Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Two-fer Tuesday- 2 Book Reviews and a Book Challenge Update

Like most of you, I'm juggling what seems like a million and one things--house renovation (15 years overdue), craft room purge (ridiculously difficult), library life, my last child moving out, a visiting sister who views me as her personal tech support, a need to work out in direct opposition to what I want to do, and a new grandbaby coming into the world.
Like you, I'm squeezing in some books. Today's offering is double the fun:
The Impossible Fortress, Simon and Schuster, 2017.
I've been listening to this one on audio and it has been great. I'm incredibly fond of all things 80s, well maybe not my crazy poofy, permed hair or some of the ridiculous outfits we wore back then. But, it was the dawn of a new era for me. I was introduced to the world of computers. It was so amazing to be able to type a paper one time and save it instead of having to re-type drafts over and over again. If I go back to the very early 80s and late 70s, I can remember the Commodore 64. Oh man, I wanted one of those sooooooo badly. Perhaps that is why I am loving this book, The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak. The book features Billy (aka Will) Marvin, he's a 14-year-old boy who is part of a trio (Alf and Clark fill out the crew) enthralled with girls, boobs, and getting their hands on the copy of Playboy featuring the letter-turning goddess, Vanna White.
The boys scheme unsuccessfully and are stymied at every turn. Finally, Alf  turns to notorious town bad boy who has a plan. But, they need the security code to the stationer's store this brings us to Mary the stationer's daughter. She and Will share a love for games, coding, and computers. They work together and enter a game design contest.
I won't tell much more as you can discover this gem on your own. I really enjoyed this book-- the teen voice seemed very authentic to me. It took me right back to that awkward stage of questioning myself nearly every second of the day. The characters are multi-dimensional and interesting. There are some downright laugh-out-loud funny moments, some truly cringe-y moments that make you feel just like you did as an uncertain hormonal, pimply-faced teenager. It is a glorious coming of age mashup bringing new love, the 80s, and tech together. This is a worthy effort and I'm happy to have another book to hand to my techy kids and friends.

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart, Delacorte Press, 2017. 
I eagerly snapped up this ARC at Midwinter Conference in January. I looooove Lockhart's books; her last book, We Were Liars, kept me entertained with all its twists and surprises and ultimately wanting more.
Her latest features Jule, a girl on the run. From what/whom it isn't immediately clear. In fact, not much is clear. Jule is a very unreliable narrator. You never know whether she is telling the truth. But, isn't that what you love about the unreliable narrator?
The book opens with Jule in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico in June 2017.
Lockhart unwinds the story bouncing around from place to place and various times. She successfully keeps her readers guessing.
Jule befriends the privileged Imogen (Immie) and slowly inserts herself into Immie's life.
It's got layers upon layers of lies with shades of The Talented Mr. Ripley. E. Lockhart has written another page turner with a narrator that I'm not sure I like. She's broken and bent on being her own superhero. I'm pretty sure I will have to re-read to gain clarity on this one. (Maybe I'll re-read after I finish the 2017 Reading Challenge.)
 
Update: How is your 2017 Reading Challenge going? Me? I've read 8 books since January! I know there are a lot of book-a-day folks out there, but I'm not one. I'm not counting picture books either, although I did pick up The Secret Pizza Party, (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2013) by Rubin and Salmieri-- the same guys who wrote and illustrated Dragons Love Tacos!  So cute!

So far, I've satisfied my Reading Challenge with these books:
#2 A book recommended to me:  A Man Called Ove, by Backman.
#4 Nonfiction title: Hillbilly Elegy, by Vance.
#6 A book published in 2017: Genuine Fraud, by Lockhart.
#12 A novel that deals with diversity: Hidden Figures, by Shetterly.
#18 An audiobook: Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn.
#20 A book I would recommend: Six of Crows, by Bardugo.
#25 A laugh-out-loud/funny book: The Impossible Fortress, by Rekulak.

