Saturday, December 31, 2011

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  • "Applying critical thinking skills through web research can help students:

    Improve search skills.
    Evaluate the information they find.
    Incorporate them in their work."

    tags: resources

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

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Wednesday, December 07, 2011


On October 26th, I had the pleasure - the honor - the privilege and THRILL - of giving a TEDx talk in Williamsport. Many MANY thanks to Jerry Christy of Blast IU17 for the invitation to present. It was something I'll NEVER forget.

So, what would YOUR focus be if you were given 18 minutes (max) to talk. By now you know that the topic that starts me to screaming is the issue of access. Access to the tools of the web for both teachers and students. So, I wanted to make that point, for sure.

I won't spoil the plot for you. :) Here's my TEDx talk from October 26, 2011.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday, November 19, 2011

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

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  • Upload photos, links, and more to your private site. Very nice

    tags: collaboration

  • " A safe way for teachers to text message students and stay in touch with parents. Free. "

    tags: texting

  • The mission of the International Children's Digital Library Foundation (ICDL Foundation) is to support the world's children in becoming effective members of the global community - who exhibit tolerance and respect for diverse cultures, languages and ideas -- by making the best in children's literature available online free of charge. The Foundation pursues its vision by building a digital library of outstanding children's books from around the world and supporting communities of children and adults in exploring and using this literature through innovative technology designed in close partnership with children for children.

    tags: books library

  • "Forward thinking and rooted in data, Think Insights offers you a one-stop shop for consumer trends, marketing insights and industry research. Stay updated and join the conversation:"

    Try the search stories section. It won't raise a test score, but it IS fun.

    tags: Google

  • "Great marketing starts with greater understanding of people and their behavior. Today, search trends and online activity are a window into the attitudes, perceptions and needs of your consumers. So check out our 5 questions now and start gaining valuable insight in real-time. It’s the difference between guessing and knowing. "

    tags: google

  • "Popcorn Maker brings the power of popcorn.js and its plugin system to a graphical user interface, with familiar timeline controls. Completely free and open source, popcorn maker offers a collection of useful templates, but since it’s built from standard HTML, you can customize it to your heart’s content."

    tags: tools video

  • Socrative is a smart student response system that empowers teachers to engage their classrooms through a series of educational exercises and games via smartphones, laptops, and tablets.

    tags: interactive response

  • Fascinating vision of the future. This time from Microsoft.

    tags: future

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

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  • You can't have too many Google Apps resources, right? Unless, of course, it's blocked. :)

    tags: google apps

  • Information about blended learning

    tags: onlinelearning

  • Mail merge from a Google spreadsheet. Picture it: students complete a google form for a quiz. Teacher goes into the spreadsheet and adds comments to another column. Then, the teacher uses these instructions to email custom feedback to each student.

    tags: mailmerge

  • " By the time you have reached the end of this tutorial you will be able to construct a series of linked web pages for any subject that includes formatted text, pictures, and hypertext links to other web pages on the Internet. If you follow the steps for the Basic Level (lessons 1-14) you will develop a page about volcanoes and if you go on to the Advanced Level (lessons 15-29), you will create an enhanced volcano web site."

    tags: html

  • Ten Things Google Found to Be True

    tags: google

  • " Schools nationwide have rushed to supply their classrooms with computers, and many policy makers say it is foolish to do otherwise. But the contrarian point of view can be found at the epicenter of the tech economy, where some parents and educators have a message: computers and schools don’t mix. "

    tags: waldorf

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

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Saturday, October 08, 2011

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  • Certainly the demand for apps isn't going away any time soon. Maybe this little app can help your students get excited about building their own apps.

