How I generate science tutorial videos

image of an old film camera

image of listing of some of the videos I have on YouTubeI have been making many video tutorials for my science classes in the last few years, and some folks have asked how I  create them. I have gone through a process of  changes, so I thought I’d present the options I have used to create them.

After you read this, please leave any comments or questions in the Comment section at the bottom of the page. Continue reading “How I generate science tutorial videos”

Excel spreadsheet for calculating molar masses and percent composition

screenshot of spreadsheet

Over a decade ago I made a Quatro-Pro  spreadsheet to make quick calculations from masses on the periodic table. Well, now Excel rules the roost, so I created a similar version  using Excel. The fundamental element of the spreadsheet is that the cell with each mass is given a name that is the symbol for the element. So, for example, instead of having to remember which cell the mass of oxygen is in (C9, in this case), you only need to type in O.

The only element that doesn’t work with its symbol is carbon. Excel will not allow a cell to be named just “C”, so I had to use “CC” instead.


  • To calculate the mass of water, just type if =h*2+o (letters can be UPPER or lower case)
  • For hydrochloric acid, type =h+cl
  • Copper nitrate: =Cu+N*2+O*6
  • Carbon dioxide =CC+O*2 (this is an example of the carbon exception from above).


screenshot of spreadsheet
Screenshot showing the main “working portion” of the spreadsheet.

The spreadsheet

Video overview

How do you avoid spending too much time with Twitter?

Twitter bird inside someone's head

OK, I admit it: I can get sucked into the vacuum of social media and find myself having spent more time on it than I desire. Last December, with grades coming due, I decided to take a ‘vacation’ from Facebook. I’ve largely been off it for about seven weeks (I did jump on a few times to arrange my annual birthday dinner), and while there are things I miss (mostly family updates), I’m thinking of continuing my vacation, or maybe just checking in with some of my groups once a week.

Twitter bird inside someone's headBut then there’s Twitter. I largely use Twitter for my professional development. I’m a teacher, and I follow many people/organizations  that provide me with great tools to use in my classroom; and likewise I share many resources with those who follow me. But, how do I avoid getting sucked into this vacuum of learning–I can justify the time spent because the links I follow are mostly valuable.

Some tools I have used:

  • Set myself a time limit (and try to stick to it).
  • Ask myself “Do I really need to follow this link?”
  • Don’t feel bad if I decide to “Unfollow” someone.

What tools/tips do you use/have? Please share yours in the comments below.

Why I’m pledging off quickly Sharing those great images with embedded text on Facebook.


Most of us have probably done it. We see a great quote or other statement embedded in a photo on Facebook, Google+, or other social networking site. Maybe it’s political, maybe it’s insightful, maybe made us Laugh Out Loud. A quick click of the Share button and all our friends can read it…well, most of them. Maybe we have a friend with poor or no vision. This friend may not be able to join us in our appreciation of this statement. We didn’t intend to exclude them, we just didn’t stop to think about it. We often don’t think about visually disabled people using the web–it’s such a visual experience for us. But with screen-readers and other assistive technology, the internet has opened up the world to visually disabled people, perhaps even more than the internet has opened it up to “the rest of us.”


But sharing these images is so valuable you might say. I don’t want to give it up.

Well, there is a way to share them and still let everyone read them. Here’s how:

When you hit that Share button, you can add a comment. Take a few minutes to type in the text from the image into the Comment section. Yes, I know this will slow down your sharing, but it may also make you stop and ask yourself, “Is this really important enough to share?” (Come on, face it, you know you probably spend too much time on Facebook, much of it reading these quotes.)

Like most accessibility adaptations, we will all benefit from this (when was the last time you pushed a stroller/cart up a ‘wheelchair’ ramp, or used you butt to push the door opener when your arms were full?). Initally, typing in the comment may take us more time but, as we do it more, our Wall will probably end up less crowded. And, after a while, some will already have the text typed in by the previous person who shared it! Our Shares will also will be ‘higher quality,’ since we’ve already filtered out those not worth spending the time to type in the text.

So, perhaps make this one of your new year’s resolutions.

Oh, and while you’re at it, if it seems amazing, try Snopes to confirm it’s not an ‘urban legend’ (but that’s fodder for another post).

Happy networking,


Results of online grading survey

Last week I posted a survey of online grading practices. I announced the survey through several email lists I participate in [1], as well as on my Facebook “wall”. The survey was open for five days, and resulted in 164 responses. I make no attempt to pass this survey off as statistically accurate representation of all teachers/schools–the respondents come from a class of teachers that is actively pursuing professional development and fairly tech savvy–but the data do provide in insight into the practices and views of a relatively widespread group of teachers/schools (see Question 9 below).

The entire data is available to see on a Google spreadsheet here.

[this page last updated 4 Dec 2012 at 4:45 PM Pacific Time]

Summary of responses

Question 1: Of the respondents, 96% post assignment scores in some way.

Top four systems:

  1. PowerSchool (37)
  2. Edline (15)
  3. Skyward (12)
  4. Infinite Campus (10)

Complete list here.

Question 2:What is your school’s/district’s policy on posting assignment scores? View comments here.

