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July 2010

New Laptop

Well, I’m not sure it’s a laptop.  It’s a lot bigger than most women’s laps.  Wouldn’t even call it a notebook.

Snagged it at Office Deport for less than $500 after tax.  That’s not much more than a netbook.   Has 4 gig of memory, 64 bit machine and 260 gig hard drive.

It’s actually this one:  http://www.officedepot.com/a/products/492522/Lenovo-G550-156-LED-Backlit-Widescreen/

I’ve already ordered a DC adapter and another power cord for it – by the way – that’s one of my top ten tech tips.  Always buy a second power cord (at least) from Ebay and keep it at the house.  That keeps your laptop from becoming a brick.  I actually had the power adapter stolen once when I presented at TCEA – I know I always pack my stuff up, and it wasn’t in my bag when I got back to the hotel and it wasn’t in the room when I checked later in the day.

I have always been able to pick up an adapter for under $15 from Ebay and this time was not an exception.  Having a DC one is nice since I spend a lot of time in the car.

It seems nice so far and have no trouble loading any of my files.  I’m keeping this for personal stuff and plan not to use it for school stuff.


Bing Won…

I have the latest version (just downloaded) of Telenav – and yes I pay for it.  I couldn’t find the location I was going to and in fact, it is a huge blank spot on the Telenav maps.  Emmitt J. Conrad High School in Dallas.

Bing found it and got me there right away.

May be discontinuing Telenav.


Easing back into School

We have a program called Early Start where we bring the 9th graders back early for a two week period.  That’s great for me, as it allows me to ease into the school year.

I have a half day of training tomorrow, a probably half day of teacher workday on Wednesday and we start with the kids next week.  They will be at school from 9:00 am until 1:00 pm each day, and they will be feed breakfast and lunch.  We will be there Monday through Thursday, so I still have a lot of the day off, and Friday’s.  Already have one of those Friday’s planned.

It went really well last year.  It allowed me a great deal of time in my room which I needed.  I’m anxious to see what the building is like as I have not set foot in the building since June.  We’re supposed to have new HVAC which we can control ourselves.

I spent the last two weeks – and two weeks of this week – getting ready to teach Webmastering.  I’m going to start reviewing my online courses and getting things ready for the first six weeks. 

I really recommend an ease back in.   It was really nice last year, and you don’t get hit so hard between working and not working.

Oh, and I still need to do some ACP work – however, I haven’t gotten paid for my June work so I haven’t been very motivated.

So this summer was a lot easier than last summer – though I would have loved to do a summer camp again this year.  Need to work on that.

Oh, and one note – I did have contact with administration a couple of weeks ago.  One of our parents is suing the district and they wanted more documentation.   <sigh> 


Job Security

Have you noticed that there isn’t job security in teaching any more?

There are two reasons I went into teaching – job security and to stay married.

While I had the same job, pay and hours when we were dating, my husband had a real problem with the job once we got married.  Well, he probably didn’t realize how many late hours I had, nor did he realize I made almost double what he did.  Switching to teaching really helped his attitude.

But the main reason for me was job security, I worked three jobs in a row that had no security, and they were constantly laying people off.  I did a lot of research before I got my teaching certificate and realized the following:

  • Math teachers had the best job security and I only needed a few hours of math to get math certified, so I did.
  • Traditionally certified teachers had the best job security, so I got a traditionally teaching certificate rather than work on an emergency certificate (I had an offer), or an alternative certificate – many districts in our area wouldn’t hire someone alternatively certified from other districts (with good reason).
  • Being multi-certified got you into smaller schools, which I prefer working at.  I work at a 4a which means we are usually under 2000 students, and should be around 1500.

Even with all that, job security has gone through the window.  My district uses CEI (Classroom Effectiveness Indices) which are determined by TAKS test scores (Texas Assessment of Basic Skills, our do or die test) and by ACPs (Assessment of Course Performance, our district finals).  If your CEI’s are not good enough, your principal will release you and go find someone that will get better CEIs.

Since I teach Computer Science I don’t have CEIs, because the sample size is too low.  What determines whether or not I teach CS is determined by the number of students I have enrolled.  In my lean years (last year was one), I teach remedial math.

If push comes to shove, I have and can teach math full time exclusively and have good results when I do.  I particularly like teaching remedial math, which I did last year.  However, it is emotionally exhausting, since most of what I have to do is to find and solve the problems that are keeping students from passing.

The reason last year was a lean year, is because my Associate Principal of Curriculum (Dean) and I made the decision to not allow 9th graders to take my classes, which meant most of the interested students in the building had already taken my class.  I even overdid the recruiting, meaning that we’re going to have full classes in every class period and are going to have to prioritize who gets to take the class (seniors will receive the highest, etc., especially since they still need a technology course to graduate.)  

