Archive for October, 2010

Chess Puzzle #1 – 2011 Season

October 25th, 2010

The whole point of chess puzzles is to train your brain to see patterns, familiar positions. The puzzles that I’ll put up are taken from real games (once we get to January, we’ll see student games). Later today I’ll put the answer in the comments.

Today’s puzzle is white to move to win in one move.

Quality of Work vs. Time Allowed: A Very Official Study

October 22nd, 2010

Diagram 1 – Very Official

This is my fourth year as librarian and previous to that I spent five years teaching Language Arts. In both frameworks I facilitated technology projects with students. This week I’ve observed some great teaching with two Science teachers. One thing that I noticed is that they allotted the perfect amount of time for their students to finish creating iMovies.

When working with technology, you’ve got to find that balance of giving students enough time to explore the program and troubleshoot errors, but if you give them too much time, they’ll tinker until the project starts to decrease in quality (the “Hey! We Need Squirrels in our Planet Reports!” Effect). This balance between not enough and too much time can be discovered through practice over the years doing the same project, tweaking it to meet student needs and standards.

Another way to find the balance is to break down the large parts of the project into tiny, more manageable chunks. That’s what these two teachers have done masterfully and is what I recommend for others, especially when tackling technology. It’s something that sounds like common sense, but you’d be surprised how tempting it is to give the students too much time for tech.

Granted, all this depends on students paying attention and working when they’re supposed to. I’ve seen that when you give them enough instructions to be confident to start working, but also let them know that time is limited, they usually do a good job of meeting your professional expectations.

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

October 22nd, 2010

Anyone who has spent more than five minutes in conversation with me has probably realized what a fanatic I am about Star Wars (one student even got me an Obi-Wan tie one year). That’s why The Strange Case of Origami Yoda intrigued me. I was curious how Angleberger would deal with the licensing issue and what he would do with that license.

Angleberger did get full permission to use the names and likenesses from the movies, which is cool because the novel would definitely have a different feel if we had cheap knock-offs. Throughout are sketches and in-jokes that will be really funny for Star Wars fans (the school is McQuarrie Middle School, McQuarrie being the name of the concept artist from the first movie)(and yes, I actually know the correct spelling for sarlacc). You don’t have to be a Star Wars fan to appreciate the book, but it does help.

The plot is Stargirl/Schooled-esque, where an outsider tries to help the world around him and the narrator has trouble dealing with it. In this version, the outsider is a 5th grader named Dwight who normally is crazy but one day starts giving advice through a finger puppet that looks like Yoda, mystical Jedi Master.

The situations that the kids get into and the crazy advice the origami Yoda gives are reality tweaked a little bit, much like Diary of a Wimpy Kid is relatable but also hilarious. The story’s enjoyable and a very quick read. I finished the entire novel in a day, also a characteristic of Wimpy Kid.

My only complaint concerns the last two pages (not the origami pattern – that’s cool), but the last two pages don’t ruin the rest of the story. Don’t flip to the last two pages, though. That would spoil the fun.

I recommend this one for those students who are looking for a fun read or a follow-up to Wimpy Kid. The perspective switches voices quite a bit but they’re all labeled to make it easier to follow.

Athletic Propulsion Labs and the psychology of shoes

October 19th, 2010

If you tell someone they can’t do something, they want to do it. Ban a book and it gets more attention than if it just sat on the shelf. The same applies to the Athletic Propulsion Labs Concept 1 shoes. David Stern, commissioner of the NBA, stated that the shoes give players an unfair advantage and banned the shoes.

The shoes cost $300, which is a lot for civilian use, but not that high of a price to make a dent in a professional basketball player’s salary. Why not let the whole league use them? I’m curious to see what the NCAA says about the situation.

The ban is already being used by the company as a marketing tool:
Let’s hear it for Unintended Testimonial propaganda.

AZ Transfer

October 18th, 2010

If you’re overwhelmed by college options, don’t think college is an option, or just need more information about college, check out It collects all of the information about going to higher education in the state of Arizona and puts it in an accessible format.


October 8th, 2010

I hadn’t really used Google’s alternative to 411, but I did appreciate that it was free. Check it out before it’s gone on November 12.
The ability for it to recognize speech always amazed me, although it wasn’t too unbelievable that it came from Google. I used 46653, the texting service. You text Google your query, it sends back results. Many times I was able to find directions or help a sports fanatic find out what the score for a game was. I’m glad Google’s continuing that service. They say that 411 was a jumping off point for speed recognition. I use Google’s voice search on my Android phone and get decent results. (The Goggles app still baffles me with its elven magic.)
The text-to-speech app for typing is pretty cool, but I still find myself adjusting what I say to try and fool it into writing what I actually said and not what the computer wishes I said. I shall test it out by reciting the first line from A Tale of Two Cities. Maybe my words just aren’t poetic enough.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Not half bad! That’ll do, app. That’ll do.