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Cool Tools 2.0

October 21, 2013

I’m so excited – I’m resurrecting this blog for a new version of Cool Tools!  The schedule of topics for this session looks pretty amazing!  Can’t wait to get started!


Book Review – Rose Under Fire

June 3, 2013

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
release date September 10, 2013

Rose Justice is an air pilot for the Air Transport Auxiliary in England during World War II.  She is a poetry loving eighteen year old from America, and we meet her trying to compose a report for an accident in which a fellow pilot was killed.  She is feeling guilty about leaving Celia behind, but the other pilots mention that Celia may have tried to “tip” a flying bomb in order to detonate it.  Rose has never heard of this technique, but was intrigued by it.  Her final accident report was written in verse, in a beautiful leather bound notebook.

Rose is delighted when her uncle, who has a high position in the RAF, is able to get her assigned to flying him to France.  Women pilots are not usually allowed to fly to the European continent, so this is a big deal.  The flight to France is uneventful, and Rose is particularly delighted at seeing Paris from the air.  Rose gets her uncle to his base without too much event, but is not so lucky on her return trip to England.  When she sees a flying bomb, much like the one that may have caused fellow pilot Celia’s accident, Rose tries the wing-tipping maneuver that helps detonate the bombs.  She’s successful in turning the bomb away from Paris, but soon finds herself surrounded by German fighter planes who lead her back into German-held territory.


The pilots have to report her and send her to one of the prison camps, but the commander gives her a letter which should get her a skilled job and better treatment, and she eventually ends up in Ravensbrück prison camp.  Rose does indeed land a job in a factory with German civilians, but soon realizes they are making fuses for bombs to use against the Allies, and she stops working.  This act of rebellion gets Rose landed in a much worse situation, including a horrible beating.  Rose is overheard reciting a counting poem while enduring the beating, and is taken in by a group of Polish prisoners called the Rabbits, a group of women who were used as medical experiment subjects and suffer terrible effects from them.  These women, intrigued by Rose’s poems, help protect and feed her in exchange for her teaching them her poems.

Rose and her fellow prisoners endure starvation, brutal work details, dog attacks, and the ever-present threat of death, not knowing what new horrors each day will bring, or what small kindness they might see.  There are many questions surrounding the women:  will the Americans or Soviets liberate the camp?  Can the women escape without being seen?  Will they survive another day of brutality?  What will happen after the war for those who survive?

Elizabeth Wein has written another intriguing book about World War II.  Where Code Name Verity only alludes to the many horrors endured by prisoners, Rose Under Fire describes them in detail.  Her book includes a glossary of camp vocabulary, a bibliography, and Internet sources, which underscore how thoroughly this book was researched.  (Note:  the author’s website also includes background information that is very interesting.)  Wein’s use of poetry elevates the story to a new level, much as Rose’s own poetry helped the prisoners endure their daily life, and the poems are quite beautiful.  Recommended for grades 8 and up.

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100 Book Challenge – June 2012

July 21, 2012

June was busier than I thought it would be.  Between closing things up in my library, helping with inventory at the elementary library, attending my own children’s events, I had precious little time for reading.  I did manage to read the following titles:

Insurgent by Veronica Roth
The Forgotten Affairs of Youth by Alexander McCall Smith
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
The Diviners by Libba Bray

Only four books again!! 
Running total:  39 books
I better get reading in July!!


June 30, 2012

The first course I took in library school required students to complete several modules in a course very similar to Cool Tools.  The course was designed by Helene Blowers with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.  We were required to set up a blog, explore a few of the modules (all though not all 23), and blog about our experiences.  Although it was a great way to learn, it was a bit overwhelming when combined with all the other information being thrown at us during that “boot camp” week. 

Although the format and several of the technologies we studied were the same as the ones I studies a few years ago, I got so much more out of the Cool Tools course.  Because the course is geared to school librarians, it was great to look at something and answer the question “how will this help my students/teachers/school community”?  With technology changing so quickly, this course could be repeated several times over without running out of topics to cover. 

