Thursday, January 30, 2014

January 2014 Reads

My reading year is off to a great much so that I'm thinking I need to rethink my reading goal.  So far this year I've read 12 books.  My goal is set as 60 currently.  So, one month in and I'm 20% done with my reading goal.  I think I underestimated myself a little!

It kind of blows my mind that I've already read 12 books this year while working full time and raising my girls.  To be fair, I did have an additional four days off of work this month due to the disgustingly cold temperatures.  Still, that's a lot of reading!  I frequently get asked how I have so much time to read.  We Still Read wrote a great post this week addressing exactly that, so since they already said it, I'll save my time for more reading!  The post also includes these great badges to show off when you find time to read.  I love them all, but this is my favorite:

What did I read while drying my hair this month?  So many great titles that I'm excited to share with you!
  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvator -- 5 Stars.  This was a great first read for 2014.  I absolutely loved this book.  I had great Maggie Stiefvator's Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy this past summer and liked them fine.  I was not expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did.  A slightly paranormal young adult read with great characters.  Highly recommended!
  • Cyberstorm by Matthew Mather -- 3 Stars.  Adult fiction about what happens when a cyber attack shuts down communications and power just as a giant blizzard hits.  This book was interesting because it really felt like this could happen, and I realized how vulnerable many of us would be without our usual access to communications.
  • The Blight of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler -- 2 Stars.  This is the second book in a trilogy that I borrowed from Amazon Prime.  I enjoyed the first book well enough to try this one, but overall this was kind of 'meh' for me.  The plot was still interesting enough, but the allegory and deeply religious LDS symbolism were so intense that it actually got in the way.  Not sure if I will bother finishing the trilogy.
  • Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt -- 5 Stars.  Oh my heart, I loved this book.  This book tells the story of a young girl grieving the death of her uncle.  The writing was breathtaking and the story heartbreaking.  Definitely check this title out if you haven't already.
  • Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller -- 5 Stars.  This is a nonfiction title about cultivating a culture of reading in your classroom.  Donalyn Miller and Susan Kelly researched the habits of "wild" readers.  A great read if you are a classroom teacher or a parent...or a book lover.  I could listen to Donalyn Miller talk about being a reader all day long!
  • The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvator -- 5 Stars.  This is the second book in the Raven Boys trilogy.  I was trying to put it off since I had loved the first so much and the third wasn't out yet.  I always like to have a highly anticipated read in my back pocket, but I just couldn't wait.  You shouldn't wait either.
  • Attachments by Rainbow Rowell -- 3 Stars.  Having devoured Eleanor & Park and Fangirl last year, I knew this would be an enjoyable read for me.  Not my favorite by Rowell, but still a sweet, funny love story.
  • The Distant Hours by Kate Morton -- 4 Stars.  This was my first Kate Morton, and I really enjoyed it.  This book reminded me of books like The Thirteenth Tale or The Little Stranger.  It's the perfect kind of book to read on a rainy day with endless cups of tea.
  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvator -- 5 Stars.  Hi, my name is Erin, and I'm suddenly addicted to Maggie Stiefvator.  Honestly, her Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy just didn't grab me the way that the books I've read this month have.  I completely and utterly adored The Scorpio Races.  Easily my favorite book of the month, and I think it will be a contender for my favorite book this year.  I always loved horse stories as a kid, and this was the perfect combination of horse story, mythology, and magic.  Ignore your t0-read pile and just read this instead.
  • The Curse Girl by Kate Avery Ellison -- 3 Stars.  Fun, fast Beauty and the Beast retelling.
  • Visible Learning for Teachers by John Hattie -- 4 Stars.  If I'm being honest, I actually started this book last November and it has taken me this long to finish it.  It's an excellent book, but it's dense and full of statistics.  My brain could only handle reading a few pages at a time because there was so much to digest.  This book is a comprehensive look at the things we do that truly impact learning.  If you are a teacher, read this book.
  • The Glister by John Burnside -- 2 Stars.  I'm having a hard time with what to say about this book.  We bought it when Borders was going out of business.  We have a mountain of books from that time since Ted would just bring them home.  This one caught my eye on the shelf the other day.  The cover and synopsis make it seem like a suspense/horror type story.  It is, in a way, but really there was very little plot.  The writing was great and the characters were interesting, but I didn't really get what I expected, so I left a little disappointed.
Looking back, it feels like I was a little heavy-handed with my 5 Star reviews this month, but honestly I got lucky and read a lot of really wonderful books this month.  What have you been reading this month?  What are you looking forward to reading next month?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Five Tech Things on a Friday v.9

I can't believe we are halfway through January and I'm just getting to my first Five Tech Things post of 2014.  It has been a busy but energizing start to the year.  I am loving all of the opportunities I've had to connect with teachers and share my passion for integrating technology.  I am so excited to see what this year will bring for the teachers in my schools!

Without further ado, here are my Five Tech Things on a Friday...

