MORE THAN A LITTLE DISAPPOINTED WITH WORDPRESS

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When I moved back to WordPress, I was initially very pleased with my choice.  However, as I have used it over the course of the summer, I now remember why I left it earlier in the year.  There are a lot of little annoyances, an accumulation of things that are changing my mind about whether I made the right choice or not.  Specifically:

  • The inability to use some of the widgets that I have used in the past that I do miss using here.
  • When I attempt to post to this blog from gDocs Documents, it takes some messing around to get it right and I have to remember the correct code at the end of the URL to make sure it will post correctly – a small but another inconvenience.
  • The main reason for my disappointment is my inability to easily embed work created in Google Docs into my WordPress.com posts.  In school I am a big user of Google Docs and if I want to share what I create using those tools, I have to use workarounds to use them in my posts on WordPress.com.

I understand that some of this is related to the security precautions that WordPress.com has in place, which is their choice as the blog host, but does not mean that I agree with their stance.

Am I regretting my choice to use WordPress.com instead of Blogger – I think I am.  I do like the openness of what Blogger allows you to do and use on that platform and now I remember why I kept going back to it.  When I moved to WordPress.com in July, I deleted my other Blogger blog sites so that I wouldn’t just keep bouncing back and forth like I had in the past and now I believe that was a mistake on my part.

So am I going back to Blogger and retiring Resource Room 220 completely?  I have thought seriously for the past two weeks about my frustrations and it has reached the point where I have created a couple of new Blogs in Blogger – one for School and one to replace this one if I decide to stop using WordPress.com and stop writing at Resource Room 220.

I haven’t determined what I will do yet, but the more I use Google Docs during the school year, I have a feeling that I will get more and more frustrated with the inability to easily embed here what I have created using those tools.  As I write this blog, I believe that I am closer to retiring this blog than I was when I started.

I hate this bouncing around on different blog hosts, but if I do go back to Blogger, it will be to stay.  I am very tired of just starting over every few months, (reinventing the wheel), but it seems that every time I use a WordPress based blog that I end up going back to Blogger.

Decisions, decisions – I am tired of moving around all the time, it is time for me to find a host and stay there to establish some stability for my blog, but it doesn’t look like it will be here.

Yes Rich another move, but this one is well thought out and addresses a solution to specific issues.  Besides I find that I am becoming fairly loyal to the products of Google, they work the way that I do.

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TROUBLE-SHOOTING MODE – GOOGLE SITES

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Image representing Google Docs as depicted in ...

For some reason today, I have been in trouble shootingmode on my school webpage today.  First my calendar events were not showing up on my Google Sites, (just a blank calendar was appearing with you are not authorized to view this – message) when I used a different Browser and was logged out.  So I got to see what my student’s parents would see if they attempted to use my website.
Not good – I am trying to improve open communications, not make them more frustrating and this just wasn’t acceptable.
I did some trouble-shooting and I had made it so that viewers had to be logged into my District’s Google Apps account to see calendar events.  Now nothing I am putting in the calendars is confidential or proprietary (just when assignments are due, activities that are going on in the class or school), so I just opened up the calendars to everyone and now they are working great.

I just want to make sure that I am able communicate with everyone what is going on at school

The other issue that I was having was about using Google Docs – Documents, I really like the option of being able to post to my blog and using the Word Count function that also has the Flemish-Kincaid scale for the document in class.  I haven’t been able to use these functions all summer and couldn’t figure out why.  I have posted my displeasure at a couple of Google Bulletin Boards and whined about it on my blog, but no one has given me a solution so that I could continue using these functions.

Just out of the blue it occurred to me that in the spring I had switched to the “New” version of Google Docs (which has a lot of new features that I really love, but not these two yet.  So the solution was actually quite simple, I went in and unchecked the box

Once I did that, I had access to the old functions that I had missed.  It was that easy!

