Sixth Anniversary of Teaching & Technology

Yesterday marked the 6th anniversary of this blog. When I first started the blog, it was supposed to be a documentation of my journey of becoming a teacher, as I had just decided to go back and get my master’s degree. Therefore, I set the blog up as a simple self-hosted blog on my portfolio website.

Six year’s later, Teaching & Technology has its own domain and is less about my personal journey towards the education field and more about education and education technology. I am happy with the direction and momentum of this blog. I do wish I had more time to write, but life happens.

Let’s break down some fast facts and stats:

 

Now, a list for some of my personal favorite posts (in no particular order):

Oh there are tons more, but it’s safe to say, if it looks like I took a lot of time to investigate something and have several citations…I enjoyed writing the post.

So, Happy Sixth Birthday to Teaching & Technology! Let me know what your favorite posts are in the comments.

Help Me Out: Tell Me What You Want to Read About

I apologize for the lack of posts on Teaching & Technology. I can give you a list of excuses, but they would be simply that, excuses.

Let’s review them, shall we?

  1. I was busy with work
  2. I wanted to binge-watch TV shows on Netflix
  3. I wanted to relax and spend time with friends/family
  4. I was on vacation
  5. I didn’t have anything to write about
  6. I felt I was posting too many guest posts and infographics and not enough of my own content

See, excuses? And in fact, they are the same excuses that teachers hear from students. Okay, maybe not the guest post/infographics excuse, but the rest of them, teachers hear time and time again.

In fact, I even thought about going on hiatus and not writing for a while. Except…I’ve kind of already done that. It’s been about 4 months since I’ve written anything. Sure, I’ve read books and I could have published reviews on them. I could have started a new section and publish reviews on movies that were inspired by books. I could have downloaded random apps on my iPad and published reviews. I could have read the hundreds of emails send by the Department of Education or other organizations and wrote what I thought. I could have gone through my feeds on any number of social media sites and re-posted infographics.

But I didn’t.

When I really think about why I haven’t published anything it all comes back to a lack of inspiration. There was a time when I would stay up too late to finish a blog post. There was a time I couldn’t wait to get to my computer and type out the outrage that I felt. I don’t know where that inspiration has run off to, but I’m going to find it. And you’re going to help me.

See, just like a teacher who asks the students what they want to learn about, I’m going to do the same with you, readers.

So tell me, in the blog comments, on the Facebook page, Tumblr page, etc., what content do you want to see on Teaching & Technology? Do you have an iPad app that you are dying to get a review of? A book you want an opinion on? A movie you’d like me to watch and review? A burning question you want answered (with research!)? What interests you in the field of education and/or ed tech?

I’m also going to be super strict on guest posting. I’ve noticed the majority of people submitting guest posts just want to post something to get a link back to their site. I’m all for giving someone a platform to publish, but I’ve been less than thrilled with the content of the submissions. One even tried to sell me on the benefits of cheating…but it wasn’t satirical!

I look forward to your comments and inspiration.

Great Scott, Future Day is Here!

Great Scott! Today is the future day from Back to the Future! Get a up-to-the-minute present time circuit: http://www.october212015.com/

Let’s talk about what technologies actually came to fruition and which did not. Which ones would you like to have been made?

I’m pretty partial to flying cars and hover boards. I’m glad the two neckties thing didn’t catch on. Of course, who wouldn’t want a time machine…out of a DeLorean? Get your own DeLorean (Flux Capacitor not included)

Need a Back to the Future Halloween costume for this year’s Halloween party? Or perhaps the Wii Game for Christmas?

Let’s put our auto-fit jackets on, auto-lace shoes, drink a Pepsi, and binge watch the trilogy!

We’re Outtatime. Where we’re going, we don’t need…roads.

Where Have All The Forwards Gone?

I have a folder on my computer titled “jokes”. They are my favorite forwards that I’ve received over the years. There’s only one problem…I haven’t updated it in years. My email inbox is no longer full of forwards! Where have all the forwards gone? (Cue the Paula Cole music)

It seems as though these forwards have gone on a diet, started dating some images, and moved out of their parents’ inboxes and are now a resurfacing as only a sentence or two as an overlay on a generic image and posted a social media site. They still are being passed around, but with a cool new “share” button rather than the “forward” or “reply all” button that lead to some of their youthful indiscretions.