  • Since it is a new year, I've been thinking about my technology goals for 2014.  I'd really like to host a google hangout this year.  It's also a goal of mine to hold as many paperless meetings as possible.  What are your tech goals for 2014?  Here are some ideas to get you started!
  • In this day and age, we are constantly hearing about companies using our data for a variety of reasons. I thought this article about Facebook tracking urban migration trends was fascinating!  The data we put out there can really teach us a lot about our world.
  • As we learn to use social media as professionals, and as we teach our students about digital citizenship, I think one of the most important things to keep in mind is just how quickly a post can spread across the globe.  This is the story of how one woman's tweet cost her her job.  She thought she was being funny.  She wasn't.  
  • I am a self-proclaimed app-aholic.  I love to download apps and try them out.  Sometimes I find something fantastic, and other times not so much.  It's hard to wade through the sea of apps available while also keeping in mind that it's not about the technology, it's about what you want students to do with it.  The Analog Teacher's Guide to Bloom's Digital Taxonomy shares two websites that sort apps into skill categories.  This guide also shares a fantastic resource on research in the digital age.
  • I love seeing how far technology has come in my lifetime.  Our world has completely changed over the past few decades, and it seems to be changing more rapidly by the minute.  Check out this news report from 1981 on downloading a newspaper to your computer.
That's all the tech things for this week.  Have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

What I Want You to Know About Me as an EdTech Coach

When people see the word "technology" in your job title, they can make a lot of assumptions.  They might think you have a computer science degree, or that you will automatically know how to fix their computer.  In some cases those assumptions might be true, but as technology continues to grow and change, those assumptions simply aren't true for many of us who work with technology.  So, I thought I'd share a few things that I'd like you to know about me as an instructional technology coach...
  1. I don't have a fancy computer science degree.  I'm a teacher. I know a lot about using technology to transform instruction.  I know very little about computer science or the inner-workings of a computer.  Honestly, I'm not even sure what computer science majors learn in school!  I do know some tricks to get things working again, but that's largely from playing around and consulting with my friend Google.  Everything I've learned about instructional technology, I've learned from reading books and blogs, collaborating with other EdTech enthusiasts, trying things out in my classroom and in my personal life, and generally just playing around.  If I can learn it, so can you!
  2. I don't know how to use your phone.  Unless it's an iPhone, and then I only know how to use it because I'm an iPhone user.  And I still don't know all the tricks.  So I can't help you access your voicemail on your Samsung Galaxy, and I don't know why your Kindle Fire froze up like that.  But, I can help you find out!  I don't know everything about every piece of technology, but I do know ways we can figure out the answer together.
  3. I have very personal reasons for my passion for technology.  I'm actually not a techy person because I'm "young" or because I like gadgets.  I'm a techy person because technology has enhanced my life in so many ways.  I started a personal blog right out of college that continues to this day.  It's waxed and waned over the years, but it's been my way of telling my story.  Through my blog, and through other social media sites like twitter, I have been able to connect with so many people from around the country and the world.  And not just any people, my people.  When I was struggling with infertility, my people were there for me.  When I was awake at 2 a.m. with 2 month old twins, there was always a friend on twitter.  When my dad passed away, I got flowers from people I've never even met.  For me, technology and social media are about relationships, and I will be forever grateful for the amazing friendships that these tools have brought me.  I want to share these tools with our students  I want them to find ways to share their story with the world.  I want them to find their people.
  4. I don't believe technology is always the right tool.  It might be hard to believe when you see me sitting in front of you with my iPhone, iPad, laptop, and Kindle, but I don't think that technology is always the solution.  Sometimes a tool just isn't the right fit.  Sometimes an activity doesn't require technology.  I don't believe in adding tech into a lesson just for the sake of having tech in a lesson.  It has to mean something.  I want to talk with you about when, how, and why to use a technology tool in a particular lesson.
  5. I won't judge you for your paper lists or old flip phone.  Listen, I love my iPhone.  I do.  I can't imagine how I would do the things I need to do without it.  However, that doesn't mean that I think you have to have one too.  My phone works for me.  I don't think it works for everyone though.  The tools we use have to work for us.  I use so many apps it makes my head spin, but I just can't get behind a digital to-do list.  I have to write it down on paper.  That's what works for me.  I want to help you find technology that works for you.  It's my job to share new tools with you, but that doesn't mean I expect you to embrace each and every one.  Let's find what works for you!
  6. It's not about the gadget.  I inherited my love of gadgets from my dad, though I don't think that gene activated until I was an adult.  I have a bag full of gadgets sitting next to me, and I think they are so cool.  When I started using them with my teaching, I was blown away.  Do you know how many amazing things you can do with an iPad in your classroom? It's unbelievable.  You'll probably hear me say that a lot, but I want you to know that as cool as I think a particular gadget is, it's not about the gadget.  It's about teaching and learning.  It's about changing the way we teach and creating learning environments that help our students succeed in this ever-changing world.  iPads are amazing, but they don't transform instruction.  Teachers transform instruction.
Teachers, what is something you want your coaches to know about you?  Fellow coaches, what do you want your teachers to know about you as a coach?