(210) 275-2890

Learn the keyboard

Trying to learn two things at a time is difficult; the student usually winds up learning neither one well. While you are searching the keyboard for something, you are not paying any attention to Excel, or whatever it is you were trying to do.

The first step in learning how to use a PC is to master the keyboard.  Below, are some keyboard drills I recommend.  There are others, if you don’t like these, pick the ones you do like.  But, own the keyboard, or you will struggle to learn anything else.


  • http://approved-websites.org/mytyping/typing/Index.html
  • http://www.learntyping.org/beginnertypinglesson1.htm
  • https://www.davis.k12.ut.us/page/432
  • http://www.scpl.org/resources_services/internet_links/BasicKeyboard.pdf
  • http://www.libraryliteracy.org/staff/rg/Life_Long_Learn_to_type-use_computer_keyboard.pdf
  • https://powertyping.com/practice/practice.html

On Learning

What is your plan?

I am not an expert.  This is only my opinion after teaching in some career schools, some community colleges, and some universities in one metropolitan area.

Obviously, the career schools are in the news, what with some of them having recently closed.  I knew of two of them, and those two richly deserved it.  But that doesn’t make them categorically a bad deal.

Almost a side note, but I think it’s worth bringing up, just because, as a teacher, this is a pet peeve.  I believed any institution purporting to offer education would place some emphasis, arguably the highest priority, on the classroom.  I have not found this to be true everywhere.  Public, Private, community college, university, career school, etc.; without much hyperbole, it appears to me that the classroom is the last place many schools actually care about.  I don’t understand that, except, perhaps, that by the time the process gets to the classroom, some schools have made as much money as they’re going to make, so who cares?

This is why teachers have to adapt, improvise and overcome.

The better the school, the better the teaching environment.  Teaching in a University is worlds better than some of the places I’ve been, but there are still classroom issues.  And a process in place to resolve them.

How do career schools, with such a bad reputation, attract students?  Why do students pick them over the “name” schools, with their obvious advantages?

Career schools offer two things:

  • They can be easier to get into.
  • They can be quicker to graduate.

First, let me say this about schools, teachers, and so on:  Learning depends more on you than on anything else.  One of the worst teachers I ever had – the man absolutely could not talk to a group – taught me more about computers than any other experience I ever had.  We students had to work at it, though.  He was a very smart guy, a very nice guy, and an Einstein about computers.  He was not a teacher.  We learned anyway.

Some schools; some teachers, are worse than others, and some are better.  It is easier to learn in some places, and from some people, than others.  But those are NOT the controlling factor.  YOU are.  If you insist on learning, you will learn.  With or without a teacher, with or without a book, you can learn.  What you learn, how well you learn, is all up to you.  Easy or Hard, it’s on you.

I’m a great teacher.  One of the things that makes me good is that I teach my students how to learn; to make them better at learning.  It is easier to learn from me than from others, but I am not necessary to the process.  If you insist on learning, you will learn.

School costs you two things:  your time and your money.  Where’s the best place to put them; where do you get the best return on your investment?  How do you measure success?


Obviously, if you are looking at “name” schools, then you have a good idea of how HR departments perceive them.  But if you are looking elsewhere, how do you know?

You don’t.  So, ask them.

Plan ahead.  Whatever you think about your life now, at the tender age of high school graduate, or beyond, the future always brings changes.  That is not a reason to “wing it”.   Your life is important; it will become your children’s life.

Make a plan.  Have a direction. Pick a target.  Set a direction.  Have some idea of where you will be going and how you will get there.  Exert some control over your life; don’t let it “just happen”.  Your life is important.  Too important to “just happen”.

So, consider some jobs you might apply for after graduation.  Pick some HR departments and go ask them what they think of this school, or that school.  Doesn’t matter what you decide to do after graduation, their answers won’t vary significantly.  Most won’t respond.  Be stubborn.  This matters.  You matter.

Take HR hiring staff to lunch; ask them about their corporate reaction to various schools.  If you want a job at Valero, or HEB, or USAA, ask them what your school on a resume means to them.  FWIW, military recruiters will always talk to you.  If the military won’t accept your school to meet an educational requirement, be wary.

To be sure, check accreditation.  A school must be accredited.  It can be in the accreditation process, but know that; know what’s going on there – if a state school is opening a new program and that program hasn’t received final accreditation, that’s not bad – an accredited school seeking accreditation for a new program is likely to be successful.