There, I am happy with Google Docs again now, I can post a draft to my blog using gDocs and all of its functionality, then post it as a draft to my blog, clean up the draft, insert Zemanta and publish the blog. Not elegant but it works for me.  I am beginning to use Google Docs for around 80% of what I do that requires a Word Processor, Spreadsheet or Presentation.
It may not have all the features of Microsoft, Apple, Open Office or some other full Office Suites, but it does 95% of what I want and is only getting better.  Hopefully I will be able to switch back to the “new” gDocs soon, but until then I still have the tools that I wanted by simply using the “old” gDocs which is easily accessible.
I guess I was the only one that didn’t realize how to fix these two things were, it shows that no matter how good we think we are with things, that sometimes it is the little things we miss that are a or become a big deal.  A good reality check for me to remember.

SCHOOL SCHEDULE STARTS TOMORROW

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THIS HAS BEEN A REALLY, REALLY GREAT SUMMER!!!!!

There are only 4 things left on my Honey-do list and 2 require us to buy something and 1 to take it to get serviced (I just have a sneaking suspicion that the snowblower will get a workout this winter).  There are a lot things crossed off that darned list that has been the bane of my existence this summer.   It kept me from doing fun things as often as I wanted to – I guess it is work before play, but I really wanted to play more this summer.


I consider the chopping and stacking wood one thing (and that is at least 1/2 done).  It is a good thing that I got a lot done today, because tomorrow, I basically am choosing to go back on my school schedule.

No school doesn’t start until 8/26, but I have so much to get done between now and then that I feel that I have to go in and get what I can get done – done.  I probably over-committed myself with the ELA stuff, but I really think it is important that Special Education has some input into the General Curriculum.

Things that are coming up:

  • Technology training all week
  • Get ready for my Special Education Caseload – 15 at last look (more to come I am sure).
  • Write up 10 7th Grade ELA Lesson Plans for change over to Common Core Standards
  • Prepare my classroom for the upcoming year.
  • Figure out where my students are and what the needs of the classes will be, because I can’t really do a syllabus until I know where my Special Education students are academically.
  • and a lot more.

So starting tomorrow, I am just going to go to the school to be there at 6:45 (my usual arrival) every day, either go to trainings/meetings and work until I get tired of it, then go to the gym (gotta lose some of this poundage) before I head home, to do some more work at night, until the 26th when everything “begins agin”.
I really can’t wait!

🙂
I wonder how I will feel in November?

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TWITTER/GREADER REDUCTION TIME

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Wow!  Blogging is really starting to take a back seat to other priorities.  Between trying to finish up the rest of the honey-doo list and attempting to get ready for school there just isn’t enough time to write very much here.
I have learned from prior experience that during the school year I can only effectively follow around 150 people on Twitter and between 50-60 feeds in my Google Reader.  So I have gone through each account and closely looked at my subscriptions and who I am following.  I did have done my before schools starts purges/unfollow of my Google Reader and Twitter accounts:

In my Google Reader – I have gone from:

to

While 68 Google Reader subscriptions are a few more feeds than I like almost 10 of those are either school related or my blogs, so those don’t really count (trying to justify being over 60).  The great thing was that I found so many new blogs that I did follow this summer, but having 90 to 100 feeds to read every evening on top of my school stuff and having a life at home after school 146 were too much for me to keep up with.  So I picked out the ones that I read the most and canceled the rest until next summer.

Twitter
I have found so many new and great people to follow summer, who have added immensely to my PLN, but I just can’t keep up with that many people in my Twitter feeds and maintain the level of conversation that I want during the school year, I just don’t have the focus or time to do it.

now I have

If I am no longer following you, please do not take it personally, I do this every 6 months or so, when my Twitterverse becomes too overwhelming for me.  I try to stay close to 150 and there are so many people that I feel that I want to follow that 200 seems to be my new goal number.  So I have room for 12 more.
🙂

Does anyone else do this – purge or pare down their readers or who they follow on Twitter every so often, so you don’t feel so overwhelmed by all the information coming at you.

Just one more thing about getting ready for the school year, downsizing the amount of information coming at me.  There are only 15 days before 7th grade orientation.

