This is not exactly educational, but it is very interesting, and other people have mentioned it before. When my daughter was born yesterday (yippee!!!), I called my dad on Skype to tell him she came safely and show him what she looks like. He lives in Brazil, and so it is not easy to call and talk to him very often without Skype. Think of how amazing Skype could be in education. If I wanted to talk to an author, or a professional, or an actor, or a screenwriter, or anyone else associated with the subject that I teach, it would be very easy to do. Wednesday night I did not go to class because Staci was going in for the C-section on Thursday, but it turns out that I was sick, too. I emailed my professor and asked if we could do a Skype call, but he didn't know what it was so he would have to set it up. Turns out, he couldn't get it to work. Bummer, it would have been really neat to be able to attend my class while sitting at home.

I would really like to do a video call with someone in a profession that could benefit my English students. I do know an author, named Stacey Cochran, and maybe I could contact him and do something. I will have to try that.

A Teaching Meme

I am following the lead of an edublogger that I just learned about. I don't know any of the teachers' blogs that I read, and I only know one of the bloggers that is a teacher.

1. I am a good teacher because… I love learning and helping other people learn.

2. If I weren’t a teacher, I would be… lost! All through my life I have wanted to be a teacher. I tried to avoid it, but I knew I would end up in education. I believe any job in education is there to help students learn.

3. My teaching style is… dependent on my students, but sadly probably more authoritative than I would like.

4. My classroom is… covered in paper. I have papers all over my desk and counter top. My organization skills are in desperate need of assistance from a professional organizer.

5. My lesson plans… are online.

6. One of my teaching goals is… to start my own school (that goal is still many years away from being accomplished.)

7. The toughest part of teaching is… motivating the unmotivated, (I agree with Blair).

8. The thing I love most about teaching is… when students "get it". The "Oh, I get it now!" is the best and most exciting thing to hear.

9. A common misconception about teaching is… those who can't do, teach. (And by extension, those who can't teach, teach PE.)

10. The most important thing I’ve learned since I started teaching… It takes time to be a good teacher. Teaching is a marathon, not a sprint.

Educational Software Review: Mindjet MindManager 7

Update: Thanks to Kyle who commented below and solved the major issue that I have with this program, kind of. He suggested using shift while dragging. That makes it a floating topic, and disconnects the subtopic from its parent. Also, the "quick start" guide is 30 pages long!

As you can see from the picture to the left, MindManager 7 is a product that helps people visualize information. This is a great idea because many people, especially children can understand things better if they visualize them. This program can help facilitate children's learning. Mindjet pitches this to businesses, education, NPOs, government agencies, and individuals. Academic pricing is $149.

Useful Features
Once you make a mind map you can export it in a number of different formats: PNG, JPG, TIFF, RTF, PDF, web page, and some others that I didn't even know existed. The best export is the PDF because it adds some white space around the map, and that makes it look nice. The picture formats (TIFF, PNG, and JPG) were good exports also, but they cut off the top-most and bottom-most lines on the subtopics. as shown below.
It doesn't look like it cuts the borders off too much, but it is enough to be annoying.

Another good feature is that there are plenty of things you can add to spice up your map. It doesn't have to be boring like the one on the left. You can add all kinds of graphics, pictures, arrows, and pretty much whatever else you can think of. You can also link other files to your map, including Outlook contacts, Word files, spreadsheets, websites, and more.

You can also draw relationships between different subtopics, which is very useful as well. Another good feature of this program is the ability to collapse and expand subtopics. Collapsing subtopics helps the productivity maniac focus on just one idea, not the whole enchilada.

I did not like this program. I have a real issue with programs that make me fight them. The video clip below explains one feature that really bugged me. MindManager makes you put parts of your map in certain places. For instance, if I want to place a new subtopic somewhere the program would suggest a spot. Most of the time, that is great...but sometimes, I want a bubble where I want it. I wanted the figure I was making to look nice, but the program would not let me put things where I wanted them. I am a firm believer that the software needs to get out of the way so that I can do what I need to (like Jing). This program just got in my way. I tried to figure out how to change that setting, but I couldn't find it. The preferences menu is one page with only six options.

If I wanted to move just one subtopic somewhere, then it would affect all the other subtopics and that drove me nuts. My finished product still does not look how I want it to, but it does look good enough, I guess.

Basically, I had to stop using this program because it was way to difficult to get it to do what I wanted. It took more time to figure out how to make it do what it should than it did to make a more complex map in Inspiration, which I will review next.

Lockdown Drill

We had a lockdown drill today at school and I was nervous that my students would not do well with it, but they managed to do OK, for the most part. There were a couple kids who did not do very well. They were making faces and laughing at each other. It is really frustrating that some kids (and adults, too) think that everything is a joke and that we don't need to be serious about things. Lockdowns are serious business. It is very important to have procedures in place to keep everyone safe if something were to happen...say nothing of the legal implications if something goes horribly wrong. It is really important. One of my professors at BYU-Idaho told a story about how she was shot at in the hall of a high school in Salt Lake City. These things do happen, and it is important to be as prepared as possible for everything. Obviously, there is no way to prepare for every contingency, but it is certainly worth our best effort to prepare for as much as possible without being to overcome by paranoia.

So, I sent one kid down with a referral for goofing off and the other kid I sat and talked to for about ten minutes. The student eventually agreed that he should not let someone else get the blame for something he was as equally to blame for, and he went down to the VP's office with me and fessed up to acting poorly. I sure made sure that he understood his mistake before I let him off the hook. It was a very brave thing to do, though. Too bad he didn't think of it on his own.

