15 Minute Writing Challenge – Day Minus One

I’ll make a valiant attempt to “clean up my language” in today’s entry.

Today, I sent in a workshop proposal to VSTE (The Virginia Society for Technology in Education). I’m hoping to present a 2 1/2 hour “bring your own laptop session” on a new teaching method that popped into my head full grown, and that I’m calling, “Circle the Laptops”. It’s a play on words from the phrase “Circle the Wagons”. (The theme of the conference is pioneering.)

I was able to type up the proposal pretty quickly. I just hope it made sense to the folks who will be reviewing it.

After a good nap, I woke up with ideas to flesh out the basic skeleton plan and wrote up Draft One of the workshop lesson plan. The structure in that draft feels solid to me, so I hope to stay with it and not make the mistake of constantly thinking I should tweak it a bit to make it just perfect.

The major work for the workshop remains to be done, of course. First, I need to locate and study the resources I’ll be using and those that I’ll be recommending to the workshop participants for possible later use, and then, I will need to create the various parts of the presentation.

I’m also hoping to work with some of my students to prepare a podcast for use in the presentation since one of the touchstones for the concept of “Circle the Laptops” is to recognize that students often (always?) are more advanced than adults in their use of technology and that by making their thoughts, experiences and knowledge an integral part of the fabric of a lesson plan (and the preparation of lessons) we can hope to stay ahead of them by mixing our knowledge of resources and research skills with their awareness of the latest and greatest of what’s out there in technology.

I think that I’ve about used up my fifteen minutes of writing time for today. I hope that you will look for my workshop if you will be attending VSTE. Also, if you want to participate in the 15 Minute Writing Challenge, be sure to go to Laurie Halse Anderson’s blog for more information.

15 Minute Writing Challenge – Day Minus Two

I’m going to participate in Laurie Halse Anderson’s WFMAD challenge this year. If you’d like more details you can check the instructions from last year which also apply this year at http://halseanderson.livejournal.com/198027.html?page=1#comments. Laurie’s also on Facebook, so you could friend her there.

The challenge doesn’t actually start until August 1st, but I’m excited about it today, so thought I’d try for a practice 15 minute writing today on the topic: “Why I am excited about the WFMAD challenge”.

OK, that’s 2 minutes down. LOL

I think that the first and major reason I’m excited is because this is a project Laurie has designed. I feel like I’ve gotten to know her pretty well on Facebook so, in addition to being a big fan of her books, I admire her as a person and appreciate her as a friend.

You might think that a reason why I am participating is that I want to be an author, but that simply isn’t true. I would much rather enjoy the writings of truly gifted authors than spend time trying to hack out something myself.

I would like to post to my blog more regularly though, so I hope that this challenge will help me get into the habit of doing that.

I’m also excited because this is not a terribly daunting challenge. The rules are very flexible, and if/when you fall off the wagon it’s OK to get back on.

I’ll be starting back to work on August 10th, so I’m hoping that joining the WFMAD challenge will give me a chance to set out some of my ideas for the new school year.

And I think I’ll finish up here with a few of my current ideas for school.

Thanks to such fortunate concurrent events I have been drawn back into a project from last year where I was trying to put together lists of books for my students. (Actually, you can see the drafts of the lists in the previous entry on this blog.)

I’m designing some FAQ signs for my library in hopes that they will help to guide students in finding the most frequently needed resources on land and sea and in the depths of cyberspace. The only one I’ve got done so far is on how to locate books using Destiny. I don’t find that the name Destiny is of any help in understanding what the program is used for, so I hope that having a FAQ sign up will be of assistance.

I’ve been thinking about a cool design for a Welcome Back sign to hang above my first book display of the year. Print some simple photographic backgrounds on paper so it can be used as a sort of base stationary. (I have a good simple photo of beach sand and water that I’d like to use.) Then I could run the paper back through the printer to add one big letter per page. Debating yet how complex the letters should be. I tend to go overcomplicated, so I’ll probably just give each letter a different color.

