31 December 2015

Book a Week 2015

 Cheers to another great year of reading!

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Reinventing Writing: The 9 Tools That Are Changing Writing by Vicki Davis
The Right to Literacy in Secondary Schools, edited by Suzanne Plaut

Fiction & Nonfiction (Essays and Stories)
The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

Create, Compose, Connect: Reading, Writing, and Learning with Digital Tools by Jeremy Hyler and Troy Hicks
Marathon Woman by Kathrine Switzer
Running for Women Over 40 by Kathrine Switzer
Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential by Dan Pallotta

Once Upon a Secret: My Affair with President John F. Kennedy and Its Aftermath by Mimi Alford
What Color is Your Parachute? Guide to Rethinking Resumes by Richard N. Bolles
Say This, Not That: A Foolproof Guide to Effective Interpersonal Communication by Carl Alasko
The Children Act by Ian McEwan

Becoming Odyssa: Epic Adventures on the Appalachian Trail by Jennifer Pharr Davis
Tracks by Robyn Davidson
Boston Strong: A City's Triumph Over Tragedy by Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge
American Sublime by Elizabeth Alexander
The Book Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books
Creative Schools:  The Grassroots Revolution That's Transforming Education by Sir Ken Robinson
13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do by Amy Morin
The English Teacher's Companion by Jim Burke

What Connected Educators Do Differently by Jimmy Casas, Todd Whitaker, Jeffery Zoul
The Five Love Languages of Teenagers by Gary Chapman
The Big Tiny: A Do-It Myself Memoir by Dee Williams
Almost Somewhere: 28 Days on the John Muir Trail by Suzanne Roberts
Mountains, Madness, and Miracles: 4,000 Miles Along the Appalachian Trail by Lauralee Bliss

Americanah by Chimanda Ngozi Adichie

Exposed: Tragedy and Triumph in Mountain Climbing by Brad and Melissa McQueen
10 Habits of Bloggers That Win by Vicki Davis
Teaching Reading in Middle School by Laura Robb

Transforming Schools Using Project Based Learning, Performance Based Assessment, & Common Core State Standards by Bob Lenz, Justin Wells, and Sally Kingston
Solo by Hope Solo
Last Hours on Everest by Graham Hoyland
Self-Help style book about personal topic (Sometimes we all need these, right?)

Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola
Smart Parents: Parenting for Powerful Learning bBonnie Lathram, Carri Schneider, and Tom Vander Ark
The Witness Wore Red by Rebecca Musser
The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander

Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for The Innovation Era by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith
Avalanche and Gorilla Jim: Appalachian Trail and Other Tales by Albert Dragon
Lonely Planet's USA's Best Trips (Travel Guide)
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler
10 Habits of Truly Optimistic People: Power Your Life with the Positive by David Mezzapelle
Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School by Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzalez

Euphoria by Lily King

The Ledge: An Inspirational Story of Friendship and Survival by Jim Davidson and Kevin Vaughn
Rising Strong by Brene Brown
Girl in the Woods: A Memoir by Aspen Matis
The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging by The Huffington Post Editors
Four-Dimensional Education: The Competencies Learners Need to Succeed by Charles Fadel, Maya Bialik, & Bernie Trilling
Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington

To read about my 2014 journey--check here.
To read a complete list of all the books I read in 2014 click here.
To read my favorite books from 2014 click here.
To read my favorite books read in 2015 click here.
To read my response to how I have time to read a book a week click here.

28 December 2015

Favorite Books I Read in 2015

Wrapping up another year reading a book a week, I thought I'd take the time to share reasons why the ten books listed here are my favorites from the 52 books I read in 2015. My reading this list year included books read for fun and books for professional and personal growth.

My favorite books read for fun in 2015

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

With all the conversations about immigration in America right now I think it's important that we remember people and their stories. In this novel, Henriquez's characters tell their stories and reasons for coming to the United States. One character says "We're the unknown Americans, the ones no one even wants to know because they've been told they're supposed to be scared of us and because maybe if they did take the time to get to know us, they might realize that we're not that bad, maybe even that we're a lot like them." Check out the short review I wrote for Cake and Whiskey Magazine's blog here.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

This book makes the list because, well, because I'm not funny and Amy Poehler is. Honestly, I avoided this book for the longest time because I never really followed Amy Poehler carefully and wasn't sure I'd enjoy her humor, but when I had to drive to the other side of our state (10 hours round trip) for the second time in one month's time span, I knew I needed something other than my thoughts and music to occupy the time. Cue the audio book version of Yes Please. Poehler's humor was just what I needed in those ten hours, and each time I stopped I could hardly wait to get back in the car for more life wisdom from this comedian. No review from me on this one, but check out this fun review from another blogger.

