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I feel like I've just begun to conquer Web 2.0. I'm collaborating, creating, gathering, and using information like a madwoman. That's why I'm more than just a little aggravated that Web 3.0 is starting to shoulder its way into our consciousness. For a long time, I told myself that I didn't care what Web 3.0 is, that I'd be long gone before Web 3.0 became a reality. Then, when I realized Web 3.0 is actualy on its way- NOW- I decided I just couldn't understand what it is. The semantic web? What the heck?
Well, now I, and you, have no excuse for pretending that Web 3.0 is too difficult to understand. Click on one of the links above and you'll go to a great article from HowStuffWorks about how Web 3.0 will work. And below is a wonderful video created by Manu Sporny, President and CEO of Digital Bazaar, Inc., which explains the Semantic Web in very easy-to-understand terminology.
I have never done a Best Books list, mainly because although I absolutely love to read these types of lists, I generally have a hard time choosing ten favorites from a given year. I read so much, but for me to put a book on a BEST list, it had better be damn good. And some years, as much as I read, I don't read ten great books. Let's see if I make it to ten for 2011. My favorites, in no particular order:
Marie Lu's smart, fast-paced addition to the dystopia coterie begs for a sequel. Violent and bloody, Legend is an in-your-face commentary on how the chasm between the haves and the have-nots in our society continues to expand.
Not a YA novel, but I'm pretty sure The Magician King, the sequel to Grossman's The Magicians will show up on a lot of high school reading lists. It's Harry Potter for grown-ups, wizardry with humor and intellect. Completely unpredictable and totally original. I loved it.
Of the spate of dystopian novels from this post- Hunger Games YA literary landscape, Delirium stands out. Sure, it's set up for a sequel, but that won't interfere with your enjoyment of this story. Is a life without love a life at all? Delirium is a perfect read for those who grew up reading The Giver and now want a YA experience.
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is a creepy, weird, atmospheric book. I love the harsh and hearty Welsh island setting. The odd, quirky characters remind me of a kids' version of Twin Peaks. I think the use of the old photographs is a little gimicky, and sometimes, author Ransom Rigg seems more enamored of the photos than how they actually f
Kevin Brooks's new novel iBoy is built on a completely preposterous premise. That's why I didn't want to read the book at first. Well, that and the silly title as well as the laughable line just below the title: Search. Shock. Destroy. Really? Really?
Well, I'm glad I got over all of that and started reading because iBoy was, in the end, a totally unexpected, very powerful book. I still think the title is goofy and that "Search-Shock-Destroy" thing is ridiculous, but I hope other readers will overlook these details just enough to give iBoy a try.
Tom Harvey lives with his grandmother in an apartment tower in the lower middle class London projects of Crow Town. He hates life in Crow Town, the violence of the gangs, the drug deals, the hopelessness that permeates each day there. So when his childhood friend Lucy asks him to come up to her apartment after school one day, Tom almost allows himself to feel happy at the prospect of reconnecting with her. But that moment of brightness is shattered when, as Tom approaches the building, someone throws an iPhone at him from the very top floor, smashing his skull and embedding pieces of the phone in his brain.
As Tom recovers from that incident, a terrifying and unimaginable realization dawns on him: he is no longer just Tom, a very average British teenager. The chips from the iPhone that have fused with his brain have given him extraordinary powers- powers to search for, find, and manipulate information; powers to influence and control; powers to make him practically invincible.
Now Tom has a choice to make. Should he use these abilities to exact revenge on the gang of boys that assaulted and horrifically violated Lucy? Tom knows the gangs have ruled by violence, so should they now die in the same way? But if he destroys them with his rage and inconceivable powers, what does that make him?
Brooks does not make the experience of iBoy an easy one for his readers. The level of violence in the novel is jarring and sickening, and it is rendered so realistically that it takes one's breath away. The bad guys here are about as bad as humans can be, just soulless, hollow people living in futile circumstances. What makes the reader push forward is Tom, a boy who knows he's not special but who has somehow become inexplicably special. While the fights flare in Crow Town, the real battle is within Tom's own psyche, and the reader feels every one of Tom's wrenching emotions and strains with every one of Tom's impossible choices. Brooks gives Tom incredible humanity even as part of him has become inhuman.
