Image representing Blogger as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase

Well I think that I have finally come up with a workable solution to my blogwriter conundrum (at least one that works for me).  As I have written several times since I have moved to the Mac, none of the blogwriters have done what I want – work as well as Windows Live Writer.  Just recently I feel as though I have come up with a workable solution – Drafting in Google Docs then copying to Blogger’s Blogwriter for publishing.

I don’t like that Blogger’s integrated blogwriter does not manage images particularly well or intuitively (for me at least), that there is no auto save as you go along (I have in the past lost almost a whole blog posts because of that), and some other small things that I work around, but annoy me.

Google docs has become my preferred Word Processor for most everything, except my Special Education paperwork.  It does post to blogs, but it doesn’t have the ability (at least I can’t find it) to use labels or tags and doesn’t integrate with Zemanta (which I really do like and helps me be a better blogger).  I love that I can also access it from most anywhere, which really makes it convenient, plus if I choose to Share with another blogger before publishing it works like a charm.

So I have begun to use a two-step process, I create my blog post in Google Docs and do all of my image editing, spell checking and other document creation chores there.  When I am finished with the document I do a Command-A and copy everything into my Blogger blogwriter, which works like a charm.  There I double-check what I have written, usually edit it some, use Zemanta to do the in-text links and labels.  I also tend to use Zemanta’s picture suggestions if I don’t have any in the post already.

I have been using this system for the past few days and while it is not exactly what I want (I am not a fan of two-step processes – one should be enough), this combination of Google Docs and Blogger seems to be working better than the other systems/software I have tried since I moved to the Mac.

I have a suggestion for Google (who am I to make suggestions to them, but here goes) either improve Blogger’s blogwriter image management system (which I and others have a difficult time using) or beef up Google Docs ability to post to Blogs by allowing it to Integrate with Zemanta (on some level – perhaps only in the share menu) or by even just having the ability to use labels or tags.  Another thing that would be great even if it worked only for Blogger accounts would be the ability to have your blog’s template available in either blog creation system.  One final thing when will we be able to connect Blogger account to our Google Apps account?  Oh well enough dreaming for one post 🙂

Personally, I would prefer to see Google Docs get the improvements, I am using it more and more and this would just be another reason to use it even more.  I like to use applications for as many different purposes as possible and gDocs is becoming that “one-stop” app for me.  It would be nice to simply log into gDocs and write my post, use Zemanta and then post to my blog.  I can dream can’t I?

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I have been very frustrated with Microsoft’ Office – Word for Mac for the past twodays.  I have been working on getting my Individual Education Plans (IEPs) completed.  They are very long and complicated documents (very time consuming and frustrating to prepare) and every time I have run the Spell Check tool over the past 2 days, it crashes Word and I get the following screen

I did this at least 5 times yesterday and then when I finished up a different IEP just a few minutes ago, it crashed Word yet again.  This is extremely frustrating and each time it crashes I have lost work, which is very frustrating because I have to figure out what work I did loose on these 15+ page documents – you know the stuff that you change when using the Spell Checker tool.

Not running Spell Checker is not an option, because it does what it is supposed to do, catch many of my mistakes before someone else does! Using something other than M/S Word is not really an option because other word processors do not render the check boxes and some other things in these State Mandated forms appropriately.
I guess I will just have to suck it up and put up with the errors, but damn-it is sure is annoying when you are using a tool and have paid good money for it to work right.

Needless to say I am more than a bit frustrated right now, enough so that I even checked for updates (just to be sure) and found that my software is up-to-date.

The only thing that I have changed is the icon, because I hate the Office for Mac Icons, they look, well fugly.  So that shouldn’t do anything to my program.  Well back to it, I just needed to vent for a minute.

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I am starting to see more and more talk about teacher certification by routes other than the traditional four year college or graduate level teacher preparation programs.  Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

  • If there are teaching shortages and we are looking for a more diversified teaching profession – many believe that Alternative Certification could be a good thing.
  • In today’s climate where there are lots and lots of layoffs, which mean there are many unemployed certified teachers out there, I guess adding more potential teachers to compete for a shrinking number of positions Alternative Certification could be viewed as a bad thing.

Maine Teacher Certification has had an alternative process for several years, which has successfully placed many AC teachers in the classroom.  There are several proposals out there that other City/States are looking at including the KIPP model, Troops to Teachers, Conditional teaching certifications and a bunch of other alternative teacher methods.

I also happen to know a little bit about the Alternative Certification (AC) process because I successfully completed Maine’s back in 2005.  Yes I admit it, I am one of those damn Alternative Certification Teachers, that a lot of teachers and teacher’s unions are so worried about.