    tags: apps

    • "If you're in higher education and you're developing a strategic plan or making investment decisions based on conversations you're having with the students currently in your classrooms--or even high school students--you're talking to the wrong audience," she warns. "You really need to be talking to third-graders. The high school kid applying to your school today is just not as 'native' as the kids further down the pike."
    • "It is how they perceive [the web] that makes them different in my opinion," he explains. "Many older people use the web, of course, but for digital natives the web is an integral part of their lives. They go there first, instinctively. And yes, some are better at it than others. I definitely agree that there is a continuum of capabilities among the digital natives. But if we are talking about what makes them different from previous generations, I believe it is this connection to the web."
    • She says this group of learners is more globally aware, thanks to the internet, and more adept at collaborative uses of the web.
    • "This generation definitely has a thematic approach to learning," she says, "which is not about, 'I'm a vessel--go ahead and fill me up.' It's about, 'I'm the master of my own educational destiny. Give me lots of input and I'll find what I think is most important.' Most of the [K-12] schools I talk to still believe that they are the custodians of knowledge. But for these kids, increasingly, [schools] are just one more source of input."
    • While Prensky's original definition might not survive close scrutiny a decade later--too generationally focused and without enough attention on how students use their devices--he was definitely on to something.
    • Certainly, there is no clinical evidence to back up any claims about physical changes in the brains of today's traditional-age students. But educators are providing anecdotal evidence of a shift in how students approach learning and education in general.
    • "They go to a website and look something up,
    • Nevertheless, Hargittai's study concluded that socioeconomic status is one of the most important predictors of how effectively people incorporate the web into their everyday lives.
    • They're digital dependent and digital stimulated. They know how to text messages and upload a video to YouTube, but in general they don't possess the deeper critical thinking skills they need to be truly digitally literate."
    • "I don't think the term was ever valid, or even very useful," she says. "It assumes that older people are worse than younger people when it comes to technology. And it seems to assume that all young people are homogenous when it comes to technology use. Neither of those things is correct."
    • "My work has shown over the years that there are, in fact, significant differences among people of the same age when it comes to the skill with which they use digital media--and that age is not necessarily a determinant of skill,"
  • I'd LOVE to have a discussion on this article

    tags: native

    • The problem with Prensky's assumption is that it's based on age--on the idea that, because you were born in a certain era, you must be a certain way
    • Another flaw in the eyes of some educators is the fact that Prensky labels everyone else as "digital immigrants," unable to achieve true fluency in the new tech world

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Saturday, October 01, 2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

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Saturday, September 03, 2011

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Saturday, August 27, 2011

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Why the iPads are NOT Ready for Schools

I keep reading about more and more schools that are giving all their students an ipad and the inevitable comments to the notion that they are cheaper replacements for laptops. I think there will be a LOT of folks who will be very disappointed if that's what they're thinking - the ipad replaces the laptop. It doesn't.

I sat down with my ipad recently and really tried to put it through its paces. Maybe my problems with it had more to do with my lack of skills than the ipad's missing functionalities. I wish that were the case. I WISH I could have made it work.

Here is a list of tasks that just don't work, or are so clunky as to be more trouble than they're worth. I hope that folks who are contemplating the purchase of ipads will read this carefully and weigh it against the other opinions. I hope they will think carefully about what it is they want to be able to do with them. I want them to think carefully about what they CAN do with them and whether or not that is good for Education and good for the kids. But it won't matter, will it? Those who are pushing for the ipads won't be swayed.

First, the ipad is NOT a replacement for the laptop, so if you're under that impression you REALLY MUST read further.

