Sunday, May 31, 2015

Book Review: The Bookman

In The Bookman, Lavie Tidhar masterfully weaves fictional characters and a steam punk rewritten history into a complex mystery. Readers follow the perils of Orphan, a man of unknown origin who has lost everything through the death of his beloved Lucy. Through his search for answers and the hope of regaining Lucy, Orphan must confront the Bookman.

I loved the way Tidhar weaves classic literature throughout the plot. Fictional characters mingle beside the authors who spawned them. Exotic locations give the story a sweeping scope on par with any action movie. Subtle mentions and slight references to key inventors, authors of classic literature and slightly obscure technology inventors solidify the story into a fanciful steam punk world of possibility.

It took a couple chapters for me to grasp the role of Lizard monarchs but eventually their presence is explained. Perhaps as a Whovian, I can willingly allow fantastic alien creatures to mingle with humanity, though the enigmatic Doctor does not appear to rescue Orphan. Overall I enjoyed the book, but don't expect a tidy ending with all the answers. As the book emphasizes, there are choices and possible outcomes - we may speculate on alternatives but have to live with the results.

There were a half dozen expletives that could have been left out. The violence and romantic content was mildly presented, enough to know that Orphan is driven by his passion for Lucy and that dangers are real. If the book were made into a movie, it would probably be rated PG-13. Anyone who loves classic literature, history or steam punk adventure will find something to like about The Bookman.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Summer Break Day 1

Stopped by Buggy Works to pick up a replacement window crank. Not a perfect match but the price was right. I also took a nap and caught up on some reading. Every year I'm amazed at how exhausting school is and how long it takes me to unwind. #60daysofsummer #vwbug

Friday, May 29, 2015

60 Days of Summer Challenge

Are you ready? There are exactly sixty days before school begins, let's not waste it sitting around "bored". I nominate all my @kcsavon friends to the 60 Days of Summer Challenge! Here's the rules: 1. Post one photo every day. 2. The photo cannot be a selfie. 3. Show us what you did, for example reading a book, swimming or shopping, etc. 4. Add #60daysofsummer 5. Challenge your friends and classmates to join the fun!

In An Instant

Let the summer fun begin! #orangeleaf

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Same But Different

Watching the Indy 500 and thinking my VW Bug is a lot like an Indy Car: occasionally won't start, sometimes can't engage 1st gear, no power steering, no power brakes. I'll just blame my aero kit for keeping me under 70 mph 🏁 #vwbug #indy500

Start Your Engines

May everyone stay safe and have fun at the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500. Enjoy the Memorial weekend and the unofficial start to summer! past the grandstands by ben biddle on Flickr. #slotcar #racing

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Superhero Bulletin Board

Love this bulletin board at my local library! The string is tied into the room and the paper torn to appear as if Spiderman is busting into the space. Colors and character could be modified for any 3D effect!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Crafting Custon Curriculum Guides

I have over a dozen different instructional design books on my shelf and a half dozen more on classroom management. Finding the right lesson planning system is almost harder than teaching.

Whether we like it or not, education has become a scientific method for training children. Everybody wants excellent results, and has a theory on how to produce them. There are a lot of good ideas but also a lot of things that do not work well in my particular situation.

For what it's worth, here's the process I've begun using to develop my own curriculum or to tweak a program already in use.

  1. Understand the Standards - these are the main objectives, the benchmarks that must be met. (E.g. Indiana Standards for Construction Technology)
  2. Develop a single concept for the course. This is the question that drives all inquiry. It becomes the answer to the question of why we are studying this. If students are finding the answer, they are less likely to feel the class is a waste. (E.g. Students will test the relationship between a plan and purpose.)
  3. Biblically integrate the course concept. As a teacher at a Christian school, this is fundamental to establishing our unique perspective on the world. I have found this Biblical Integration website to be very helpful. (E.g. How does a plan reveal purpose? Compare Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 8:28)
  4. Organize into Units - this is sometimes already done with textbooks. Units become a way of subdividing or organizing the standards. For my example class I have two units, one on home design and another on bridge design.
  5. Define assessment strategies - know how you will measure student outcomes. If you don't know where they need to go, you cannot help them get there.
  6. Craft Activities for each Unit - these will define the pacing and how students engage with content. I currently lean on Bernice McCarthy's 4MAT system as a way to differentiate instruction. I've also been trained in Architecture of Learning and will pick and choose ideas from other texts.
  7. Document and refine - probably the most tedious and my least favorite. I would rather "just do it" but have discovered that copious notes make the following year easier. I really like the layout and organization of Harvard's Creative Computing Guide. Even if you don't teach computer science through Scratch, the guide is a wonderful example of technical information presented in a pleasing manner. 
While not complete, a fun example is my Swiss Family Robinson Minecraft Guide. All the digital resources needed are located on the Minecraft EDU World Library, while the guide give educators the organizational framework to conduct the class.