A picture of me as a conditional teacher.

It took me over 4 years, while teaching classes with a Conditional Certification, doing Special Education paperwork, taking classes at night and finishing the PRAXIS tests.  When I first stepped into the classroom, I knew my subject matter and I knew how to present to groups, so I felt comfortable with the in class stuff, the prep work (lesson planning, traditional pedagogy, grading, etc.) I had to learn.  Behaviorally, I worked at a Special Purpose private school that focused on student behavior and had been a Certified Behavior Tech for several years, so dealing with student behaviors wasn’t too bad.  Going through the AC process wasn’t easy, but it did provide me with the rudimentary skills to teach.

Was I a great teacher when I got certified — no (I still don’t consider myself a great teacher), but I had a pretty good idea about what was going on.  Did I have some weak areas when I finished my AC program – yep, still have some of them i.e.Educational History/Philosophy, traditional pedagogy, theory (vs reality in the classroom), patience, etc.

Why does it seem that so many people/teachers/unions are worried about Alternative Certification – when at best it will be a small number of candidates compared to traditional teacher entry programs?  From my view it has a lot to do with who controls the teacher preparation programs, more than a bit of protectionism on the part of the K-12 teaching profession/unions and as always money.  Also is there a bit of attitude from the teaching profession – “you didn’t go though the same preparation I did, so you can’t be as good as me?”

Some are concerned that Alternative Certification (AC) Teachers are not prepared to properly teach in the classroom and will lower professional teaching standards where they are AC programs. In some cases this has happened, but at the same time, I wonder how much preparation and support those individuals received? Were they just thrown to the wolves and told “go teach” and then failed miserably.  AC Teachers should be viewed with the same regard as other first year teachers and receive the same level of support and mentoring as those individuals do, otherwise they are being setup to fail.  I prefer to look at the positive things that AC Teachers bring to their schools:

  • just like anyone entering the teaching profession – AC teachers “want to make a difference”.
  • usually a great deal of experience beyond the classroom
  • different perspectives on how “things” work outside of school – which is sometimes lacking?

Does this mean that AC Teacher will not struggle – no…of course they will struggle – hell we all still struggle at times, but in my opinion as long as they receive the at least the same support and mentoring as other new teachers do, they will have the chance to become successful teachers.  If they do not then very few will survive, just like those graduates of teaching preparation programs who are given little or not enough support.

I prefer look at those strengths that AC teachers bring to the table and use it to the school’s best advantage.
You may not agree with my support of some Alternative Teacher Certification processes, but I believe that the teaching profession needs those of us who come from the “outside” and what we bring to our profession.

Oh by the way I don’t want anyone to get too overly worked up over this subject, so here is a picture taken by one of my students during my 8th year of teaching.  I believe it shows a teacher confident enough to look foolish in front of his students, to provide them with a learning moment i.e. how to use some of the features inPhotobooth.

After some point it doesn’t matter how you became a teacher, it matters more how well you reach your students.

Give all new teachers a chance and the support they need irregardless of how they became new teachers.

So here is to a reasonable Alternative Certification Teaching process.  May it be rigorous enough to weed out those who should not be in the classroom, but realistic enough that they don’t push away someone who would be an asset to the teaching profession.   But let there be multiple doorways to the teaching profession.

Have you made a difference today? How?

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I started my April vacation around 4:00 P.M. on Friday – a little late due to meeting with a parent, who I really wanted to meet and talk with, so it was well worth it.

My wife and I were supposed to go to NH for hiking and a little visiting with family too, but due to the weather forecast we decided it wasn’t a good choice and canceled our trip.  Since we made that decision I have purposely not done any school work and have played around on my Mac quite a bit to try to learn a “lot” more about how to use it more effectively and clean it up.

Yesterday it was snowing or raining most of the day, so  I worked on learning more about OSX, Pages, Safari, Mail, iTunes, Calendar, and Keynote, by watching videos or reading guides from YouTube, Woopid, Mac For Beginners, and Make Use Of websites. The Make Use Of website had a downloadable eBooks (PDF) onThe Big Book of iTunes and The Mac Manual (plus a lot others) which I wished I had had when I first got the Mac.  So I did something yesterday that I usually don’t do, actually taking time to learn more indepth many of the programs that I use.  Now let’s see if it helped or not.