The Non-Starters (for me)
  • The ipad doesn't work with Google Docs! No, it does NOT. You get very basic line editing capabilities only. You cannot make a hyperlink, nor change styles, nor apply styles. Try to create a form. Some will argue, "It'll get better." Perhaps, but you're buying the ipads NOW, not later. We've been touting Google Docs as being a wonderful tool for collaboration, etc. It's not an option with the ipads. You can't even share a document. Is collaboration no longer important? Because you don't have that tool any longer, when using the ipads.
  • Shall we list all the websites that don't work due to lack of Flash? And don't pretend that this isn't an issue. It IS. Yes, yes, HTML5 blah blah, I know all about it. But, how many years are we away from a conversion to HTML5? This isn't going to happen overnight like a style change in gmail. This is a HUGE undertaking. Other tablets DO show Flash, but most do not even considering another brand?
  • The Safari browser doesn't work in Moodle. Supposedly it will in version 2.0 of Moodle, but it doesn't work now, and now is when you're buying it.What are you going to do with it NOW?
  • Multitasking is blind. Unlike on a computer where you can have many windows open, and even have a couple things open side by side, you cannot do that on the ipad. That is not likely to be a non-starter for many, but for me it's a serious drawback. It doesn't match how I work. Right now, for example, I've got this browser window open and shifted to one side while Tweetdeck and Skype run in the background next to it. You can't do that on the ipad. No Tweetdeck at all, in fact, as it crashes all the time. Yes, and I KNOW that we shouldn't compare ipads to laptops because they're not the same. But, isn't that the point? They're NOT the same and they can't do what we need them to be able to do.
  • Wikispaces opens in wikitext mode, not the WYSIWYG editing more. Yes, you can take the time to change it, but do you to make the kids do that every time they want to edit a page? This, of course, is NOT the fault of Wikispaces. Rather, it's the inadequacy of the device.
  • And, in wikispaces, try to make a hyperlink. Go ahead. I'll wait. Were you able to switch to the Visual Editor? Could you select a word that you wanted to turn into a hyperlink? Try to embed a youtube video. Try to embed a variety of objects from other sites. First, you're hard pressed to be able to create those objects while using the ipad anyway. But, try to embed something.
    • OK, so maybe a lot of states aren't into wikispaces like PA schools are, so this won't be a problem for you. But it IS a problem in PA. We DO use wikispaces a LOT and many districts have their own private label. Are we now saying that we don't think that wikis are a good tool for students to use to collaborate, partner, demonstrate knowledge?
  • Try doing anything in Google Earth besides fly-to's. Google Earth has the capability to allow users to create their own tour and add pushpins and embed video and SO much more. Not the ipad version.
  • Forget about making a screencast. Yes, you can take a screen shot, but you cannot record the screen. Why is this important? Using a laptop we're able to create and screencast and then embed it right into a Keynote. (Not so easily done in PowerPoint, however) When presenting those screencast videos are powerful tools. No can do on the ipad.
  • Excited about having Keynote, Pages, iMovie and garageband? (Aside from the cost factor?) Have you noticed how many significant features of those applications are missing? The lack of Dropbox integration means that students MUST have an email address to be able to create something and turn it in to the teacher.  Are you saying that NOW you're going to give them email? Oh... wait. you're going to use iTunes? So, the students are going to need a laptop, then, to sync to. OH! Sorry. I didn't know that you were going to give them a laptop, too. That aside, the simplest of tasks, like adding a simple text field to a keynote slide is not possible. (note: Turns out that it IS possible, just not via a menu of any kind. Still not enough to sway me differently.) WHATEVER you plan to have the kids doing with those apps will be very basic, at best.
    • This brings me to my first challenge when folks want to talk about buying ipads for school. Make something - ANYthing in ANY app - and turn it in to me for a grade. Go ahead. Try it. And, if you manage to do that, do it again using a different application. I don't want you to hang your entire argument on one app. You've GOT to be able to MAKE things and SUBMIT them for a grade, don't you? And, if not, are you saying that the students will just be playing with apps? Read on.
  • So, you'll use OfficeHD instead of the iWork apps, eh? Nice. It does connect to dropbox so it is possible, although still QUITE difficult to manage, to have students turn a document in to the teacher.  But, you still can't make hyperlinks. You can't do much more than type and change styles. Is that no longer what we want our students to be able to do? The idea of those "wikified papers" that we've been talking about - forget about them. And the students STILL need an email account to create a dropbox account.
  • Are you going to give kids Admin rights to the ipad - along with that email address that heretofore was an ABSOLUTE impossibility? If not, tell me again why you think the ipad with no admin rights will hold ANY appeal to the students whatsoever once the novelty of the interface has waned. What if I loaded up an ipad with my favorite apps and gave it to you without admin rights. Would it have the same appeal to you? Heck no!  The fun of the ipad is in the exploration of the apps. Try one and decide if you want to keep it or not. Keep it a while and then later remove it. Exploration. Without admin rights they won't be able to do that. How long before they begin to forget to bring them to school?
  • Shall we talk about printing? There's no printing option in Pages, or Keynote, or Notes, or ANY app. Oh wait, you've heard about that AirPrint app, haven't you? So you have one of the airprint enabled printers? OK. Sorry. I didn't know you had purchased one of those printers. Of course, if you're doing this in a one-to-one situation, then you're going to have to buy LOTS of those printers. Oh, and you say you're going paperless so you won't need a printer? Well, if the students cant print something, and they can't submit it for a grade, then what ARE they going to do with it? Play with apps? The apps that YOU have installed?
  • What about Internet searching? That's what everyone always points to when talking about using the ipads, right? "The kids can research on it..." Really? Well, for years we've been pointing out that kids should be doing the Advanced Searches when searching, and not just the basic searches. In Google's Advanced search area, you can specify filetypes or date ranges or even that you wish to only see Creative Commons images. Sorry, ipad folks. The link for Advanced Searches is not present on the ipad. No advanced searching for YOU! Ooops - yes, you CAN do advanced searching if you type in the url manually. OK. Nevermind that one.
  • What about typing on the ipad? Are we seriously saying that the kids can type as fast and as accurately as they can with a keyboard? Are we saying that the ipad keyboard will make the kids want to write more and edit more? And the girls with the long fingernails, they're going to be able to type on the ipads?  The auto-correct won't cause problems? Copying and pasting won't be an issue? Moving the cursor within a word, currently darned near impossible to do, won't be missed? Ever try to change @jgates513 to D jgates513 to send a direct message? Pft! Well, not to worry anyway. Unless you give the kids email addresses or buy new printers you can't get the work to the teacher anyway. And, without Google Docs the students won't be collaborating online, etc.
  • Or, are we now saying that "We're not buying the ipads so they can write. We're going to install apps so they can play... sorry, practice with the apps." If that's the case, STOP NOW! Apps? Sure. There are apps. There are LOTS of apps that kids can play with. Practice this skill or that. Is that what you're after? A device to deliver apps to practice? First, will YOU install them or allow the students to install them? Because what are you going to do when the apps must be upgraded? What about when you find another "must-have" app? Will you collect all the ipads, install the apps, and then give them back? Second, do we really want to invest all this money and time, etc on a device that just lets kids play/practice? And yes, I do know of an art app that lets them draw, and the music apps that let them play, and little apps that allow them to create objects with pictures. But that's not going to raise a single test score, it? Nor will it reach those "21st Century Skills" we've been talking about.
  • And the MUCH greater issue for me is, either it was important that we talk about "21st Century Skills" or it wasn't. If it was, I want to know how that ipad will facilitate that. And don't say that 21st Century Skills weren't about computers. I know the drill. You're right. They're about those other skills, too. Fine. I'll give you that one. But, so very many of the skills that we talked about on the computer cannot be done with the ipad. So, were they important or not? Google docs being able to facilitate real-time collaboration? Not with the ipads.
And don't say that I should wait because those issues will be fixed. Maybe. But, what are you going to do with them NOW? Play with apps? And only the apps that someone else puts on them? The kids aren't free to follow their interests to find apps?