80% Teachers post in a timely manner; 15% teachers are not required to post; 5% no system for posting

Question 3:What portion of your school’s teachers do you believe post assignment scores/grades online?

61% all post; 26% more than half; 8% less than half; 4% none.

Question 4:How would you rate the satisfaction of the teachers at your school with the value of your system? A majority of teachers at my school find…

Question 5:How would you rate the amount of time you put into communicating with individual parents? [N/A responses–those who do not have a system or have only taught with online grading–are not included in the pie.]

Question 6: How satisfied are YOU with the general impact of posting assignment grades online? (Please reflect on how the system has impacted your teaching. If your system has some annoyances–mine sure does–please try to overlook these when answering this question). View additional submitted comments here.

Question 7:How would you grade the system your school uses? Overall grade–including user interface, parent/student access, time required on your part, etc. No grade inflation, please 🙂

Question 8: Is your predominantly school (check all that apply)?

Question 8: Locations Approximate location of responders based on ZIP Codes provided (not all submissions had ZIP codes, and some are just the central ZIP code for the city, not for the specific school). The markers in the Atlantic Ocean are from ZIP codes that geocoded to Europe.

View Locations of responders in a full screen map

Question 9: Viewother/general comments


1. Email lists include:

  • National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Physics list
  • NSTA Pedagogy list
  • Modeling Instruction list.

Survey of teacher use of online grading systems and their implementation

Expectations of teachers

If you teach at a middle school or high school, please take a couple minutes to answer this survey. I will post results here in mid-December 2012. (Apologies for the multiple scroll bars.) I’ve reached the capacity of the free Survey Monkey site (100 responses!), so I’m making a copy of it. If the survey don’t appear below, it means I’m tweaking the code–try back in a few minutes and the survey should be back live.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

Vanessa Trampleasure, 1956-2009

It is with great sadness that I write of the death of my cousin, Vanessa Trampleasure, of Essex, UK. I never met Vanessa, although we exchanged emails several times regarding our family tree.

I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the Trampleasure family, and how technology makes our world a smaller place: Growing up, the Trampleasure clan was a small one. Living in our area were my grandmother (“Nanny”), Uncle Dave (he had two children, but an unpleasant divorce meant we only saw his kids when I were very young), my two siblings (Calvin and Grace), and my parents (Bill and Mary Lee). Somewhere around high school I decided that there must be other Trampleasures out there, so I went to the local library and started thumbing through the phone books. Eventually (I can’t remember how long I was at it), I came across another Trampleasure! Writing down the address, I went home and my mom and I wrote them a letter. We soon learned there was another line of Trampleasures living in Canada and England. Vanessa was a part of that branch.

This, occurring in the 1970s, was pre-internet. But the technology of the time, the telephone, helped us find each other.

It took us many years, but finally we were able to find the “missing link” in our family trees to prove that we were related (before that, everyone sort of knew that, with a name like Trampleasure, we had to be related).

At 17, on a bicycle trip to Seattle with some friends, I took a personal detour to the Vancouver area to look up cousins living there (Gary and Betty Anne). Being a silly youth, I didn’t make plans, and just phoned them when I got into town (Tsawwassen, BC). No one was home, and I ended up having dinner (dry cottage cheese and canned something) at a local park while watching a kids’ soccer game. I got to talking to one of the moms there, and it turned out she was a neighbor of Gary and Betty Anne’s. We bid farewell, and I took the ferry back to the States.

In my mid twenties, I took a trip to the UK, but, being twenty-something, family wasn’t too high on my list of priorities, and I’m regret to this day that I didn’t put Vanessa and the other Trampleasures on my itinerary.

Over the course of the next thirty years, several of the Trampleasures did come to visit us. Colin and Doris (Vanessa’s parents) made it out, as well as her brother, John, and his family. Gary and Betty Anne brought some of their kids down from Canada on one of their trips.

Last year, I finally made it up to visit the Trampleasures in the Vancouver area. My cousin Madison (my “fourth cousin, twice removed”) was so pleased to meet another Trampleasure that she had me hold I sign she wrote, “I’m a Trampleasure,” when she took a picture of me. That sign still hangs proudly on my wall. I had hoped to make it up there again this year, but plans didn’t work out that way. Next year it’s a priority. There’s still a few Trampleasures up there I haven’t met (and if I’m really crazy, I may extend my road trip to Alaska to visit family from my mom’s side).

Fast forward about about 20 years from the discovery at the library, and introduce computers. Family trees are now much easier to create, and I started using Family Tree Maker to track the family. Still only minimal internet, but as it grows, searching for the family gets easier. Somewhere along the line I learn that Vanessa is the true genealogist in the family. If you Google Vanessa Trampleasure, you’ll find countless genealogy web pages with her contributions. Vanessa provided me with details to help complete my version of our family tree.

2009 marks the year I start using Facebook to meet more Trampleasures. I now have 17 members of the Trampleasure family I can follow on Facebook. It’s like an ongoing family reunion. Birthdays, anniversaries, and even the sad news of Vanessa’s passing. I get to see all the posts from members of the younger generations — many, many posts 🙂 — and the fewer from the “older” generation members (I probably break the trend that younger folks post more). I have my family tree printed and posted on my wall to help me keep track of who’s who, but I’m still a little unclear on some of the younger generation members :-(. I’ve even made some connections with my long lost first cousins and their kids (Uncle Dave’s family).