Today was another rainy/yechy (technical term) day outside, so I decided to play with the eye candy part of the Mac – i.e. Icons.  I wanted to change the look of my Mac/icons, so took the time to learn how to change them and found a couple of great spots for downloading free icons for the Mac Deviant Art and InterFaceLIFT, I found quite a few different icons that I like and changed them over.  I couldn’t figure out how to change Finder, Mail, Calendar or Address Book, but hey, I will figure it out eventually.

I have been using Opera, Safari, Chrome, FireFox and Flock and just haven’t been pleased with any of them all that much for a variety of reasons…so this evening I downloaded Camino and OmniWeb and played around with them a  bit in hopes of them being the answer I am looking for.  Unfortunately, they weren’t the answer. I found them both clunky and not intuitive.  So I am back to using a combination of FireFox, Safari and Opera that I have found works for me.  I did go through and look for a new theme for Firefox and am a lot happier with my new one than the old one, I can read it much more easily and also it was not my usual blue, red or gray choices.

I feel a lot better about how to use my Mac than I did on Friday, but still not completely happy with any of the browsers that I have been using – yes they all do the job, but I just have not found what I am looking for – I don’t know what it is, but I will know it when I find it.

Back to reality tomorrow, I have to work on finishing up a WIAT test that I did on Friday, finish up 3 IEPs that need to be written and a bunch of Advance Written Notices for May.  Tuesday will be more of getting all my grades in the Gradebook (one of my frustrations, most of the browsers have issues with this mandatory use program), I think it was originally developed for IE and doesn’t work as good on the browsers on the Mac(?).  Then I want to develop a good reading lesson plan for one of my classes and work on improving my Touching Spirit Bear Unit.

Do a couple of other things to get ready or ahead of the power curve for that last stretch before school ends in June.

I guess this is my usual teacher’s working vacation, I just can do things more at my own speed and time.  It is now 12:16 A.M. EST and I am actually getting a blog done.  🙂

Have you made a difference today? How?

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We had planned to go over to Gorham, NH and get some hiking in and visit with my Brother-in-Law. Unfortunate, the weather forecast is for rain all the time we were going to be there, so we figured why spend money to lay around in a hotelroom or risk an injury on a slippery trail. So we are staying home and doing stuff locally and around the house.
When we woke up today this is what we opened our eyes to.
Of course I have in the obligatory photos of Bennie in the snow 🙂
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I had one of those frazzle days at school and needed some outdoor time in the sun – not to mention a little exercise. We have a really short hiking trail just down the road from our house in Sidney that we hadn’t done in a couple of years. Here are some pictures of our little hike this afternoon, to see how Bennie would do on a hike before our vacation this weekend.
This is only a mile or so and relatively easy hike, but I really like the stream and falls.
The great news is that Bennie is a natural hiker, unfortunately looking at the weather forecast, probably won’t get much hiking in the Gorham, NH area this weekend. But today was glorious and the company was fantastic 🙂

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Typical elementary school classroom.Image via Wikipedia

We are getting close to April vacation and at our school are also finishing up Terra Nova testing on Thursday (we have been testing for 1-2 hours each morning since last Thursday).  This has meant our schedules have been all over the place as far as the length of classes, which significantly affects how we have been able to plan our classes.  I understand the rationale that students should do better if they only have to do short chunks spread out over a week, instead of doing the whole test in 2-3 days.

But the lack of consistency in the schedule for my students and almost daily changes to their normal routines has increased the number of negative behaviors in the classroom.  This is really too bad because for the most part, most of my students have been doing very well behaviorally, which has led to more success academically for them (at least that is my hope).

The thing that many people and some teachers don’t realize is that for some students – a week’s vacation from school is not a good thing.  Unfortunately, for some school is a safe haven, where those students come and for that time they are in a safe place where they can relax for a short time.  For those unfortunate students the week before a school vacation is a time of negative anticipation, where they are beginning to dread the next week and their behaviors are deteriorating rapidly as we get closer to “our” vacation.

During the next few day teachers really need to be aware of why some of their students are starting to fall apart and show some compassion instead getting the hammer out and expecting administration to take care of the “problem”.

It doesn’t take very much time to ask “What’s Up” when a student who normally isn’t problem suddenly becomes agitated over a minor thing and doesn’t let it go.  Then again it might be an inconvenience many people out there or a teacher may get the answer they don’t want to hear.  But when you see a fourteen year old boy sobbing uncontrollably, due to non school related issues, it makes you think about why student sometime act the way they do in class.  It better make us think about how you can help them rather than expect them to be punished for disrupting your class and be pushed away – again.

I am not saying that we can save the world in the next few days, but if we can even help one student…we have done our little part.