My 15 minutes is up, so I’ll close for today. I’ll be back…

Top Ten Lists in Progress

I’m working to come up with a variety of book lists to help my students decide what they’d like to read next. The lists here are in progress, and I’m hoping you will know of other books that should be on the lists and will post a comment to let me know what those are. There are some list titles that don’t have any books under them yet. Like I said, it is a work in progress. Also, if you think of better list names, please let me know that in your comment as well. You’re welcome to copy, adapt and use these lists–no making money off of them, of course. 😉

Books With Surprising, Shocking and Twisted Endings

The Adoration of Jenna Fox
My Sister’s Keeper

Best Series

Tomorrow When the War Began Series by John Marsden
The Maximum Ride Series by James Patterson
The Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer

Books About Vampires

The Top Seven:

1. The Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer
New Moon
Breaking Dawn
2. The Secret Circle Series by L.J. Smith
The Awakening and the Struggle
The Fury and Dark Reunion
The Initiation and The Captive, Part I
The Captive, Part II and The Power
3. The Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead
Shadow Kiss
Vampire Academy
4. The House of Night Series by P.C. Cast
5. The Blue Bloods Series by Melissa De la Cruz
Blue Bloods
6. Southern Vampire Novels by Charlaine Harris (The Sookie Stackhouse Series)
Club Dead
Living Dead in Dallas
Dead As A Doornail
All Together Dead
7. The Cirque du Freak Series by Darren Shan
Vampire Mountain
A Living Nightmare…
Trials of Death
The Vampire Prince
The Vampire’s Assistant

Also Excellent:

The Vampire Knight Series by Matsuri Hino (Manga)
Volumes 1, 2 & 3
Vampires: Opposing Viewpoints 398.45 SCA
The Annotated Dracula 398.21 STO
Vampires 133.4 VAM
30 Days of Night by Steve Niles (Manga)
Any Way You Want It by Kathy Love
Dead is the New Black by Marlene Perez
Sucks to Be Me by Kimberly Pauley
Dracula by Bram Stoker 823 STO
Evernight by Claudia Gray
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
Night Road by A.M. Jenkins
Peeps by Scott Westerfield
Sunshine by Robin McKinley
Vampires 133.4 HAM
Vampires 398.45 KAL
Vampires: In Their Own Words SC VAM`

Books About Demons

The Devouring by Simon Holt


You Are So Undead to Me by Stacey Jay
Zombie Blondes by Brian James
The Boy Who Wouldn’t Die by William Sleator
Generation Dead by Dan Waters
Zombies 398.45 HAM

Stories About Survival in a Grim Future

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer
So This is How It Ends by Tui Sutherland
The Clowns of God by Morris West
Armegeddon by Jane Yolen

Books About Suicide

Thirteen Reasons Why

Books That Made Me Laugh Out Loud

Fantasy Books
Science Fiction Books

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Tear Jerkers

Books That Nearly Scared Me to Death

Love Stories



Best Teen Authors

Laurie Halse Anderson
Jodi Picoult
Scott Westerfield

Books That Ask the Question: “What Would Someone Do for Love?”

The Adoration of Jenna Fox
My Sister’s Keeper

Books About Girl Groups

The Clique Novels by Lisi Harrison
Invasion of the Boy Snatchers
Best Friends for Never
It’s Not Easy Being Mean
The Private Series by Kate Brian
Invitation Only

Best Books About Superpowers and Special Abilities

The Maximum Ride Series by James Patterson
The Angel Experiment
Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports
School’s Out Forever
Final Warning
Superpowers by David J. Schwartz

Redesigning Facebook — What the Users Want

It’s clear that many facebookers are unhappy with the redesign of Facebook. This is a chance for us to come up with some ideas for making the design more user-friendly. And you’re not limited to 140 characters!

I’ve spent just a short while trying to find a web site with useful design tips that would apply in this specific situation, but haven’t had any luck. I hope some of you will do further research and add links in your comments.

My first thought about Facebook is that it has several different purposes that need to be kept in mind, and handled in different ways:

  • Status Reports (“What’s on Your Mind”)
  • Apps Postings (Easter Eggs, Quiz Results, etc.)
  • Wall Postings
  • Advertisements
  • Friends Information (Including “People You May Know”)
  • The Inbox
  • Profiles

Since I only joined Facebook shortly before the new design was put in place, I am not all that familiar with how the old design worked. Hopefully some of you can address those issues in your comments.

Here are a few of my ideas for improving Facebook. I hope you’ll come up with some that are far better in your comments.

  • Gather related items on one part of the page. The center column should be reserved for “What’s on Your Mind” and replies to those posts.
  • Remove or increase the 140 character limit from “What’s On Your Mind”.
  • To better utilize space, the “What’s On Your Mind” posts could stop at 140 characters (or less) and have a link to see more.
  • Move all apps information to a location of its own–probably the right hand column.
  • Gather all friends information in the left hand column. Lists of friends, links to add friends, people you may know, and the groups you have set up for friends should all be together.
  • The Inbox feature needs to be more prominent if it is going to be the only private means of communication. The Inbox tab is too small to be readily noticed, and its name does not clearly reflect that you can compose personal messages there.
  • Advertisements are important to Facebook having the financial means to continue providing their service. I don’t have a good idea of how to handle those or where to put them, but I know they have to be included.
  • Wall postings seem to show up in more than one place. Sometimes I see them in the right hand column, sometimes in the center. This is another situation where I don’t have an improvement idea. Any ideas out there?