Exposed: Tragedy and Triumph in Mountain Climbing 
by Brad and Melissa McQueen

Coincidentally, the authors of this book were in Steamboat Springs for a talk at a local bookstore at the same time we were there this summer. Their book kept me on the edge of my seat; I read it in two days while vacationing in Steamboat Springs. It's not just the adventure and beautiful scenery that keeps me reading books like this. I also appreciate the perseverance and experiential learning the authors share in their journey.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott 

For years I've followed Lamott's writing but hadn't read Bird by Bird, so when I received the book for Christmas in 2014, my 2015 reading journey started with this one. Terrific start to my year with numerous quotes applicable to life. Read more about what I thought of the book here.

Becoming Odyssa: Epic Adventures on the Appalachian Trail 
by Jennifer Pharr Davis

My interest in hiking/adventure memoirs continues and I read several more this year including Becoming Odyssa: Epic Adventures on the Appalachian Trail by Jennifer Pharr Davis. This was her first book about her early journeys on the AT. You can read about her record setting AT hike in Called Again. You can read my short review for Cake and Whiskey magazine's blog here.

The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander

This memoir reminds you of the importance of being grateful for life, and it helps you appreciate creativity while also maintaining hope. I blogged about the book for Cake and Whiskey and then wrote a follow up post around Thanksgiving on my own blog because this book had just that much impact on me. It's one of those books I won't forget.

Americanah by Chimanda Ngozi Adichie
Another favorite novel I enjoyed this year included Amercanah by Chimanda Ngozi Adichie. This was the first book I've read by Adichie, and I suspect it won't be the last. Her ideas resonate with me, and I appreciate her writing style too. This was another book I blogged about for Cake and Whiskey.

My favorite books read for professional growth in 2015

Most Likely to Succeed by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith

This book by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith probably had the biggest impact on me professionally because of the multiple opportunities I have had to see the film and to meet Dintersmith. His ongoing passion for reimagining education is incredibly authentic and refreshing. For more information check out this blog post about Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for The Innovation Era.

Smart Parents: Parenting for Powerful Learning 
by Bonnie Lathram, Carri Schneider and Tom Vander Ark

This book had the biggest impact on me as a parent and a blogger because Getting Smart contacted me through my blog to see if I would be interested in reviewing the book. Not only was it fun to review and promote the book, I enjoyed the wealth of information available for parents and educators, and I learned about the Smart Parents movement. You will feel empowered if you read this book...so go for it!

What Connected Educators Do Differently
by Jimmy Casas, Todd Whitaker, and Jefferey Zoul

There's really no comparing the amount of reach and connection this book has brought me. First of all, I wrote this post about how the book describes my own journey as a connected educator. Second of all, the authors are engaging and encouraging, and they even participated in a book Twitter chat I hosted this year. Finally, amazingly, somehow, my blog post about this book skyrocketed to the number one most read blog post in my four years of blogging. Really, if you are not connected much yet you should read this short and informative book right away.

26 December 2015

Year in Review: 10 Most Popular Posts of 2015

In just a few days I'll mark the 4th year of my blogging journey. This year brought numerous requests for presentations on blogging with several more anticipated in 2016. No doubt these requests and my most popular blog posts would not be possible without you, my readers. If you haven't yet joined the blogosphere consider making 2016 your year. Let these ten most popular posts of 2015 serve as inspiration. Even if these topics aren't in your wheelhouse find your passion and your voice and share it with us all because blogging doesn't have to be polished like an essay; it's a great opportunity to creatively express your views.

Here at Learning to Muse popular posts in 2015 include book reviews, posts about my sons and posts about my professional passion of re-imagining public education.

#10 Dreaming of a Teacher Powered School
Call it a long shot, but I've taken steps toward realizing this dream by forming a team of students, teachers, and administrators creating a concept and designing a proposal to rethink high school in the XQ Super School Project. And, you? What thoughts can you add about how our public education system needs to change?

#9 As My Oldest Son Starts High School, Here's What I'm Thinking

This post brought comments on social media from other parents faced with sending their children to high school or even to kindergarten (since the photo with the original post included one of my son on his first day of kindergarten). Update: We're off to a great start as my son had a strong finish to his first semester of high school. He started the year by advocating for himself and landing in a specific science class he desired; he's performing well in all of his classes and he mostly keeps up with his progress without much pestering from us. He likes English class for the first time; we suspect it's helped that the assistant cross country coach is also his 9th grade English teacher.

Who doesn't love Colorado? With all the outdoor activities and beautiful scenery, you won't be disappointed. Since I've been collaborating with colleagues in Colorado for the past few years they assured me our trip to Steamboat Springs would be fantastic. Of course, we were not disappointed. Our incredible family trip with relatives included multiple hiking opportunities. We loved Steamboat Springs and even found ourselves dreaming about a move to Colorado (Oh wait, it wasn't just this trip--I've been thinking about a move to Colorado for several years now).

If you're a writer or a reader follow Anne Lamott on Facebook for witty and wise commentary on being a better version of yourself. I kicked off 2015 reading Bird by Bird and sharing some of my favorite quotes. Not included in that post was another favorite quote-- "For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth...They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die." I also think they show us how to be better writers which is one of the many reasons why I personally choose to read at least one book a week.