By the way, I actually recruited double the number of students I teach.

I still don’t feel that my job is secure as I used to.  Two years ago, we were over staffed because of a spreadsheet error. Well, there was more to it than that.  A lot of principals had not adjusted their staffing because of enrollment.  Fortunately the last two principals I have had under hire teachers, rather than over hire.  We’ve also had a lot of people released due to poor school performance.  They are on the first hire list, as I would be if I were released by my principal.

By the way, there are not a lot of openings for Computer Science teachers – the good news, I can retire in 6 years, and have a decent pension to support me.  However, I still really like teaching, especially the kid part.


Changing my Call Sign back

Yes, I am an amateur (ham) radio operator, extra class, and with code, thank you very much.  I did that on a bet. 

I took my dad’s call sign when it was available, but unfortunately it bothers me.  Not sure why, but it does.  I don’t get on the air much.

My first call was ?5SXR, can’t remember the prefix, but was either KA or KB  -- that didn’t go well with the family.

I’m going back to N5HBV, though I could have gone with an Extra Class call.  Hmmm, should have thought of that.  Just did now.  But I like “her beautiful voice”, the most popular phonics with that call.

And I managed to turn on two rigs today and even have a QSO.


Clone CD and Virtual Clone Drive, two programs I LOVE!

Both are available at http://Slysoft.com – Virtual Clone Drive is free.  Clone CD is around $60.00 and is often on sale.  It’s around $52 US right now.

What are they good for:

Well,  Clone CD will allow you to “rip” just about any CD or DVD.  I have a DVD that I have trouble watching.  It’s an instructional one, and it is just hard to watch.  I just “cloned” it and saved it to my server so I can watch it anywhere in the house, as long as I have a computer.

A copy of the DVD is now on my home server and I can use Clone CD to watch it.  Got it going on a corner of my other machine right now.

Virtual Clone Drive allows me to watch it.  I just mount the Cloned DVD with Virtual Clone Drive and I have a new drive letter that allows me to watch that video.

It' gets easier with regular CD’s.  Say you have a CD with some software on it, and you want to install it on your Netbook.  Well, I do have an external DVD/CD drive, but it’s much easier to store a copy of the CD on my server, mount it with Virtual Clone Drive and install it from the virtual drive.

Also works at school – load the ISO image on the server, and use Virtual Clone drive to mount the ISO image and run on each workstation.

Seriously good programs.  They have some other stuff that might be of interest to others, but those are my two favorite programs.


Digital Domain - Computers at Home - Educational Hope vs. Teenage Reality - NYTimes.com

This is something I’ve known as a teacher for a long time.  If students are not properly supervised, they will not use computers for educational purposes, but use them as time wasters.  Computers alone, do not teach students or reach them.

Digital Domain - Computers at Home - Educational Hope vs. Teenage Reality - NYTimes.com

I’ve been adverse to most of the 1-1 and non-teacher directed programs for a long time.  AND a lot of teachers are really bad a properly supervising.

You need a program like Lanschool to monitor the students and block sites, and you need a program like Deepfreeze to keep them from putting programs on the computers that you don’t want.


Love @myhosting

I’ve owned the domain click-l for years.  The purpose of it is to promote clicker training.  It’s a really good way to train dogs.

It started out as a mailing list, and when spamming made that impractical, I tried different forms until I hit Ning.  Now I have a completely love/hate relationship with Ning, and the new pricing plans don’t help.

Back in January, I decided to experiment with writing my own website again, and just found that it takes too much time and energy, especially when you are dealing with weird stuff at work.

So even with the new pricing plans, I am going to go back to Ning.

I decided to go ahead and set up the domain to go straight to the Ning network this weekend, as I am going to be a little tied up this week. 

So I asked myhosting tech support some questions, and I didn’t completely get the answers.  However, last night I got click-l.com to redirect correctly, then asked them to turn off the domain.  Well, myhosting turned off the whole domain, even the forwarding but I managed to actually read the directions correctly this time and get it set up.

Moral of the story:  take a deep breath and read the directions about 8 times.  My biggest problem is that I refuse to understand DNS stuff.


Starting to get back in the groove – http://www.hillcresthsdallas.org has been updated.

Last year was rough – by the way – the issue that made it rough came back to haunt me this week.  I needed more weeks than usual to get back into the computer science groove.  I think the workshop I took in June did as much as the year to turn me off.

BUT – the Hillcrest website has been updated – the faculty page was completely broken and the HTML/CSS courses this week helped me fix it and get it back up.  I had basically deleted some tags I needed, put them back in, and it’s back up.

And I’m looking for some good projects.  I still want to make PreAP more user friendly for students.