Saturday, November 3, 2012

Testing, Identity, & My Kids

I just finished the testing required to be a licensed teacher in the state of Texas.  It's been so long since I was subjected to a test environment that it was a bit surreal, but I knew the feelings and greeted them as old friends.  When I got back to the house (a friend in Lubbock is hosting me while I'm here) I reflected on the fact that as a Dad I get to paint some of my kids' identity for them.  

You have seen Dads do this in negative ways "You'll probably grow up and wind up in a dead-end job like me," and in positive ways "You are a champion, son.  That's just the way you are."  I try to be intentional about it--here are some IDENTITY BUILDERS you'd hear around the Chase household:
  • You're the kind of kid everyone wants to have on their LEGO Robotics team--if there's something you don't understand, you go after it until you get it.
  • I am so impressed with the way you handled that situation.  You're going to be one heck of a Dad when you grow up.
  • Look at you!  You are training yourself to be such a high-capacity person.  Everyone is going to want to have you come work for them--partnering to develop new and creative things.  I'm so pleased.
I tell them that I'm pleased with them a lot, but I try to also help them build their identity.  Don Miller (Blue Like Jazz) would say I'm helping them tell a better story.

Okay.  The point is that one piece of identity that I tell them is that they are AWESOME test takers.  I've been telling them this for years, and they still have 5 years to go before they see their first PSAT.  Today I wrote my kids an email that they may or may not read before I get home, but when I get back to Oregon I'll read it to them.  It's designed to paint their identity and give them practical advice on how to test well.

Here it is:
Well, kids, you'd have been proud of me.  I took a book to the testing site (though I forgot a #2 pencil and had to borrow one!) and sat and waited nearly an hour before my group was called and we went into the testing room.

They checked my ID and gave me the bubble-sheet to fill in, and I put the book (it's a good one by Donald Miller--I want you to read it when you're teenagers) under my desk.  I could feel nervousness trying to creep in, so I assumed a large body position.  I made some jokes with the two people next to me, too, and that helped break the tension we all felt.

It was a test where you were allowed to write in the test booklet but the real answers were all to go on the bubble sheet.  So I whizzed through the test booklet and ignored the bubble sheet until the end.  I kept my pencil under the words I was reading, but moved it quickly so I didn't get bogged down by words I wasn't as familiar with.  Because my pencil kept moving, I got the gist of the question quickly and could either go back and read the specific words in the question or move on down to read the four answers.

If I thought B was the right choice, I made a slight mark next to it but kept reading through all the choices.  Usually I was right and just circled the original letter and mark, but sometimes I was presented with two options that both looked about right.  If that happened, I immediately confirmed that the other two were false distractors and put a slash through those letters.  That left me with the two choices, and I re-read them both and contemplated them for 20 seconds max.  If one seemed a clear winner, I chose it.  If I couldn't decide, I made a box around the whole problem and moved on to the next.

Got the 100-problem test done in 50 minutes, then went back and started filling in bubbles.  I had a strategy for this, too.  My left hand was in the testing booklet, and I pointed to the number and then to the circled answer and mouthed the words "23, C" then looked over at my right hand and repeated 23, C as I filled in the bubble.  There have been too many tragedies where someone filled in a whole test one-bubble-off.

When I came to a problem with a square around it--one that I hadn't already been able to answer--I re-read it with fresh eyes and examined any answers that I hadn't already crossed out.  I didn't sweat it, but I took my best guess and went on with the bubble-filling-in-game.  Out of 100, there were 3 or 4 that I really had no idea about.  One of them was asking me how big of a font (in points) would be needed to fill a 2-pica space in a newsletter layout.  The options were 20, 24, 30, & 36 points.  Which would you choose, if you had an internet connection to help you?  I guessed correctly, as I found out when I got back to the house.

I got to the end, thanked the girl next to me for the loan of the pencil, and left the testing room.  I hadn't rechecked a single answer.  I test cool, collected, and brilliantly.

I tell you all this because you are my kids, and when you get to the high-stakes testing, you are going to test cool, collected, and brilliantly.  Other kids may get all worked up about testing and they choke, but you go the other direction--into cool, smooth efficiency.  

You know already that I'm proud of you.  I think if you'd been able to watch me testing today you'd have been proud of me, too.  Love you guys; see you tomorrow night.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Help RATE the tools . . .

Please pass this along . . .

I've just made a Ranking page that includes a category for Web2.0 tools (all our favorites and some new awesome ones), Edugames, and professional i-apps.  I'm presenting it TOMORROW at a conference in Chicago and I'd love it if people had gone in and voted their favorite apps up and added ones that we've missed.  It has the potential to be a fantastic, crowd-sourced, list of what's GREAT about teaching in 2012.

Also, if you already know of a similar "crowd-sourced" list of educational Web2.0 tools, I really, really would like to know about it.

