Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Your Own Blog in 10 Minutes or Less

The purpose of this blog is to demonstrate concepts you can use in blog posts. The posts you will see here are taken from real blogs. In each post, you will see a short explanation of why the post was selected followed by the actual post.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Why Should You Blog?

Tom Peters makes a compelling argument. Right around the 1:00 mark is especially good.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Introducing Your Blog to Your Readers

For writers, getting started is the toughest part. What do you say in that first post? This may not be the best example, but it does provide a sample. When I left my position as principal to take a central office position, the question of how to communicate with teachers districtwide was one problem I needed to solve. For me, a blog was the answer. Here is what I said to teachers in that first post.

How can we make communication easy enough that it will actually happen? This blog hopes to provide at least a part of that answer. I write the post and you read it—it’s that simple. No going to the Xerox machine to run multiple copies which are then distributed to schools, where even more copies are made, which are then distributed to mailboxes, where others quickly read and toss or try to figure out where to file random pieces of paper. Put your hands on that communication a couple of weeks later? Good luck!

Seconds after I write this post, it is available for you to read. Don’t worry about printing it out and filing it—come back next week, next month, or next year, and it’s going to be here for your review.

Coming soon will be a calendar not only for the system as a whole, but for each school. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what’s going on around the school system with a couple of clicks of your mouse? Stay tuned. It’s going to happen.

Last week, Mobile hosted the School Improvement Summit sponsored by the Alabama State Dept. of Education. Doug Campbell, Pattie Thomas, Jody Parker, and I represented our school system. This blog is a result of discussions amongst our team on ways to beef-up communication.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Publicizing an Event

The last post consisted only of text, and there is nothing wrong with that. Your posts are more interesting, however, if there are pictures. At the top of the box where you compose your text, you will see several icons. One of them allows you to insert a picture. The process is much like attaching a file to an e-mail message. When you click the icon, a window appears asking you where your picture is located. Navigate to it (perhaps on the desktop), click "OK" a couple of times, and your picture appears.

Pictured above, R. L. Young Kindergarten Teachers, Carrie Nabors, Roxanne Lamberth, and Tammy Liner.

All over Talladega you will notice information concerning kindergarten registration happening this month. We are excited about serving your child!
For more information you can all the Central Office, 315-5600.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Link to Information to Parents

Many times, you will want to direct your readers to others sites or documents. You have the ability to create a link in your blog. Readers click on the link and it will take them to what you want them to see. To create a link, highlight the word that you want readers to be able to click. Next, look for an icon at the top of the box which resembles a world with a couple of chain links. A box will open asking for the URL to which the link should take readers.

Every child has days when he or she does not want to go to school. Children suffering school anxiety, however, feel they can't go to school.

These tips from the National Association of Elementary School Principals can help.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

News for Parents With How They Can Follow-Up

Rick Shelton is well known around Alabama for his combination of wit and substance. In my former school system, we brought him in work with students on writing skills. How can we communicate to parents some of the major concepts so that they can reinforce them at home? With one blog post, we have the potential to reach everyone.

How many times do we hear this statement from students? This coming week, Rick Shelton will share some insight into overcoming this problem. For example, when teaching expository writing, Shelton has these suggestions for the students:
  1. Make an “expert list.” This would be a list of topics where you are really good, have a good bit of knowledge, and you had a great interest.
  2. When you are asked to write an expository piece, pick something from your expert list.
  3. List three reasons why you like that subject. (“Because” is a pretty good starter.)
  4. Write a paragraph about your first reason. Write another paragraph focusing on the second reason, and then another paragraph focusing on the third reason.

For most people (whether they are 9, 29, or 89) getting started is the hardest part about writing. This simple technique is one that we all can use.

Rick Shelton will spend six days in our schools. His schedule is as follows:
  • August 14—Graham
  • August 15—Henderson
  • August 16—Young
  • August 17—Salter
  • August 18—Houston
  • August 22—Ellis
Rick’s ability to relate to students through humor that gets their attention, and practical writing techniques which hold their attention, has him in demand all across Alabama and neighboring states as well. For a schedule of what classes Rick will work, what modes he will address, and what times all of this will happen, contact the individual schools. In addition to the work he does in countless schools, Rick is the author of Write Where You Are and Hoggle’s Christmas.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Starting Off on the Right Foot

A blog is a great vehicle for a new principal. In this post, Pattie Thomas lays the groundwork for a plan to increase attendance and decrease tardies and checkout. (It worked.)

