Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Daughter of the Flames Daughter of the Flames by Zoë Marriott

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Very solid young adult read. Tells the story of Zira a scarred, young novice with a hidden past. It is also a charming romance, adventure story. Zira is a leader and she learns some hard lessons. She also is able to take control of her life and make wonderful things happen. I, personally, would have liked more detail and more in depth character development, but since this seems to be geared to a younger audience, say middle school to 9th grade, it will do just fine.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Veteran's Documentary Film Class

Last year I proposed a course to have students interview and film WWII veterans and then make documentaries from their interviews. The class was approved and I am teaching it now with the chair of the history department chair and an art teacher.

We have a class of 14 and we have 7 WWII vets who we have paired them up with. Last Friday we went out to their senior center to have lunch with them so the kids could meet them (they all had sent them introductory letters) and get to know them a bit better. Our kids are so impressive. They really are. They had no problem conversing with the vets and we had some very cool coincidental matchups that worked out so nicely. For instance, one student's grandfather was in the 106th battalion and his vet was in the 106th battalion. Another student's grandfather was a POW in Borneo and his vet served in an operation on Borneo.

This semester we are concentrating on getting the interviews and preparing them for inclusion in the Veteran's History Project for the Library of Congress. Next semester will be all about making the documentary and pulling together the seven stories into one cohesive theme. I'll post some photos from the luncheon next week.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Second Skin (Nocturne City, #3) Second Skin by Caitlin Kittredge

My rating: 1 of 5 stars
This third book really was a disappointment. Luna needs to do something. She needs to progress and actually move forward. She needs to figure out something about herself and then she needs to change her life. It's called character development. She keeps making the same mistakes over and over again. She keeps doing the same stupid things again and again and the same people tell her not to do it and she does it.

We get no details about anyone else. Most of the other people are mere window dressing. What is the big deal with her family? Why after three books do we still have no details? This mystery should not be coming out so slowly. We don't know enough about the characters to care to keep reading the series. We aren't invested. At least I am not.

I need more detail. I need real development and growth. There is a great world here. There is great potential and it isn't being realized. It's depressing.

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Night Life (Nocturne City, #1) Night Life by Caitlin Kittredge

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I thought this first book was pretty good. It had a nice set up. It was inventive and had a much different werewolf world than any I have read before. It is dark and a bit poverty stricken. But the character is a scrappy cop and has backbone. The love interest is not all warm and sexy, but is realistic and honest.

There were some flaws, but the magic and the story were quite compelling.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009


Last week we put into action what we had spent five months planning: a unit on Twitter, Iran, the media, media bias and the 24-hour news cycle. It was part of what our school called the one-unit challenge, a call for collaborative teaching that included revamping units and incorporating new technology into them. The AP Comparative Government teacher and I had been team teaching for a couple of years a unit on media bias. We realized that the AP Language teacher also had a curricular overlap that would work perfectly with what we had in mind.

When we first started putting the unit together, we had an idea of maybe using blogging, or a ning or something else. We hadn't settled on the new technology. But when the Iran election protest broke out and Twitter became a focal point for the protest, we knew we had our technology and we knew we had something that would really interest the kids. We could teach information literacy, history, argumentation and logic and use Iran, Twitter and the media as a focal point. We would have the kids sign up for Twitter accounts (with parental permission) and we would arrange a Twitter interview with a leading social media journalist so they could ask her questions on the Twitter environment and journalism today. (To see their interview search #bps on http://search.twitter.com).

So it was with great disappointment that during our Twitter interview, our students were logging on to their newly created Twitter accounts only to find out that their accounts had been suspended for suspicious activity. Seems that if you create many accounts from one domain name, that is considered spam and abusive AUTOMATICALLY and they suspend your account. I emailed them immediately, but received an automated reply telling me the problem was solved, I wasn't suspended and that I should check again. I told our kids to reply individually, which some they did and they were not reinstated. I increased my irritated emails to support and asked for a human to read them. Nothing.

So I started sending out tweets with the hashtag #twitterfail because they failed the classroom litmus test. If your classroom can't sign up, you can't use it. There has to be a way for educators to sign up their students for school use and that means mass sign-ups at one time, Twitter. Wake up and smell the accounts.

Oh, Twitter, BTW, we are presenting our unit at multiple conferences. Just an FYI. I would love to blog about how you solved the problem. If twitter fixes this mess so my kids can do their research project, then I will be their biggest fan. Right now they haven't and I am uber-irritated.

Thanks, Twitter.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sick, but not the flu

I started with a scratchy throat last Saturday, with what I thought was a little cold. But as the week progressed and my throat got progressively more sore and I got a bit more of a cough, by Friday I stayed home and called the Doc and got antibiotics.

I know that there is a huge panic out there with the swine flu and flu in general. I saw it in my library when one of the librarians came down with the regular flu. Another person at school immediately panicked and wanted to go to the doctor to get tamiflu, but I didn't see the urgency since no one had any symptoms of the flu. Now we have one confirmed case at our school and there are confirmed cases in all 50 states. So you can't really escape it.

My feeling is why take the drug if you don't have symptoms? Why take it if it might take it away from someone who might need it as there isn't a lot of the drug to go around? But perhaps I am unnaturally unconcerned and should be more upset, but I don't think so. Being upset isn't going to help. My cold turned into something that needed antibiotics. It wasn't flu related at all. I think a calm temperment is better for one's health than the other option. Statistics show that we are all probably going to get some form of the flu, especially those of us who work in a school, so a healthly dose of fatalism goes a long way as does excessive use of antibacterial wipes and gel, which we have lots of in the library.

I also had a moment last week when it all seemed too much, when it all seemed like I was working too hard and couldn't keep it going. But then the next day came and I realized I could keep it going and I was whining. Sure, that day was a 12-hour work day and I got home at 7:30 pm, but I got done what needed to be done.

Point being, some days we need to panic. Some days we need to whine. People need different things to get through the day or to get through a particular crisis. For me, the flu didn't seem like a crisis, but for that teacher it obviously struck them as a crisis. Let people have their crisis moments. We were both over ours the next day. 8-) If they last more than 24 hours, then you might have to do something.