Thanks so much,

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Account Locked Down?

I just got this message from GMail.

Can you imagine my dismay if this had happened when I was in presentation mode with a group of teachers?  It's not tons inconvenient for me right now, but this would have been disabling for me at other times.  It doesn't seem to have affected my Blogger logins, so maybe just Gmail, but still.

To keep our systems healthy, Google has temporarily disabled your account. This primarily occurs when we detect unusually high levels of activity on your account. In most cases, it should take one hour to regain access. In rare cases, it can take up to 24 hours for access to be reinstated.
We’re sorry for the inconvenience.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Setting up a PC Laptop

My sister just bought a laptop, and there are so many things that I do when I get it fresh out of the box.  When you buy a new Windows system, what do you do and install right off the bat?

I install this free software
  • Safari+Quicktime
  • Firefox (and extensions--I'll list those below)
  • Chrome (set to default and sync it so that all my favorite extensions auto-install)
  • Flash
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader
  • iTunes + Quicktime
  • CoolTimer
  • MW Snap (screencapture)
  • Antivirus
  • GomPlayer  (and set so that it doesn't check for updates and automatically goes to fullscreen)
  • MagicDisk (if you have kids' software that is CD-dependent)
  • Picasa
  • Skype
  • Photostory
  • eSword Bible software
  • Scratch and Alice (if you have middle/high school kids who want to program)
  • Silverlight
  • Handbrake (ripping DVDs to MP4) + libdvdcss.dll
  • PDF995 (to make pdfs or docs into jpgs for printing at Costco)
  • Printer Driver

Firefox Extensions
  • Video DownloadHelper
  • Pixlr Grabber
  • Diigo
  • Evernote
  • Scrapbook Plus

To Do List
  • Adjust mouse/touchpad preferences
  • Pin programs to quicklaunch, first removing everything that came pre-pinned
  • Pin programs to start bar and customize start button listing: delete games, add download and video as links
  • Set admin password
  • Set Windows security settings
  • Update Windows (several times)
  • Delete bloatware and bundled antivirus
  • Change desktop image
  • Install software, then defrag and create restore point
  • Move data files (into D: if you change the user directory location first)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Video Converter of Choice

My head is bleeding from where I've been beating it against the wall trying to convert a ripped MKV file (ripped with Handbrake to maintain closed captioning) into a MP4 file that maintains the captions in a hard-burn.  

The solution I finally found,, is worth sharing.  It is a clean and easy piece of software that is full-featured donation-ware.  If I were a dog my whole body would be wagging, I'm that happy to have stumbled on it.  I installed no fewer than 8 converters trying to find this one!


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Publishing to PDF

I'm creating worksheets for an upcoming conference, and since I usually use the website for our working area, the worksheets are nothing more than screenshots of the first page of the session webpage.  On a Mac, it's easy to print to PDF, however each browser prints the page a little differently.  They're trying to be helpful, but the graphics and text are always messed up to some degree. On a PC, there's no easy way to print directly to PDF without installation of other software.

But I found and I really like it.  It makes a great PDF representation of my webpage and I can download the PDF super easy.  For free.  Like!

Embedded objects like videos leave a hole no matter what you're using to print, so I take a screenshot of the embedded video with the built-in Windows 7 Snipping Tool and temporarily replace the video with the picture.  Then I revert changes later.  Good times.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Buying a Name

I have a friend who has been doing photography for years and years.  This year, she finally got herself a website, at a neat service called zenfolio.  I really like it.  But still, her website name was too long: erinbrownphotography/  I have this all the time with sites that I make with Google Sites or Weebly.  You know what I mean about uselessly long URLs, right?

So tonight we bought her a domain.  I want to outline the steps, and encourage you that it's worth learning (and doing) if you have content online that you want people to see.
1) We went to and created a profile.
2) We asked for but had to settle for
3) We agreed to pay $25 for two years' ownership of the domain, and diligently said "no thank you" to all the side-selling and upselling that happens when you have a domain in your cart.
4) Not knowing what to do with all the DNS controls and whatnot, we just Googled "zenfolio godaddy domain address" or something like that, and landed on a page of pretty good instructions.
5) In Domain Manager we followed those directions.
6) We ate dessert.
7) We checked and found that it was already live.  We also typed in and saw that it did the right thing, too (because we'd set it up following instructions).  Very successful.
8) Now the next step is to make Google aware of erinbrownphotography so that when you type that into a Google search, the .net version is right up there with the .com version.

Easy.  All between dinner and dessert.  Try it!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Change Ahead

I'm GREATLY anticipating reading Switch this week (it's spring break, and I'm going to treat myself to some time with a book).  I'm also reading my downloaded PDF of Stop Stealing Dreams.  Midway through that right now and finding myself doing nothing but nodding and highlighting.