Saturday, February 19, 2011

Saving just a few pages from a pdf file

Have you ever wondered how to break up a long pdf file and save just a few pages? Today I"m beginning work on a project for the JUMP Math people.This video is long, but until someone edits a new one from several of John's training sessions, it will have to do. His main point is that the bell curve is a social construct that we have come to believe and rely on to justify failure of huge numbers of students to fulfill their potential to be good at math (video link). The information on JUMP Math starts about 15 minutes into the video.

I want to put some of the JUMP demonstrations into a format that will work on a SMART Board and attach the pertinent pages from the Teacher's Guide to the Notebook file. Some of their guides are over 100 pages. They are treasure troves, but because they're so long, a lot of teachers using JUMP without any training plunge in without reading the guides. The problem with that is the heart and soul of about how to follow the JUMP model is in those guides. Without that information, JUMP Math can come across as just another set of workbooks. Armed with the information in the guides you can transform math teaching and learning into an art that captures the imaginations of the kids and meets the goals of teachers.

JUMP is a charity dedicated to helping teachers and students bust down the barriers to math learning. The materials are free to download and share. It's possible to apply for funds to set up math camps for kids during the holidays and for action based research that will provide them with more data to help them understand what it is about JUMP that works.

Here's how I made a new pdf file with just 4 pages from the original (video link). [Please note: the last frame on the video just shows that I did my screen recording with an old version of Snagit.]

To highlight multiple pages, click and hold down your control key.

You'll need something like the free version of Cute PDF Writer or Printer installed on you computer so that when you save the selected pages in the document, the computer can create a new pdf file for them. There are a number of pdf programs out there but Cute is reliable and the price is right.

DO NOT DOWNLOAD OR USE 'pdf 995'. It just about killed my computer and was almost impossible to uninstall.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I give Natalie Monroe her 15 minutes of fame

Recently a Pennsylvania teacher was suspended when remarks she had made about students in her blog became public.

(Links to video and article)

Modeling ethical behaviour and attitudes to our students is one of a teacher's greatest responsibilities. Teachers who aren't sure where the boundary between acceptable and unacceptable public comment lies without having it written up as a school board guideline ought to do some serious soul-searching. On a personal level, all we need to do is ask ourselves who could be hurt if the information in our blogs became widely public. Professionally, we have a duty of confidentiality to the young people in our care -- no matter how challenging their behaviour or less-than-respectful their attirutes are. Any communication which breaches either of those trusts is unacceptable whether teachers feel their comments are justified or not.

Ms. Monroe still insists that she did nothing wrong. As my students often did when I caught them saying something hurtful, in her most recent blog post of Feb. 12 she tries to pass her comments off as a 'joke." She also paints herself as mystified by the tempest her "casual blog" has caused and as misunderstood because "the crazies" (students and parents probably aided by the press) who "tracked her down" tried to make her look bad by focusing public attention on the negative stuff she posted. She implies that if we knew the whole story and read all her posts, we'd see her as the proud and dedicated teacher she really is -- one who soldiers on in her teaching work like a salmon swimming upstream against the flow of "more and more, students [who are] are coming in less willing to work, to think, to cooperate." But if Ms. Monroe stands by her words, why has she deleted her blog's archives?

Despite her assertions to the contrary, she seems now to be in damage control mode. In her ABC interview (scroll to bottom), she said she started the blog at a friend's suggestion as a way for them to keep up better.

Good one, Ms. Monroe. When in trouble, blame a friend for getting you into it!!! Have you never heard of email? She is now claiming that the students alluded to in her blog were "caricatures of students she'd had over the years" (from the ABC interview) and that she "kept things as anonymous as possible" (from Feb. 12 blog). Read this blog passage from Jan. 29, 2010 (with bold/red emphasis added by me), and judge for yourself.
"After showing them how to set up their answer sheets, I said to the class, "And I would remind you of our honor day activities and the honor pledge. We didn't just do that for fun. Remember what we talked about. And if you were planning on doing anything untoward--[and I looked RIGHT at the girl in the pink and the kids around her]-- DON'T. [She averted her eyes immediately!] Because I WILL give you a zero, and I WILL call your parents, and I WILL talk to your other teachers about you. And I won't trust you anymore. And it's awfully early in the semester to lose my trust. So, even if you may have been tempted because you perhaps didn't prepare enough or are worried because it's the first quiz, DON'T cheat." While quizzing, I stood behind the pink-shirted gal and her area for a good 4 minutes ...".
Ms. Monroe is not the 'Julian Assange' (Wikileaks founder) of the educational blogging community. She is simply a jaded teacher who felt was pushed too far and blurted out a lot of stuff that she should have kept to herself or dealt with on a one-to-one basis with parents and administrators. I think her frustration turned into a sort of arrogance. In the blog posts I read, she seems to be looking down on her students and even her colleagues from her own little acre of moral high ground.