Forgive Brooks the absurd premise of iBoy and read it. The book is both thrilling and heartbreaking in equal measure, and Tom, the haunting, haunted hero, is beautiful and tragic in equal measure, too.
I just received an email from Overdrive, a huge ebook distributor, for an ebook webinar that they're holding. The text in the email says this:
"How do you engage students who spend more time reading from a screen—on their cell phones or computers—than they do from the printed page? With eBook and audiobook downloads.
OverDrive, the leading distributor of eBooks and more for libraries and schools, invites you to learn how to make reading cool with the devices students use every day."
Reading this made me squint pensively at the screen of my laptop. Are ebooks the only way we can "make reading cool"?
My husband and I were just commenting last night to one another about the fact that our kids, who are both teenagers, spend most of their day engaged with their phones. They do everything- literally everything- with their iPhones. They communicate with people, watch TV and movies, listen to music, surf the web, read, and more, all on their phones. Does that mean that doing these things in other ways, like reading from a printed book, is NOT cool?
When did we have to start pandering to kids to get them to read or to get them to start thinking that reading was cool? Is this the message we really want to send to kids? That we want them to engage with their screens even more?
Obviously, Overdrive has an agenda here. They want to sell ebooks, so they're making it sound like that's the way to go. I don't blame them for that. But, is it what we (teachers, librarians, parents) want? I am not at all convinced that ebooks make reading cool. Reading makes reading cool. It's just a cool thing to do. I think Overdrive is sending the wrong message, albeit one that is to their advantage, when they say that ebooks are what's going to make reading appealing. Shouldn't the stories be doing that? And do we want to lose our kids to their screens even more?
Scott Westerfeld is going to have to start writing another gargantuan book series pretty soon. I just finished Goliath, the third book in theLeviathanseries, and I am going to go into Westerfeld withdrawal by November. Also, between this series and Cassandra Clare's Infernal Devices series, I've become a tad crazy for the steampunk stuff. Someone pointed out to me that the Leviathan books are not technically steampunk, as the engines described in the book don't run on steam. I don't care. So, don't tell me again that I'm mislabeling the series. At Powell's Books, they put Behemoth on the shelf in their steampunk display, so hah!
Goliath begins right where Behemoth left off: World War I rages on across Europe and Asia. It's Clankers vs. Darwinists in this revisionist version of the Great War. Aleksander, the heir to the Austrian throne, has just helped lead a revolution in Turkey and is back on the British airship Leviathan with his best pal, Dylan Sharp. By now, Dylan's secret- that he is, in fact, Deryn Sharp, a girl in disguise- is no longer quite so secret. People seem to be finding out or figuring it out left and right. But as long as the crew of the Leviathan doesn't know, Deryn is fairly certain she can stay on and continue to fly, which has always been her dream. It's when Alek finds out she's not who she says she is and worse, that she's in love with him, that things get a bit wonky.
In the meantime, the Leviathan is on a mission to Siberia to rescue the brilliant scientist Nicolas Tesla, who claims to have built a weapon so powerful that merely showing it to the world will stop the war. Anxious for peace, Alek falls in beside Mr. Tesla, against the better judgement of his advisors and friends. Alek feels that ending this war is his destiny, his great legacy, and no one can talk him out of going along with Tesla's plans. What Alek refuses to acknowledge is that Tesla is a bit of a madman, and his motives may not be as peaceful as Alek thinks.
As the Leviathan crisscrosses the world from Tokyo to Mexico to New York, Alek and Deryn meet a host of historical figures: Tesla, William Randolph Hearst, even Pancho Villa. How far will Tesla go with his weapon Goliath? Is he, and in turn, is Alek, willing to raze an entire city to show the weapon's power? And how can Alek, a royal heir fall for Deryn, a commoner?
Goliath is a fit ending to Westerfeld's action-packed series.The plot zooms along, as was the case with the first two books, though the characters take more time for quie
Absolutely everyone has noticed the rash of dystopian YA novels kicking around the bookstore these days. I was recently in the wonderland that is Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon, and their YA room had a great "I'm Dystopian!" display. Author Philip Reeve wrote about the phenomenon in this month's School Library Journal. And you can't escape the promotions for the upcoming movie version of The Hunger Games. I'm guilty of being quietly obsessed with the genre ever since I started teaching Lois Lowry's classic The Giver twenty or so years ago.
