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Showing posts from May, 2014

Book Review: When We Wake

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Summer Read #2 - frozen Australian teen girl faces dystopian future but still finds time to fall in love.

Karen Healey's When We Wake is told by the book's main character Tegan, a sixteen year old girl who likes the Beatles. Her tale is often divided into seemingly different vantage points that combine into a singular moment at the book's conclusion. Readers join Tegan as she tries to make sense of a futuristic world.

One day Tegan was a happy teen on her way to a protest rally with friends, when she is shot dead, only to be revived over a hundred years later. While Healey's futuristic world is different it still remains plausible. Sprinklings of scientific terminology allow readers to believe cryogenics could work but it's the same teenager social struggles and uncertainties that draw readers in.

Book Review: The Clockwork Scarab

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My first book of the summer was a fun adventure about two teenage girls in a steam punk world. The niece of Sherlock Holmes and Bram Stoker's sister must unite to solve a series of perplexing murders.

Colleen Gleason crafts a compelling nineteenth century London for her characters to explore. Mina Holmes and Evaline Stoker are true to their respective families and display uncanny resemblances to their more famous relatives.

Readers will be drawn in to each girls' struggle to fit into society, understand the advances of bachelors and deal with family pressure. Typical teenage struggles are set against a backdrop of Victorian mores and cultural faux pas. As if that wasn't enough, a time traveling stranger draws the girls dangerously close to our world.

$1 Textbook Find

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Picked up the full Go! Office 2007 textbook, with unopened CDs, for only $1 at Goodwill yesterday.

I had the Word, Excel and PowerPoint sample curriculums but never got the Access book. I really like that there are video files with this master book.

Of course it's designed for Office 2007, but I appreciate the organization of the text, the volume of exercises and the videos. These can all be modified and used to supplement almost any office software.


Name Tag Yearbook Theme

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The 2014 Crimson Tide yearbook used a name tag theme with the slogan "Hello, my name is." The cover was designed to look like a rugby shirt with black and red horizontal stripes. The school name and year are on the back cover.

The front cover included an image of a typical name badge. As students picked up their book, we had sharpie markers and made them sign their name directly on the cover. This helped with less lost books and everyone had a custom cover.

The theme kicked off on the table of contents page (Introductions) with an image of several iconic students in selected outfits. Name badges are one way of introduction, but we often identify ourselves based on interests and activities. The students were chosen to represent a cross section of the student body.

Student life section included chapel services, the musical and drama performances, senior leadership, homecoming, and work. Signature elements include cutout photos above a copy block made to look like a name badge.…

Beginning or End?

It's all a matter of perspective. So many parents and students choose to focus on the last day of school. But I contend that our attention is often misplaced.

While not diminishing the achievement of completing high school, the ultimate goal is preparing students to excel in the world. The true celebration should focus on each student's embarking on a wonderful new journey.

Many times students have little idea what that journey entails, or where it will take them. That fear can cause us to deny there even is a journey stretching out before them. But if they have been truly prepared, uncertainty need not produce fear.

We celebrate past achievements, because they enable a better tomorrow. Congratulations to the class of 2014, may your future be focused on God as you face life's challenges ahead.

The Big Reveal

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Yearbook distribution day is always exciting. Yesterday was our first spring delivery and so far I've heard good things. I think this book carried the theme better than our previous books through a consistent look.

One of the neat features was the name tag on the cover. We made everyone sign their name in permanent marker on the cover of their book. This way everyone had a personalized cover before they left the distribution table.


Robotic Takedown

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It's flattering when students think your the best programmer in the world. It's all the more exciting for them when their robot takes the teacher's bot down.
The computer science guys had their Lego Mindstorm NXT Sumo Bot contest today. They had lots of fun and used quite a bit of problem solving skills. I spent most of my time helping them work through bugs in the code, logic errors and figuring out why the robots were not behaving the way they wanted.

My code was the most complex, using two sensors: a light sensor to detect the edge and an ultrasound to sense how close the other bot was. Where I got into trouble was writing a functioning code, but not having a plan to attack.

The next challenge uses the same playing surface, but will have a couple dozen plastic gold practice balls scattered about. We are going to see who can clear the circle of all the golf balls in the shortest amount of time. This is a similar problem for robotic vacuums, lawn mowers and most distribu…

Organizing Audio/Video with PowerPoint

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PowerPoint can be less about visual presentation and more about organizing the media.

Last night was the school's spring music concert with the theme "Turn Up The Radio." Songs were grouped by style as if they were on different radio stations. There were even DJ's to announce and entertain between selections.

I was given two CD's with ten different audio files, a YouTube video and a slideshow with words to one of the songs. That was a lot of media to juggle, switching between iTunes, Internet and PowerPoint.

The solution was to develop a single slideshow for the entire concert. By keeping the graphics simple, the audience could still focus on the performers and I could manage all the media in one place. Transition scenes had audio files embedded, set to play automatically with the icon hidden.

Each "station" used a different background color, and song slides simply listed the song title and group performing. The one soundtrack that show choir performed…