Raymond L. Young has a new club...The Top Dog Club. Students must meet the following criteria to be a member:

NO Absences
NO Tardies
NO Checkouts

Membership lasts for six weeks. This past six weeks Top Dogs had the privilege of lining up first for lunch and received a certificate. Congratulations to the winners!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Emergency Announcements to Parents

What if you wake up to snow and need to alert parents? What if the start of school must be delayed unexpectedly? If parents have the confidence that what they need to know will be displayed on the blog, one quick post gets the word to everyone. - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more The opening of school tomorrow will be delayed. School will open at 10:30.

The Zora Ellis Ellis Band will still leave for State Assessment as scheduled at 10:00. Band students Will report to the bandroom by 9:00.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Using ImageChef and Embedding a Link

Notice this post regarding summer reading has beside it a book with a spine with reads "Summer Reading." No, I did not spend hours finding something that existed on the internet which just happened to have that title. I created it with a website called "ImageChef."

ImageChef is a great site for clipart that you can customize with your own text. You choose from a large library of images. Next, you type whatever text you wish in a box and the image is done!

How do you get the image into your blog? You will now learn a technique that you will use many times. You will need to look for some code ("html code" to use the proper terminology). Currently, you will click on a button which says, "More." When you see the code, highlight and copy it (Hold the CTRL key and hit C.)Paste the code (Ctrl V) into your blog post. What you see will look like nothing but a bunch of letters, numbers, and symbols. When you post, you will see your image. - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more Summer is a great time for students to read for pleasure. Not only does it present an opportunity for students to maintain their skills, but reading quality literature provides a productive way for them to spend their leisure time.

The National Endowment for the Humanities has produced an outstanding recommended list.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Allowing People to Subscribe Through E-Mail

You hope that people visit your blog often. The problem for readers happens when they start to follow many blogs. Going from one URL to another takes time. You can make it easier for them by allowing them to receive your posts in their e-mail. Go to where you can set up an account. You will receive instructions which will place a link in your blog. When people click that link, they can subscribe to your blog.

Blogs have become part of our culture, and with most things in life, there is some "best practice" for handling them. Those who like to read multiple blogs may find they are spending more time than they would like going to each site, especially when there is no guarantee there will be new content there.

What if every time something new appeared on one of your favorite blogs, it came to your e-mail? In the case of this blog, you are one mouse click away from making that happen. On the right-hand side of this screen, you will see a link that will allow you to subscribe to this blog through your e-mail. Click it, fill in your e-mail and other instructions you see on the next page. After that, you will never have to worry about missing a post from this blog again....unless, of course, you don't check your e-mail mail. I can't help you there.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Embedding a Video from YouTube

You can have a video clip appear right in your blog post, and it's easy. You have probably visited YouTube many times in the past. One the right-hand side of the screen, you will generally see two pieces of information. One of them is the url for that video. The usual "http://" will be evident. You could embed that link in your blog. People could click it and go straight to the YouTube video.

A better method is to copy the "embed code." It will generally be found in the window just below the URL. Copy that copy and paste it into your blog. When you save the post and view your blog, you will be able to play the video.

On this Memorial Day, we bring you a tribute to our fallen troops.

The music is "Dante's Prayer" by Loreena McKennit. The creator of this video does not give her name, but writes, "The pictures are from various sources on the web, and the editing is done painstakingly by hand using Windows Movie Maker. This took me forever, but I hope it will be appreciated."

Yes, I can assure you it will...

Friday, September 18, 2009

What If There is No Embed Code?

Not all YouTube videos have an embed code. In that case, simply copy the URL. Create a link in your blog which takes you to that URL.

Talent we have not discovered is all around us, and perhaps within us. This video is one of those heart-warming examples. Looking at Paul, a seemingly average man engaged in an average life, who would have expected the musical gift that he displayed?

Doesn't it make you wonder what treasures are around you which have yet to be discovered?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Embedding a Video from Television News Show

The technique for copying and pasting an embed copy is one you will use countless times. Just as YouTube provides embed codes, sites such as television stations will post their past telecasts and give you embed codes. The technique is the same. Copy the code and paste it in the blog post.

Graduation is always a special a time for the the graduates and their families. At this time of year, high school graduation are being held in every community in America. One, however, has attracted the attention of the media nationwide and worldwide.

Each year, Dr. Condoleezza Rice accepts only one invitation to speak at a high school graduation. This year, that one was Talladega High School. In addition to hearing the inspiring words of a fellow Alabamian, every senior met and was photographed with Dr. Rice.

Channel 42 featured this spot:

Today's Birmingham News carries this excellent article.