Well, in the past few years, I've read: The Hunger Games series, The Maze Runner series, the Chaos Walking series, the Gone series, the Uglies series, Incarceron, Divergent, Matched, Delerium, Enclave, Shipbreaker, The Roar, etc., etc., etc. Lots and lots of 'em. Some of them are great (Shipbreaker, Delerium, Chaos Walking series); some are very good (Maze Runner, Uglies, Gone, Incarceron). All of them are addictively readable. For some reason I cannot fathom, we are fascinated with our own inevitable, horrific future. What we know for sure: Earth will suffer many cataclysmic disasters which will (probably) be our fault; the new government of what is left of the U.S. will be oppressive and totalitarian; the poor will be really poor and the rich will be really rich. And one last thing: Some plucky teenager with mad fighting and survival skills will soon see it all for what it is and will fight back.
So what is different about Marie Lu's Legend, which will be published later this year and has already been optioned for the screen? Truthfully, not much. When I received the galley of Legend and read the back cover, I actually groaned. Aloud, not inwardly. My obsession was in danger of spilling over into compulsion: Yet another dystopian novel I must read. No, really, I just can't do it again. Please make it stop!
Still, I cracked Legend open and began. Original it ain't, but, I gotta tell you, I liked it. I liked it a lot. Despite being able to predict almost everything that was going to happen, I couldn't put Legend down. And if it's done right, it could make an awesome film. At the very least, it would be a great video game.
June is a war-ready prodigy in the future Republic of America, a perfect soldier-to-be, who grew up in the golden light of Los Angeles's richest district. Day is a prodigy of another kind. He is from one of the city's poorest districts, and he's also the country's most wanted terrorist/criminal. June and Day could not have come from more contrasting origins, but their worlds are about to collide in a big way.
When Day's family is quarantined because of a breakout of the newest strain of plague to run through the L.A. slum areas, he needs to steal some plague cure quick. June's brother Matias, who seems to be the ultimate Republic soldier, is murdered at the hospital on the night that Day tries to swipe a few vials of the cure. Now, Day is the number-one suspect in the crime, and June is out to exact her revenge.
Soon, however, June and Day cross paths in a most unlikely way. An uneasy alliance, even a touch of romance develops, and June and Day start to uncover some horrifying trut
The title of this post presents you with a sort of impossibility when it comes to actual books. Sure, when you're talking about people, you're not supposed to judge someone just based on his or her looks, but the cover is the first thing you judge a book by, isn't it? I know in these days of ereaders and ebooks, we don't linger over the covers of books the way we would in a book store. And I'm saying that as a person who reads almost everything on my iPad at this point. But I still tend to be attracted to a book based on its cover, even if I'm just browsing through the Kindle store on Amazon.
Which is why I really had no interest in Kiersten White's Paranormalcy at first. I mean, look at that cover! What distinguishes this book from all the other Starcrossed-Entwined-Abandoned-Withered-Everlasting teen paranormal fantasies out there? Nothing, if all you did was check out the cover. Pretty girl, pink gown, dark sky, wind sweeping through her hair, blah, blah, blah. That could easily be a Bella, Grace, or Nora, or any other so-called heroine of today's YA fiction standing there.
But it's not.
It's Evie. And Evie is nothing like those other girls. Sure, she's a teenager longing for family and love and acceptance. But Evie is also genuine and funny and awkward, and she stumbles over herself, and she says the wrong things sometimes, and she just wants to be normal. She's your BFF, your "Let's watch trashy TV and eat popcorn" pal. Oh, and she kicks ass. Evie is a heroine you can really root for.
Ever since she was a little girl, Evie has lived at and worked for the IPCA, the International Paranormal Containment Agency. She has a pretty special power that makes her incredibly valuable to the agency: she can see through any paranormal's glamour, that facade that most people see instead of the actual vampire or hag or whatever. Armed with her taser, Evie can tag and bag just about any wayward paranormal out there. So what if her best friend is a mermaid and the only thing close to a mother that she has is her boss? So what if she doesn't get to go to high school with real kids or get a driver's license or other normal teenage stuff? Evie is comfortable, independent, and good at her job.