Don’t you miss forwards like this?

Hello, and thank you for reading this letter. You see, there is a starving little boy in Baklaliviatatlaglooshen who has no arms, no legs, no parents, and no goats. This little boy’s life could be saved, because for every time you pass this on, a dollar will be donated to the Little Starving Legless Armless Goatless Boy from Baklaliviatatlaglooshen Fund. Remember, we have no way of counting letters sent and this is all bull. So go on, reach out. Send this to 5 people in the next 47 seconds. Oh, and a reminder – if you accidentally send this to 4 or 6 people, you will die instantly. Thanks again!!

How about another classic chain letter:

This is the funniest thing in the world! In exactly 87 seconds, you have to send this to 275 people, then if you press (space bar + tab + backspace + page up) a clip will pop up on your screen of a mad goat attacking Bill Gates and butting him into a pile of garbage! I couldn’t stop laughing, even though since I’m typing this I obviously couldn’t have seen it yet, and there is absolutely no way to attach a clip in a way that you have to send the email before you see the clip, it’s still true! And you know what else is true? I am Batman! And if you stay online doing absolutely nothing for one hour after sending this, I’ll email you a gift certificate for five million dollars to spend at Wal-Mart! Just forget the fact that I have no way of finding the email addresses of people who send this out, and the fact that stores will recognize a fake gift certificate. Just send this out, you’ll be glad you did!

I would get chain letters like the following one with so many forward signs, i.e. >>>>>>>, that I could barely read it.

Hi there!! This chain letter has been in existence since 1897. This is absolutely incredible because there was no email then and probably not as many little 8 year olds writing chain letters. So this is how it works. Pass this on to 15,067 people in the next 7 minutes or something horrible will happen to you like:

Stupid Horror Story #1 Miranda Pinsley was walking home from school on Saturday. She had recently received this letter and ignored it. She then tripped in a crack in the sidewalk, fell into the sewer, was gushed down a drain pipe in a flood of sewerage, and went flying out over a waterfall. Not only did she smell nasty, she died. This Could Happen To You!!!

Stupid Horror Story #2 Dexter Bip, a 13-year-old boy, got a chain letter in his mail and ignored it. Later that day, he was hit by a car and so was his girlfriend. They both died. Their families were so upset that everyone related to them (even by marriage) went crazy and pent the rest of their miserable lives in an institution. This Could Happen To You!!! Remember, you could end up like Pinsley and Bip did. Just send this letter to all of your loser friends, and everything will be OK.

Not all the forwards were jokes. The warned me of the email computer viruses. These were so notorious that even Weird Al made a song about them.

VIRUS WARNING!!! If you receive an email entitled “Bad times,” delete it immediately. Do not open it. Apparently this one is pretty nasty. It will not only erase everything on your hard drive, but it will also delete anything on disks within 20 feet of your computer. It de-magnetizes the stripes on ALL of your credit cards. It reprograms your ATM access code, screws up the tracking on your VCR and uses subspace field harmonics to scratch any CD’s you attempt to play. It will re-calibrate your refrigerator’s coolness settings so all your ice cream melts and your milk curdles. It mixes antifreeze into your aquarium and puts dirty socks on the table when company is coming over. It uses your credit cards, forges your signature, and dates your boy/girlfriend. It will program your phone AutoDial to call only your mother-in-law’s number. It will make mad goats come into your home to raid your refrigerator and soil your furniture. So be careful! Forward this to all of your friends, relatives, neighbors, family, enemies, plumbers, garbage men, stock brokers, doctors, and any other acquaintances! It’s for their own good! Thank you.

Chain letters aren’t the only ones in the folder. There was one that compared work and prison environments.

IN PRISON……….you spend the majority of your time in a 10X10 cell.
AT WORK…………you spend the majority of your time in an 8X8 cubicle.

IN PRISON……….you get three meals a day.
AT WORK…………you get a break for one meal and you have to pay for it.

IN PRISON………you get time off for good behavior.
AT WORK…………you get more work for good behavior.

IN PRISON………the guard locks and unlocks all the doors for you.
AT WORK……….you must often carry a security card and open all the doors for yourself.

IN PRISON……….you can watch TV and play games.
AT WORK…………you could get fired for watching TV and playing games.