So, 7 down and 18 to go before January 30, 2018. I'm in good shape.       

Two-fer Tuesday- A book for your old-school loving gamers and a fraud in plain sight

Like most of you, I'm juggling what seems like a million and one things--house renovation (15 years overdue), craft room purge (ridiculously difficult), library life, my last child moving out, a visiting sister who views me as her personal tech support, a need to work out in direct opposition to what I want to do, and a new grandbaby coming into the world.
Like you, I'm squeezing in some books. Today's offering is double the fun:
The Impossible Fortress, Simon and Schuster, 2017.
I've been listening to this one on audio and it has been great. I'm incredibly fond of all things 80s, well maybe not my crazy poofy, permed hair or some of the ridiculous outfits we wore back then. But, it was the dawn of a new era for me. I was introduced to the world of computers. It was so amazing to be able to type a paper one time and save it instead of having to re-type drafts over and over again. If I go back to the very early 80s and late 70s, I can remember the Commodore 64. Oh man, I wanted one of those sooooooo badly. Perhaps that is why I am loving this book, The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak. The book features Billy (aka Will) Marvin, he's a 14-year-old boy who is part of a trio (Alf and Clark fill out the crew) enthralled with girls, boobs, and getting their hands on the copy of Playboy featuring the letter-turning goddess, Vanna White.
The boys scheme unsuccessfully and are stymied at every turn. Finally, Alf  turns to notorious town bad boy who has a plan. But, they need the security code to the stationer's store this brings us to Mary the stationer's daughter. She and Will share a love for games, coding, and computers. They work together and enter a game design contest.
I won't tell much more as you can discover this gem on your own. I really enjoyed this book-- the teen voice seemed very authentic to me. It took me right back to that awkward stage of questioning myself nearly every second of the day. The characters are multi-dimensional and interesting. There are some downright laugh-out-loud funny moments, some truly cringe-y moments that make you feel just like you did as an uncertain hormonal, pimply-faced teenager. It is a glorious coming of age mashup bringing new love, the 80s, and tech together. This is a worthy effort and I'm happy to have another book to hand to my techy kids and friends.

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart, Delacorte Press, 2017. 
I eagerly snapped up this ARC at Midwinter Conference in January. I looooove Lockhart's books; her last book, We Were Liars, kept me entertained with all its twists and surprises and ultimately wanting more.
Her latest features Jule, a girl on the run. From what/whom it isn't immediately clear. In fact, not much is clear. Jule is a very unreliable narrator. You never know whether she is telling the truth. But, isn't that what you love about the unreliable narrator?
The book opens with Jule in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico in June 2017.
Lockhart unwinds the story bouncing around from place to place and various times. She successfully keeps her readers guessing.
Jule befriends the privileged Imogen (Immie) and slowly inserts herself into Immie's life.
It's got layers upon layers of lies with shades of The Talented Mr. Ripley. 
E. Lockhart has written another page turner with a narrator that I'm not sure I like. She's broken and bent on being  


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Fake News and a New Tool to Fight Misinformation

Today's topic-- 

(Before you even read further-- is the Statista infographic (above) real or fake?)

I am so excited about a new tool that I discovered over the past week! Like many of you, I have been incredibly concerned about Fake News and its pervasiveness in our tech lives. That led to me thinking about and how to teach skills that will help combat the problem. 
Upon my initial search, I found some good work being done by Melissa Zimdars, Associate Professor, at Merrimack College. Her article, 'False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and Satirical “News” Sources' (published with a Creative Commons license) is a great place to start. She breaks it all down into 4 categories:
  • CATEGORY 1: Fake, false, or regularly misleading websites that are shared on Facebook and social media. Some of these websites may rely on “outrage” by using distorted headlines and de-contextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits.