But things begin to change rapidly for Evie after a cute teenage shape-shifter named Lend breaks into the IPCA, looking for intel. And someone is out there killing paranormals, too. What does all of this have to do with Evie? She's wondering the same thing. Just as Evie's falling for Lend and trying desperately to stay away from former boyfriend Reth, a seductive, gorgeous faerie, things at the IPCA start to crumble around her. Are the people and creatures of the IPCA, the only family Evie has ever known, really the good guys? How does Lend fit into what's happening around her? And why is Reth stalking her more closely than ever before?
Following Evie through this adventure is like communicating with a friend through Facebook. Her voice, that of a modern teenager struggling to understand herself and her world, is spot-on. Evie's "normal day" may not mirror those of a typical teen, but her self-conscious angst and her "I am totally falling for
As I write this, I am watching "The Matrix" on AMC. This is my absolute favorite movie of all time. They just "woke" Neo from the dreamworld of the Matrix, and he's about to find out what the real world actually is. This movie is visually stunning in so many ways. I've used it to teach about viewing movies with a critical eye. It's just a delight for a film junkie like me to watch, even if this is the fiftieth time I've seen it (at least). In addition to its visual appeal, "The Matrix" is a wonderful story about being the master of your own destiny, fate versus free will, and the dangerous reach of technology. It is wholly original.
Which brings me to Veronica Roth's Divergent, a dystopian novel set in a futuristic Chicago. What does Divergent have to do with "The Matrix?" Nothing, and that's my point. Where "The Matrix" is a highly inventive, groundbreaking movie, Divergent is a remix of The Hunger Games trilogy with a bit of The Giver thrown in for good measure.
As much as her name resembles that of a character out of The Crucible, Beatrice Prior lives not in pre-Revolutionary Massachusetts, but in post-apocalyptic Chicago. The city (The country? The world? Roth never reveals what lies beyond Lake Shore Drive) has been divided into five factions, each inhabited by people who embody that faction's virtue: Amity, Dauntless, Erudite, Candor, and Abnegation (SAT word alert! Couldn't Roth have just used Selfless?). At age 16, kids choose the faction in which they will spend the rest of their lives. Generally, that means staying in the faction you're born into. But not for Beatrice. Never feeling like she wholly belongs in the selfless realm of Abnegation, Beatrice chooses Dauntless. She doesn't know if she's right for Dauntless either, but at least she won't be bored.
As she goes through the miserable, tortuous, often gratuitous initiation process in Dauntless, "Tris" makes a few friends and a few enemies, falls for her initiation trainer (whose name is Four, by the way, which tripped me up occassionally because it wasn't always immediately obvious whether "Four" was referring to the number or the person), leaps from the roof of a skyscraper more than once, and saves her city (world?) from the evil Erudites. Along the way, Tris's narrative treats us to buckets of blood-soaked violence and the usual teenage sexual longing.
So? You're thinking that Divergent doesn't sound too much like The Hunger Games, except for the choosing ceremony, the training, the smarter-and-braver-than-she-thinks-she-is heroine, and the civil war. What's my beef with this book exactly? I don't think Veronica Roth gives us a new and interesting heroine here, at least not yet. Tris is Katniss with tattoos. The cadence of her speech, her temperament, her gritty vulnerability- they all mimic Katniss, leaving Tris without an original voice. My hope is that as the trilogy develops, Tris will find her own authentic voice. I also hope that Roth develops some of the other characters into rounder, fuller
Let's play Guess the Book. I'll tell you some plot tidbits from the book I just read, and you tell me what book it is. No peeking at the book cover to the left. It's just there for show, anyway.
A teenage girl moves to a new city and enters a new school. She is immediately fascinated with one of her classmates. He's pale and beautiful, and all of her new friends tell her to forget about him. Apparently, he doesn't pay much attention to anyone at school, and he keeps to himself. But, of course, their attraction is supernatural. The guy our heroine has fallen for is-(gasp!)-a vampire! So, against her better judgment (but right in line with her hormones) she gets involved with the bloodsucker, helps him fight the enemy vampires, yadda, yadda, yadda.