IN PRISON……….you get your own toilet.
AT WORK………..you have to share the toilet with some people who pee on the seat.

IN PRISON……….they allow your family and friends to visit.
AT WORK…………you aren’t even supposed to speak to your family.

IN PRISON……….all expenses are paid by the taxpayers with no work required.
AT WORK……you get to pay all your expenses to go to work, and they deduct taxes from your salary to pay for prisoners.

IN PRISON………you spend most of your life inside bars wanting to get out
AT WORK ………..you spend most of your time wanting to get out and go inside bars.

IN PRISON ……you must deal with sadistic wardens.
AT WORK…………they are called managers

ENJOY YOUR DAY AT WORK!.

There was another that explained life.

On the first day God created the cow. God said, “You must go to the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves and give milk to support the farmer. I will give you a life span of sixty years.” The cow said, “That’s a kind of tough life you want me to live for sixty years. Let me have twenty years and I’ll give back the other forty.” And God agreed.

On the second day, God created the dog. God said, “Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past. I will give you a life span of twenty years.” The dog said, “That’s too long to be barking. Give me ten years and I’ll give back the other ten.” So God agreed. (sigh).

On the third day God created the monkey. God said, “Entertain people, do monkey tricks, make them laugh. I’ll give you a twenty year life span.”  Monkey said, “How boring, monkey tricks for twenty years? I don’t think so. Dog gave you back ten, so that’s what I’ll do too, okay?” And God agreed,  again.

On the fourth day God created man. God said, “Eat, sleep, play, enjoy. Do nothing, just enjoy, enjoy. I’ll give you twenty years.”  Man said, “What? Only twenty years? No way man. Tell you what, I’ll take my twenty, and the forty cow gave back, and the ten dog gave back and the ten monkey gave back. That makes eighty, okay?” “Okay, said God. You’ve got a deal.”

So that is why for the first twenty years we eat, sleep, play, enjoy, and do nothing; for the next forty years we slave in the sun to support our family; for the next ten years we do monkey tricks to entertain our grandchildren; and for the last ten years we sit in front of the house and bark at everybody.

Life has now been explained.

I also learned that in my next life, I should be a bear.

In my next life I want to be a bear.  If you’re a bear, you get to hibernate. You do nothing but sleep for six months.  I could deal with that.

Before you hibernate, you’re supposed to eat yourself stupid.  I could deal with that, too. If you’re a bear, you birth your children (who are the size of walnuts) while you’re sleeping and wake up to partially grown, cute cuddly cubs.  I could definitely deal with that.

If you’re a mama bear, everyone knows you mean business. You swat anyone who bothers your cubs. If your cubs get out of line, you swat them too.  I could deal with that.

If you’re a bear, your mate EXPECTS you to wake up growling. He EXPECTS that you will have hairy legs and excess body fat.  Yup…..Gonna be a bear

I learned about cownomics.

TRADITIONAL CAPITALISM
You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull. Your herd multiplies and the economy grows. You retire on the income.

AMERICAN CAPITALISM
You have two cows. You sell one and force the other to produce the milk of  four cows. You profess surprise when the cow drops dead.

ENRON CAPITALISM
You have two cows. You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt-equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows. The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company. The annual report says the company owns eight cows with an option on one more. Sell one cow to buy White House influence, leaving you with nine cows. No balance sheet provided with the release. The public buys your bull.

FRENCH ECONOMICS 
You have two cows. You go on strike because you want three cows.

GERMAN ECONOMICS
You have two cows. You re-engineer them so that they live for 100 years,  eat once a month, and milk themselves
.
BRITISH ECONOMICS
You have two cows. They are both mad.

ITALIAN ECONOMICS
You have two cows. You don’t know where they are. You break for lunch.

SWISS ECONOMICS
You have 5000 cows, none of which belong to you. You charge others for storing them.

JAPANESE ECONOMICS
You have two cows. You redesign them so that they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. You then create cute cartoon cow images called Cowkimon and market them worldwide.

RUSSIAN ECONOMICS
You have two cows. You count them and learn you have five cows. You count them again and learn you have 42 cows. You count them again and learn you have 17 cows. You give up counting and open another bottle of vodka.

INDIAN ECONOMICS
You have two cows. You worship them.

