Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Vacation time and reading (for fun) = good idea

The days are short, the weather is cold, and we're almost on vacation from school.  I hope you all have some wonderful plans of ways to fill your days and nights -- even if that includes catching up on some much-needed sleep!

I really hope that you will make some time during the vacation to catch up on some reading for fun -- that is, read whatever you like.  Read a book, read some poetry, read a magazine, read a newspaper.  Read a book that you hold in your hands, read online, or read with a Kindle or Nook.

There are so many choices of ways to read, and you can really have fun reading.  If you are shaking your head thinking that's not likely, I'm going to guess that it has been a long time since you actually found something of interest to you to read.  I strongly encourage you to try again.  Please stop by the Library at school, and I'll be happy to help you find something you'll like.

Please post a comment on my blog to let me know what you plan to read during the school break!  If you read something that we don't have at school that you would recommend, definitely let me know about it, ok?  I value your input!!

Have a great holiday season and a wonderful vacation!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

WooHoo! Cool Stuff at TSETC!!

It's Saturday, October 2nd, and I'm having a fabulous time at the Tri-State Education Technology Conference!  New Milford High School is the location for this conference that has close to 500 attendees and two dozen presenters. 

It is very exciting and motivating to listen to the presenters' topics and the buzz generated by them.  I'm sure that most of the teachers here will leave with a complete new bag of tools and ideas to use to motivate our students.  That's what it's all about -- engaging our students in learning by using tools and techniques that they can (and do) embrace.

Lisa Nielsen gave an enthusiastic presentation about the power of what is possible and getting around "the ban".  Adam Bellow offered a fast-paced session on ten very cool -- and free -- web tools that all of us can and should use!  Samantha Morra just gave a sensational presentation on digital storytelling, and she gave us many great ideas to incorporate.

Despite the challenges of hosting so many people/presenters, this conference is terrific!  I'm very glad that I am here to learn and participate!  I look forward to sharing some of the many resources with teachers and students!

Sunday, September 19, 2010


You may have heard the expression that "two heads are better than one".  When it comes to problem-solving of all kinds, that is often the truth.  Why?  It's all about perspective.  We each come to address questions from our own viewpoints.  To arrive at a well-considered answer, however, it is generally a good idea to reflect on the puzzle at hand from a variety of viewpoints.  

The world is getting smaller, and it is essential to apply a global perspective in our efforts to solve many of our current challenges.  Collaboration -- working with others -- allows us to see issues through multiple lenses.  This way of working may be new to you.  You can start in small, local ways and build up to true, global collaborations.

With the availability of so many Web 2.0 tools (and most of those are free), collaboration has never been easier!  I hope in this new school year that we can all try to use some of these resources in our effort to look at various issues in more global ways.  

I welcome discussing some of the options with you.  Please come to chat with me and/or respond to this post with one of your own.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Talk about an authentic learning experience!

Last Thursday, the NMHS BookChat! club skyped with young adult author, Sara Zarr.  What an outstanding experience!

Several months ago, one of our members asked about the possibility of bringing in an author to speak with our group.  Having conducted author visits in the past, I know both how valuable and how expensive that would be!  I also knew that Skype, the free software-for-online-communications service, would probably provide a workable solution. 

I browsed the list of writers who participate in  While most of them serve a younger crowd, there are some wonderful young adult authors too.  I researched the young adult authors' books to see if I could find several choices for BookChat! 

At our April BookChat! meeting, members chose one of the books I had proposed -- knowing there would be a skype possibility.   We selected Sweethearts by Sara Zarr.  I contacted the author's representative, agreed to the modest honorarium, had email discussions with a recent reference, and set up a date.  It was BookChat!'s good fortune that the NMHS Student Council agreed willingly to pay the author's fee.  We are very grateful for their generous action!

Sara was very easy for me to work with.  We sent several emails back and forth to settle various details.  Prior experience had taught her the wisdom of checking in advance that all the necessary tech elements would work well, and we did test them out  the week before the session.

In advance of our June 10th skype session, members read Sweethearts.   There was palpable excitement about the upcoming chance to see and hear a real, working author talk with our group. 