Have you made a difference today?  How?

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We decided to get the Jack Russell mix that was at the Waterville Human Society and Mary picked him up this afternoon. Right now he is very skittish and rather tired from all the shots he had when she picked him up.
Here is my favorite picture so far.
Joey our Alpha cat checking out Bennie while he was taking a quick snooze. He snuck in very slowly, it took him almost five minutes to go about 10 feet.
Whoever had Bennie before did some work with him, he does respond (not well right now) to come, sit, lay down and roll over. He is not hyper like other Jack Russells I have been around.

He is eating good, so far so good, now we just have to get used to the lifestyle change that having a dog again brings to us.  Bennie just ate a pretty good supper, so I guess he is becoming more comfortable, but he hasn’t barked yet.

I am glad we got him

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Image representing Apple as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBase

This is post that I like to make every 6 months or so, just to discuss the software and applications that I am presently using today.  It gives me a chance to look back and see how my software or web application useage has progressed and changed over time.

MAC vs PC:  The biggest difference over my last review like this is that I no longer use a Windows based machine.  I switched to a MacBook Pro the last week of December 2009.  I was hesitant at first to do the switch, but a Mac is what all the students in my school use and I needed to be able to know what they are presently using and how to use/teach them how to use their software/web applications.

I couldn’t do that if I continued to use my PC.  Now that I have changed, I wouldn’t go back.  The MacBook Pro I use – works better than any PC I have ever used and I do not miss any of the software that is available for the PC, except for a couple of games that I liked to play.  Yes I could go ahead and load my extra copy of Win7 on here with Bootcamp, but I just haven’t felt that need yet.  So my transition to the Mac is complete and I don’t plan to return to a Windows based environment unless something totally off the wall happens.

BROWSER:  I have used several browsers including a couple that I won’t list here, since I moved to the Mac and they all have pluses and minuses.

Google Chrome –  Is fast as hell as everyone knows, but I don’t know, there is just something that I just don’t like about it and don’t use it all that much.

Safari – I liked Safari and was getting used to using it, but it doesn’t support Google’s Gears and I use Google Docs a lot for school (online/offline), so that kind of put Safari out of the running as my daily browser. Also when I switched myproxy server information it messed up my Apple Mail, so I thought it was more important to keep my email working correctly than use Safari at school.  I still use it at home once in a while, but at least with my experience with I can now help out the students with their problems with it.

Opera – I like Opera a lot and it does almost everything I want except for the same issue with lack of Google Gears.  It is fast, extensible, changes themes easily to meet my personal tastes.  I use it to do the things that my primary browser doesn’t do well while at school i.e. work well with the Infinite Campus Gradebook.

Firefox –  Has become my daily browser again.  I was really disappointed with Firefox’s stability issues in earlier versions, but they seem to have worked them out with 3.6x, I haven’t had any crashes etc. since I updated to it.  I love the variety of add-ons, the various options and cababilities that these add-ons give me, Weave is another thing to look closely at for a reason to return to Firefox.  The other reason is ScribeFire it is becoming my primary blogwriter when I want to use images and it works well for that purpose.  Plus the quick proxy add-on makes using the school’s wireless system on my laptop much easier.  Overall, Firefox has addressed many of the stability issues that plagued it for several years and I am enjoying using it again.

PRODUCTIVITY SUITE:  I use Apple Mail, iCalendar and Apple’s Address Book as my primary solutions for email, scheduling and contact management.  I have them synch from or to gMail and gCal, so that I can easily use a different computer to get access to my information if I have to.  I have Microsoft Entourage on my machine and started to use it, but I just liked the Apple versions better, they seemed cleaner and easier for me to use, but sometimes, I do wish sometimes that Apple’s stuff would be in one place, instead of three to make things a little easier.

Word Processor:  I have to use Microsoft Word for Mac to complete my Special Education paperwork, it is the only thing that is properly compatible with our required forms.  I don’t like Office for Mac’s user interface and believe that Office products should have the same U/I irregardless of which platform it is being used on.  I have found myself using Google Docs for 90% of my classwork, because of the ability to share with my students and their ability to share their work with me.  It has cut down tremendously on our classes’ paper consumption and has eliminated many of the excuses that used to happen (now we have new ones, but at least they are relatively creative).

Using Google Docs has also allowed me to grade student work done even if I am at a training or out sick, much to the dismay of some of the kids.  Finally, I am finding that I really do like Pages, it is beginning to grow on me as I use it more and more – its ability to easily use and integrate iPhoto is huge plus. If it would convert and render Word documents (i.e. using check boxes) completely, I would probably not have M/S Office on my Mac.