SUMMER REFLECTION -2010

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This is my first summer back to a teacher’s summer schedule (not vacation) after two summers away, when I was working outside ofeducation.  I have learned more about teaching andtechnology this summer than I have in a long, long time.

Unlike the stereotypical teachers that are portrayed in the media or in urban legendswho just lounge around the house all summer with their feet up and their favorite drink in hand.  Many of us are improving our teaching skills, learning how to use technology more effectively, creating new lesson plans, class websites, attending conferences or taking classes and getting ready for the next school year.

That is, the ones that are not looking for a new teaching position as a result of RIFs at their previous school.
Sure it is done at a less frantic pace and when we choose (think evenings) than it is during the school year, but many teachers are putting in more than a good week’s work towards preparing for next year, even though most of us are in a Non Paid Time Off (NPTO) status.

So what tangible things have I gotten done this summer.

  • Created my class website – I consider this my major accomplishment of the summer and while it still has a few wrinkles to iron out, but it is about 80% where I want it.
  • Created a new template for tracking my Special Education caseload
  • Created Class blogs for each of my classes and a general Mr Shaw’s Room 220 Blog for school related postings.
  • Changed my personal blog over to WordPress.com
  • Kept the same theme on my blog for almost a month (color changes don’t count – inside joke with Richard Byrne)

Professionally I have read or am reading:

  • “Teach Like a Champion”
  • “Teaching as an Act of Love”
  • Numerous blog posts and articles related to education

Professional Development

  • Almost every Tuesday night participated in EdChat
  • Attended Maine Learning Technology Conference in Castine, Maine
  • Participated in 3 sessions of the The Reform Symposium
  • Attended 1/2 day training on SRA Corrective Reading
  • Participated in a bunch of Webinars related to education
  • Communicated almost daily with my Personal Learning Network onTwitter.
  • Finished 3 of 6 of the Google Certification Prep Courses
  • Google Apps Education Edition
    Apps Mail
    Calendar

What’s left to be done

  • Finish reading “Driven by Data” — I just am having a difficult time finishing it (probably need to leave it in the bathroom)
  • Preparing an Introduction to Blogging presentation on 8/16 for District’s Technology Summer Training
  • Go in tomorrow and discuss the 7th Grade ELA Curriculum and probably prepare at least one major lesson plan
  • I plan to attend EdCamp New Hampshire on 8/17, if not I will take part in Moodle Training and the 3rd day of our Tech Training
  • I expect to participate in the State’s Teacher Mentor Training Sessions on 8/19 & 8/20
  • Finish up the Google Certification Prep Courses

I didn’t realize how busy it will be next week, I will be in training all week and we don’t report to school until August 23rd.

These are just the education related things that I got done, my completed honey-do list was almost as long and the only large things left are finishing up the wood for the winter and setting up a new shed.

This has probably been one of the most productive summers I have ever had and it was nice having Mary home every day with me. I have learned the value of my Personal Learning Network and enjoyed meeting a few of them face-to-face this summer.  Actually I could get used to this lifestyle – very quickly.

What did I learn this summer?  I love learning more about teaching and technology, that my techie skills are not that bad and that professional development is not just about what you learn from the session, it is also about who you meet whether face-to-face/electronically or both.

The getting to know other teachers, learning how things are done differently or the same, time to whine and complain with each other, an opportunity to see things from a different perspective than just what “our” school does is so valuable.  The biggest thing you gain by having a PLN is that you are not an island and you get to talk with others that have similar issues and learn that they can be solved or at least resolved.

Those are the lessons that I am taking away from this summer. I was told to give it a break and just enjoy the summer. You know something – I did and am enjoying my summer, I am doing something that I love, learning more about becoming a better teacher.

HIKING TO COLDBROOK FALLS

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Part of what I wanted to show about me when I returned Resource Room 220 toWordPress, is what I do when I am not teaching, preparing to teach or learning about teaching.

One of the things that I like to do the most is go out hiking.  With all the stuff going on with my knee, I just haven’t been able to do much of it this summer (I find out the results of the MRI on 8/19).  So this past week we did a few short ones, but the below pictures show why I love to hike so much.

