Often I would have people email them to my school account because it was too laborious to download them from home.  Often these files were for work anyway, but I would transfer them to a ZIP (100MB) disk to take home to read/use later.

ZIP Disk

Now, we are in the opposite mode.  My home connection is often way faster than my work internet.  I find myself forwarding large files to my personal email to download at home and then bring to school on a USB (4GB) stick.  I also find myself searching for resources at home because so many blogs, web 2.0 sites and wikis are blocked by the school’s filter.

When did we get so backward in the education world?  Yes, we have much more tech in my classroom and my school than we did 10 years ago.  But in comparison to what most people have in their homes, in their backpack (laptop) or on their phone – we are falling behind in tech.  We are falling behind in the speed and capabilities of our tech.  At my school we still use Windows XP.  With the release of Windows 7, we are now two full operating systems behind.  It is the same in my Mac lab, where we still use CS2 InDesign and OSX 10.4 Tiger.  Snow Leopard has been out for a while now (OSX 10.6).  MS Office 2003

I have students bring me docx files all the time.  As far as I know, we do not have a computer on campus that can open that file.  We are using Office 2003, which is now six years old.  Sure it still works, but to most students it must seem nearly as old fashioned as an IBM Selectric.  IBM Selectric

I wonder how bad it will have to get before we do finally move forward.  When will educators finally get tired of being able to do more with their phone than their work computer?

Ten years ago I had email at work, and one at home that barely worked well.  I had a dial-up connection at home that got 33.3 Mps on a good day a 10-Base T Internet connection via Ethernet at school.  I had an old Mac at home that could barely access the Internet.  (an old LCII I think).  But at school, we had two brand new Macs and 6-8 older ones that all accessed the ‘net at a decent speed.  They were all running OS8.5 or OS9, while at home I think I just barely updated to OS8.0.

Kids must come to school and think – how quaint, an old computer.  Some days I wonder if we should just start running DOS again as slow as our network can run.

I know that updating all of a district’s computers (we have 27 campuses) and software would be very expensive.  I don’t doubt that is a huge issue.  But what’s the cost of a student who is being educated to use tools that are already obsolete by today’s standards?  Never mind tomorrow’s.  I don’t have the answers.  I wish somebody did.

I guess I’ll just have to go home and view some high speed LOLz.