CHINESE ECONOMICS
You have two cows. You have 300 people milking them. You claim full employment, high bovine productivity, and arrest anyone reporting the actual numbers.

ARKANSAS ECONOMICS
You have two cows. The one on the left is kinda cute…

I even got life lessons from my “mother”.

What my mother taught me:

My mother taught me to appreciate a job well-done:
“If you’re going to kill each other, do it outside – I just finished cleaning!”

My mother taught me religion:
“You better pray that will come out of the carpet.”

My mother taught me about time travel: ”
“If you don’t straighten up, I’m going to knock you into the middle of next week!”

My mother taught me logic:
“Because I said so, that’s why.”

My mother taught me foresight:
“Make sure you wear clean underwear, in case you’re in an accident.”

My mother taught me irony:
“Keep crying and I’ll give you something to cry about.”

My mother taught me about the science of osmosis:
“Shut your mouth and eat your supper!”

My mother taught me about contortionism:
“Will you look at the dirt on the back of your neck!”

My mother taught me about stamina:
“You’ll sit there ’til all that spinach is eaten.”

My mother taught me about weather:
“It looks as if a tornado swept through your room.”

My mother taught me how to solve physics problems:
“If I yelled because I saw a meteor coming toward you; would you listen then?”

My mother taught me about hypocrisy:
“If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times – don’t exaggerate!!!”

My mother taught me the circle of life:
“I brought you into this world, and I can take you out.”

My mother taught me about behavior modification:
“Stop acting like your father!”

My mother taught me about envy:
“There are millions of less fortunate children in this world who don’t have wonderful parents like you do!”

There are more in this folder on my computer (well, okay Google Drive), but those rebellious forwards will have to wait for another day.

And if you have more forwards you’d like to see here, feel free to submit it in a guest post!

Plagiarism and Essay Writing Sites

For many schools in Michigan, today was the first day back to school. So many students will go to school in the morning and feel behind by the time they return home in the afternoon. They wonder, how can I be behind on the first day of school?  

Don’t feel like the only choice is homework assistance and essay writing sites. Those sites are not there to help you—they encourage you to plagiarize someone else’s work, leading to suspensions and expulsions.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Essay Writing Sites
In a very particular order…

  1. Plagiarism. We’ll revisit that concept momentarily.
  2. You don’t learn what you were assigned to do (and no, the teacher didn’t assign an essay to keep you busy!)
  3. You don’t practice your writing/handwriting/grammar/punctuation skills (thus the essay you would write would stink and then you’ll have to pay lots of money to for practice ACT/SAT courses because you can’t write).
  4. You’ll be unable to get the job you actually want because you can’t write a grant to fund your cure for cancer (feel free to substitute the required writing component for any/every profession and/or job).
  5. It’s probably not originally and you’ll get caught by Turnitin.com.  For $35, you really think their giving you an original?  Would you write a 5-page, original essay, with 7 citations for $35?
  6. The writer probably was paid next to nothing and the website took all the money (sweatshops for essays!)
  7. The writer probably isn’t that good of a writer, if you’re a good writer, would you be working for an essay writing service?
  8. It doesn’t actually save you money because you spent money (you spent money on the essay, possibly even your private education, and you’ll be kicked out for plagiarism).

A Quick Review of Plagiarism
What is the definition of “to plagiarize”? The Merriam-Webster dictionary’s quick definition is: “to use the words or ideas of another person as if they were your own words or ideas”. Their full definition is broken down into both the transitive and intransitive forms.

transitive verb
:  to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own :  use (another’s production) without crediting the source
intransitive verb
:  to commit literary theft :  present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source

So…according to the full definition, plagiarism is taking someone else’s words without their permission and passing them off as your own.

But let’s split hairs…

What if you paid your friend to write it. Or, what if you bought the essay? Technically, you had it “ghostwritten” and they gave permission, right? You paid them…aren’t the words yours now? (Hint: No, not in an academic setting.)