So, what book did I just read? Of course! It was Twilight! Oh, wait...Let me just look at the cover again here...Huh? I wasn't reading a Stephanie Meyer book? Really? 'Cause I could have sworn that...Oh, okay, this one's actually called Haven, and it was written by Kristi Cook. Let's stroll on over to Miss Cook's website and see what she has to say for herself. Well, what do you know! Right here in the second paragraph on her homepage, she says of Haven: "Think X-Men meets Twilight." More about my take on this statement later. For now, my review:
Violet McKenna is a self-proclaimed "freak" who, due to family circumstances, is forced to move from Atlanta to New York with her stepmother. Once in the Empire State, Violet enters Winterhaven School, a boarding school in the Hudson Valley, that she was "drawn to" in a way she cannot explain. As soon as she settles into her new life, Violet finds out the school's big secret: everyone at Winterhaven has some kind of supernatural power, whether it's telekenesis, clairsentience, astral projection, or, in Violet's case, precognition. For Violet, learning of her school's special students is somewhat comforting. Now, she doesn't have to be a freak who can see the future. She's just another student who happens to have a special power.
But all is not perfect for Violet at Winterhaven. She is immediately spellbound by Aidan Gray, a mysterious and beautiful classmate who spends most of his spare time in the school's chemistry lab, working on a secret experiment. He rarely gives his fellow classmates the time of day, so everyone is surprised that Aidan is just as bewitched by Violet as she is by him. But Aidan harbors a very dark secret, one that puts his life in constant danger, and Violet is drawn into his world despite her own misgivings and her ever more powerful visions of Aidan's death.
Haven is indeed a pageturner. It's highly readable. It is the first book in a planned trilogy, and Miss Cook certainly leaves enough loose ends to justify a sequel. Haven will fit comfortably into Barnes and Noble's "Teen Paranormal Romance" section. Fans of Twilight will find Haven, if not original, then at least satisfying.
But every detail of this book is a cliche, and this brings me back to my earlier point. I have a problem with books like Haven. By the author's own admission, this book is a combination of plots and characters from other stories. If the
This summer, my son and I are taking a trip to Oregon. He and I spent a ton of time online looking at hotel reviews and maps and room rates, and we finally narrowed it down to this one great looking hotel. We browsed the hotel's website for a while, and we ended up booking our stay on one of the travel aggregator sites. The next day, and for quite a while beyond that, I noticed that in my Google Reader feeds, the advertisements at the bottom of each entry were ALL FOR THAT HOTEL. In other words, the internet, or more specifically, Google, had been monitoring where I'd been browsing and had honed in on the place it thought I wanted. Google had personalized the ads just for me.
That idea is not a comfort to me.
Nor is it a comfort to Eli Pariser, who discusses this very issue in the following TED talk. Watch it and squirm:
Below you will find the various resources presented at OFLA 2011 by Dr. Franz Gruber and me in our session, Latin Projects Via Voicethread. Dr. Gruber and I completed two projects with Voicethread this year, an ancient architecture project with 8th grade Latin students, and an Ohio city project with 7th grade Latin students. Here you will find Dr. Gruber's slides, my slides, several student project examples, and a several other relevant links. If you have any questions regarding these or other Voicethread projects, please contect Dr. Gruber or me at:
A few weeks ago, Ben Mikaelsen came to our school as this year's visiting author. Ben was a delight, and I'll write more about his visit in another post, but for now, I want to concentrate on his philosophy about writing.
"Writing," he said, "is storytelling."
Of all of the things that I got out of Ben's visit, and there were many, this simple sentence resonated with me in a way that I never would have expected. It stuck in my brain and kept tap, tap, tapping through my thoughts. You see, in some fantasy world of mine, I consider myself a writer. I always have, from the time I was very young, around seven or eight years old. It's all I wanted to do. Well, that and read.
So, why did the utterance of this sentence have such an effect on me? I think I figured it out. See, the thing is, as much as I love to write, I am not much of a storyteller. What Mr. Mikaelsen was talking about was just letting go of the notion that every word needs to be weighty and special and telling the story you want to tell. That has always been so incredibly hard for me. When I write fiction, I gnaw my knuckles over every syllable and twist of phrase. I get so caught up in trying to make every word the perfect word, I end up writing in nothing but fits and starts. Sometimes I even give up, thinking that it'll just never be perfect so why bother.