Troy Hicks and Jeremy Hyler share strategies for engaging students in using technology to create and connect. Gaining increasing momentum in America is the Student Voice (#stuvoice) movement connecting students across schools, districts, and even states. Fortunately, my youngest son has even joined the fun with our Kentucky statewide group, and he's learning and connecting with other students also interested in improving public education.

As parents and educators, Deanna and I share experiences both of us have had with our sons, and we also share multiple links to resources for upping your game as a writing instructor. This post is fun for parents or educators (or both).

If you haven't read this book or seen the film, you are missing out. Dintersmith and Wagner provide details and ideas for how we can re-imagine public education in America. Further, they provide statistics and examples of why we need to change public education. Follow Dintersmith's blog for information about his ongoing book tour and personal mission to push education change.

Read this particular and very popular post for suggested blogs to follow and read. After joining National Blogging Collaborative as a volunteer writing coach this year, I personally found myself connected to even more bloggers--all on a mission to elevate the voices of teachers. If you do decide to get started with blogging this year, check out the free supports available from NBC

In one amazing week, this post became my second most popular read blog post of all time (not just number 2 this year). In case you missed it, I'm sharing it here again so you can learn ideas for student-centered learning. Fellow parents--this book is for you, too, because we can learn more about how our children learn from us about how to persevere, set goals, and persist through challenges.

Even after 4 years of blogging, this one post skyrocketed to the number one place of all blog posts at Learning to Muse. This post is for educators specifically, especially those looking to connect with others.

13 December 2015

Read Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School If You Want to Make Immediate Changes in Your Classroom

Three months ago, I ran across a social media feed where a woman bemoaned the word hack saying it should be used only when talking about a terrible cough or trying to get into a computer system illegally. While those might be more traditional dictionary definitions of the word, the word hack is common in technology and education circles today. The New Yorker dates the playful (white hat) use of the word to 1955 at M.I.T. in this March 2014 articleWhile I'm not sure how hack permeated the education world, I'm guessing it started in ed tech circles. I found myself using hack once in a conversation with an educator in a rural district and quickly realized she perceived negative connotations, so I tried to explain myself. Too bad I hadn't yet come across the Hack Learning series. The first book I read in the series, Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School by Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzalez, conveys an optimist tone throughout as the authors offer practical can-do now tips to transform teaching and learning.

Barnes and Gonzalez suggest that we don't need to wait for new policy changes, district decisions, or school leaders to change our work as educators. Each of the 10 ideas (hacks) solves problems using ordinary and readily available objects, systems, and people. The authors show others how to creatively address problems by repurposing and reimagining resources. They encourage us to behave like a hacker.
"Embrace the concept of iteration, of continually reviewing and reworking a solution until it becomes the perfect fit for your particular needs."

Each chapter tackles a different problem, offers a solution, provides suggestions for implementation, shares advice for dealing with pushback, and provides examples of the hack in action. 

The problems

  1. Time consuming meetings
  2. Little to no opportunity to observe fellow teachers
  3. No peace and quiet (especially a problem for introverts)
  4. Classroom management
  5. Lack of tech support
  6. Teacher turnover
  7. Flipped learning doesn't always work
  8. Students aren't reading enough
  9. Learning isn't shared beyond classroom walls
  10. Students referred to as data points

Read about creative solutions for all problems represented in the book while you feel a positive culture of ongoing learning coming from the authors. From student run tech-teams to anecdotal data records as a means for knowing your students better to glass classrooms focused on student-centered learning, the authors share practical ways to overcome problems with simple solutions and specific ideas for immediate implementation. No need to wait until next semester or next year. You can implement these hacks now. 

One of my favorite hacks includes the use of student tech gurus to solve the lack of technology support available in schools. 
"Apart from troubleshooting, a team of student tech gurus can also work proactively, training students and staff in basic skills, so the whole school learns together." 

Think about how much your students already know and can do with technology and what they might teach you and your colleagues. From a parent perspective, I also imagine my own son would thrive on a student tech team if offered the opportunity.

Another hack I really like is the Track Record for recording specific objective observations about student behavior. I especially appreciate the focus on recording positive behavior. For example, if a student has problems with being tardy, record how many times she/he is on-time in a week, instead of how many times the student is late. The idea is if the system is put into place with good intentions and is managed well, it's likely to reduce behavior problems. 

Finally, I must mention the Book Nook, and though this idea is not necessarily novel, the idea that the books are gifts, not loaners, is new to me. This minor difference is almost magical, especially for students who don't have many books in their homes. The idea is also simple, easy to implement and focused on building a culture of readers in a school. 

"For every person who sniffs that an idea is "nothing new," there are ten more who have never heard of it. It's the variations, the iterations, that can make an old idea fresh again."

The word hack belongs because the concept is on improving education through a process of multiple iterations and scaling change. I certainly look forward to reading other books in this series. How about you--have you read any of the books in the Hack Learning series?