What does plagiarism look like?
The University of Illinois Springfield has a detailed guide (with examples) explaining all about plagiarism.  But let’s just look at their headings…

    • Using a direct quotation without quotation marks or a citation
    • Paraphrasing or changing an author’s words or style without citation
    • Insufficiently acknowledging sources or providing a partial citation
    • Failing to cite sources for information considered non-common
    • Using an essay from course for another without instructor permission
    • Failing to attach all group members’ names to a group project
    • Using someone else to heavily edit or re-write your essay

In that last section they specifically give the examples, “If you purchase an essay from the internet, a writer (including a TA or GA), or another student, you are plagiarizing.” and “If you pay your roommate, friend, brother, sister, mom, TA/GA, or anyone else to write your paper, you are plagiarizing.”

Essay Writing Sites to Avoid
Okay, so you finally understand.  Don’t buy that research paper. Spend the time and do it.  If necessary, spend that money you would have spent on a paper on a good tutor to help you with your paper. Now the question is, which homework help and essay writing sites should you avoid?

Below is a non-comprehensive list of sites found through a few Google searches. There are no links to these sites because Teaching & Technology does not advocate the use of these sites and will not add to their Google Page Rank by linking to them. Add any more you find to the comments section or email me.

  • DoneResearchPaper.com
  • EssayTigers.com
  • BestEssays.com
  • SuperiorPapers.com
  • RushEssays.com
  • EssayOnTime.com
  • EssayInTime.com
  • NinjaEssays.com
  • SleekWriters.org
  • Essay-Company.com
  • EssayPenguins.com
  • CoolCustomEssay.com
  • EssayEdge.com
  • EssaysCapital.com
  • BuyEssayOnline.org
  • FreshEssays.com
  • EssayJedi.com
  • EssayShark.com/
  • iessaywriter.com
  • EssayAcademia.com
  • Zessay.com
  • EssayShop.org
  • AcademicEssayWriters.com
  • MyPaperGeek.com
  • PremiereEssay.com
  • EssayPlanet.org
  • ClassyEssayWriter.com
  • Bid4Papers.com
  • WriteEssay.net

I’m only on the 3rd page of a Google search that resulted in 27,800,000 results. I think I’ll stop. Many of these sites sounds disreputable and those that sound like honest companies…they many in fact be.  However, if you turn in a paper that you purchased and don’t acknowledge the other writer, in an academic setting, it is plagiarism.

 

 

 

Best of MACUL: Ignite Learning

On Friday, August 8, I attended the Best of MACUL conference at Oakland Schools.  It was jointly hosted by the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning (MACUL) and the REMC Association of Michigan.  The conference was designed to highlight some of the presentations that were given at the MACUL conference in March, mostly for those who were unable to attend.

The Best of MACUL conference ran similar to most conferences, there were one of three presentations to choose from during each hour.  There were four total hours in addition to one lunch hour.  For the full list of presentations and presenters, please see the Best of MACUL Oakland Schools conference schedule/agenda.


App Smashing Your Way to Powerful Learning
(PresenterLaura Cummings, Oakland Schools)

App Smashing, coined by Greg Kulowiec, “is the process of using multiple apps to create projects or complete tasks.”  It’s not a new idea, but once Kulowiec gave the concept a catchy name, it became the newest buzzword in education.

Cummings demonstrated a few apps on the iPad that worked well together to create digital content that reflected student learning.  These apps help students see that the information they learn in school is doing something.  The paper is no longer the final product; the digital content is.  The students are now producing something they can share on social media.

Side note: Cummings created a Weebly page with links to the apps and project examples.  It also has some excellent links to more information about App Smashing and rules to follow for a successful experience.

I was most impressed with the following apps: Skitch, PicPlayPost, and ThinkLink.  Skitch, as many of you may have heard, is a photo annotating app.  It allows you to add text, shapes, blurs, and crop.  The final image is then saved to the Camera Roll.  This saves students time from having to add annotations in the program they decide to use.  For example, students can then import those images into PicPlayPost, along with a recorded video (reading their paper?) to create a final media collage. See an example of a PicPlayPost collage uploaded to Dropbox.  But what if there is just too much content to annotated on the photo?  ThinkLink creates hotspots on an image that can link to video, images, text, sound (reading the paper in SoundCloud), and even downloading the paper in Evernote.  See an example of a hotspotted image on ThingLink.


Engage Students.  Explore apps, interactive books, and MultiTouch textbooks
(Presenter: Joanna Montgomery, Apple)

“Just because the students know the technology, doesn’t mean they know how to use it to learn.”

