Helpful way to summarize notes in MDM4U?

I made a little booklet for my Grade 12 Data Management students to help them organize and summarize their notes in this part of the course. It’s not exhaustive; it’s just to show them that it’s worthwhile to take time to review their learning and actually record it, and to give them a structure to try.

Skills Tracking – Combinatorics – booklet

So many students don’t really consolidate their new learning each day, and then the study by “reading over” their notes (which means flipping pages while Netflixing, I think).

Is this format helpful for reviewing and summarizing? Is it a good physical size (it’ll print on US Letter size paper and fold in half, yielding a 5.5″W by 8.5″H booklet)?

Great apps for reading comics and graphic novels

Last week I griped about the problems reading graphic novels on my iPad (gentle rant here). While I haven’t solved the problems of the portrait-only-and-can’t-zoom Kindle app, I found two others which are even more awesome than Cloudreaders (it’s still good, if less polished, and has some unique features – you can get it here). Neither can read the DRM-crippled Kindle comics.

Chunky Comic Reader

Screenshot of Chunky Comic Reader for iPad.
This app is brilliant. Really, really great. It has an interface that effectively disappears while you’re reading. I don’t just mean that the icons and buttons aren’t visible; I mean that you forget that there are controls because everything is so completely intuitive.

When I finish a book, it brings up a thumbnail of the cover of the next book. Tapping it takes me there.

When I read in landscape mode, I scroll down the page. Swiping brings me to the top of the next page, which is exactly the behaviour I want (Cloudreaders doesn’t do this).

It integrates with Google Drive, Dropbox, and a few other services, as well as Mac and Windows shared folders, FTP sites, and more.

Apparently there is right-to-left reading for all you manga aficionados.

The developer is responsive on Twitter (@ChunkyReader) and seems friendly (I didn’t have a problem; I just tweeted some kudos).

The app is $2.99 now FREE, which is a great price for such a seamless interface. Plus it has a nice icon (actually, I liked the previous icon better).

Darkhorse Comics

Screenshot of the Darkhorse Comics iPad app.
I haven’t tried the Android version, but the iOS version is sweet. I bolstered my library on Free Comic Book Day and now have 32 titles to churn through. It won’t let you import non-Dark Horse comics, but they have an extensive selection, so I’m okay with that for now. Otherwise the app functions exactly as you’d expect (that is, like Chunky Comic Reader but for DH’s DRM titles).

A very brief audiobook review of Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”

Where to get it

The Audible edition was narrated by Noah Galvin and was 6 hours 23 minutes long. The print version is 226 pages.

The very brief review

4.5 stars. This book was interesting, painful, reflective, well-written, and well-narrated.

The brief review

I always find “coming of age” stories strangely compelling. I think perhaps it’s because the characters always make different choices than I made in high school, and that sets me a-pondering. In this story the main character, Charlie, recounts his first year of high school through letters he writes to a stranger. The letter writing part is unnecessary and doesn’t really add to the story for me. Charlie has some issues which he’s only partly aware of but which are mostly apparent to the reader/listener. It’s about friendship, choices, drugs, identity, love, mental health, and the early 90s.

The language of the book is beautiful. From beginning to end the words are thoughtful, inspiring, and gorgeously poetic. I might have to read a text copy of this book because although the narration was excellent I want to re-read and revel in the prose.

So I’ll recommend it. Enjoy.

A brief audiobook review: Tony Danza’s “I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had”

Where to get it

I listened to the Audible edition read by the author. It’s just shy of 7 hours long. The print edition is apparently 272 pages.

The very brief review

4.5 stars. Good narration, good story. Fun to listen to The Boss. Made me think. You should read it or have it read to you.

The brief review

This was a well-read, interesting story of Tony Danza’s year as a 10th Grade English teacher. The reading was good, and the stories were good (I use the plural because of the many small, heartfelt tales he related from the school year). I recommend it to teachers as a way to reconnect with why we do this work, and for the general population as a way to understand the heavy burden teachers place on themselves.

As an Ontario teacher, it was interesting to note the many similarities in the Philadelphia school system; it was startling to note some of the more dramatic differences.

As a teacher who is about to return to the classroom after 6 years in central roles, I empathized with Mr. Danza. It’s not so much that I’ll be a first-year teacher again, but more that I remember struggling with many of the same challenges and that I know I’ll be facing those again full time. After all, life at the board office is a little removed from the realities of the daily work of the classroom.

I do have a few “complaints” about the book, but let me say up front that these criticisms are hardly fair. Tony Danza reads his book very well, and relating the actual events of a year of high school won’t likely fit nicely into three-act format or anything.

When reading the book, Mr. Danza doesn’t use “other voices” for other characters to any great extent. I’m used to listening to narrators who have a distinct voice for each character in the story. I realize that it’s really difficult, and that it’s a small point in an otherwise very good narration.

Second, the book doesn’t feel like it’s flowing well about halfway through. There isn’t a nice, tidy plot arc the way I’m used to from reading fiction. As mentioned, that’s more about the way the year progressed than anything, probably, but there is also less material in the second half of the year for Mr. Danza to refer to (read the book and see why). In spite of that pacing issue I still cried a little towards the end.

Read it

And that is all.

Book Review: “Gabriel: Zero Point, A Gabriel Universe Novella” by Steve Umstead, read by Ray Chase

I just finished listening to Gabriel: Zero Point on Audible. Here’s a quick review. No spoilers.

First, I got the Kindle book in April because the trilogy it leads to was recommended by Amazon, and the novella was free (it is right now; you can get it here). Rather than buy (and more importantly commit many hours to) the series, I decided to take this novella for a test drive. As I’ve said before, I’m strongly in favour of the idea of introducing a series with a novella, whether that’s book one or book zero (like this one).

Did I mention the audiobook was also free? Yup, 91 pages of ebook or 2 hours 43 minutes of audiobook, both free. Get it here at Audible.

The book is a near future science fiction story explaining the origins of Evan Gabriel, a Special Forces officer in the North American Federation navy. The world-building is fairly light in the book, but there’s enough there to see that the world is fleshed out in the author’s mind. It’s a prequel novella, so I hope the world will be explained more fully in book one. The main character is given a pretty good back story without making it too simple (that is, the reader isn’t sure of all of the factors influencing Evan’s decisions and thoughts; I like this). In some stories there is a single event in a character’s history which drives everything they do, and it makes them kinda one-dimensional. Steve Umstead, by contrast, gets it right.

The narration is good, even great, in my opinion. I’ve listened to a lot of audiobooks, and this is one of the ones which tempts me to go see what else the narrator has read. The characters were distinguishable, and the girl (yup, there’s really just one that speaks) sounds girlish.

I went ahead and bought the Kindle “boxed set” of three books for a little over $5 CAD. Each book in the trilogy is just shy of $3 CAD, so this is a good discount. Also, since there is no Whispersync at the moment so I couldn’t get the audiobooks cheaply – I’ll just read the text. I’m beginning another audiobook anyway, so that’s fine. I tend to keep one going in each format anyway. Amazon tells me that it’s 656 pages in the trilogy, which feels like a great value to me at an almost laughable $0.50/hour for good entertainment.

So I recommend it, pretty highly. Hopefully I’ll be able to say the same about the trilogy in a few weeks. I’ll let you know.