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Monday, August 24, 2015

I strongly believe in the philosophy that feedback is the key to improving. Discovered this incredible website that makes the feedback process much simpler.  

The website is called Kaizena, which is a Japanese philosophy for continuous improvement. The website allows you to provide personalized audio feedback and add resources to your student's Google documents. This is a very powerful tool  since there are times when the person giving you feedback prefers telling you which areas to focus on - and simply giving you a resource to check out. When you are in charge of grading hundreds of papers, it helps to simplify and streamline that feedback process. 

The YouTube video below demonstrates how to use Kaizen from a great educator -

Hope you find this tool helpful. Let me know how you end up using this tool - or if there is a better way to give feedback to your students. Everyone loves choices, so if there is a better tool out there - I would love to know about it. 

Knowledge is power,
Mr. Jamal

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

One of my favorite back to school resources that I work on is the following academic planner. As an educator, it is extremely important to be able to see the big picture so we can plan effectively. Over the past three years, I designed this one page (double sided) school calendar that tries to organize the school year in a visual manner. The goal is to put in all of the holidays and the exams that can really help you use the lastest most accurate data and plan out your school year knowing when your vacations are. 

Well, this upcoming school year is no exception. I have improved the calendar a lot over the years. For example, I put in all of the main AP Exams as well as all of the Regents Exams. The fact that everything fits into one page (double sided) is one of the most powerful aspect of this planner. The planner also has a place for you to keep track of weekly labs or notes for each week for then entire school year. One page for Fall and One page for Spring. Parent teacher conferences for high schools are also included.

I hope you love using the planner. I am providing it in Microsoft Word document so that you can customize it to your need. If you think this would be helpful for you, your colleagues, your students as well as your parents - please do share the document with them. Download the 2015-2016 Visual Planner here. If you notice any problems with the dates, please comment below. If you benefit from using this, thank you for giving me feedback to improve this one page simple planner. Don't forget to print double sided and make sure to use Microsoft Word, so the formatting looks fine. Last year, I had almost 400 downloads of this resource. Excited to see how many I reach this year - my goal is to triple last year's goal.

As a life long learner, I love feedback, so please suggest improvements. I hope to post different variations of this calendar on this website. Share what you have done with this calendar.

Mr. Jamal

Important Update: 8/25/15: 
  • Fixed some of the important dates that were missing - including Columbus Day, PSAT Exam and AP World History exam date. Thank you to friends who pointed out the mistakes.
  • Made sure that every box is ready for you to type information in Word Document.
  • The planner was downloaded 830 times already, which is impressive. Thank you for spreading the word on this planner. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

July 29th was a special day, mostly due to the largest upgrade of Windows from Microsoft. They decided to skip Windows 9 altogether and skip from 8 to 10. You can upgrade by checking out this link.

I had not been using my desktop PC for a couple of years now. In order to at least test out the latest OS, I decided to upgrade my Windows 7 PC, which might be an excuse for me to work on a desktop once in a while. The upgrade process seemed painless, and I read that during the first weekend, over 14 million upgrades were completed and it received an overall positive review. 

The number one feature that I am looking forward to is - Cortana and the interface changes. No more awkward two systems - the Tile world and the desktop word has merged into one. Windows 7 was kind of uninspiring, so I look forward this upgrade to fall in love with Windows once again.

Below is a screenshot of my installation:

Update since installing Windows 10 as of Aug 7th, 2015:

My immediate reaction was that I liked the interface - A LOT. My favorite aspect of Windows 10 has to be Cortana. I recommend turning on "Hey Cortana" mode by clicking on the circle next to "Ask me anything" and then clicking on Settings. Personal Assistant is definitely the way to the future, and I love how Cortana responds to "Hey Cortana" - just like Siri, Google Now and Alexa. What makes the Cortana experience superior is that it suggests better searches. There seems to be more options within Cortana, which makes Siri look like an amateur. I also appreciate the decoding of the text as I speak, just as Google Now does. Apple is really behind in this feature and needs to up their game for the sake of their customers. Microsoft gets it right and deserves brownie points for this.

Just how awesome is Cortana? When you ask it to tell you a joke, it reminds you that it can tell you SCIENCE jokes. That's right! Let that sink in for a second, a personal assistant that has a database on science jokes to tell you on demand. LOVE IT!

Screenshot: Set up Always listen mode - "Hey Cortana" which is turned off by default

My disappointments

One of the downsides of the upgrade was a reminder that Microsoft Windows still has problems that Apple doesn't have with stability. The OS keeps restarting, for compatibility or driver issue. Somehow, I always started the upgrade with a virus, so I had to do a clean install. Reminds me why I hated windows in the first place. Studies after studies have shown that Mac is just more secure and stable. If this constant unexpected restarting keeps happening, I would not be comfortable doing any serious work on my Windows machine - just in case I lose my work.

Although I like the redesign of the Microsoft Edge, there are tons of compatibility issues especially with Google products. For example, Google Hangout plugin is not fully compatible with the Edge browser. Neither is Google Blogger interface, which does not allow me to edit posts. There is a deliberate attempt on Microsoft to make people use their Bing search engine, and I just don't see that happening.

How about you? If you upgraded to Windows 10 as well, what was your experience like?

Derek Zoolander

How do you create one of the best sequels to a classic movie? You add science and Stephen Hawkings to your trailer.

The legend of Zoolander continues, with this newly released trailer that is sure to make you laugh. 

"If God exists, then why did he make ugly people?"

Watch the trailer here:

Do you have other favorite Zoolander quotes?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

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