Montgomery’s presentation also focused on apps on the iPad.  But while Cummings’ presentation focused on apps that created digital content to demonstrate learning, Montgomery’s presentation focused on apps that had rich content written by academics for use in classrooms.  Montgomery sees a future in which back-to-school lists will eventually include recommended apps.

iTunes U has expanded exponentially since the last time I looked at it.  In fact, course materials for universities is only one-third of the content.  There is a section exclusively for K-12 and another for Beyond Campus (i.e. the Smithsonian, Khan Academy).  Material is not exclusively courses anymore.  Of course, there are many courses, but users can download singular materials from a course.  During Montgomery’s presentation, she showed us some videos and PDFs available from several sources.  All content is screened by at least one educator, so while it is educationally appropriate, there is no guarantee it will be grade-appropriate.  Thus, it is still best to preview material.

iBooks has may books that are beyond copyright for free.  There are also plenty of books available for free.  But Montgomery emphasized caution in using iBooks in the classroom.  The “Top Free” book list is full of erotica.  Teachers are encouraged to have students select a genre when searching for a free book and not using the top list to assist in filtering out inappropriate content.


Showcase Your Classroom Using Google
(Presenter: Jennifer Bond, Walled Lake Consolidated Schools)

Bond using numerous Google products in her classroom to connect parents with her classroom.  She highlighted several classroom blogs that she has created using Blogger.  Since she is a third grade teacher, students cannot have an email address and thus, cannot publish their own blog.  Thus, she is the moderator.  Most often, the students write blog entries in their journals and Bond would choose the best ones, type them up, and post them. Another option for teacher moderation is, using Blogger, set up an email address students where can email posts (this works best if the school has a contract to allow the students to have an email address under the age of 13).  The teacher will then be able to see the post prior to accepting it for publication. Many teachers have been doing this for years, but only showing the best writing in class, not publishing it to the internet.

Google Hangouts was another technology Bond used in her classroom.  She uses it to help connect her class with other classrooms as well as parents.  Sometimes, it is used just for fun.  But be careful…there is a different between Google Hangouts and Google Hangouts ON AIR.  On Air records the entire hangout and automatically uploads it to YouTube after you click done.  There is no editing.  There is no option to not upload.


Creating a Genius in Every Hour: 20 Time in Education
(Presenter: Nick Provenzano, TheNerdyTeacher.com)

A number of years ago, Google implemented a policy that employees were to work on a non-assigned project 15% of their week.  In other words, Google would pay them to work on side projects.  Just something fun.  Many people though the executives at Google lost their mind.  Do you know what they got?  GMAIL.  ADSENSE.  And so some people wondered…what if we did the same for education?  What would students achieve?  The concept then became known as 20 Time (easier to give 1/5 of the week).

Provenzano piloted 20 Time in his class last year.  He said it was difficult…when he realized in order to make it truly 20% of the school year, he had to figure out how to get ride of 34 instructional days (yes, there was a deep inhale by the teachers in the room at this moment).  He cut movies, he trimmed his curriculum, and reworked lessons.  Eventually, he obtained those 34 days.  He didn’t even waiver on the commitment when the worst Michigan winter eliminated numerous instructional days.  He kept his word: every Friday was 20 Time work time.

Students were graded on a completion basis, did they write this blog post, etc.  They gave a speech at the end, TED style.  In fact, they organized a TEDx event to showcase some of the projects.

I was amazed at some of the projects that students did.  But the more I think about it, I wasn’t so amazed as I was thrilled that students rose to the challenge.  Given time and encouragement, students are capable of doing great things.

For more information on 20 Time, visit: www.20timeineducation.com or www.thenerdyteacher.com.

Kid’s President’s Pep Talk to Teachers and Students

As July boils into August (at least in the northern hemisphere), as the stores move out the summer displays in favor of the back to school ones, and as every student with a summer reading assignment panics as the spine cracks on the first of several books…it will hit you.  Summer is nearly over.

Don’t worry, there is still plenty of time left for a couple more adventures.  However, the beginning of August signals the transition from “mid-summer” to “late summer”.  And late summer is still a great opportunity for learning.

Take some advice from Kid President and read a book that seems interesting, take a family field trip to the aquarium, write a silly story, or focus on a hobby.  Make sure you learn from sources other than your teachers.