I hope that I’ll get a lot of comments here. With all the uproar over the re-design, I would think Facebook would be open to some user input.

Oh, also, feel free to disagree with my ideas. If I thought I knew the solution I wouldn’t be asking for help here!

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Speaking of bad design, the link to add comments to this post is in tiny, tiny print below the post.

The Amusement of Technology Problems

Doesn’t matter what year, there are always strange tech problems that we fix so frequently it comes to seem natural. When I was a tween/teen I had the most marvelous ten-speed bike. I even named it: Ums. I constantly biked around the small college town where I lived…except for when the chain slipped off the derailleurs and I had to get off the bike and fix them. Years later an in-law commented that every time he saw me with the bike I was fixing it, not riding it. I hadn’t thought about it until he said that, but he was right. I was so proud of that bike and so much enjoyment from it that I didn’t even notice how much of my time went into the basics of keeping it running.

And now there is my freaking modem and Internet connection. In an evening of using the Internet I find it necessary to stop 8 to 10 times because I lose my Internet connection. I unplug the modem, wait about 20 seconds, plug it back it back in, wait for it to negotiate, and then check my connection by launching WeatherBug all before taking the risk of returning to using my browser. And that’s when I don’t have to disconnect, turn off the computer and start everything back up from base level.

Bicycle — Modem. It’s the same thing. Maybe I should name my modem Ums, Jr.

Some WD-40 might have helped the bike. I have requested my ISP to send me a replacement modem, and if that doesn’t work I’ll be switching my account to either cable of satellite in spite of the hassle of changing my e-mail address and etc.


Having Learned Something About Web 2.0

I am reading Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky I am grateful to have found this book. I had gotten the impression (rightly or wrongly) from projects such as 23 Things, that the best way for me to understand Web 2.0 was to go forth and create my own blogs, wikis, etc.

Here Comes Everybody talks about the Power Curve, best known for the 80/20 application common to businesses, etc. According to the Power Curve, the first one or two blogs in an area will be significantly more successful than those from third position on down. Twenty percent of the blogs will have 80% of the readers. 80% will have only one reader. (And I sometimes think that reader is the person who is writing the blog–at least in my case.)

It doesn’t mean that keeping a blog is a bad thing, but it takes the pressure of trying to “sell” your blog to others off. I can now comfortably think of my blog as a place for my own musings and for my own reflection and remembrance on/of those musings. And I can concentrate more time on following the 20% of blogs that are successful and offer me a reading benefit.

I’ve also learned a lot about Wikipedia and why it works, as well as the concept of Wikis and why they have to have an interested audience even if it is small and temporary. (As in my YALSA class on young adult lit.)

There is also a disturbing comment about the (non-existent) future of librarianship in the book. I’ll need to consider that further. I know the idea has been discussed at length on LM-Net.

I have more of the book to read. I’ll see what else I can learn there.

Got etymonline?

Callimachus has turned me on to etymonline.com. I feel like a kid in a candy store when I go there.

When you visit be sure to scroll down and look on the far right of the screen for links to sister sites and to related sites. My favorite is the comments area: Sciolist. It goes far beyond just etymology, and in fact goes in another direction all together.

BTW, this is the website I was looking for when posting about Alphabet Juice.

What are your favorite words/language sites, books, and magazine columns?

I’m an Early Reviewer!

I signed up to be an Early Reviewer at LibraryThing and will receive a free book for the first time this month (actually in 8 weeks or so, maybe less).

The pre-pub book I’ll be reviewing is When the Time Comes: Families with Aging Parents Share Their Struggles and Solutions. Based on the title, I think it is a very timely book since so many of us are currently in the position of wanting to help our elderly parents while helping them retain their pride and independence.

My short review will be on LibraryThing. I’ll post a longer review here, and link to it from LT. I hope you’ll come back to read it.

You can help me review the book if you’ll answer these questions:

  1. If you’re caring for elderly parents is it your mother, your father or both?
  2. Do they live independently in their own home; with you; or in a home for the elderly?
  3. What struggles are you facing, and what solutions have worked for you?
  4. Have you thought ahead to the time when you will be elderly and need to have care? What do you see happening to you at that time?