We had 13 members of BookChat! take part in our skype session, and it will remain a wonderful, memorable experience for all of us who were there.  Sara filled a full hour with discussion about Sweethearts,  her motivation for writing it, the craft of writing itself, and answers to direct questions from many of our club members.  She was very natural -- some club members were surprised at how down-to-earth a real author could be -- and, we found it very easy to chat with her.  Sara encouraged our club members to keep reading and writing, and to contact her if she could be of help. 
I enjoyed our skype session as much as the students did.  It was a bonus for me to see their enthusiasm and enjoyment.  This experience was a highlight of BookChat!'s year, and I'm so glad we were able to do it.  Talk about an authentic learning experience!!!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Important Reading: The "Speak Up 2009: National Findings" Survey

The "Speak Up 2009: Creating Our Future: Students Speak Up about Their Vision for 21st Century Learning" survey should command the attention of all stakeholders of our school community (and all school communities). This survey was commissioned by Project Tomorrow, a national organization whose mission is to prepare students to succeed in the global, technology-driven 21st century world.

This inclusive survey received input from students, parents, teachers, and administrators. The participants represented urban, suburban, and rural districts. They work at public and private schools. Every effort was made to include respondents from a range of geographical, socio-economic, and multicultural backgrounds.

Questions focused on a variety of technology tools, such as wikis, blogs, cellphones, ipods, social media (such as Facebook and Twitter), and online games. Respondents provided input on the pros, cons, benefits, and risks of integrating such technology tools into classroom instruction. Some questions concerned the independent use of such technology tools outside the classroom by students for the purposes of learning, collaborating, and/or entertainment.

The results show that these technology tools are widely used outside of school and that students can act in a very self-directed manner when given a wide berth of tools to help them reach their goals.

Please review this important survey by clicking here. I hope you will write your comments and reactions by clicking on the link for comments that follows this post.

Monday, May 10, 2010

2010 Teens' Top Ten (Book) Nominees

To BookChat! members - and all teen readers - this post's for you!

The list of 2010 Teens' Top Ten nominees has been determined, and now it is in your hands. You know what happens when people are eligible to vote and decide not to -- Don't let that happen this time. You are all eligible to vote in this one.

Every year teen advisory groups from 15 school and public libraries across the country draw up a list of nominations for favorite books for teens that have been published in the past year. In other words, teens have pre-selected a list of favorites, and it's up to you to select the final top ten from that list.

Your "task" -- so that you can be an informed voter -- is to read at least some of these books. Voting will take place online between August 23 and September 17. The winners -- the Teens' Top Ten -- will be announced during Teen Read Week in October. Please join in the fun: Read, and then vote!

There are great choices on the list too that should satisfy summer reading requirements and beyond. To see the list of books with brief summaries, click here.

Our school library has the following titles:
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson -- an award-winning author
Fire by Kristin Cashore (this is the prequel to Graceling, an excellent book)
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (the sequel to The Hunger Games, a fabulous book)
Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen -- her books are always popular
If I Stay by Gayle Forman -- thought-provoking

I encourage all of you to read some of the books on this list. After you read one (or more), please post a comment to let everyone know your reaction. Take action, and be part of the process!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Flex Your Reading Muscle!

Ahhh, spring -- The time when flowers bloom, baseball starts up, thoughts turn to getting in shape for the approaching summer, and...reading! Oh wait, were you not thinking of reading?

Well, I hope you will put it on your to-do list! Although reading isn't exactly a muscle, it is a skill that needs attention to grow. Just as you invest time to exercise to make your body fit, you need to flex your reading muscle -- by reading -- to improve your mind.

There's good news too...There are so many reading choices! If a lot of time has passed since you last flexed that reading muscle, start out easy -- Try a magazine, a graphic novel, the newspaper. What matters is that you are reading. As mentioned in previous posts, maybe you can opt to download a book to an e-reader or listen to an audiobook.

Maybe you'll decide to get back into reading a novel. Have you ever read books by James Patterson ("Maximum Ride" series), Sarah Dessen, Laurie Halse Anderson? Want something different? Try The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

What about nonfiction? You might like reading about something to do with the environment, something about politics, sports, other.

Just as with exercise, you need to change it up. If you always read the same kind of thing, you're not flexing that reading muscle as much as you might. So, go out there and exercise -- your body and your mind! Kick up your reading, and you may be surprised how much you enjoy it!