  • CATEGORY 2: Websites that may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information
  • CATEGORY 3: Websites which sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions
  • CATEGORY 4: Satire/comedy sites, which can offer important critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be shared as actual/literal news
 Often, articles and online items will fall into multiple categories.

The big bonus of Professor Zimdars' work is her comprehensive list of Fake News websites. At today's viewing of the list, there were 921 sites listed! She categorized them according to the following labels

Website Labels for OpenSources.co:

Fake News (tag fake): Sources that entirely fabricate information, disseminate deceptive content, or grossly distort actual news reports.  

Satire (tag satire): Sources that use humor, irony, exaggeration, ridicule, and false information to comment on current events.  

Extreme Bias (tag bias): Sources that come from a particular point of view and may rely on propaganda, decontextualized information, and opinions distorted as facts.

Conspiracy Theory (tag conspiracy): Sources that are well-known promoters of kooky conspiracy theories.

Rumor Mill (tag rumor): Sources that traffic in rumors, gossip, innuendo, and unverified claims.

State News (tag state): Sources in repressive states operating under government sanction.

Junk Science (tag junksci): Sources that promote pseudoscience, metaphysics, naturalistic fallacies, and other scientifically dubious claims.

Hate News (tag hate): Sources that actively promote racism, misogyny, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination.

Clickbait (tag clickbait): Sources that provide generally credible content, but use exaggerated, misleading, or questionable headlines, social media descriptions, and/or images.  

Proceed With Caution (tag unreliable): Sources that may be reliable but whose contents require further verification.

*Political (tag political): Sources that provide generally verifiable information in support of certain points of view or political orientations.  

*Credible (tag reliable): Sources that circulate news and information in a manner consistent with traditional and ethical practices in journalism (Remember: even credible sources sometimes rely on clickbait-style headlines or occasionally make mistakes. No news organization is perfect, which is why a healthy news diet consists of multiple sources of information).

Unknown (tag unidentified): Sources that have not yet been analyzed (many of these were suggested by readers/users or are found on other lists and resources). Help us expand our resource by providing us information!

Note: Tags like political and credible are being used for two reasons: 1.) they were suggested by viewers of the document or OpenSources and circulate news 2.) the credibility of information and of organizations exists on a continuum, which this project aims to demonstrate. For now, mainstream news organizations are not included because they are well known to a vast majority of readers.


Great stuff, right?! 

On Twitter, the good people on NPR shared a story that really intrigued me and led me further down this path and to my new favorite tool



My excitement is off the charts! I'm starting up with the News Literacy Project's Checkology tool tomorrow with my library students. 

The program is free for the rest of this school year. I will revisit this tool in the coming week once I've had a little time to play with it. But, I thought I would share today so that more of us can help get our kids on track with news literacy and fact-checking. If they don't learn to separate fact from fiction this world will be in real trouble.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tips for managing Tech - my love letter to you



Today’s post is my valentine for all of you, it addresses the task that at times is beyond overwhelming; I’m talking about keeping up with TECHNOLOGY. I find it near impossible – but, I saw this great graphic created by the amazing @SylviaDuckworth and it is a perfect reminder for all of us who strive to be on top of our technology game. 


   The first tip is key, let’s face it there are not enough hours in a day to keep up with it all. So, don’t try. The second tip, is the key—use social media to keep up with latest trends and tools. Personally, I find Twitter to be a great source of info regarding technology. Follow tech people who are doing things you admire. Technology is fun and enhances education.

  
Here are a few I like to follow on Twitter: the incredible @sylviaduckworth, @efitz_edtech, @MsMarshallCMS, @Hamm_Ed, @TheWeirdTeacher, @MsVenturino, and my good friend Naomi Bates @yabooksandmore. These people are critical to my tech practice. I gain valuable ideas and connect to great tech tools that make me look like a rock star with my teachers and students.

   Another great source of new tech trends are your students and teens! They are on trend before it even becomes a “thing.” 