Yes, I KNOW that they are instant on, and your laptops (CFF'ers - especially some of those year one Lenovos that took ten minutes to boot) are too slow to be practical. Nobody can afford to waste 10 minutes waiting for a laptop to boot - or not. And I KNOW that the battery life is VERY nice - lasting almost all day. (Now, anyway. With fresh batteries.) But, none of that matters if we can't do anything but play. Yes, yes... there are a few apps that really do make the kids think. Right. And someone tried to make the case that Angry Birds could be used to teach physics, too. When did we all forget our Education training? Without the sexy interface and attractive instant-on and battery life - who would say that playing with single purpose games or using single purpose tools would constitute quality education? How did we get here? Brought down by a slick interface?

But, as I said, none of this will matter. There are other brand devices out there that DO do some of what I listed above as being impossible on the ipads. But, most folks won't even buy one to try; their minds are made up. They want ipads. Fine. Get them. Just plan now to change what and how you teach, because when the students can't do work and turn it in to you, everything changes.

Monday, August 15, 2011

I'm REALLY starting to detest FourSquare

CAUTION: Gripe Session Ahead

First of all, I don't get the attraction. But then, I don't get the attraction to tattoos, either, so the fact that I don't get it may be beside the point. I'll grant that.

But, I find that the FourSquare posts to Twitter amount to little more than Spam. In fact, those annoying posts are the essence of what some people find as the major fault of twitter. "I don't CARE what people are having for breakfast." You've heard, or perhaps, even said words to that effect. Right? Well, FourSquare is just that. I'm here, or I'm there, or I'm the new Mayor of someplace. Really? And you think we need to know that.. why?

I follow educators who tweet about what they're reading and learning and discovering. But, more and more I find that the noise from FourSquare tweets amounts to a significant percentage of those tweets. If they were emails I'd have a filter on them to auto-delete them. At BEST they are worthless. At worst they are annoying, time-wasting SPAM and I want to yell, "Knock it off!"

Mayor of some pizza shop?... you've GOT to be kidding.

Update: 12:51 PM
Thanks to a twitter follower, I learned about the Global filter in Tweetdeck. I had been looking at the icons at the bottoms of the columns, but the Global Filter is in the Preferences. Here's a screenshot of what to look for if you, too, want to filter out the FourSquare ( tweets.:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

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Monday, August 08, 2011

I'm SO glad this person is a teacher

This person lost her job in June, but was lucky enough to find another. Read how she describes it. Aren't you, too, glad that this person is able to be a teacher?