Kindle Unlimited: Not Worth Your Money

Have you heard?  Netflix for books has arrived!  Amazon now offers a new service called Kindle Unlimited.  For a nominal fee of $9.99/month ($119.88) you can “enjoy unlimited access to over 600,000 titles and thousands of audio books on any device.” Sounds excellent, right?  Sorry, no.  It’s not worth your money.  Here’s why:

    • Borrowing books, not buying them…so there is a limit on how many you can have out a time.
    • Not included in Amazon Prime
    • Do not have access to all Kindle books
    • Better/More Popular selection available for FREE through your local public library using the app OverDrive.
    • Not a new, innovative idea

Borrowing Books, Not Buying Them Did you actually read the all the fine print or just watch the sailboat video?  I’ll say it plainly so there are no questions: you are borrowing books, not buying them.  The subscription service is not “get unlimited books for $10/month”, it is “borrow 10 books at time, as frequently as you want for $10/month”.  That’s right, you’re actually restricted to “ten books at a time and there are no due dates.”  While the restriction seems logical…it’s not so awesome if your family shares an Amazon account. A caveat of borrowing Kindle books is this: once you return the book, any annotations and notes you make are gone.  Technically, they are inaccessible because they are saved as a separate file on your Kindle, so if you borrow the book again your notes will be there…as long as you didn’t accidentally delete the “letter” that states your rental expired.

Not Included In Amazon Prime Kindle Unlimited is not added into the Amazon Prime subscription.  It’s an extra cost.  However, if you have Amazon Prime and a Kindle, each month you can read free books through the Kindle First and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (about 500,000 titles).

Do Not Have Access to All Kindle Books Did you read the first paragraph thoroughly or did you just skim right over the 600,000 titles number? Or did the difference simply not register?  Amazon boasts “over 1 million books are available for the Amazon Kindle”.  Let’s do some simple math: 1,000,000-600,000=400,000 Kindle books that Amazon has that are not available for Kindle Unlimited. So what accounts for the large difference? Five major publishing houses opted not to participateSimon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette, MacMillan, and Penguin.  So while Scholastic and HoughlinMifflin Harcourt are participating, there is a noticeable lack of New York Times Bestsellers.

Better/More Popular Selection Available through OverDrive and Your Local Library OverDrive is a free app that you can download to your iPad/iPhone/iPod, Android, Windows Phone, Kindle, Nook, Mac, and Windows.  Once downloaded, you log into OverDrive using your library card and pin/password that was given to you at the library.  If you have any trouble with this, consult your local library. Be advised: the availability of books for you may differ from someone else as availability depends on what subscription your public library has with OverDrive. You can filter search results by format: Audio book, Adobe ePub, OverDriveREAD, Adobe PDF EBook, and Kindle.  Yes, you can borrow several Kindle books through OverDrive that are unavailable through Kindle Unlimited.

Not a New Concept There are already a few eBook subscriptions sites available: Scribd, Oyster, and Entitle, just to name a few.

Not Worth Your Money So, why is Amazon charging an extra $9.99/month to borrow books that I can digitally borrow on my iPad through OverDrive and my local public library for free?  It’s a great business endeavor for them, but bad for the consumer.  You’re better off either buying the ebooks, borrowing for free from your local library, or using a different subscription service that actually has some of the top publishing houses.

Not So Good Lastest Trend: Spliting Young Adult Novels Into Two Movies

Earlier this month it was announced that Allegiant would be split into two movies.

Big shock?  Yeah not so much.

The splitting of the final book in a young adult series into two movies is a trend that legitimately started with the splitting of a large final book in a series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  Film studios saw this extra cash flow and decided to capitalize on it.  The trend first spread to the Twilight saga with the final book Breaking Dawn and then on to the pretty small book of Mockingjay from the Hunger Games series as well as The Hobbit from the Lord of the Rings series before arriving at the Divergent series’ final book, Allegiant.

I completely understand the film studios reasons for wanting to split the movies.  Their job is to look at the bottom line.  They spend a little extra money to make basically a movie twice as long and then release Part 1 and Part 2 a year apart for huge profits.  And if they time the Blu-ray/DVD releases just right, they can capitalize on the profits of Part 1 just in time for the theatrical release of Part 2 and then capitalize on a combo pack at Christmas.  There is a good return on investment for them.