Listed below is the Associated Press article which is appearing today throughout the country:

Associated Press
Published: May 29, 2009

TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) - Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has urged graduates of Talladega High School to find their passions in life and follow them.
Rice a native of Birmingham, was the school’s graduation speaker Thursday night. She said she first studied music as a college student and later pursued international studies, although she said she “didn’t have a Russian bone in my body.“
She told the 150 graduates and their families that many years later, when she was leaving the White House lawn via helicopter with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife in 1990, she thought she had made a good decision in changing her major.
Talladega Mayor Brian York gave Rice a key to the city and declared Thursday “Condoleezza Rice Day."

The Anniston Star gave detailed coverage in a story posted here.
Of all of the media attention, perhaps most notable is Chris Norwood's article in The Daily Home. That article appears here. This paper has proven to be a supporter of this school system time and time again. You may view a 29-picture slide show of the event by clicking here.

Graduations are happening in every community in America. This one attracted the attention of the nation. As the Class of 2009 begins to make its mark on the world, who knows which of these graduates might just attract the attention of the nation. It can happen...just as it did for one Alabamian. Follow your passion...When you are convinced that you are right, find someone with a different opinion...Don't ever lose your thirst for knowledge. Wise words spoken by someone who has so much in common with the young men and women she was addressing.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Comical Video Embedded for Welcome Back to School Message

TeacherTube is another popular site for videos. The concept is the same. Look for the embed code. Paste it into the blog post. - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

The excitement of a new school year is in the air. Much work is happening in buildings to get them ready for a new year. With so much to do and so little time, every year we wonder how it will all get done by the time children arrive--and every year it all falls into place.

Our in-service will be held at Talladega High School on Monday, August 6th. Sign-in will begin at 8:00 Our program will begin promptly at 8:30 and conclude around 11:00. The central office will take care of registering each of you on PDWeb, and the sign-in sheet will be available for you when you arrive.

Activities for the afternoon of August 6th as well as plans for August 7th and 8th will be held at the individual schools. Special education teachers will meet together in the Graham lunchroom on August 8 from 9:00-11:00. Principals will communicate the schedules for their individual schools.

Welcome back! It's going to be a great year.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Creating a Slideshow Using PhotoBucket

Several sites allow you to make a slide show or other type of production from your digital photographs. They all work basically the same way.
  1. You create an account with that site.
  2. You upload your digital photographs.
  3. You add captions as needed.
  4. You save your creation.
  5. Look for an embed code. Copy and paste it into your blog.

The NAESP Convention was held at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville. The next several posts will bring you scenes from that beautiful hotel.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Introducing Animoto

My personal favorite is Animoto. You can set up a free account, which allows you to create presentations which last up to 30 seconds. They also offer a free account for educators which allows you to create a presentation of unlimited length. Look for the education account when you visit the site.

I read about a site called and gave it a try. If a picture is worth a thousand words, probably the best way to tell you what the site is all about is to show you:

After creating an account (which takes less than a minute), you can create your first video:
  1. Upload pictures from your computer or other source (such as flickr). You must have at least 10 pictures.
  2. Select the music. Animoto lets you choose the genre and choose from a list of music within that genre.
  3. You upload the video.

It takes a little while for the site to put your video together, and you know what they say about a watched pot. So, go and do something else and before you know it, you will have an e-mail telling you it's ready and giving you a link to your video.

The site is free if you are creating short videos (around 30 seconds). To create longer ones costs a fee. You can save your video to your computer. You also have the ability, as we show here, to embed the video in a blog.

Create your own video slideshow at

The demonstration video I put together, using photos of our dogs, took less than 5 minutes to create. Most of that time involved waiting for the computer to complete the upload of the pictures.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Capturing Scenes from a Trip to Canada

Taking pictures during a trip is nothing new. Turning them in a creation such as the one displayed here using Animoto adds a whole new dimension.

McGill University invited me to be part of their Distinguished Lecture Series. Here are some of the sights from a beautiful university of beautiful retreat at Monte Gabriel.

Create your own video slideshow at

Create your own video slideshow at

Friday, September 11, 2009

Animoto Highlighting Honor Band Event

Animoto turns these photographs, taken during an honor band festival, into a very nice presentation. Not only does Animoto mix the pictures, but it also lets you choose from a variety of music.

The Talladega All-County Honor Band concert was held Saturday in Harwell. The event attracted band students from across Talladega and Coosa Counties. The two bands played to a full house. Here are some sights from the rehearsals and the concert.

Create your own video slideshow at

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Animoto Highlighting Performance of Jazz Band

The final Animoto captures a special night for this jazz band. It is a longer presentation that the others. It also shows the capability of adding captions to Animoto presentations.