I know that I will be incorporating many of the things I learned into my library next year, whether it be an organizational tool that I use, or a technology that I integrate into my instruction.  I also want to try to offer something like this to my faculty, maybe a “featured website/technology of the month”.  We’ll see how that goes. 

This has been a great opportunity to me.  Thanks Dee for offering it, and thanks Polly for teaching it!

Thing #9 – eBooks & eReaders

June 30, 2012

ImageAs I type this post, I have a Barnes & Noble Nook Color from my library that I am becoming familiar with this summer.  My district purchased several of them last year, and my goal is to get them in the hands of students for the 2012-13 school year.  Personally, I have not yet converted to an eReader yet, so this is a learning process for me.  I think the actual selecting, downloading and reading of books is simple enough, but when combined with all the behind-the-scenes bureaucracy that schools must go through, it makes the prospect of eReading a bit more difficult to navigate.  If I have a student or teacher who wants a certain eBook that I don’t currently have in that format, as of yet I can’t just order it on the spot.  I’m hoping the internal processes will catch up to the technology at some point.

Although I’m not feeling as proficient on the Nook as I want to be, I do feel pretty comfortable with other devices.  I use my laptop (and now tablet) to read eBooks from a few different platforms, including OverDrive (from both Mid-Hudson and Questar).  I have also checked out eBooks from the New York Public Library, which has a great eBook collection.  Thanks to a long commute, I am an audiobook junkie.  I have recently started using OverDrive with my mobile phone, and download e-audiobooks.

I also checked out SubText, which seems to have alot of capabilities built into it.  I was not totally convinced on the ease of use factor, as I had some trouble trying to purchase a book, but that could be that I was on my husband’s iPad (although I was signed in to all of my accounts, not really sure what happened).  It reminded me a bit of Shelfari and GoodReads, but maybe more education focused.

I think the biggest difficulty with eBooks right now is the ever-changing landscape about them.  Licensing/copyright issues seem to change on almost a weekly basis, and from format to format.  I try my best to keep up with all these changes on a macro level, but I’m learning to be okay with mastering what I work with on a daily basis.

Thing #10 – Websites, Portfolios, & Pathfinders

June 30, 2012

I have been reminded by my principal several times during my non-tenured teacher meetings that I need to start gathering information for my professional portfolio that is required of all new teachers.  Because I am much more comfortable with electronic things versus paper things, I really wanted to do this online rather than the binders of stuff that I saw other teachers putting together.  I already have an electronic portfolio on Weebly, that served the dual purposes of satisfying a requirement for completing my MSLIS and being ready for job searches.  Rather than just update my existing portfolio, I decided to try a new website on a different platform. 

The decision to go with Google Sites was an easy one – I love all things Google, and have integrated many of their tools into my personal and professional lives.  After an initial hiccup when I started with a template I was not crazy about, I am really pleased with how easy it is to use Google Sites.  I think this will be a good platform for my portfolio, I’m already familiar with the editors Google uses, and I’m happy with this decision.  The biggest challenge of doing this module was that most of the material I want/need to put on this site is back at school, so the site is still very much a work in progress.

The best part of this module is that I can really see that Google Sites will be very useful to me with both faculty and students.  Since most of the students I work with have used Google Docs in the past year, they all have Google Accounts.  This would make setting up a website on Google Sites very easy.  It’s also very easy to set the share settings in Google, so that student work can be done in a protected way. 

My Portfolio

100 Book Challenge – May 2012

June 13, 2012

May has been a busy month, both professionally and personally, making it very tough to read.  Add some very nice weather, and one book that was very good but very long, and I didn’t read as much as I should have.  A week and a half left of school, and then I hope to read lots and lots!  Here are the titles from this month:

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos (2012 Newbery Award)
In Zanesville by Jo Ann Beard
Believing the Lie by Elizabeth George
Bossypants by Tina Fey

Yikes, only four – I really do need to get reading!!
Running total:  35 books.