This is The End

I have fought against it, but I have to admit that I am blog-fading.  There are several reasons for this, so I think I will share this with you.

1 – I don’t teach much journalism anymore.  This year I’m down to two journalism classes – yearbook and broadcast journalism.  I no longer teach newspaper, photojournalism or intro to journalism.  I’m teaching many more technology applications classes – desktop publishing, web design and video tech.  Next year I mostly likely will add Digital Art and Animation.

2 – I’m more involved outside of school, both in my son’s scout pack and my church.  That leaves less time to blog.

3 – I’m using my district’s Moodle server and much of what I used to post here, I now put up there.  I really enjoy my Moodle, and I wish there was a place to back it up online or a way to share it without taxing the district servers.  If I find it, I promise to share.

4 – Economic, my former two-income household is a one income household and I’ve been spending more time helping mi esposa find a new job in this wreck of an economy.  Texas laid off tens of thousands of teachers and so, finding a teaching gig is not easy with 4-5 applicants for every new job.

So, at least for the near future, this blog will go dormant.  I will leave it up for those who still find it useful and may occasionally post something here.  I hope to share more via Twitter – you can follow me at teach_j.


YLYB: Number Unknown: Scouting

I have fallen off the blog wagon. I am a bad blogger. But ever since my son started Webelos, I have been super busy with that. I happened to mention that I was once a scout myself and now I am just a much a part of his pack as he is and that leaves less time for blogging. I do hope to blog more, between yearbook and scouts, there is no time.

YLYB #116: The Day of Amor

We have reached official end of school related eating days. Valentine’s Day is the final distraction from yearbook before the big testing push. So we are now in a narrow window of opportunity to finish the book in three weeks. So, if I miss a YLYB anytime soon, you know why.

New Year, Same Old Blog

I am still amazed that I am still with this blog.  I started it on April 14, 2007 and now we are about to begin 2011.  Come April – it will be four years.  In those four years, I’ve had three principals and five yearbooks.  Things have changed so much.

I started the blog as a simple way to keep organized.  I wanted a cloud solution for all the resources I found for teaching journalism and media technology.  My blog now has 617 posts, 720 comments, 147,000 plus views, and is really a part of who I have become as a teacher.   I almost can’t get by without my blog.

My top posts are about Journalism Movies, my Photojournalism Syllabus and my Yearbook Ladder Template.

I hope I can keep it up through 2011 and beyond – another 600 posts or more.


A New Generation In The Shadow of 9/11

Those of us who teach were adults, or nearly adults when 9/11 happened.  Our students barely remember it.  In a few more years, the kids in our classroom will think of 9/11 the same way that I thought about the Kennedy Assassination or Pearl Harbor.

The generation of students we teach has lived most or nearly all of their lives in a post-9/11 world.  They see it as normal to take off your shoes at the airport.  They don’t know that there was a time before “Homeland Security.”  They live in the “new normal.”

But I still think about that awful day.  I was teaching my yearbook class and we were working on our theme for the year.  Someone came in late to class and said that a plane had hit a building in New York.  I turned on the TV, and we turned down the sound because it seemed like it was just a horrible accident in a far away city.  Terrible, news, but not really going to affect us in Houston.

I told the kids to get back to work.  And then I turned towards the TV, and it happened right before my eyes – the second plane hit the other tower.  That is when I knew in the pit of my stomach, like others around the country, this was no accident.

Within the hour, our campus was put in semi-lock down mode.  We were to stay in our classes for the rest of the day, no more passing periods.  The calls began to come to send students to the office.  Parents were coming in droves to pick up their students.

It is hard to believe it was so long ago, nearly ten years.  I used to talk about it with my students every year, but recently, the students have little or no memory of it.  They were too little when it happened.

I later learned that a friend of mine from college, an Air Force Captain at the time, was at the Pentagon.  He was very near the section that was hit by the plane.  He made it out and was able to lead others to safety and rescue some who were injured.  He was awarded a medal for his actions.  I was glad to hear he was safe and uninjured.

He later served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and is currently a Lieutenant Colonel in Air Force special forces.

It is our responsibility to remember 9/11 and to ensure that we find a way to defend against that happening again.  But I think that as the years pass, the memory of that day is already fading.  We are again focused on other, seemingly more urgent problems.

I have a number of former students and friends serving in the various branches of the military.  I hope that they remain safe.  I also hope that we don’t forget those who have died, both on that terrible day and in the wars after.

YLYB #9: Trying To Get Info

Every year, no matter who the administrators are, it always seems like there is always something that seems to be like pulling teeth to get those at the top to distribute.  It could be a lunch time list or a phone list, but something is always playing hard to get.

I know that there are always a ton of detail work to get done before school starts, but it seems like some things always take a backseat.  It just is frustrating when you need the information to get something done and you are left waiting.  It just means you’re losing time when you could be doing work.

I’m meeting with my staff tomorrow – we’ll see how many show up.

Cool Links #93: The One About Independence Day

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  If only we could live up to these ideals.  But the first link today shows that we don’t.

1 – The First Amendment is dead.  Just ask Anderson Cooper.  Link via ShortForm Blog.

