Sunday, November 30, 2014

If You're Going to Surf the Web....Three Sites For Educators K-12 and beyond

Keeping up with tools is an ongoing pursuit because of the amazing turn-around (or turnover) of web tools.  Some are designed for the classroom, and those that aren't can be harnessed and adapted to use in the classroom, with the right amount of ingenuity.  Today, instead of talking about web tools, I'm going to direct you to three great sites instead.

1. wikiHow:
This site has saved me from wasting time trying to find out information from technology to making scones.  You put in a topic, and more often than not, wikiHow will have a step-by-step tutorial (along with images) to get you to the end.  What I like about this site is that it isn't as bulky as Youtube, where trying to find out information can sometimes be like pulling a tooth.  How many of us out there besides me gets frustrated with the length of time to watch it, only to find out that it's not the actual information you may need.  And to top if off, I have to wait for adverts to pop in at the beginning...You can avoid ALL of that unnecessary waste of time by using wikiHow.  Try may find it's your first go to when you need a quick answer

2. Top 100 Tools for Learning 2014:
I typed this in to search for new tools to try and lo and behold!  The Brits have uploaded their top tools list!  What's so great about this list is that it's a compilation of tools voted on by over 1,000 learning professionals from over 60 countries.  That's what I call global collaboration!!  You may know several of them, you may know a few.  It doesn't matter which side you may rest on, it's the fact that these ARE amazing tools and ones educators should get to know on a more personal level

3. Discovery Education Web 2.0 Tools:
We all know the amazing abilities Discovery Education has had on education for years.  The best part of Discovery Education is that it is constantly evolving right alongside the classroom to provide seamless integration.  This particular site is all about web tools but in different categories:  
 Presentation tools
Video tools
Mobile tools
Community tools
Related links
Each of these categories only have three or four sites except Related links, which has more, but that's MORE than a mouthful for anyone who wants to use them individually or in a mash-up (using two or more tools to create a product).

So when you have some time (break is just around the corner!!) hop on over to these sites and stay'll love what you see :)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Jackaby by William Ritter

2014, Algonquin Young Readers

All Abigail Rook wants is to live the life of adventure her father instilled in her.  When she leaves Europe to come to America in 1892, she finds more than she could have imagined….

Nearly penniless and without a place to stay, Abigail sets foot into the city of New Fiddleham hoping work is plentiful but finding nothing except the oddest man she’s ever met.  People tell her he’s a sham, others say he has a gift, still others won’t even say his name…Jackaby.  Abigail tends to believe what they say when her first encounter with him involves him seeing all sorts of fairy creatures hiding within the folds of her skirt.  With what little money she has, she finds a room for the night hoping the next day will prove more fruitful.

When she wakes up, the day proves just as dismal as her entrance, with little to no job offers available until Abigail notices an ad for an assistant for an investigative service.  Immediately going to the address all she can hope is that the job isn’t filled.  When Abigail rings the bell of the odd house she’s standing in front of, Jackaby appears on the other side.  It's explained to her he can solve mysteries and crimes using not only the power of deductive reasoning, but also his skills at detecting creatures from ghosts to trolls to banshees and more.  Both of them are uncertain about the other (Is he off his rocker? Can she handle the duties involved with the job?) but a murder of dire concern needs his utmost attention, and Abigail follows along, hoping to impress her potential employer.

At the scene of the murder, Jackaby realizes this isn’t just a murder, but one involving a dangerous creature others cannot detect.  Clues left behind are important, but more important are the auras Jackaby sees, leading him further down the dark and dangerous path to find the creature who is craving new victims and the reason behind it.  Along with a young police officer named Charlie, who hides a secret of his own, the trio begins this supernatural investigation that could lead to their untimely demise.  All isn’t what it seems and Abigail learns not only more about Jackaby and his peculiarities, but also something about herself as well. 

This is a brilliant book that entwines historical fiction with hints of mystery and fantasy all blended into one amazing adventure the reader becomes a part of right from the start.  The author, William Ritter, uses descriptive language to create a dark mood and setting but has the ability to use his main character for a slight comedic break from the dark and dangerous, creating a balance of edge-of-your-seat action with those smiles that occur when Jackaby shows his quirks and curiosities (for some reason I can SO see Johnny Depp playing this character :).  Along with the plot, Ritter creates a character with architecture as well, creating a mansion Jackaby lives in that more than meets the eye and mirrors his quirks and personality.  With all of this combined, it makes for a quick read and a hope that there are other adventures Jackaby and Abigail will share with new fans.  YA readers, meet historical New England's freshest new breed of Holmes and Watson!  Recommended 7-12 grades

Book pairs:
Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
Ripper by Stefan Petrucha

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Broken Hearted by Amelia Kahaney

HarperCollins, 2013

Anthem Fleet has it all.  She lives in a penthouse overlooking the city of Bedlam where her father is a premier real estate investor.  She is on the prestigious ballet corps as one of the prima ballerinas, and she goes to Cathedral Day School, a private school for the wealthy.  Her boyfriend, Will, is the best-looking guy in school and Zahra, her best friend, absolutely despises him.  And whereever she needs to go, Serge will take her there in her family's private car, a beautiful and expensive Seraph.  But one event will change her life and make her see the city she loves a completely different way.

Anthem has always colored between the lines but one night she and Zahra go to the Southside to party.  Never having been there before, Anthem is filled with anxiety until she meets Gavin.  He's beautiful,attentive protective.  Anthem loves the way he treats her as a normal person, like casually going by school to pick her up on his motorcycle to take her to secluded and beautiful spots on an otherwise ugly Southside.  They are in love...then Alicia Roach comes calling.

In an instant, Gavin is abducted and Anthem has a few days to come up with a ransom for his release or he dies. She's desperate and devastated and while crossing the Bridge of Sighs, she get thrown into the bubbly chemical-ridden river and dies...only to wake up in a makeshift hospital with stitches running down her chest...

With days lost and a chimeric mechanical heart keeping her alive, Anthem has to beat the clock to save Gavin from the Syndic8 before it's too late.  Or is it already?  The city has gotten derelict and dangerous since The Hope disappeared.  No one knows why he did, but they're ready for a hero comeback..someone to take the city to expose the darkness and bring it to light.  But who will it be and how is Anthem, a beautiful rich girl from the city, involved in all of it?

Kahaney writes a beautifully descriptive steampunk novel that will draw the reader in with imagery, the societies within Bedlam and the dark underbelly of crime.  With street names like Hemlock, Catechism and Oleander and places like Morass Bluffs, Fleet Tower and Hades, the reader will feel like a comic book went rogue and became a  novel based on the grandiose world, characters and plots Kahaney weaves. The citizens of Bedlam can read everything going on through the Daily Dilemma or feed their addiction with drugs like Dreamazine, rollies, and Zenithin.  It doesn't matter which side of the Bridge to Nowhere you live, most lives are the same - duplicitous, carefully covered over and never what they seem.

Best of all?  JUST picked up the sequel this past weekend!  Highly recommended for upper junior high and high school.