Even now, as I write this post, I'm stewing about words. How does one overcome that? Because I think Ben is absolutely right. The story is much more important than the words themselves. If you can tell a great story, you can get around to fixing the words later. Maybe in one of the fifteen full revisions that Ben says he does to each of his books!
I have actually written a book, a YA novel called The Power of Merit Ruhl, which took me two years to write. I'm proud of it. I had a story I wanted to tell, and I told it. But I agonized over words the whole time. Now, I want to try to tell more stories. I want to write a sequel to my book, and even make it into a series. I have the stories to tell, the arc for each of the four major characters, in my head. The question is will I be able to set aside my obssession with words and just tell the stories?
My favorite books tell really amazing stories. Donna Tartt's The Secret History is a good example of this. If you've never read it, go out right now and get yourself a copy. It's the story of a small group of friends at a private college who do a terrible thing and then have to hide their mess. This story left me breathless. There is one point of such delicious suspense that I practically ripped the book because I was holding it so hard. Another example of spectacular storytelling: Rebecca by Daphne duMaurier, a book that, though I've read it many times and even taught it, can still keep me enraptured to the very last page. I don't necessarily remember all of the fancy phrasing and uses of foreshad
It is my intention to participate in this month's Teacher Challenge, a professional development program of sorts, supported by Edublogs. The Challenge will offer a month's worth of activities to help bloggers increase their readership, improve their posts, and learn from other edubloggers all over the world. I have such a busy month ahead, I hope I can keep up. I'm certainly going to try.
I never knew when I got into teaching that the profession would involve so much self-reflection. Teachers like to think about how things are going and how things can be better in their classrooms and in their schools. When I was a first-year teacher more than twenty years ago, my school sent me to a new teachers retreat. I was working in New York City, and this conference was in a very small, very rural town called Rensselaer, New York, not too far from Albany. The conference center sat in the middle of nothing, in the middle of nowhere. Literally. The rooms were bare and poorly lit. No TVs, either. At night, I felt like Kyle McLaughlin in Twin Peaks. I fully expected to open my eyes at three in the morning to see a giant at the foot of my bed.
But by the end of my three days there, the sterility and starkness of the room made some sense to me. When not distracted by TV and telephone calls and mini bars, all I did for three days was reflect, reflect, reflect. I thought about why I had chosen to become a teacher and how I was interacting with my students and where I hoped my career would take me. Turns out, the conference was one of the best I've ever attended. I went back to Manhattan feeling profoundly tranquil and thankful to have had the time to turn so much over in my mind.
Today, the Teacher Challenge asks me to reflect on my life as a blogger. And I see this as kind of a privilege. What writing this post and writing this blog in general has made me realize is that I have the time and desire to do this self-reflection. Teaching is clearly a profession that requires self-reflection, and every time I write a post, I'm doing that, even if it's not a conscious act. I may appear to be writing a book review or a piece about a tech tool, but what I'm really doing is furthering my understanding of myself: How do I relate to others? What am I hoping to accomplish? What am I really saying here?
But I have not been consistent about posting, at least, not for several months. I suppose having cancer and needing major surgery last fall is a pretty good excuse. I'm healthy now, yet I still haven't returned to posting regularly. Often, I start a post and suddenly feel like I have nothing to say. Or I feel that I have nothing original to add to the conversation and I'm just going to be repeating what someone wiser (and with many more readers) has already said. I get discouraged sometimes, feeling like a very small pebble on a road that is very, very long. I'm hoping that this Challenge will help me overcome some of these doubts I have about my own capabilities.
Blogging has been good for me. I always wanted to be a writer, and now I am writing, if only occassionally. I think I'm building up to something, though. I realize that I have plenty to say when I
To the left is the header for Will Richardson's amazing blog, weblogg-ed. I've been reading it pretty regularly for about a year. Richardson writes about things I wish I could write about, forward-thinking, pedagogical musings and contemplations about the meaning of teaching and technology and where things should be going in education. I enjoy reading his blog because his ability to create what's next and not just follow what's next is amazing to me.
Here's a link to his latest post. What's so terrific about it? I find it, and so many of his posts, thoughtful, thought-provoking, readable, humorous, honest, and most of all, it teaches me something. I cannot read blog posts about what adorable thing someone's four year-old did that day or how scrapbooking has changed someone's life. I can't read something that wastes my time. Will Richardson doesn't waste my time. He engages me and sends me down a thinking path.