This is a hike just outside of Gorham, NH on Rt. 2 towards Lancaster.  We have always wanted to stop here and hike, but just never found time for it.  We didn’t want to go up to the AMC hut and so we took the trail less traveled and came upon this fantastic waterfall, quite by accident.







The hike to Coldbrook Falls was a very easy hike and one that I will do again, when the opportunity arises, it is just over 2.5 miles round trip.  I know that it felt great to get out away from the computer and all the technology we now take for granted and just rely on my own two feet to get me somewhere.

OH NO – NO INTERNET!

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This is something different for me, I am in a hotel that does not have internet access – it surprised me because when we stayed there last year they had wireless internet access.  This is the first time this summer that I have not been online in a while.  Yes I could go down to the McDonald’s or the Coffee Shop, but I don’t believe that I will.  I will play it the way I used to before the internet became a pervasive part of my life.

It should be a change for me, no surfing, no reading other people’s blogs or my Google Reader, email (unless I peek on my iPhone which has 4 bars), but also no updating  my blog or using Google Docs.  It is strange in some ways relying solely on what is on your computer, I haven’t done that in probably at least 3 years.  While the cloud based applications are usually pretty great – they aren’t worth a darn if you can’t connect to the internet.

It just reminded me of the importance of having decent desk top software for those “infrequent” times when you do not have the wonderful internet available.  So today, I am using Blogo to type this blog, Keynote to work on my Introduction to Blogging  Presentation and gMail to check answers for some policy questions.  But it kind of sucks because a lot of my notes are in Google Docs, which no longer supports offline use and I bookmarked a lot of sites in Diigo.  I guess that I will have to just use my memory and then up date my presentation as I need to later on.

You really don’t realize how much a part of your life the internet has become, until you can’t access it when you expected to.  This is actually a good thing, it will make me appreciate what I have just a bit more.

It is about 4 hours after I wrote the above part of this post, I now have internet in my room!  I have become so used to having wireless – it is just a part of wherever I go that I forgot to check for a data jack, it was there, right behind the desk.  So this little time without internet (when I actually had access the whole time) was a good thing to remind me of a couple of things:

  • Sometimes we get so used to one form of technology that we assume that everyone has the same thing and often they don’t.
  • Look around before I assume something.

But the good news was that I got 70% of my presentation on Intro to Blogging started while I “wasn’t able to go on the internet”.

WHAT IS GOOD TEACHING?

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Study of a girl with ringlets teaching her dog...
Image by State Library of New South Wales collection via Flickr
Yesterday afternoon I was watching the Twitter stream flow by and a link caught my eye, so I clicked it, I can’t remember who tweeted the link. It took me to theNotes from the School Psychologist blog and I started reading her blog post on Did You See the Memo about Interventions and I found myself just nodding my head as I read the post AND when I came to this nugget:
That’s right. There is no magical reading dust in special education, it is really just targeted intervention in the area of need with ongoing progress monitoring. A lot of the time, special education is basically just good teaching.
When I read this I highlighted it in Diigo’s pinkish red highlight color (I had used yellow). It just really struck me someone else was saying – “Special Education is basically just good teaching.”
As a Special Education teacher I tend to agree with that statement, not because I think that regular education teachers are not good teachers, but more that Special Education teachers are good teachers also. I wondered for a moment why she would say that, but I smiled, agreed with her statement retweeted the post and went about my day. I did copy the link as a draft as a possible post later.
Last night back on Twitter @dcallahan tweeted about the post.
A lot of the time, special education is basically just good teaching. “Did you see The Memo About…Interventions?
and I responded back with “I agree, but have a feeling that others may get a twist in their knickers”  I was thinking to myself about how some regular educators would feel about that statement – Hmmm Special Educators and “good teaching” in the same sentence?
@dcallahan responded back “
I’ve actually been saying that for years, so it’s nice to see somebody else agree with me.
I’d say that a large portion of #specialed interventions are just good teaching. Easier to implement with smaller groups”
I then said that “another factor is that most of time, time is not a big factor in our C/Rs (classrooms), we can go at our own pace not a guide.
and then @proe1ement added the comment
…& we can go at their pace, go deeper into content, access motivation, build relationships, dvlp skills, and on. We’re lucky.”
These tweets bring me to the main point of this post.
WHAT IS GOOD TEACHING?
As @proelement pointed out is good teaching (in or out of Special Education) being able to:
  • go at the students pace instead of some artificial pacing guide
  • go deeper into the content area we are teaching
  • find what motivates the student(s) and use that to achieve student buy-in
  • being able build proper student-teacher (mentor) relationships with the students
  • developing their basic skills