Another place to ask is other schools.  If you want a 2 year program somewhere to get you into a 4 year school somewhere else, go to the 4 year school and ask them.  Will your course credits transfer to other schools?

Keep in mind, life is what happens while you’re making plans.  Life will happen whether you plan or not.  Many things will influence your life.  Be one of those things; be the major influence in your life on this world.  You will change your mind about many things as your life progresses, but have a mind to change.  Have a plan.  Plans change, but people with a plan succeed more often than people without plans.  People without plans depend on luck.  Not a good idea.

The so-called “career schools” offer you time and acceptance.  Many students are more likely to get in, and the programs can be completed in substantially shorter time. They often don’t have as rigorous entry requirements as other schools, so the academically challenged may be more likely to get in.  This is not necessarily a good thing.

Many of these schools accelerate the program – it’s called a quicker, or shorter term, etc., but there is no tradeoff in the work required to learn.  If you want to complete a ‘standard’ 4 month program in one month, you have to work 4 times as hard – 4 months of work must be completed in 4 weeks.  The courses use the same textbooks; there isn’t a “condensed” text for the shorter course.  A student seeking entry to such a school because of academic challenges may struggle more, hence the lower graduation rate for such programs.  But, the school loan doesn’t go away.  Pass or fail, win or lose, the money must be paid back.  You can’t declare bankruptcy; you can’t get out of it.

Speaking of which, please ensure the program you are seeking, anywhere, from any school, will qualify you to earn the income necessary to pay back any school loans.  Idealism is fine, but people have to make a living, the banker as much as the teacher.  I borrowed money, when school was much cheaper, and paid it back.  Eventually.

If you’re not sure of how you will pay back the financing needed for school, you may want to rethink your education financing.  There is already talk in policy circles about considering the return rate on education programs in award decisions.  Which is a careful way of saying we, as taxpayers, might want to consider whether we want to provide large amounts of money for History of Oppressive Basket Weaving Studies programs, there being a stunning lack of jobs for such.  Perhaps a more remunerative program should be considered.  Jobs being a measure of success for the career schools, more so than the traditional schools, they don’t usually offer such programs.  That’s why they are called career schools, they offer to qualify you for a career; a job.

What is your plan?

Killer Marbles

Killer Marbles

The Rules for Marbles
AKA “Killer” Marbles
Cheating for family fun and friendship

The Lund family game of “Marbles” is based on the Indian game of Pachisi, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pachisi, dating back to at least the 15th or 16th century and may date back to the 3rd century Anno Domini.
The rules listed here are the game as I learned to play it as a teen age boy with family friends (George and Sally Lund) in San Antonio, TX, during high school. One variant has been added, the “short cut”.
The game is played on a board for 4, 6, or 8 players, though any lesser number may play. For 4, the layout is as follows:

1. The HOME row is the goal. The winner is the first player to move all his marbles around the board and into the HOME row.
2. Each player selects 4 like marbles, or other token, and places them in the PARKING row.
3. The outermost row of 4 is a PARKING row, where the player’s marbles sit until they are entered into play.
4. Play begins when each player rolls one die. The player with the highest roll begins the game, with each player to the left following.
5. To move out of the PARKING row, a player must roll a 1 or a 6, and moves onto the OUT spot.
6. The first spot in from the left FREE TURN is the OUT spot, where a marble enters play from the PARKING row on the roll of a 1 or a 6. Play proceeds to the left around the board.
7. The outside corners are FREE TURNS. Landing directly on an outside corner gives another roll of the die.
8. The inside corners are SAFE spots. A marble sitting in a SAFE spot cannot be killed.
9. The SHORT CUT is an option that can circumvent much of the distance around the board. The SHORT CUT is landed on by direct count of a roll through a SAFE spot. Leaving a SHORT CUT requires a 1 or a 6; that marble may only move to a SAFE spot of the player’s choosing on that roll.
10. A roll of a 6 gives a free turn. 3 successive 6’s cause the last marble moved to return to PARKING.
11. A player may not pass himself and may not kill himself. If a player is forced to land on his own marble (as when a marble is stuck waiting to get HOME), the marble being moved returns to PARKING. A player may not surrender a turn to avoid an unfavorable outcome.
12. A player must always move the full roll of the die, except when coming out of PARKING or SHORT CUT. If moving the full roll of the die is not possible, the player does not move and play continues according to the rules. If that roll was a 6, the player still has a free turn in such a situation.
13. Cheating is allowed, unless caught.
14. The winner should sign and date the back of the board.