Congratulations, you are a genius

Take that Chris!!! Apparently you have to be a genius to understand what I write. Chris made some good comments about how this could just be randomly generated. I did the Flesch-Kincaid for the first page in Word, and I got some different results. Apparently, I write to the grade that I teach...interesting. Some people might say I act the grade I teach also.

Web Quest Problems

I make no assumptions that anyone reads this blog, so now that people are actually reading it, and commenting even, you also get to hear my reflective posts.

The problem I ran into today was explaining that they need to fill out three source cards, but there was only one for the internet in the packet that I gave them. It is very frustrating that this happened. So, I had to make more.

There are times as a teacher when you realize that it is a lot easier to change how you do things instead of dealing with the incessant confusion by your students when what you are asking them to do makes perfect sense to you. This happens a lot with me, which is probably a testament to my inability to be clear and organized...as this post is clearly an example of that!!!

Amazing! Thank you Chris

So my good friend Chris asked a question in the comments yesterday about the web quest, so I thought I would answer it. The really amazing thing is he had a perfect teaser to get me to answer it. He used a program he is working on called Jing. It is wicked awesome. It is a screen capturing program that you can use to capture video or pictures and then explain whatever you want. The only problem is that while Chris left the comment at about 7 pm, I didn't see it until 10:30 last night. As it turns out, I was so excited about how to use this program, that I couldn't go to sleep. I just thought about how I could use it. For example, more than half my students were on a field trip yesterday, so they missed my explanation about what to do to start this web quest. Now, I can put a link to the Jing screencast on my website, explaining what to do, and they can watch it before they start working. This will also be good for explaining things that are complicated when I need to show something, but don't want to be stuck at my computer. I can see how this program can be very useful in education.

Web Quest

My students started research for their web quest today, and I have to say that I am very excited about it. I wish that I could have done more for it, but I am okay with starting small. One thing that I have noticed is that while some of them know and understand how to get around on the web, they are not necessarily computer literate. Many of them don't understand what a title of a page is as opposed to the title of a site. Some don't know what the web address is. It is interesting how much I need to teach internet literacy to them as well as the other material I must teach. This is not a complaint, by the way, just an interesting observation.


I recently blogged about my new website for my students. Well, I don't think I said that I used Apple's iWeb to make it. It was a fantastically easy program to use, and the site looks pretty good. It was definitely worth it because it makes a better site faster than I could using Dreamweaver. Well, the problem that occurs is that if you screw up your computer and it starts speaking Russian and you have to reinstall the OS, and you don't save a file called domain.sites in an obscure folder, you lose everything. Yeah, that happened to me. So, I have all the files, but because I don't have the original domain.sites file, I can no longer open that website in iWeb. I cannot believe how much that stinks. What a pain! I can still use Dreamweaver to edit the site, but it is still a major bummer.


In trying to free up some space on my hard drive, I deleted some language packs thinking that I would not need them anymore. I don't know how this happened, but my OS's language is slowly morphing into Spanish and Russian. While the latter is actually pretty cool, it is overwhelmingly difficult to try and determine what the Russian words actually mean. Some are pretty easy, but others are down right impossible. This picture is pretty easy, and it is sometimes clever the words they use to describe things. I guess "Frameworks" is not translatable.

My Website

So a couple years ago, I bought a domain name and made a website. The website is actually pretty stinkin' cool, but it takes a lot of work to keep it up to date. Well, in reality, it probably doesn't take that much, since I did all the original coding all that time ago. I really enjoy making and editing the website. It is a hobby that I will hopefully be able to further enjoy as I get better at it and have more time. I use the website mainly as a launching point for my school stuff. I just updated it to have a calendar complete with assignments for my students I am breaking a lot of web design rules by doing it this way, and if my web design teacher ever found out, he would probably throw a fit. jethrojones.com <- Go here and then click the FHMS link and it will take you to the web page that I recently blogged about. Then click on that first page to get to the calendar, and you can see what I am doing for the next couple weeks, kind of.
This is a very small side effect, but a worthwhile one nonetheless. And, I am sure I am the only one who did not foresee it. I am sure that others saw it as an important tool that we could no longer live without

 When everyone at your school is focused on learning and collaboration, they start to help each other learn different things. One teacher helped me out with something, even though there was no reason for her to think that she should help me. The PLC creates an environment of sharing. That is what is really important. When I found out from someone else that she needed help with something, I let her know how I could help her, even though it would cost me time to help her out. I must say it is very fulfilling to be in culture where competition against others is minimalized, and the overall success of the students is the goal. There is still plenty of competition, but it is healthy competition that engenders improving yourself not at the expense of others.  


The magazine Edutopia is geared toward generating/creating innovation in schools. I have a subscription to it, but I don't always read it. I like reading about doing things differently because my personality (as much as I try to fight it) is to reinvent the wheel. This article is about textbooks. I have never like textbooks, especially English textbooks. There is some good stuff there that helps some teachers (especially new ones) but at the same time, each teacher needs to do a lot of filtering to get to what he or she needs. I used the textbook last year for some parts because it had some better-than-I-had-time-to-make grammar exercises. Other than that, it was just as easy to make something as it was to go through the book and find the stuff that was relevant or appropriate for my state core standards (the stuff I must teach).

I would really like to develop a kit for new teachers so that they have something to use that is not the textbook. Time is a major factor for new teachers, and it would be really nice to get everything in one place, and actually be able to use it. I have thought that writing an appropriate textbook would actually help make teaching easier. Now, I am not going to do that, because there is no way that I have enough time for it, but I can dream, right?

Anyway, back to the point, the article above shows how insane it is to use textbooks from McGraw-Hill or the other large publishers. It would be much more effective to find a smaller niche supplier of textbooks. A publisher who published something for each state (or just for Utah) would be a great way to focus the textbooks better.