When I “googled” what is good teaching below the most interesting result was:

The responses that are in the above link, give several examples of good teaching and is a good opportunity to see some of the international views on “What is a Good teaching” as well as the “American” view, which sometimes has a slightly different slant. But the comment all have common threads and is worth taking the time to read.

What do I believe is good teaching:
Teaching your students with respect, humor, being able to help them grow as individuals, pushing them beyond what they “know” they can do, but at the same time being aware of the “stuff” beyond their control that affects a student’s ability to learn or focus on school and helping them learn to set “boundaries”.
When students fall and they will, be there with the hand offered out to help them up, you may be surprised when they choose to accept that hand. Continue to be a learner, from your students, other teachers and professional development, if you stop learning, you stop being a teacher. What and how you teach must be relevant for student you are teaching today, not yesterday.  Finally, teach your students to “do the right thing for the right reasons.”
Those are what I believe are elements of good teaching. I am sure that there is much more that could be said about what constitutes good teaching (books have been written on the subject), but I think if I can do what is in that one paragraph, I will be a good teacher.
Please do not think that I am being “snarky” when I say this next comment, but after many years of hearing all the derogatory comments about “how” Special Education teachers – teach.” It really felt pretty nice to hear a “non-educator” who is part of the educational system say.
That’s right. There is no magical reading dust in special education, it is really just targeted intervention in the area of need with ongoing progress monitoring. A lot of the time, special education is basically just good teaching.
Thank you to Dan Callahan and Matt Vannice for their conversation last night on Twitter. It did help me really think about what I wanted to include in this post.
What do you think constitute good teaching?
Please write in the comments and I will attempt to put a list of what you think is good teaching into a future blog post or Google Doc.

JING – I PAID FOR THE PRO EDITION

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Review: Jing Pro video recording app
Image by Ivan Walsh via Flickr

JING it’s a weird name, so what is it?  It is a freescreen capture and screen capture tool from Tech-Smith who also make Snag-it.  You say another screen capture tool – so what.

During this summer of experimentation (using many web applications and software) – I decided to download and try Jing yet again.  I have used it before on the PC when Jing first came out and then again last year, but didn’t use it all that much.  However, for some reason when I used Jing this summer it really just clicked for me this time.  I liked the interfaces, they are quick and intuitive, but what really sealed the deal for going Pro, was being able to make video screencasts and then download them to my desktop, so I can upload them to YouTube, embed them in my blog/website or keep a local copy of my work.

The ability of Jing Pro to easily (the key word) make screencasts  or instructions for my students or video comments on student’s work like Shelly Blake-Plock described over at Teach Paperless seemed so natural.  I really want to become more paperless in my classroom this year and I think that Jing Pro will help me get closer to that goal.

As an example of how easy it is to use Jing – I created the following video showing how to create a Blogger blog.  The simplest way is to just use a URL to Tech-Smith’s website

How to Create a Blogger blog
or embedding it to the post

I know the quality of the video isn’t that great, but for something being done on the spur of the moment with no script, off the top of my head, it wasn’t too bad.

What a tremendous tool this provides classroom teachers – the old a picture tells a thousand words and I plan to take advantage of it in the classroom.  I also was having some problems with another web application and I made a screencast of what the issues were and the company’s representative  stated:

thanks so much for the screencasts. If only everyone did so …

It made it easier for the Company to quickly find a resolution to the issue.