The Talladega High School Jazz Band provided the entertainment for this year's International Motor Sports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. The band provided 45 minutes of music without ever repeating a selection. For the many who came from far away to attend this prestigious event, the only impression they have of the Talladega City School System is the one these young people gave them.

Create your own video slideshow at

The jazz band represented us well, as does every facet of this band program wherever it goes. A great deal of preparation went into what turned out to be a stellar performance. They also had a great deal of fun along the way. Click on the presentation below to see what we mean.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Contrasting Video Options

We have examined Photobucket and Animoto. A third option is One True Media.This post compares the three options.

The ability to add pictures and do so easily is one of the advantages of a blog over other types of communication. If we have a large number of pictures, a "slide show" allows us to display those pictures in a small amount of space.

I have used Photobucket and Animoto on this blog. I included them in a list of my Top Ten Web-Based Tools. That list was published in Barbara Blackburn's recent book The Principalship from A-Z.

A good friend put me on to another option: One True Media.

To compare and contrast:
  • All three offer free accounts.
  • Animoto and One True Media allow you to add music. In fact, One True Media automatically assigns a music track and allows you to change it. Photobucket has no musical option.
  • Animoto's free account limits the length of the slide show to 30 seconds. One True Media and Photobucket seem to be unlimited in the length of the presentation.
  • Animoto mixes the pictures in a very imaginative way. One True Media may have editing capabilities, but if it allows you to do what Animoto does, it would take some work.

Below is a sample of each. Judge for yourself which you like best:

One True Media:


Create your own video slideshow at


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Blog into the Future

One of the challenges of blogging is follow-through. When we create the blog, we are full of ideas. We can't wait to put those ideas into our blog. Then, for one reason or other, a lull occurs. We realize that we haven't posted anything new in weeks. Where did the time go?

That's life. Life happens. We get busy. Yet, to our readers we must be steady. If we expect people to return on a regular basis, we must post on a regular basis.

We can have our cake and eat it too. We can have our ideas in spurts and yet post on a regular schedule. When a create a post, there is a little link below the box that says "Post Options." When I click it, I get to choose a date on which the post will appear. That means I can create half-a-dozen posts at one sitting and schedule each one to publish on a particular future date.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Extra! Extra! Read All About It

personalized greetings
I hear it all the time...Our school can't get any coverage in the newspaper. Let us mess up and we are all over the front page. But when we do good things, it never makes the paper.

Here is a little secret...the newspaper can't print what the newspaper does not know about. If you want positive stuff in the paper, send positive stuff to the paper. It's that simple.

When you create a blog post and post a digital picture, you have done 90% of what you need to do to get newspaper coverage. Copy your post into an e-mail message to the appropriate person at the local paper. Attach the digital photo which you posted on your blog. You already did the work when you created your blog post. Now you simply get to re-purpose your work by sending it to the paper!

Be sure to let your contact at the newspaper know about your blog. If your blog is good and gains a reputation for reporting newsworthy material, do not be surprised if your newspaper reporter begins to visit your blog and calls you to get more information about something which appeared.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Examples of School Blogs

As you compose your own blog, here are some examples which can help give you ideas for content:

Graham School
This is a blog which I established during the 2005-2006 school year. Its audience consisted of the stakeholders of Graham School, a K-6 elementary school located in Talladega, Alabama. While the blog is no longer being maintained, these posts serve as a model others may want to use.

Graham Staff
This is a second blog which I established during the 2005-2006 school year. Its audience consisted of the faculty and staff of Graham School. The basic idea was that I concentrated all of the information teachers needed to know for the next week into one post. Once I left the school, this blog, just like the blog above, was no longer maintained. It does serve as a model for principals who want to use it as a tool to communicate with those in their buildings.

Trinity Middle School Principal's Blog
Kerry Palmer created this blog at the start of his first year as principal. The audience for this blog consists of the parents. Mr. Palmer posts once every week, and more often as needed. The idea of blogging caught on very quickly at the school. Trinity Presbyterian Middle School is located in Montgomery, Alabama.

Trinity Middle School Staff

Kerry Palmer created this blog as a companion to the blog for parents. In this blog, the audience consists of faculty/staff. Every week, Mr. Palmer presents a concise post with announcements, upcoming events, and other important information.

Raymond L. Young
The warmth of this blog is an indication of the positive climate that exists at Raymond L. Young Elementary School, located in Talladega, Alabama. Pattie Thomas is the principal and personally maintains this blog. She uses well-chosen pictures along with such tools as Animoto. From time to time, she will feature a student's writing or even have a student compose a post.

Are there others which should be added to this list? E-mail me about them.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Blog Post Can Brighten Your Day

Just a little something to brighten your day.

Have a great weekend!