Archive for September, 2011

Amulet Book Four: The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi

September 30th, 2011

The story of Emily continues in yet another beautiful book by Kibuishi. The characters have a great, consistent style to them and the landscapes could be stand-alone paintings apart from the book.

Like the other books in the series, Emily is joined by various characters on her hero’s quest. In each installment we get to see a little bit more of the history of the Stonekeepers and the dynamics of human versus elf politics. The Last Council is great because we see other Stonekeepers fight it out and learn how Emily fits into the grand scheme of things.

The only distraction for me was when a group of kids are thrown into an arena to prove survival of the fittest. I trust that Kibuishi had that classic trope planned because it was needed and not because arena fights are really popular right now.

I bought a hardcover version of The Last Council. I’m excited to see how this stands up since this series is very popular in my library.

A chance to tour the botanical garden…for science!

September 29th, 2011

Larry Roberts from the University of Alaska is conducting research at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix to analyze how adults learn in informal settings. I’m going and it sounds like a lot of fun.

The research days are in the following blocks:

Tuesday, October 25 9:00-11:00, 1:00-3:00, 3:00-5:00, and 6:00-8:00
Wednesday, October 26 9:00-11:00, 1:00-3:00, 3:00-5:00
Thursday, October 27 9:00-11:00, 1:00-3:00, 3:00-5:00
Friday, October 28 9:00-11:00, 1:00-3:00, 3:00-5:00, and 6:00-8:00
Saturday, October 29 9:00-11:00, 1:00-3:00, 3:00-5:00
Sunday, October 30 9:00-11:00, 1:00-3:00, 3:00-5:00
Monday, October 31 9:00-11:00, 1:00-3:00, 3:00-5:00 and 6:00-8:00
Tuesday, November 1 9:00-11:00, 1:00-3:00, 3:00-5:00

Admission into the garden is paid for by the study. If you would like to be a part of the study, message Larry Roberts by clicking here. It is a study of adult learning, so it’s not for junior high and high school students.


September 26th, 2011

At TenMarks, teachers can create online classes for students to practice Math lessons aligned to the common core standards.

Teachers and students can track academic progress, honing in on which Math concepts need more practice. There’s also a game unlock system, which adds a little bit of motivation.

Once you understand that sending a message in TenMarks is the equivalent of assigning homework, the interface is clear and useful. This is perfect for teachers wanting a way for students to practice Math at home for reinforcement.

Vimeo Music Store

September 22nd, 2011

When we create videos, many times students want to use copyrighted music in their projects. We use GarageBand for students to mix their own loops (and maybe even venture into the musical typing feature), but another option is the Vimeo Music Store. You can search by cost and copyright. Some are free, so you might want to check it out. It’s blocked in our district, but maybe not in yours.

Payback Time by Carl Deuker

September 19th, 2011

Taking a break from all of the dystopian/government-gone-mad books, I just finished Payback Time by Carl Deuker.

This is the story of high school football, but thankfully it’s not your traditional sports story. It’s not about a plucky underdog who finds friends because he throws the winning touchdown. The protagonist is Daniel True, although his school nickname is Mitch because students think he looks like the Michelin Man. While Daniel does fight his weight issue, that is not the focus of the book. It simply adds depth of character.

Daniel is a talented reporter for his school’s newspaper. When he’s passed over for the editor position, he is taken from the front page and relegated to the sports page. He realizes that, for a high school paper, most students only read the sports articles. Daniel, though, wants to crack a big story and thinks he may have found one when a star transfer student is on the team but is kept a strict secret. Daniel thinks it may be a cover-up, that the student is ineligible to play and the coach is using him only for key plays.

Deuker knows sports and lists off the play-by-plays during the game scenes. Normally that would be distracting, but since the main character is trying to get as many details as possible, it fits the character. It also makes the book appealing for students who love sports.

The mystery of the transfer student is the focus of the story and is developed well over the course of the book. I don’t want to give too many details because I did change my opinion periodically as I read as to whether the coach was guilty, the transfer student was guilty, or if Daniel was jumping to conclusions.

This is the perfect time of year to put Payback Time out for students to read. Grab a copy. Also pick up Heart of a Champion by Deuker if you don’t have it yet.

New page: Technology in Education

September 15th, 2011

I don’t know why I didn’t do this before. I use a lot of different websites with many different teachers, so I’m going to dedicate a page on this site to organizing all of those sites.

The new page is called ‘Technology in Education‘.

It will be a growing list, so check back frequently.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

September 12th, 2011

If you read my review of Matched, you’ll know that I’m starting to get worn out by my favorite genre. I love dystopian sci-fi, but, like eating Hot Pockets for a month, it starts to get old.

With that in mind, Divergent had to work really hard for me to get over preconceived notions. Yes, there were maniacal government workers. Yes, there was a secret the protagonist had to hide on penalty of death. Where Divergent exceeds, though, is in what Veronica Roth did not do.

Tris did not have to choose between her childhood friend and the wild, mysterious boy. The development between her and Four is paced really well. The other boy that tries to make advances is awkward and almost provides a little comic relief.

So yes, many of the plot elements have been done before, and done recently (I could have sworn I’ve seen that ending before), but it’s still a fun story. Dystopian sci-fi used to be my favorite genre, but now the plotlines are very, very similar. There were still parts that caught me off guard, which is why I can give it my recommendation. The Dauntless scenes were great and I loved what Roth had to say about life. It was every jumping off of a train or diving into a simulation that kept me going.

Renting books

September 12th, 2011

I’ve talked with friends before about a Netflix-like service where you could mail in a book and get a new one sent to you. The obvious limitation is that a book weighs significantly more than a DVD.

Now Amazon is in talks about renting ebooks to readers.

I wonder how this will fare, considering and a number of other sites offer free books for keeps. Public libraries also offer free ebooks for a time, like the Southeast Regional Library’s Overdrive service. I guess it will come down to an issue of cost versus selection.


September 9th, 2011

I’m excited to try out BoomWriter, a collaborative writing site. The teacher creates the first section and then students add onto it. The group votes on which one they like best and the winner is the next chapter. The process continues with more writing and more voting.

Google vs. Bing vs. my review of The Unwanteds

September 8th, 2011

I’m always intrigued by how information is sorted. You might say I make a living out of it.

So when I did a Google search for ‘unwanteds’ today (the results will probably change in the future), I was excited to see that I am the fourth result. I beat out the publisher’s site, the L.A. Times, and even the author’s own site.

Always wanting to learn more, I did a Bing search. I’m not even in the top ten. I shouldn’t feel bad. The author’s page is not even on the first page of results. The publisher barely made it as the last entry on the first page.

So what’s the magic algorithm Google uses compared to Bing’s? Since those are considered trade secrets, we’ll just have to experiment and look at the results.