Numbers 2 and 3 really go together like PB&J, tech in education, or Buzz and Woody in Toy Story. The third tip also serves as a needed reminder to share our tech tools – I find that when I share, my Personal Learning Network grows and I learn even more through the collaborative process.

   Number 5 is huge! One of the big pitfalls, is that we tend to try too much all at once. For me, it works best to try something new, play with it awhile and see where and how it is best used before adding new tools to the mix. Another reminder I like to make in my workshops is that you need to use the new tool within a few days. It’s definitely a use it or lose it thing. I’ve gone to some incredible workshops—taken copious notes annnnndddd walked away with every intention of coming back to it only to forget and leave it behind… 

   There are some incredible tools out there—but remember to make sure the tools are relevant to your students and what you are teaching. Using a tool for the sake of using it, is not best practice. Any tool you use should have a specific purpose. When we use a tool in a way that brings meaning, we help our students learn more deeply. 

  
Keeping track of tools is a challenge (Tip 8), curation doesn’t have to be a chore. It can be as simple as setting up an IFTTT (If This, Then This). Every time I email myself a tweet, it goes into a Google Spreadsheet. The possibilities are endless.

   Tip #10 is awesome and overwhelming at the same time. I love conferences! The connections and collaborative nature of conferences make them a must for your tech practice. But, be mindful of the other tips, use your time to make connections with others, and share, share, share! 

   Lastly, start a blog or something that will give you a space to share your success. I am so glad I did, it has been a great tool for keeping me on track with my tech practice. It has also given me opportunities to connect with other Teacher Librarians and Librarians around the country/world. 

   Happy Valentine’s Day friends! I hope you are feeling the love today. 

PS-- The latest issue of School Library Journal has my article on the benefits of having a coloring station for students to enjoy. Cheers.

Big thanks to @SylviaDuckworth for the use of her amazing sketch.

Monday, February 6, 2017

E-book Creation Tools

Well, January is in the books! It was such a busy month. Between the holidays and events such as the American Library Association Midwinter Conference, January simply flew by. 
To open the month, I'm beginning with a post about E-books. A veteran teacher at my school approached me last week and asked whether I knew anything about ebooks. He was looking to do things differently. Up until now, he had been allowing kids to make a paper booklet or powerpoint. 
The teacher, Mr. M, is a great guy; he's got a small case of tech-phobia, but always pushes through. Today we were talking and he said that a few weeks back a student was performing in a talent show he was judging and it led to an epiphany. The student had the wah-wah-wah sound from the Peanuts gang playing as he "sat in class." Mr. M got to thinking-- he pondered his own teaching practices, and decided that he needed to make it more engaging. He realized that flipcharts and "sage on the stage" just doesn't work. So, he's starting with E-books. Next week, I'm going to re-introduce him to Hyperdocs. 
Today, however, I'm going to share about Ebooks. 
 
This is one of those days where I wished we were an iPad 1:1 schools, but alas, we are not. So, I hit the Google trail. Here are a few resources to help teachers ease into ebook creation. 
For so many schools (like mine), we are Chromebook rich-- so with that in mind...a great and easy spot to start is Google Slides. There are some great ready-to-use templates that makes this an easy win for you in working with a teacher looking to engage students and go deeper in knowledge. 

Check out these templates: 

I purchased these templates from TeachersPayTeachers via Pinterest. It was a great time savings for me; I have one more crazy week, and then things will chill for a few weeks. (keep your fingers crossed)

Papyrus

I really liked the look of this online application. Sadly, it is not working right now. It has some cool features and a great WYSIWYG interface. 

iBooks Author
A few years ago, I attended the CUE conference in Palm Springs and was fortunate to garner a spot in an Apple iBooks workshop. This has all the bells and whistles and is simple to use. 
You will have the ability to add video, audio recordings, as well as space efficient text boxes with a scroll down feature, and pictures. 
Fun and dynamic. 