Doesn’t this make consumers just sound like dollar signs?  And before you rationalize that it’s okay because they’ll make up for it by having more time to stay “truer” to the book, you should remember: the studios only care about how much money they make.  They only care just enough about keep the integrity of the book intact to get you to spend money at the theaters and buy the Blu-Ray combo edition of the final movie and the collector’s editions of the whole series.  Because…well…profits.

However, there is something more important, more problematic, here than profit margin and keeping the integrity of the book intact.  In fact, we are seeing that the fluidity and conceptual understanding of story-telling is falling apart.   Let me explain…

A movie version of a book, at its essence, is a visual story.  Instead of seeing words on a page, audiences see pictures on a screen.  The author has chosen his or her way of telling the story.  Some authors choose to write the story in a single book.  Others have chosen to write trilogies or quadrilogies.  No matter what their choice is, the author has chosen the way he or she feels the elements of the story will fit into place.  By breaking up the last book into two movies, essentially, story elements are being awkwardly rearranged.  In other words, it’s like taking a 5-Act play and forcing the 5th act to be split into two acts.  It makes no (fluid or logical) sense.

And though I can accept a story being retold in different way, what really is at stake is the future of story-telling. I’m all for breaking up a final book into two movies if the content can support it.  However, we should not keep doing it because of a trend or for profit margins because then what we are really telling the next generation is that the elements of story-telling are not something worth treasuring.  Once we start losing the elements story-telling, we begin to lose elements of our humanity.

Citing eBooks

eBooks have gained such a popularity that people can no longer avoid citing them in papers.

Why do people avoid eBooks for papers?  One reason: many people have a little bit of difficulty categorizing them, are they a book or electronic source?  However, the major reason many people have avoided using eBooks is the lack of page numbers.  So, either fearful of plagiarism or a poor grade, students avoid citing eBooks.

So where do they go?  Are they a book?  An electronic source?  Both, technically.  However, you’ll find the entry under books.

The Modern Language Association (MLA) states, “Begin the entry in the works-cited list like the entry for a comparable printed work and end it with a designation of the medium of publication. The medium is the type of electronic file, such as Kindle file, Nook file, EPUB file, or PDF file. If you cannot identify the file type, use Digital file.”

Rowley, Hazel. Franklin and Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage. New York: Farrar, 2010. Kindle file.

But what about page numbers?  MLA says, “Most electronic readers include a numbering system that tells users their location in the work. Do not cite this numbering, because it may not appear consistently to other users. If the work is divided into stable numbered sections like chapters, the numbers of those sections may be cited, with a label identifying the nature of the number”.

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt began their honeymoon with a week’s stay at Hyde Park (Rowley, ch. 2).

Lastly, MLA says, “If the work is a PDF file with fixed pages, cite the page numbers. If the work lacks any kind of stable section numbering, the work has to be cited as a whole”.

While MLA is one of the most common citation methods, it is not the only one.  The American Psychological Association (APA) format follows the same advice, but the entry is slightly different.  It says, “The reference list entry for a whole e-book should include elements of author, date, title (with e-reader book type in square brackets if applicable; italicize the title but not the bracketed material), and source (URL or DOI):”

Author, A. A. (Year). Title of book [E-reader version, if applicable]. Retrieved from http://xxxxx

Author, A. A. (Year). Title of book [E-reader version, if applicable]. doi:xxxxx

The APA recommends the following if there are no page numbers:

  • a paragraph number, if provided; alternatively, you can count paragraphs down from the beginning of the document;
  • an overarching heading plus a paragraph number within that section; or
  • an abbreviated heading (or the first few words of the heading) in quotation marks, in cases in which the heading is too unwieldy to cite in full.

So why can’t you just cite the location in the eBook?  The APA explains:

As of March 2011, many Kindle books now have real page numbers that correspond to those in print editions (as far as we know, this applies only for Kindle third generation products and going forward). These real page numbers are appropriate to use in academic citation (as are the page numbers of other paginated e-books). Kindle “location numbers,” however, should not be used in citations because they have limited retrievability.

The Purdue OWL details how you can cite an eBook in Chicago Style.  There are several other types of citation formats, but they are not as common as MLA and APA.