Trampleasures Christmas 2007
The extended SF Bay Trampleasure clan, Christmas 2007

So, I send my love to all the Trampleasures who knew and loved Vanessa. I shall miss her. Losing a family member reminds us not to take each other for granted, but to keep up the communications and visits. Anyone coming to Berkeley certainly has a place to stay, and I look forward to my visits to Trampleasures the globe over.

– Lee

Interesting “ESP” site

The test

A friend sent me this. I was surprised at first, but then it didn’t take me too long to figure it out.

Here’s the test:

Try it out (it will open in a new window), then return here if you can’t figure it out.

Scroll down for the solution.












The solution

Hint: there is only one image for the “before” and only one for the “after.”

Scroll down for more details.





Here’s the “before” image:

Cards to select from

Here’s the “after” image:

After images

Can you solve it now?



Notice there are NO identical cards from the first set to the second.

Folks will focus so much on the card they want, that they don’t notice that none of the original cards are present.

California Action Alert on Employment & Disability

Dear Advocates,

AB 1269 is important for Californians with disabilities who want to or do work. If you’re unfamiliar with Medi-Cal’s California Working Disabled Program, please see the following text link that describes the current program.

AB 1269 adds desperately needed improvements to California’s Medicaid Buy-In Program that were vetoed by the governor two legislative cycles ago because of legal language flaws, and again during the last legislative cycle because of the budget. Advocates have worked closely with the governor’s staff and the state’s fiscal actuaries, and are confident that we have addressed concerns expressed by this administration.

Please let Assemblymember Brownley know that you support her bill as she ushers it through the committee process. It is important to ask people in your personal life and business associates to also send letters of support. Please spread the word.


Write Letters to Members of the Assembly Committee on Health by April 16, 2009

AB 1269-Fundamental Fairness!

CALIFORNIA WORK GROUP On Work Incentives and Health Care  the CWG


Dear CWG Participants & AB 1269 Supporters,

We need you, your friends, family, and colleagues to write letters of support by the end of this week!


1.   Write your letter of support! See our sample letter below that you can edit with your own stories, Assembly contact person, and your personal contact information.

2.   Please send or fax a letter of support to Julia Brownley, the bill’s author attention Irene Ho.

Office of Assembly Member Julia Brownley

Attn: Irene Ho
State Capitol
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0041
Tel: (916) 319-2041
Fax: (916) 319-2141

3.  Send or fax a copy of your letter to Ginny Murphy:

Ginny Murphy
World Institute on Disability
510 16th St. Ste 100
Oakland CA 94612
Phone: (510) 251-4340
Fax: (510) 763-4109

4.   Forward this email to a friend or colleague who can join us in supporting AB 1269. Consider sending them your letter so they can see why you support the California Working Disabled Program.

Thank you for your action and support! Please contact us if you have any questions. If you need any assistance with this AB 1269 letter of support over the next two days please contact Burns Vick, Policy Consultant, at


Bryon MacDonald
Program Director
California Work Incentives Initiative
The World Institute on Disability

Ginny Murphy
Projects Coordinator
California Work Incentives Initiative
World Institute on Disability

Sample letter

“Cut and paste” the following letter into your word processor, then make the needed changes to personalize it:

April ____, 2009

The Honorable Julia Brownley
State Capitol
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0041

Dear Assembly Member Brownley:

YOUR NAME or ORGANIZATION in YOUR CITY is deeply committed to support the improvement of Medi-Cal’s California Working Disabled Program with the features and the fundamental fairness found in your pending legislation AB 1269. ____________A BRIEF EXPLANATION OF WHY YOU SUPPORT AB 1269… ________________________.

Medi-Cal’s California Working Disabled program (CWD) came about so California workers with a disability who have earned income under 250% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) can buy into Medi-Cal by paying an affordable monthly premium. This bill would reform the program to enable more disabled individuals to save their earnings without consequence, and enable them to retain their health coverage and hard-earned savings when changing employment during these hard economic times, and when they receive retirement income.

AB 1269 improvements to the California Working Disabled Program:

  • Allow enrollees who are temporarily unemployed to remain in the program for up to 26 weeks (6 ½ months) during a work transition;
  • Allow enrollees to save their earnings without any limit or ceiling as long as they save them in a separate bank account; and
  • Allow enrollees to stay in the program and work by exempting Social Security disability income that converts to retirement income.

In 1999, California passed legislation (AB 155-Migden) that established the California Working Disabled program. While creation of the California Working Disabled program successfully facilitated the return to work for some workers with a disability, program enrollment rates have been much lower than every state projection since 1999. These long sought, non-controversial improvements, and promotion of them by the State of California, can improve employment outcomes for many more California residents working and living with a significant disability.

Thank you for your leadership.



Ginny Murphy
Projects Coordinator
California Work Incentives Initiative
World Institute on Disability
Phone: (510) 251-4340
Fax: (510) 763-4109