Although I'm guessing that her lawyer would have her deny this, I suspect Ms. Monroe hoped her writing would resonate with some readers somewhere. She said in the ABC interview that she was just blogging "for fun, anonymously, for her [7] friends," but it would only have taken a few clicks of the mouse for her to change the settings and permissions and ensure that her blog, which she claims was "not [meant] for mass consumption," remained truly private and restricted to only readers she chose. Whether Ms. Monroe wanted to reach other like-minded educators (which has now happened because she's up to over 400 followers from 7) or touch the heart of an uncaring public, clearly she needed something to change.

However, as the old adage goes, you have to be careful about what you wish for. Unfortunately this teacher's stinging words have not softened the attitudes of the people she most wanted to reach. Those students and parents will be very unlikely to show more respect to their teachers in future. The cause of hard-pressed educators has not been well served. Ms. Monroe herself may find it impossible to connect positively with any students (if she keeps her job at all or can get another after the furor and court cases have gone away). As tough as kids today seem, they still value trust relationships with their teachers and betrayal of this trust creates a wound which is almost impossible to heal.

When it comes right down to it, Ms.Monroe was supposed to be the adult, but she acted out -- just like the worst of her students -- and got caught. Her blogging was not honorable. Let me quote from her Jan. 29, 2010 , blog again -- here she's writing about taking the school's honor pledge seriously:

"So I designed an entire block's worth of activities .... I figured that if I spent 90 minutes on this topic up front on the second day of class, that they'd realize how important it is. We talk about honor and what it means. We talk about why we sign our names to documents and how on a contract, the signature is legally binding. We discuss reputations, how easy it is to go from a good to bad reputation (and how difficult to go from bad to good), and how much nobody wants a bad reputation. We talk about trust and the value of a good name. ... Honor isn't stuff to me. Honor is a driving force. Honesty, integrity, and one's good name aren't things that happen to you, but things that one earns and should value and aspire to and wish to keep."
Ms. Monroe -- I'm with your kids on this one. If you can "give myself a free pass of conscience" (Feb. 12) when you feel justified, how can you blame your kids when they do the same? After all, they learned it from their teacher. Before you set foot in a classroom again, I suggest you let your defenses down and reread some of those deleted blog entries and the students' comments. Use your English teacher skills to delve beneath the cuss words and ask yourself what they might have been feeling that would have caused them to lash back so harshly. As you wrote on Feb. 12:
"The truth hurts sometimes. Maybe instead of getting pissed off at the person pointing out the behavior, people need to examine their behavior and make a change. Better to know now before the Ghost of Christmas Future shows up."

Monday, February 14, 2011

2 Tools for history teachers today

I'm paging through the OZ/NZ educators' Diigo group today and they share some interesting links, but there are two I passed on to a Social Studies teaching friend of mine

The first is a link to a Google Template created by Derrick Wadell.

It's so students can create a faux Facebook page for a famous person. This template is not connected to any actual Facebook account so is safe and user friendly. It works inside a Google Doc, so offers students an interesting way to collaborate to develop the profile of a historical figure. They can insert an image (try a Wikimedia Commons search first), but will have to add text boxes of their own to add their research to the right slots. (See "Facebook for Dead People" post in Richard Byrne's blog.)

The other is a new service from Life Magazine. Students can now view or create pictorial timelines using Life's photos or their own.

"With’s Timelines, you can unlock LIFE’s legendary archive of more than 10 million images — or choose pictures from your own collection — and put together photo essays to share with family and friends."

There's even a way to do a futuristic timeline of events that haven't yet occurred. I like the idea of them doing their own artwork and creating an interesting storyline or starting with historical photos, going through the present with Life and then projecting into the future with artwork.

History never seemed to be about real people or events when I was in school in the -- just lists of characters I was supposed to care about but didn't. I think using these kinds of tools would have breathed some life into history for me.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Join.Me -- free desktop sharing

Posting twice in one day has to be some sort of a record, but today I found the coolest free tool for sharing your desktop and holding a video conference and couldn't resist. I have two screens and tried sharing with myself. It seems to work reasonably fast and smoothly.

There is no registration and it can handle up to 250 people together in one meeting. You can also have a Join.Me icon on your desktop if you like to set up meetings on the fly. The person who calls the meeting uses the Share Button to get the meeting code. One the others in the group receive the code, they can join the meeting. Control can be passed around. If you're showing a video, the sound is not broadcast from your computer, so you'll have to hold the phone up to the computer speaker.

Participants can communicate via phone or chat box. provides a free conference line, but it's not toll free so you may be charged for a call, but you can use your own conference number by changing the audio setting.

Finally there's a mobile viewer for iPhone and iPad now available and there'll soon be one for the android phones. From Digital Inspiration: "the apps are free, incredibly easy to use and also supports text chat so you may not just watch the presenter's screen while on the go but also interact with the meeting participants."