One last thing...I'll be happy to make suggestions for you, if you're not sure where to start. Just ask!

Seriously, give it a try - You might surprise yourself!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Trying Out Google Docs

Do you love using Google when you need to look up something? Most of us do. Were you aware that there is SO much more to Google than just simple searching? Next time you go to, check out some of the other features that are on the same line as Web, Images, and Maps.

Google Docs is a suite of applications that includes documents, spreadsheets, presentation, drawing, and forms. As I learned in the webinar I participated in yesterday, the drawing format is new. Google Docs continues to evolve.

If you have not used Google Docs yet, it is (they are?) quite easy to use. You need to create a gmail (Google mail) account. You can create a document/spreadsheet/presentation/etc. and then invite others to view/edit your document. When you have a gmail account established, someone else can invite you to edit his/her document.

The best part of Google Docs is that it offers a collaborative webspace for creating and editing these various types of documents. Think of the possibilities! Whether for brainstorming ideas, planning lessons, drafting newsletters, tracking team statistics, or many other purposes, Google Docs is a great way to work together - collaborate - without being in the same physical space. Google Docs is web-based, and as such, it is available wherever you have Internet access.

I urge you to try out Google Docs!!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

School Library Month

This April is the 25th annual observation of School Library Month! According to the American Library Association, "Every April school librarians are encouraged to create activities to help their school and local community celebrate the essential role that strong school library programs play in a student's educational career. The 2010 theme will be "Communities Thrive @ your library."

In keeping with this theme, I am pleased to offer a presentation to the Board of Education and the NMHS PTO to showcase some of the Web 2.0 applications that I use and that I encourage our students and teachers to use. The presentation will be this Tuesday, April 13th at 7:00 PM, and we will meet in Room 240 - across the hall from the Library. Seating is limited, but I hope all BOE and PTO members will try to join me!

I hope you will agree with the statement made by the 2010 Spokesperson for School Library Month, award-winning young adult author Laurie Halse Anderson: "School libraries are the foundation of our culture, not luxuries.”

Whether the medium is print or online, school libraries are vital to the success of our students. Numerous studies and reports point to the correlation between student achievement and the presence of a certified school library media specialist in each school's library media center.

Please click on the following links for more information:


During School Library Month, please make every effort to learn more about our school's valuable resource, the Library Media Center. I am always happy to fill you in on the services we offer.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Teachers: Learn More about Web 2.0

Although this post is available to all, I hope to attract the attention of teachers with it. Here is a newly-launched ebook that you can download for free. Just click on the link,, and you will have many Web 2.0 resources and lesson plans! Did I mention it's free???

Please give this a try. I'm certain that you will find something here that you can use as is or that you can tweak enough to make it just right for your classes. If you find something of interest, please let me know!! If you need assistance, I will be happy to see if I can help.

Web 2.0 apps are new for all of us! If you haven't tried any out yet, the ideas given here might provide the motivation you need.

I look forward to hearing from you -- Please feel free to respond to this post to let the NMHS community (and beyond) know what idea(s) you will try.

Remember that I am eager to collaborate with you on lessons, especially those involving Web 2.0 technologies. Let's discuss how we can work together!

Monday, March 8, 2010

The United Message at TEDxNYED

On Saturday, March 6th, I attended my first TEDxNYED event. At the suggestion of my principal, Eric Sheninger, I applied to this full-day conference about learning in the 21st century. I am so glad that my application was accepted, as it was a terrific experience! I will provide just a few of the gems that I gleaned there.

I want to know your thoughts about the ideas included here, so please post a comment!!

Online community organizer Andy Carvin spoke about getting teens involved in online volunteering. He gave examples of how using social media has helped to save lives, including during the recent/current crisis in Haiti.

Cultural anthropologist Mike Wesch spoke about the critical need for our students to be more than "knowledgeable"; they must be "knowledge-able".

MIT Professor Henry Jenkins spoke of the effects of participatory media on young people and the fact that social networking allows for a participatory culture.

"Chief Openness Officer" David Wiley gave the important message that without sharing there is no education. He highlighted the idea that our new technologies give us an unprecedented capacity to share and educate. However, we must still overcome the challenge of policies that block valuable websites and do not encourage openness.

