Monday, 20 February 2012

21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn

21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn by James Bellanca

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this anthology of essays more for professional reasons than personal, ergo the three-star review. The ideas are interesting and thoughtful, but not earth-shattering or provocative.

I'm presently looking at how teachers can create plagiarism-proof assignments and engage students more deeply in learning. Howard Gardner's "Five Minds for the Future" and John Barell's "Problem-based Learning: The Foundation for 21st Century Skills" addressed my concerns most closely, although I found that "Designing New Learning Environments" by Bob Pearlman will be useful to consult with when I am able to redesign my library. For example, he quotes, "Classrooms are out! No more classrooms!" Perhaps the whole school will turn into a learning commons. As well, there will be other essays I will be returning to: "Technology Rich, Information Poor", "Navigating Social Networks as Learning Tools" and "Leadership, Change, and Beyond the 21st Century Skills Agenda". It is a huge collection, and I'm sure there are other issues and ideas to feed the questions of other readers.

The essays are American-centric, but the concepts can be modified and applied to Canadian schools.

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What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

What We Talk About When We Talk About LoveWhat We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Prompted by a recent review of Nathan Englander's book of a nearly similar title, I re-read this slim collection I had from grad school.

Why do some short stories leave you saying "huh?" while others hit you in the solar plexus?

This collection reveals love in its darker forms, often fueled by alcohol and accompanied by violence.

Lust, loss, abandonment, desperation, resentment, revenge.

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Sunday, 12 February 2012


Goliath (Leviathan, #3)Goliath by Scott Westerfeld

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A satisfactory ending to the Leviathan trilogy. I missed the creativity of the first two books: It seems that the imagined steampunk version of World War I no longer needed to be developed.

The book continues the trilogy's tradition of inventively mixing historical fact and fiction. Deryn injures her knee and gets fixed up by the doctor of Pancho Villa. Her rehabilitation includes a "beastie" compress that cleans out her wound and repairs ligaments using tendrils.

Still, I was not compelled by the action of the story to keep on reading as I had been in the first two books.

Maybe I just didn't want the adventures of Deryn and Alex to end.

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Running to Extremes

Running To ExtremesRunning To Extremes by Steve Pitt

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Running to Extremes describes Ray Zahab's transformation from Old Ray, a smoking and drinking party-er to New Ray, an ultra-marathoner.

The book is simply written and intended for a young adult audience, especially reluctant or ELL readers. In fact, Zahab has used his experiences to start the "impossible2Possible" foundation to encourage teens to discover freedom from their own limitations by participating in extreme environment adventures.

The book shows that ultra-marathons reveal many valuable life lessons. They include:

-limitations are only in your mind

-never be a sore loser

-we all screw up; successful people learn from their mistakes

-we are all "capable of the extraordinary in our lives" (114)

-"anyone can change his or her life through hard work and determination" (114)

A quick, but informative read.

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