The Learning Contract

This is a learning contract I discuss with my students on the first day of class.

The Learning Contract

Unfortunately, much of what follows will seem negative. It does consist in large part of “thou shalt not”.  That’s because this is like the bizarre warning label on electric hair dryers: “Not For Use While Bathing”. We all know how that label got there. That’s how this document came to be. Somebody, Sometime…   etc. I apologize in advance. FWIW, the most common grade I give is an A. On the other hand, there was that one class…

Let’s start with something nice. Be nice. Be nice to one another. Be civil, be courteous, be on your best behavior. It’s expected of you as a leader in the workplace; start practicing now. Most especially, do not use profanity in this classroom. I spent over 35 years in and out of uniform in the Navy and the Army; I literally curse like a sailor. If I can control it, so can you.

Let’s discuss the learning contract. What do we expect from each other? I’ll go first: I expect you to earn an A in this class. This is how to get an A in this class:

  1. Show up and participate; contribute
  2. Do the Work
  3. Exceed requirements

More than 90% of you already know and practice this: “A” students come on time (early when they can); they come prepared, they sit in the front, they pay attention, and they take notes. It annoys students to lose the class time you paid for, and are doing your part in, while you patiently wait for the teacher to coddle the less than 10% who demand special treatment; who couldn’t be bothered to carry out their part of the learning contract. I certainly don’t want to read annoyed student’s comments about that on my evals at the end of the course! So, I don’t do it. I insist students participate. I insist on the Golden Rule: Come to class. Be prepared. Participate. Contribute.

That means be on time, and don’t do anything else but this course’s classwork while you are in this class. If you absolutely, positively, must work on something else, please leave the classroom. This especially includes games, texting, social media, napping, annoying your neighbors, annoying me, etc. I will not warn you once; I will simply ask you to leave. If you refuse to leave, we will enjoy a short class break while I refer the matter to a higher power. You are here to learn the material included in this course as presented by the instructor chosen by the University.

A typical class session:

  • Attendance question and answer (on the board)
  • Class Discussion blog, feedback re emails, etc.
  • Assignment/test review/feedback
  • Lecture/demo/class work
  • Questions, discussion, etc.

Here are my expectations of you; the requirements of our learning contract; the “Rules”, for this class:

  1. Do Not Talk While I am Talking. I am a jealous teacher, and I demand everyone’s attention while I am speaking. Also, I think I’m funny. You’ll get used to it. Or not. But laughing at my jokes is recommended. Try to sound sincere. A happy teacher is an easy grader.
  2. Learn to use, and be comfortable using, every resource you paid the University to provide. I don’t repeat myself. I won’t give you, again, information already provided. If the answer to your question is in Blackboard, the text, a previous class lecture, the internet, etc. I won’t provide the answer for you again. I will not let you miss learning opportunities you paid for. Learn to use the text completely – the Table of Contents, the glossary, the index, citations and references, etc. If you missed a class, coordinate with a fellow student for any needed material; work with each other. On the other hand, if you’ve given it your best shot; if you’ve utilized all available resources and you’re still stuck, ask.
  3. If you must miss a class, inform me as soon as you know. I will work with you when necessary. I have gone so far as to teach classes in hospital rooms.
  4. You are responsible for every part of Blackboard, every day, as well as campus email. Come to class prepared. “I didn’t see it” will not help a bad grade, and it will cost you a point off your final course grade. Check every day. You Have Been Warned.
  5. You are required to complete all coursework found in in the syllabus, the text, covered during class lecture, and Blackboard. It will also require such incidentals as a syllabus, peer, course, content, instructor, and Blackboard reviews and feedback. All are required. Failure to complete all work may hold your grade back.
  6. Please remember to include your course number in every communication. If I can’t figure out which class you are in, your email, text, smoke signal or letter, will wind up in the “eventually” stack.
  7. Turn in all work as required:
    • All work is submitted on the document provided, or, if the student is required to create a document, the document must be in a current MS Office compatible format. Work submitted otherwise is not accepted. (consider academic licensing, etc.). See me for assistance with software, computers, etc.
    • Follow the instructions. “Close enough” is not, in fact, good enough. If you haven’t followed the instructions, you have not met the requirement. If you do not know how to follow instructions, you will have to learn how in this class before you will be able to earn a passing grade.
    • Your coursework will require you to do research. Learn to love it. Wikipedia is never an acceptable citation or reference. But it can be a great start point and time-saver.
    • “Copy and paste” is never acceptable. Use your words. I have an automated plagiarism checker and I know how to use it. Nothing is easier to grade than work that shows little effort. There’s not even any feedback. There is no second chance on work like that.
    • Graphics, title pages, citations pages, etc., are never included in the page count of a paper. A “page”, as in “write a 1-page paper”, is at least 500 words. “Not less than 2 pages” means at least 1000 words.
    • Only work submitted at the assigned turn-in link in Blackboard will be graded. Work submitted otherwise is not graded. Work submitted via email can show “on time” (if it was needed because Blackboard was broken), but cannot be graded and must ultimately be uploaded as instructed into Blackboard. You are responsible for keeping a digital copy, in the correct format, of all classwork.
    • No work will be submitted using the available Blackboard “Write Submission” option. Such work will be deleted from BB.
    • Late Work: one day late costs 10 points (i.e., a letter grade). More than one day late will be graded as 0.
  8. If you are not satisfied with your learning experience, please come see me. The end of course instructor evaluation is too late.
  9. Feel free to comment on my use of our LMS, Blackboard. I am not a Blackboard expert, and I know you see many different course Blackboards. If you’ve seen something you think would help the course, let me know. If I use your suggestion, you will get extra credit. Even if I don’t, you might get extra credit anyway.