Associate professor Jeff Jarvis discussed the notion that our schools are stuck in an outmoded industrial-age model. He stated that our schools should become incubators to identify and grow students' interests rather than remain factories where so-called mastery is often memorization! He stressed that we need to stop the "culture" of standardized tests and emphasize authentic learning.

Chris Lehmann, creator and principal of Philadelphia's Science Leadership Institute, gave a strong conclusion to the day's presentations. He talked about the "maddening paradox" of education in 2010, where we can do amazing things, but nobody cares unless you can pass the test. He said that while technology may not help students pass the test, it will help them learn. To be successful and functional in today's world, he posited that students must be able to think for themselves. Technology provides avenues to accomplish this goal by enabling students to create, research, collaborate, present and network.

Other speakers made equally good and important presentations. Trust me that I am barely scratching the surface in this post. There was tremendous consensus on the part of all presenters about the direction that education must take in order to prepare our students for our current and future world.

While the bulk of the day showcased these presenters and more, participants also had ample opportunity to "meet and greet" and compare notes with other educators. In doing so, I made a contact that I expect will result in my learning from someone who has already used a Web 2.0 app that I would like to try.

It is always excellent to be able to have such conversations with professional colleagues. The give-and-take allows us each to move forward without having to reinvent the wheel. The sharing that occurred at TEDxNYED and that occurs regularly through online vehicles such as nings and Twitter results in new ideas and strategies that help educate our students in 2010.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Let's Hear from You!

I'd like to know what books you have enjoyed lately. Let's use this blog as a place to exchange ideas. I encourage you to write a response to my post -- It's easy, just click on the word "comments" at the end of this post.

We definitely have readers in this school -- Some of you prefer mysteries, some prefer fantasies, some prefer romance, and some prefer to read nonfiction. So, what have you read recently that you might recommend?

For those of you who believe it would be good for you to read more, but you're not sure where to start, you might find some suggestions in my blog posts. Of course, I would love to chat with you about your interests and see if I can make some book suggestions for you. Again, as I mentioned last post, please take a look at or to get some other ideas. If you scroll down my blog page, and look to the right, you will see my Shelfari bookshelf. Please click "next" to see more of the books on my shelf. If you hover your mouse over any of the books, you will see either my review or the publisher's blurb about the book.

Do any of you use a Kindle or another e-reader? Feel free to post a comment on this blog to let us know how you like using it.

As for me, I have just finished reading Sarah's Key. It is Holocaust fiction, and it is very moving. Next up? I will read BookChat!'s next book, Wintergirls. I also want to read John Grisham's short story collection - all with a legal theme -Ford County. Jodi Picoult's newest book, House Rules, is now available too.

Looking forward to hearing from you soon!!!!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Making Connections

Making Connections --- That's what it's all about!

One of the many pleasures of reading is to share what you have read with friends and other people who like books. Online, there are several social book networking websites that offer you just that. Even if you aren't sure what you'd like to read next, these services can make you aware of many books you might enjoy.

All you need to do is register with a username and password. It's free, easy, and it gives you a chance to reflect on your reading too. You will be able both to inform others (your own friends and new online "friends") about books that you have loved/disliked/other as well as learn from others about titles you have not yet encountered.

Give it a try!

The one that I use is Shelfari ( If you look to the lower right side of this blog, you will see part of my Shelfari bookshelf. Click on the next button to see additional titles I have placed there. With Shelfari, you can build a bookshelf containing books you have already read, books you are currently reading, and books you hope to read in the future. Once you read a book, you can write a review for others to see. You can join or form a group to discuss a certain genre of book. You can view the most popular and the most highly recommended titles. You can also search titles by subject or tags. If you click on the cover of one of the books, it will open a page that provides information about that book.

Another website to consider is Goodreads ( It is similar to Shelfari, and it is also easy to use. There is a feature that offers additional interactivity: book quizzes and trivia; books selected authors are reading; book quotes popular with members; and a place to submit your writing. You can also install a Goodreads app on Facebook.

Please write a comment to this post to let me know if you have tried Shelfari, Goodreads, or a different social book networking site. Happy reading!