You may find it ridiculous, but I used to love Jeff Jensen's weekly posts about the TV show Lost. I was a major Lost fan, and every week I looked forward to Doc Jensen's recap of that week's episode. Why? Again, he made me think, and he taught me something every time I read one of his posts. He offered not just a "here's what happened this week" recap but a brilliant piece of discourse on the show's religious underpinings, its philosophical roots, and its symbolism.
So, what is a great blog post?
1. A post with the capacity to shake me from an existence of mindless consumption and get my brain jostling with activity.
2. A post that treats me like I'm smart, too, just like the post's author.
3. A post that leaves me a bit awestruck at the ability of the author to see what I cannot. I guess that's why I love TED talks, too. These people are visionary! Hey, I want to be visionary! When am I gonna be visionary? Is there a blog I can read that'll make me visionary?
Oh, and I also like blog posts with lists. Everyone loves a good list, right?
Before I get into the activity, I want to say a big thanks to all the wonderful people who have left thoughtful and supportive comments on my blog. You're awesome, and I'm truly grateful for this community of which I have become a part.
So, the third activity for the Teachers Challenge involves doing a little blog cleaning. The activity says "spring cleaning" but considering the weather here in Ohio (35 degrees and raining; no sun for days...), I'm just going to call it a blog cleaning.
This is gonna be a short post. I hate the "About Me" page. I realize it's a necessary evil, but I really do hate it. It's just so...narcissistic! Even so, I am thankful for this activity because my "About Me" page was in desperate need of an overhaul. I refuse to put up a picture of myself. I use one as my avatar on Tweetdeck, and I can't believe I have my numerous followers (15 at last count!) look at a picture of me every time I post something. I have to change that. I have been reading other people's posts, and they are much more interesting than what I'm writing here. Why are you even reading this? Read theirs!
And as far as adding another page, I will do that real soon. I'm going to add a page about my conference presentations, etc. But I'm not doing it right now. I'm both too busy and too lazy (You can be both at the same time, you know.). So the small updates I've made with have to suffice. My post will be all the way down at the bottom of the comments section for the activity, so I doubt anyone's going to read it anyway. If you are reading this right now, welcome! And good night!
The hideous attempt at a PicassoHead of myself is at left. In the past, my students have absolutely loved this kooky web tool, so when it was suggested to make an avatar using it, I thought I'd have fun. Well, sure, it's fun when you want to make something weird and wild, but making an avatar for oneself? More like humiliating. Just to clarify, I don't look like that.
But in creating this (Teacher Challenge Activity #4), I started thinking about how I identify myself on the web. Sometimes, my avatar is a stack of books. Other times, I use the shield of my school. And then there are the times when I use a picture of all the cute guys from "The Outsiders" movie. Oh, and on Tweetdeck, I use an actual picture of myself (a terrible mistake that I addressed in an earlier post). That error in judgement aside, I can say that I generally identify myself as a book lover, a proud member of The Columbus Academy community (even more proud if we have a snow day tomorrow), and someone who has been kind of obsessed with The Outsiders for about 20 years.
Now, I'm not going to say that those three things tell you everything about me, not even close. I am also a great mom, a fabulous wife, a cancer survivor, an art aficionado, a writer, and a teacher. But those three things- books, the CA shield, and The Outsiders, are a good place to start if you're trying to understand me. My avatars are a metaphor for my identity. I am not just one thing, but an amalgamation of lots of things. Some days, I am that book lover, and I feel that being a librarian is the complete embodiment of who I am. Sometimes, I am my school. It is my home, a place of love and true joy for me. And then there are the times when I am just a nostalgic 80s girl. One who still, yes, still has a chance to nab Rob Lowe.
So, pay no attention to the picture at top left. That's not my avatar. That's not how I would ever identify myself. Instead, I present myself to you as:
Maybe this is what my blog is for... just posting stuff I think is cool. Here's a wicked cool slideshow of amazing libraries around the world. The library pictured above is at Yale, in New Haven, Connecticut, but most of the pictures are from other continents. Here at my school, we're in the process of talking about building a new Middle School building. I don't think the new library will look like any of the ones in the slideshow, but a girl can dream, can't she?!