Regardless of the platform you use, eBook creation will help your students go deeper into the knowledge and create incredible ebooks that show that info off.  

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Reading Challenge 2017

Once again, my good friend, Naomi Bates has struck again! She just issued her Reading Challenge and it inspired me!  I have borrowed SHAMELESSLY from her list-- I made a few changes, added an audiobook, and a true-crime fiction selection for example.
I made this handy-dandy infographic which I am having printed today to adorn the walls of my school's library.

If you like, feel free to use the Piktochart poster I created (it is on the Padlet with other resources). You can also use the Piktochart link here, if you want to download in .png or .pdf.  It is does not have any school or identifying information. You can also choose to embed it. It includes the link to the State and YALSA booklists.
   Next, to support this challenge, I'm going to create a new bulletin board and some book displays, such as Historical fiction, Top 10 circulated books @VHS, True Crime books, Classics, Upcoming Features for books being made into movies, YALSA award winners, and audiobooks. 
Additionally, I have a Google Doc for students to fill out as they read throughout the year. 
   I will spend the next month or so, pulling together prizes for students and staff who finish the challenge. I will make it a January to January date so that we all have 365 days. 
   The beauty of this challenge, is that there aren't many rules- no picture books (our focus is Young Adult or Adult books), and the books should be ones you have not read with the exception of choosing a favorite book from the past 5 years. Simple, right?!
   I'm excited to join the kids on this challenge! Come on, join us; it will be fun!
Resources
Padlet with posters and tracking sheet for participants. 
State Book Lists - this list from Follett includes all 50 states and some ALA awards as well. 
Good Reads Lists -  lists galore!
YALSA Booklists -  Every award is featured on the ALA website here! 


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Coloring as Meditation - Resources

As crazy busy as things get at the holidays (and let's face it, in a school library in general) things really are crazy when you're on jury duty for an extended period. For me, I've been fortunate in that I am on jury duty three days a week, with two days to keep up with things (or at least not get quite as far behind). Anyway, back to some of the crazy goings-on making up my life lately- back in August I was contacted by School Library Journal. They had read something on the LM_Net listserv about using a coloring station to reduce the stress of my students. You might recall that late summer had me scurrying along with the rest of my school library friends to get everything ready for fall and imminently arriving students. With fall, things ramp up fast - I'm the teacher advisor for our school's Mock Trial team and FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America). Mock Trial is particular busy-- we practice 2-4 times per week in the first 3 months of school. We compete in late October and November so, we push to get the kids prepped. In the middle of all this, I got my latest Jury Duty notice. It was a call-in duty, so I decided to take a chance. The first two days (of five) went as expected, in fact after not getting called in on the Monday (Friday was Day 1), I thought I was home free. Tuesday's call was at Noon, my group was transferred to the county's main courthouse and there was an emergency shortage (gulp). I had one hour to report. Fast forward, Mock Trial has started and ended, FBLA had their fall Leadership Training Institute, and I've spent 14 days in a courtroom following the details of a complicated civil trial. Thankfully, we are in trial just 3 days per week-- I can maintain a semblance of order in my library office. Phew. In any case, I've become some kind of juggler this year and it certainly has shown me how loved I am at my school particularly. My students left me the sweetest messages:
All right, enough about me-- we are all busy. I hope you catch the fun article in SLJ and put together a sweet little stress reduction center in your library. You will be amazed! My kids just sit and color-- they put their phones down-- some may not believe, but they really do set the phone down and just focus on coloring. I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't experienced it over and over again. Take a break from your busy schedule and color a little-- you'll be surprised at how relaxing it truly is to color. I've collected some copyright-free coloring page resources, visit this Padlet for more information and links to coloring pages. Another great source is Pinterest. I'm on the site as Joy Millam and have a few too many boards (101) and almost 13k pins. I do have some great Library Boards- I hope to see you there. Feel free to drop me a line and share resources or leave comments.