In An Instant

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd; 
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st; 
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

#roses #garden #shakespeare

Monday, May 18, 2015

In An Instant

Made my teacher suggestions for the Scholastic book fair. Stop by the library this week to check out all the great books available! #lovetoread

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Dirty Hands

Does God have dirty hands? That was my question as I wrestled back control of the yard work after several rainy days. There is a certain satisfaction in seeing hands caked with dirt from yard work.

In Genesis 2:7 we learn that God "formed man of the dust from the ground." The Hebrew word for "formed" is the same word used by Isaiah to describe a potter working the clay. If you have ever watched a potter at the wheel, you know it is a very dirty, hands on job.

But then we also read in Genesis 2:8 that God planted the Garden of Eden. Man was simply asked to care for the garden. It was God who designed and planted it. Why would we think He did all these things from a distance, instead of physically present?

Maybe that's one reason I enjoy working in the garden so much. Caring for God's creation was our first occupation, and it was good. Sin had yet to destroy. Maybe it's just my weird way of seeing things, but I can imagine Adam and God working the soil together, with dirty hands.

When I think of God and his love for us, it is not from a remote, uncaring deity. We are his creation, formed and reformed by His very hands. God is not removed from us, but we have run from Him. As Hebrews 10:31says, "It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God." I'm thankful God is not afraid to get his hands dirty, remaining involved in the affairs of men.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Visiting History Online

Looking for great primary sources in the arts, history or world heritage sites? Check out Google Cultural Institute

Students can explore topics through visual collections of artifacts and brief descriptions. Using the Explore feature, results can even be narrowed by date. 

Students can curate their own gallery of artifacts along a theme or topic. These galleries are easily shared and would make an interesting virtual museum that a class could share online.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

RenWeb: Link Lesson Plans, Grade Book and Parent Web

Documentation is both the savior and the bane of education. Lesson plans go to administration, assignments are given to students and parents need to stay informed on what is expected in class. While not a total solution, RenWeb has a single check box that connects these three components.

While entering an assignment in the grade book, if the "Publish to Lesson Plan" field is checked, then the assignment will appear on the teacher's lesson plan. If a different due date is given from when it was assigned, the item will appear on both dates in the lesson plan book.

As an added bonus, the assignment date and the due date also appear on the Parent Web side. Students and parents can click on the Homework Assignments heading to see each graded item.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Friday Night Lights

Running lights on another opening night. BCS performs Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. 

Since we are reusing the same basic set from the previous show (with a fresh coat of paint and a few key modifications), we are using a very similar lighting package. As usual, we've rented a 12 channel dimmer pack from the helpful folks at Tipton Sound & Lighting. This gives us the ability to run all 18 lights and follow spots.

There are seven white spots front of stage, two cool floods on stage right, two warm floods on stage left, house lights and five special effect lights. As you can tell from the photo, it's a box stage tucked on the side of a gymnasium with limited technical resources. With limited light sources, finding an even balance of light with enough left over for special effects is always a challenge.

"And Then There Were None" Lighting Layout
One thing that has helped the light crew keep track of changes is a detailed Light Plot sheet. You can view/borrow my template from Google Drive. With two of us tracking light cues on iPads, it has been helpful to keep an online version current when changes are made by the director.

The show is a murder mystery and a dinner theater, but you can still come this weekend and purchase bleacher seats. Without giving away any spoilers, there are a couple special lighting effects, including a thunderstorm! See if you can figure out who the culprit is! Ticket information.