When asked about her new job she said she was excited...

"And nervous, and anxious, and all of those good things that come with a teaching job. I am so lucky, I know. And the best part: not only do I get a class of my own (the newspaper class - SO much better than just advising a club!), but I get to be the high school librarian!!! How cool is that?" 

Wouldn't it have been a TERRIBLE shame if she hadn't been able to find a teaching job - her obvious passion?

Saturday, August 06, 2011

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

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  • "A place to share e-learning and Web 2.0 tools for education. Computers and laptops in education are important only when used with good pedagogy. Digital content and creation is an important part of the process for educators in the 21st century."

    tags: web2.0 tools

  • Let's discuss

    tags: CIPA filter

  • Before you click on that tinyurl that someone just tweeted to you, you might want to check it out here first. If it doesn't show up - DO NOT CLICK IT!

    tags: URL

  • "Free Children's eBooks" Make your own to sync to your ipad or iphone, etc

    tags: ebook

  • I LOVE stuff that is very creative. This is surely one. Share it with your art teacher friends.

    tags: Art music

  • Interesting article about school reform. This should start some interesting conversations

    tags: innovation reform

    • One thing the current "reformers" have right is that we should be innovating. We should be learning from innovative teachers, schools, programs and countries already showing success, as well as promoting real innovation through our policies and investments. Currently "Race to the Top" makes it very difficult to really innovate because it demands conditions that support too narrow an approach. It actually stifles true innovation.
    • One thing the current "reformers" have right is that we should be innovating. We should be learning from innovative teachers, schools, programs and countries already showing success, as well as promoting real innovation through our policies and investments. Currently "Race to the Top" makes it very difficult to really innovate because it demands conditions that support too narrow an approach. It actually stifles true innovation.
  • " The answer to almost any question is available within seconds, courtesy of the invention that has altered how we discover knowledge - the search engine. Materializing answers from the air turns out to be the easy part - the part a machine can do. The real difficulty kicks in when you click down into your search results. At that point, it's up to you to sort the accurate bits from the misinfo, disinfo, spam, scams, urban legends, and hoaxes. "Crap detection," as Hemingway called it half a century ago, is more important than ever before, now that the automation of crapcasting has generated its own word: "spamming.""

    tags: literacy

  • "You've heard the rumors, and they're true: Microsoft's motion-sensing Kinect camera turns out to be hacktastic. Mouse pointers and picture shuffling? So 2010. Why not control robots with your arms? Fire lasers from your head? Steal piles of candy? Fiddle with toilet seats hands-free?"

    tags: kinect

  • Wonderful matrix to help you determine your level of Tech integration. Thanks to Sue Sheffer for sharing this with me.

    tags: matrix integration

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Saturday, July 09, 2011

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Friday, July 08, 2011

For the love of beautiful writing

As I write this I'm very moved. But, I'm a sucker for this sort of thing.

I'm currently teaching a Grad class for Harrisburg University. I'm privileged to work with some of the area's best teachers and learned people. Yesterday was day one of a series of days where we study "web 2.0" tools and their impact on teaching and learning.

Last night, when I read the discussion forums, I was struck by the eloquent writing of the members of the class. Having seen my share of poor spelling and bad grammar and incomplete sentences, etc, I was impressed by the writing of this group. I began the day by mentioning that.

I further confessed that I am a sucker for beautiful writing. I also told the story of when I taught 8th graders and, during a class where we were studying the Civil War (long story) I mentioned that, if they wanted to read one of THE MOST beautiful love letters ever written to research Sullivan Ballou and his letter to his wife Sarah. It was written, prophetically, just two weeks before he was killed in the second battle of Bull Run/ Manassas. I told them my class that I was so surprised to later find a few of those dear 8th graders sniffling back tears and when I casually observed their computer screens I saw that they were reading the letter.

This was just in passing. I then went on with the class.

Tonight I was reading their discussion forum (Moodle) posts. One person, Lou, pasted in this portion of the Sullivan Ballou letter. No comment. Just this portion:

"Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.
The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me - perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar -- that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name. 
Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.
 But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night -- amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours - always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by. 
Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again."

Can you appreciate this? I LOVE my job. I'm a lucky man.