Slideshow:  I also tend to use Keynote as my slideshow choice, it handles images very easily, but you have to play around with it, to get it to upload correctly to Google Docs Presentation which I try to share with my students as much as possible.

Spreadsheet:  Almost any Spreadsheet program will work for my limited needs and I tend to simply use Google Docs Spreadsheet program when I need to create a spreadsheet.  It has its quirks and you need to get used to how it works, but it works good enough for me.  If I had to go and create a detailed spreadsheet with multiple pages and interlocking cells/formulas I would probably use Excel for Mac or go use my wife’s PC laptop.


Facebook:  I am not totally sold on it, I still have some privacy concerns and serious trepidation about how it will be run in the future. But so many of my relatives, friends, former students, and others are on there that in order to stay in contact with people that I normally wouldn’t, I feel that I need to keep a presence there if I want remain in contact.  However at the same time, it would not take too much for me to simply walk away from it either, so if they ever turn to annual/monthly cost model, I will find a different venue.

Twitter:  I find that sometimes it overwhelms me and I can be lead down various rabbit warrens that waste a lot of time on there.  At the same time I find that it is an invaluable resource that I use for my Personal Learning Network, where I learn about new things in education, meet like minded people, communicate all the way around the world and even to Texas :-P.  I participate in EdChat on Tuesday’s at 7:00 P.M. EST where it is an intellectual workout as well as a course in speed reading on Twitter. When participating in a Twitter chat I tend to use TwitGrid.  I generally use TweetDeck at home on my dual screen, which lets me do pretty much what I want on Twitter.  If I am running Firefox I tend to use the Twitbin add-on because I am not generally looking to comment or catch links then. Unfortunately or possibly fortunately, Twitter is blocked at school, otherwise I might be distracted there as well.

LIFE APPLICATIONS: (Music, Photos, Movies):  I tend to use the Apple versions of these type programs, they work well and are fairly integrated.  The only one that I use in addition to them is the VLC for media downloads (it plays just about everything that iMovie doesn’t).

iTunes:  I use it for my iPod, but I still am not real enthusiastic about the interface and having to use the iTunes Store for stuff, but it does work and does what I want it to most of the time.

Blogwriter:  See my post on Trying ScribeFire Again, it explains what direction I have taken on my use of a blogwriter.

These are my list of Software and Web Applications that I use on a regular basis.  I wonder how this list will look in six months?  Here is a link to my May 2008


Looking back at this old post, I don’t use a Note software or app at all and many of the other items have changed pretty significantly.  If you have any thoughts or ideas on something that I should try for the Mac please let me know.

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the case for standardized testingImage bywoodleywonderworks via Flickr
I was going through my feed reader and came across Aaron Eyler’s blog post on

Why Schools Are The Worst Models of Differentiation – Synthesizing Education

When I started studying to be a Special Education teacher back in 2001, I learned that Differentiation of Instruction was the way education should be provided in all classrooms.  It seems that unfortunately, I tended to and still strongly agree with what I was learning – that we should look at how we can educate individual students to perform at their best.

As we have moved forward into the standards based and standardized testing model of education, it has always bothered me that these methods go directly against Differentiating in the Classroom, I just never was able to articulate why until today.

As Aaron stated:

“Call me cynical, but there is something unbelievably funny to me about the fact that people scream about celebrating individual differences among kids yet we want every one of them to be in a specific grade by a specific year and pass the same test at the exact same time. Doesn’t this make you laugh as well…”

I strongly agree with his statement and the rest of his post on this.  This post forced me to think about, clarify in my mind and evaluate my position regarding what is actually going on versus what people want us to believe is going on or should be going on.

Should we stop giving lip-service that Differentiation in Education is actually being effectively used in most of our classrooms?  While it is the official policy that Differentiation is best practice, that policy is being undercut by both standardized testing and standards based educational requirements.

From where I sit, Differentiation is not the basis of the current standardized testing or standards based educational system.  As much as I hate to say it, Differentiating in the classroom in today’s classroom is not part of our reality.

Our standards based assessment and educational system, is based upon what minimum standards should be met – when, instead of focusing on where theindividual student is and how to best move that student forward.
That is really a shame, it should be the other way around!

Others may not agree with me, but the way I see things, when it comes down to actually Differentiating in the classroom, given today’s focus on standardized testing and standards based education system, Differentiation of Instruction is something that cannot be legitimately accomplished in our classrooms.


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