2 – If you live in Boston,  it may be too much to visit USC or if you are in Washington, then University of Miami is a long commute for a campus visit.  But youniversitytv can help your student get a look at a far away campus they are considering for a college choice.

3 – The Journal Register Company, a small chain of 18 publications is now running it’s entire operation open source.  Check it out at the Ben Franklin Project.  Freedom of the Press is for those who own the presses.  The Press is now FREE!

4 – I hate the pen tool.  In photoshop, illustrator, etc.  I don’t like it.  I don’t get it.  All Web Design Info wants to change that and help me and you learn how to control the pen tool.

5 – Don’t know how to post a video to YouTube?  It’s only seven basic steps away.

6 – Google Apps For Education has some training available for you at the right price – FREE! Learn all the basics for all the Ed Apps.  And then get certified.

7 – Royalty Free music is hard to come by – Adam Westbrook has Five Places for Cheap or Free Music for your video project.

8 – On a day when Freedom is supposed to ring, we are hearing the slow death of freedom.  At a time where nearly everyone carries a camera with them every day in their pocket, a photographer was harassed for trying to shoot video in Miami.  You have to watch this.  I can’t believe this is America, sounds more like the Soviet Union to me – “where are your papers, comrade?”  What scares me the most is that nobody seems to care.

9 – Maybe we need to show this to everyone!

10 – All Web Design Info has a simple series of graphics that explain how CSS3 Properties work.

11 – Great advice for young, starting off journalists from 10,000 words blog.  My advice via my j-prof:  “Get the secretary to like you.  The world is run by the secretaries.”  Best advice since my high school band director – “If you’re early, you’re on time.  If you’re on time, you’re late.”

12 – The Denver Post followed one kid from high school graduation to boot camp, to Iraq and back.  Great photo story telling.

13 – Not sure where I found this presentation about HTML 5, but make sure you start on slide 16 and skip the Java Script stuff unless you need to know about that too.

14 – Adventures in Pencil Integration has Six Lies We Tell Ourselves about Technology.  The biggest lies we teachers tell ourselves is:  If only I had this piece of technology or software, then everything would go smoothly in my classroom.

Have a happy Independence Day.

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, 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 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. 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.

Cool Links #78: The One Where You Wonder WTH

There seems to be a lot of What The Heck? (WTH) kind of thinking going on in schools today.  Maybe it’s all the pressure from high stakes testing, maybe it’s all the economic cutbacks, or maybe it’s just plain dumb.  But there have been stories about spying on kids, cranking up the pressure on teachers about testing, and changing their shirts in the yearbook.  OK, on to the links.

1 – Let’s start off with the WTH #1.  Why would a yearbook adviser want to get mixed up in a FREE SPEECH debate?  Shouldn’t a journalist be on the side of freedom of expression?  Especially when it is not disrupting school? J-School profs all over America are sighing and face palming.

2 – If you don’t already read Bob Kaplitz’s blog, then you should.  He has the best tips for MMJ’s (multimedia journalists).  Like this one about using cell/web access and two laptops to shoot video while driving. (Safely we hope.)

This second video is about how MMJ’s can add spice to their writing by writing to the video.

3 – This article was just too interesting to pass up.  The mathematical equation responsible for blockbuster movies.  Apparently there is a way to determine if you can keep an audiences attention based on the length of the cuts in a movie.  Very interesting.

4 – The “Google” Newsroom is an interesting idea.  I think it is the future of journalism.  We have to rethink how we staff a newsroom and how the media products we put together are created, staffed and edited.  We even have to decide which medium a story should be told in – because there won’t be video, photo, writing and online in the future.  There will only be one newsroom for all of it.

5 – From looking forward to looking back at the last 20 years of Photoshop from MacLife magazine.  A great retrospective, including toolbars and splash screens.

6 – The Edit Foundry has a great video over at his YouTube page about using simple transitions with your stories.  Great video.

7 – The Web Design Ledger has these Most Common HTML and CSS mistakes.  Useful for beginners in web design.

8 – This was one of the most fun links this week – how cliches link to typesetting by Seth Godin.



9 – Tamron Lenses has posted Episode 5 for Beginners Exposure and Metering.

10 – Why can’t we all just get along?  I mean, can’t there just be one format to rule them all in photos, video, etc.  I guess not.  And there are new formats all the time.  My favorite conversion site is, but the Format Factory seems to also be a good backup.  Here is another translator – just for PDF files to Word files.  I haven’t tried it yet, but it looks promising.

11 – Here’s a quick cheat sheet for Grammar.  Keep the Nazi’s at bay.

Grammar Nazis

Grammar Nazis

12 – The iPad was recently announced by Apple, and many in the print community see it as the savior that they need and that the music industry didn’t see with the iPod.  But the Daily Beast thinks the iPad could actually kill newspapers, not save them.

13 – WTH #2:  If you haven’t already heard the story about the administrators spying on students at home via their school issued laptop cameras, then here it is a great big WTH.

Well, I hope your yearbook deadlines, newspaper and broadcast deadlines are going well.  Good luck.

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.