Free text-to-speech program -- Balabolka

""Balabolka is a Text-To-Speech (TTS) program. All computer voices installed on your system are available to Balabolka. ... The program uses various versions of Microsoft Speech API (SAPI); it allows to alter a voice's parameters, including rate and pitch. The user can apply a special substitution list to improve the quality of the voice's articulation. This feature is useful when you want to change the spelling of words. The rules for the pronunciation correction use the syntax of regular expressions.

Balabolka can save the synchronized text in external LRC files or in MP3 tags inside the audio files. When an audio file is played with players on a computer or on modern digital audio players, the text is displayed synchronously (at the same way, as lyrics for songs)."

There is also a portable version so Balabolka does not have to be installed on your computer. For second language teachers, it will also read in a number of other languages including French and Spanish so your students can listen along as they read text passages.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Maria Andersen -- Prezi master

Maria makes wonderful use of Prezi as an engaging presentation tool. (Note to self -- she doesn't do her own artwork. Don't be so hard on yourself!) I found this one here in her blog, Teaching College Math. That blog name is something of a misnomer because there are wonderful ideas there for all levels of math teaching and this one abpout future-proofing your education speaks to all educators.

I have two observations. The first is about Prezi. It seems at first to be a tool that affords people the opportunity to explore non-sequentially, but the more I look at it, the less I think this is the case. Yes, if you have a great illustration to work within, you can get a visual big picture that complements the thoughts, but the viewing pathway is really established by the creator. The viewer goes along for the ride.

The second is about Maria's ontent. I think a great way to begin any class would be to set up something like this as a way to measure progress and keep teacher and students together constantly assessing how well they are doing. The more deliberately we measure ourselves and our work against a series of sign posts, the more we'll internalise the message, appreciate the value of our education, and take on the responsibility for ensuring our education has no 'best by' date.

It's also interesting to note that none of her suggestions require radical changes to what we've been doing for a long time in most classes -- with the possible exception of math especially at the secondary level. Here's a summary of the Prezi list quoted from her blog post with the same title:
  • ANALYZE … think critically, interpret data, predict, solve problems, make decisions, scrutinize information sources
  • EXPLAIN … convey ideas in writing, depict data visually, speak so that others understand, present ideas digitally
  • FOCUS … observe critically, read with understanding, be self-directed, listen carefully, set and meet goals
  • EXPLAIN … convey ideas in writing, depict data visually, speak so that others understand, present ideas digitally
  • LEARN…find information quickly, reflect and evaluate learning, manage information, leverage tech to learn, metacognitive
  • INTERACT … guide others, lead, collaborate, advocate and influence, resolve conflict and negotiate, share
  • FLEX … be able to adapt, be creative, innovate, think across disciplines and cultures, design/usability

Friday, February 4, 2011

Google Art Project -- Stunning

"Explore museums from around the world, discover and view hundreds of artworks at incredible zoom levels, and even create and share your own collection of masterpieces. ... Simply select a museum from the homepage and then either chose ‘Explore the museum’ or ‘View Artwork’. Once you are in the main site use the drop-down menus or the side info bar to navigate between artworks and museums. Finally create and share your own collections online." (quoted from their website)

The images used to introduce galleries participating Google Art Project are stunning.

Links for Facebook viewers: my art collage in Vuvox; video about the project)

P.S. I'd forgotten how quick it is to build a collage in Vuvox if you don't get fancy -- but the creative possibilities are a lot of fun.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Great Tool offered free for the next 24 hours on GIveaway of the Day -- iSpring Presenter

Giveaway of the Day is a website that offers one free tool each 24 hour period. If you choose to download, you must install and activate the Giveaway license inside that 24 hour period before the deal expires. Usually this means you'll have a forever license for the product. Scrolling down the page takes you to the comments of those who've tried the product that day. They're a good guide about whether the program does what it says, if there are other free alternatives, and if there are any downloading issues. When you unzip the downloaded file, open the "Read Me" instructions first and follow them exactly. That will ensure you don't end up with a trial version, but get all the information needed to register your copy correctly.

Today's Giveaway is iSpring Presenter which is a great tool if you use PowerPoint. From the website: " iSpring Presenter works as a PowerPoint AddIn. It transforms your PowerPoint into a high end tool for creating engaging and interactive Flash based e-learning courses that can be viewed on virtually any computer or platform." It comes bundled with iSpring quizmaker. [Note: it does not work with the Open Office alternative to PowerPoint.] Here are links to a sample video and their tutorials.

Turning PPT into flash with all the animations preserved is a great way to display student's work without going to something like Animoto. You can publish it to Slideboom (keeping the account private if you wish) and pull in the embed code from there needed for students to display their work in their blogs or on a class website or wiki. The Slideboom Shop which has PPT templates is offering an 80% discount until Feb.3. They're still on the pricey side, but the graphs and charts might be good if students are integrating math or statistics into projects. There's also a free set and a weekly sample you can download free.

Finally, if you're into travel, KLM has a contest called "Pack Up Your Pals" where you can win a free trip by getting friends to validate your invitation. If you have long lists of Facebook or other friends, you can get multiple contest entries.