Grades, Final Grades and Final Exam:

  • The posted grade, and the grade turned in, is your responsibility. If you believe a correction is needed, it is your responsibility to ensure it is carried out in a timely manner. The week before grades are due is not a “timely manner”.
  • You must submit an assignment, test, etc., to get a grade.
  • When it becomes necessary to give credit for an assignment because the assignment was not doable, you must have actually submitted the assignment to get the credit.
  • A “1” for a grade in BB is not a bad thing. It means you can review and resubmit. Blackboard demands something, and putting a “0” is just so painful, don’t you think? If I gave you a 1, I also gave you feedback. Read it and use it. But, be timely – the opportunity won’t last forever. When I have to finish grading, 1’s will become 0. No Work is accepted the last 2 weeks of class.
  • The “Projected Course Grade” in Blackboard is a PROJECTION. It is not a final grade; it will change, up or down, as Blackboard grades are adjusted, corrected, etc., until the final grade is turned in.
  • The final Blackboard course grade calculation may drop one or more of your lowest grade(s). Maybe.
  • If your final course grade, not including any extra credit, exceeds 89.0, I will record that as a 90. This will adjust as the grade range for an A adjusts – the point is, if you are less than 1 point from an A, I will record your grade as an A.
  • If your projected final course grade, not including any extra credit, exceeds* 95 by the week before grades are due, you may be exempt from the final exam. You must also, as of the week before grades are due:
  • Lack any attendance or late issues.
  • Have all work turned in and graded – this means turning in the last assignments early. TBD
  • Be in good standing otherwise.
  • Receive an email from me stating you are exempt. Assume Nothing.
  • Students whose projected final course grade exceeds 95 after the deadline mentioned above, regardless of corrections, etc., will not be exempted from the final. No exemptions will be made after the deadline of the week before grades are due.
  • Exams: I do not give “open book” exams. You may use your notes, which you wrote with your pen or pencil, on your paper, in your notebook. No copies.

Extra Credit: I give extra credit as incentives to exceed the requirement, for adding value to the course, and when the whim strikes me. I will tell you when you have earned an extra credit, BUT!!! You must email me a reminder with “extra credit” in the subject line, reminding me of what I told you earned the extra credit. No email, no credit.

Extra Credit is added to your final course grade after all else is factored in. Previous students have earned as much as 8 extra credit points in a term. Think about that. 8 points added to your final grade!

  • If you see me looking for something, the first one to let me know where it is will get extra credit. I lose my glasses, markers, pens, laser pointers, flash drives, my notes, etc., while I’m lecturing.
  • If you find errors in Blackboard, the syllabus, etc., let me know. First one to report it, via email timestamp, will get extra credit.

The teacher giveth, and the teacher taketh away. How to lose points from your final course grade:

  • Attendance (including late) – see the syllabus for the University policy regarding absences. (discuss attendance with BB sign in process).
  • Don’t participate (i.e., not paying attention, doing something else, etc.)
  • Be unprepared – “I don’t know” will cost you points. So will “I didn’t see it”.
  • See the syllabus for other academic sins of death.