It is also very easy to link to Tech-Smith’s screencast site and I like that all the images and movies I have made with Jing are in one place that is quickly and easily accessible when I want to use them.  This has always been an issue when I was looking for previous screenshots I have taken.

So for the past month have been having fun annotating and making little video presentations, just to learn the capabilities of Jing Pro – you know that experimenting phase to learn something. Tech Smith has also provided a very goodwebsite so that if you are interested you can really learn how to use Jing.

How does this relate to Special Education? I can use videos that will be available for my student before, during (if not blocked) and after school.  Sometimes a video or an annotated screen shot can make the difference for a student understanding a concept and not.  Many of my students are visual learners and having the ability to show them a video (that can be viewed more than once) is one more way to differentiate in the classroom.
I don’t know why I didn’t use Jing more in the past, but I know that I will use it a lot more in the future.

Disclaimer: No I have not received any compensation, free stuff or other enticements to write positively about what I consider to be a great application that I am presently using.

DIIGO – YES I AM USING IT

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Image representing Diigo as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

I signed up originally for Diigo a few years ago when MiguelMGuhlin was discussing how great it was and all the different things you could do with it.  I tried it, used it for a while, considered it too “busy” and complicated for me and retired Diigo to the I have used it, but it didn’t do anything for me pile.

In my EXPERIMENTING IS OVER – TIME TO START USING IT!
I said the following:

Bookmarking: I tried out many different bookmarking systems this summer and found that I really needed one that was independent of the browser, for when I use a different one on whatever type of machine I am running. When I figured that out, my choices came down to Delicious and Diigo; I have used both successfully in the past, but decided to go with Diigo because it was a little more feature rich.

Diigo has features that I now value more than I would have in the past.  When I wrote the above post a couple of weeks ago, I was basing my change on a lot less information than I have today and I need to change that last sentence from a littlemore feature rich to a lot more feature rich.

Here is a link to Jason Schmidt’s blog post comparing Delicious and Diigo it opened my eyes to many different things that Diigo can do that I didn’t know about.  I listened to Jason, Shannon Miller and Maggie Tsai (Diigo) on Classroom 2.0 Live Webinar about the different things you can do with Diigo.  I learned more in that hour about Diigo than I had previously about it.

Diigo’s screenshot and annotation tool is one that I will use quite a bit

I ran into some issues inserting the annotated screen shot in this post via the URL, but I am pretty sure it is something I didn’t do. Part of that learning curve thing.
One of the best things that I learned about during the Classroom 2.0 Live Webinar was the Lists function and how you can share them with others.  That way I don’t have to share my entire library, just the pertinent list(s).
Another thing that I want to look at more closely, even though I don’t know if I will use it at the start of the school year or not is the Diigo teacher console.  It will easily allow you to add several students quickly and easily.  This is one of those things, where I will be introducing my 7th grade students to several tech tools all at once and I think this might be a bit of overload in the first month.  Maybe in the 2nd quarter Diigo and my class will get introduced?


One of the features that I really like is the ability to “share” or post to my blog directly from Diigo, although this feature has been around for a while, I didn’t realize it existed before, I can see how I can quickly blog something from the Diigo Toolbar which I did last night.

I am just beginning to learn all the features that Diigo now has (compared to when I used it in 2008).  I believe it will take me a while to figure it all out, there is a bit of a learning curve to using Diigo’s more advanced functions.  However, if you are only using the bookmarking tool and annotation, it is very intuitive.  Figuring out where things are takes some getting used to and I foresee that Diigo is going to take over some of the stuff that I had been doing in Evernote.

Now that I have used Diigo for a couple of weeks I find that it has a wealth of other useful features that enhance my productivity instead of complicating it.

The initial reason for coming back to Diigo was that I use multiple browsers on multiple machines with 2-3 different operating systems.  All of the bookmark synchs, etc. just didn’t work as well as advertised at this point.  So I needed a solution that was platform/OS/machine independent and in my experience over the past couple of weeks Diigo has filled that need very well.

Disclaimer: No I have not received any compensation, free stuff or other enticements to write positively about what I consider to be a great application that I am presently using.