Saturday, August 29, 2015

There's A Dinosaur In The Room

Yesterday, I had a great experience.  I hosted Book Club for my English Department at school.  This is a new adventure for our group, and as I proposed it, we won’t all read the same book.  Instead we will each share what we’ve been reading.  6 colleagues attended yesterday, and we had a great time.  We ate, we drank, we gossiped and complained, but we actually talked about books – quite a lot! 

At some point, while we were talking, I realized everyone in the room – except me – was looking at their “smart” cell phone.  1 person actually ordered a book that was being discussed.  Another “liked” an author on Facebook.  Still another added titles to her Want-to-Read list on Goodreads.  Another looked up poems by a poet that was being discussed.  All the while I sat with my “dumb” phone in my pocket.  At some point it vibrated, but I didn’t look at it.  (Later, I saw that I’d gotten a text message from the only other colleague I know who doesn’t have a smart phone.) 

Silly me.  I had brought out a stack of notecards and pens and suggested that we each do a notecard for our book so that people who come to future meetings could look through what we discussed and ask questions if they were curious about something….  The notecards never left their stack on the counter.  Someone jokingly suggested we could set up a Google Doc to share – a direct reference to all the “Google Doc’ing” that is going on at school.  I flipped this person off. 

My school district and my building principal have been pushing technology upgrades for years.  I held on to a paper gradebook for a couple of years after we moved to online grade systems - and I kept records in both simultaneously.  My reasoning was that if the online system went down, I still had an accurate record of grades.  I don’t remember any of the various systems ever going down to the point where I had to rely on my trusty old-fashioned paper gradebook.  After a couple of years of duplicate record keeping, I gave up the paper gradebook.  I’ve never regretted it, nor have I been tempted to pick one up again. More and more, we are asked to bring our electronic devices to meetings so we can access documents that are being discussed – all this to cut down on paper hand-outs.  A noble cause to be sure.  We are saving paper, but I have to wonder what we are losing…

I remember vividly a teacher who was retiring about the time I left my previous school.  This was in the late ‘90s when technology was gearing up in schools.  We were just starting to be asked to use online gradebooks, and we were having all sorts of professional development meetings about technology, and she was resisting mightily.  I believe that was one of the things that pushed her to decide to retire when she did.  She was finding it increasingly difficult to navigate the demands of technology.  Now, I am the one who goes to building level meetings and complains about the push toward technology being excessive. 

Hubs tells me I’ve done amazingly well with all the tech stuff.  I guess I have.  I have my students share Google Docs with me rather than handing in “paper” assignments, and they use technology for other assignments in school.  PowerPoint has become my best friend - gone are the ol' overhead projector transparencies.  My financial world has also gone largely paperless.  Gone are the days when I sit at my desk and pay my bills with old-fashioned checks put into an envelope that gets a stamp on it.  But… I still don’t have a smart phone. 

Today, after crying over a retired friend’s blog entry about the sadness of not having a first day of school this year, I decided that I am never going to retire, and I started doing research into buying a smart phone.  One friend has an iPhone 6 that she loves.  Another has an iPhone 5c that she loves.  I’m looking at a Galaxy Note 5 because it has a stylus – see I just HAVE to have a pen in my hand even to write on my electronic device!  I have decided that if I want to keep up with my ever-changing professional world, then I need to drink the electronic Kool-Aid.  If any of you have recommendations for the best device for me, please let me know! 

…but just so you know… I’m STILL not getting on FACEBOOK, so don’t even GO there!
:) Amy

P. S.  I'd love to share the book titles that were discussed yesterday, but I didn't write them down, and now I don't remember them!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Sometimes Nature is Too Cool for Words

Is it a Hummingbird?  Is it a bee?  Is it something else?

Yes, it's something else! Even though we call it a birdbee, it's a Snowberry Clearwing Moth.

Enjoy this video from Inniswood Metro Park:

Thanks for visiting!  Come back again soon!


Sunday, August 2, 2015

Orphan Train - Book Review

Orphan Train - a novel - by Christina Baker Kline,  2 Thumbs way up for this one - and I would add more thumbs if I had them!

This book is historical fiction based on real orphan trains and the people who rode them.  Between 1854 and 1929, trains transported children who were orphaned or abandoned and homeless from East Coast cities to towns in the Midwest for adoption.  More than 200,000 children took these train rides.  They would start in one town, and any children who were not chosen by families there would get back on the train and go to the next town.  Everyone's ultimate hope was that all the children would be chosen at a train stop and would not have to go back to an orphanage in the East.

Before I read this book, I had never heard of Orphan Trains.  Now I know there is a whole network of information about them and the lives of these children.  Likewise, the author Christina Kline explained in the end notes of the book that she had not known about Orphan Trains either, but once she started learning about them, she was driven to write this book.

The book weaves two stories together.  One is the story of a young immigrant girl from Ireland who is put on a train bound ultimately for Minnesota after having lost many of her family members in a fire in their tenament building in New York City in the 1920s.   Story two is about a modern teenager living in Maine who has been shuffled between homes in the Foster Care system.  The two stories are brought together when Molly, the girl from Maine, goes to the home of 91-year-old Vivian to do community service.  We learn that Vivian was the Irish girl on the train.

The book is very well-written, and I found it fascinating.  Also in the end notes, the author mentions many of the references she used for research.  Now I'm anxious to do some research myself.  Just in putting together this blog entry, I did a Google Image search for "orphan train" and found many many photos that are intriguing!  Here is an example of one of many photos of wanted posters that were used as the trains went west.

I know that I need to find a way to use this book at school.  Get one for yourself and let me know what YOU think!

Thanks for reading! See you again soon!


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Super Quick Movie Reviews

Selma - Loved it - highly recommend it.  Possible questions about the accuracy of the portrayal of President Johnson?  Need to research this issue.

Lady Chatterly - In French with Subtitles - very long - very slow in places (can fast forward for long stretches without missing anything important).  Filming is very different than typical American movies - little to no use of "mood music".  Full frontal nudity and some very steamy sex scenes.  Not suitable for children.  I recommend as long as you are ok with the issues mentioned here.

Gone Girl -  Long, very complex and confusing, creepy at times - left me feeling a bit unsettled for a time.  I recommend this one for anyone who likes creepy thrillers and is willing to pay attention to details.

That's it for today.  Sorry to disappoint all my readers who love my long, rambling entries!

Thanks for stopping by - see you again soon!