Late work, unsatisfactory grades, etc.: Life is what happens when we are making plans. If you are doing your best and life is handing you lemons, come see me as soon as you know. I will do everything I can do to help a student who is trying their best. See below about “knowing your name”. If you have been fighting for that A, I will fight with you.

  • I can be lenient, given good cause, about late work. But when it’s time, it’s time. I will not be working overtime at the end of the course grading late assignments. Late assignments might not get graded. Oops.
  • If we’ve passed the first couple of weeks in the course, and I don’t know your name – you have not been participating. Make sure I know your name. Raise your hand. Answer questions. Contribute. Bring me an apple. (Actually, don’t. That would violate some guideline of the department of education). (On the other hand, if you find a Red Rome – we’ll talk.)
    • One student even introduced herself to me after the first class. She came up, shook my hand, introduced herself and told me a little bit about herself – she ran a dance/marketing business. She was one of the best students I’ve ever worked with. She earned an A in that class.
  • If your work just meets minimum standards, that work is “average” at best, and earns no more than a “C”. If you want an “A” in this class, do “A” work. Exceed the requirement.
  • Group work will include anonymous peer reviews, which will be used to calculate a % multiplier for your part of the group grade. If your peers don’t value your group contribution, your group grade could be multiplied by 50%. Or worse. You can fight this, but wouldn’t it be easier to work with your group? Probably more fun, too. Some groups rock. The Marines are a group. So is this school.


  • If this course requires a personal computer supplied by the student, it must be a wintel platform running a current version of the Windows OS and the appropriate software. All assignments are turned in as MS Office compatible formatted files. Any variation may not be supported by the instructor or the university; it is the responsibility of the student to turn in all work in an acceptable format. If you require assistance with this, please come see me.
  • Your writing ability and use of MS Office, academic writing formats, etc., are all gradable events. Learn to use Windows and MS Office.
  • *“exceeds” means “more than”. Not “equal to”.
  • You can always challenge a grade. There has to be a grade to challenge. Ultimately, late work turned in too late will be graded “0”. Especially if you’re hoping I’ll grade it the day before I have to turn grades in at the end of the term. Oops. Ultimately, my judgement of your work (i.e., your grade) can be challenged. It’s probably easier to just get the A in the first place. The ultimate “weighted” grade is my opinion as to whether you have shown you know the material. I am always prepared to give an oral exam in front my superiors to demonstrate whether my judgement is correct.
  • There is no “extra” or “makeup” work. If I ever do lose my mind and decide to offer more work that I would have to grade, you won’t like it. Imagine a comprehensive exam made up of long essay questions.
  • Yes, you have to do all the work. You have to do it all.  Every bit of it. It’s all testable, every moment of every class; every bit of the content on Blackboard, the text, or anything else that ever came up anywhere near the course. Don’t ask “what’s on the exam”. If you have to ask whether it’s required, or whether it’s included in a test, then the answer is “yes”. The exam covers the material on Blackboard, the text, and in the classroom. All the coursework; it all counts. The material comes from:
    • Blackboard
    • Textbooks
    • Lectures
    • Homework, in class work, tests, labs, etc.
    • Discussions
    • Projects, group and otherwise
    • Etc., as announced in class, the syllabus, and so on.
    • Yes, I know I repeated. Somebody is still going to ask.
  • “I never read the text”, “I don’t do homework”, “I don’t come to class” …   etc., etc., etc. Yes, students have actually said those things, to me. The teacher. I’ve never understood what the speaker was trying to convey with such statements. I’m not sure what there is to brag about in incurring high costs for a product then announcing that you will refuse to use it. Whatever. I will give you your final grade immediately if that is your position.
  • Don’t ask whether I covered anything important while you were absent. This hurts my feelings. I usually remember you asked when I’m calculating final course grades

The Learning Contract: Your turn. What are your expectations?

Your first assignment: Write a short paper, not less than 1,000 words, discussing your expectations of the course, the instructor, the course resources and your fellow students:

  1. After reviewing the syllabus and this class’s Blackboard, what is your specific learning expectation of this course? Include your reason for taking this course, the course material from the syllabus and Blackboard, and your expectations of the instructor in your discussion. Define success.
  2. How will you team with your fellow students to excel in this course?
  3. How will you use Blackboard to excel in this course?