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A to Z Challenge: I’m in!

22 Mar

I’m in! This year, for the first time, I’ll participate in the much-applauded, highly-acclaimed writer’s blog hop called A to Z Challenge.

My theme:

A to Z: Literary Genres

a to z

…a genre for every letter of the alphabet. I’ll include:

Definition

Writing tips

Popular books in the genre

I skipped the genre tips I did in the past. Many of these were new to me (like Kitchen Sink–who knew?) and I’m amazed how much I learned researching for this blog hop. Here are the genres I will cover in April:
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Teach STEM Every Day

10 Mar

STEM in schoolSTEM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. These four topics cover every aspect of our life. Science is our natural world, from the land we live on to the oceans and space we aspire to visit. It’s the weather that changes our picnic plans to the natural disaster that destroyed a town in our own state. Technology includes the iPads toddlers play on, the smartphones we use to guide our days, the apps that turn our lights on and off–or start our car. Engineering is why traffic flows smoothly on crowded roads and why bridges survive despite massive loads of trucks, and is the foundation for much research into global warming and alternative energy. Mathematics happens everywhere–at the grocery store, the bank, the family budget,  the affirmative nod from parents to update a child’s computer to their agreement to add apps from the app store.

Every corner of every life includes STEM, which explains the increasing interest in STEM-educated students to fill the nation’s jobs. According to the U. S. Department of Commerce, STEM occupations are growing at 17%, while other occupations are growing at 9.8%. According to the Bureau of Labor and Management:

… jobs in computing and mathematics are projected to grow by 20 percent.

Significantly, STEM degree holders have a higher income even in non-STEM careers. The reason: Students trained in STEM subjects think critically, develop creative solutions, solve problems rather than look to others for solutions, and create logical processes that can be duplicated in all parts of their life. STEM-trained students understand how to look at the forest and find the particular tree.

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2 Ways to Run a Parent Class

07 Mar

parent-teacher classParents often find technology a roadblock to helping their children with classwork. There are too many geeky tools with too few instructions, and every year, what they thought they understood changes. Like students, they don’t want to sound like Luddites, so they struggle for a while and ultimately give up. With that comes either disinterest or pushback against your efforts to blend tech into learning. Both are dangerous to your teaching goals.

You can solve this by offering tech classes to parents, to teach them either the skills their students are learning or an introduction to tech in their lives. They can be offered while parents are waiting for students to finish after-school activities, as a brown bag lunch program, or online during evenings or weekends via Google Hangout or Skype. Which is best will depend upon the needs and schedules of your parent group. Kick off the program with a poll (use an online platform like Google Forms or PollDaddy, one students use in class) to find out what time works best.

If you find there’s interest, get approval from your administration before going further. There are lots of reasons schools have for NOT offering free classes to parents. Make sure you don’t infringe on any of those before proceeding.

Once you decide to move forward, determine which of two approaches work best for your needs and parent interests:

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What parents should ask teachers about technology

08 Feb

parent-teacher

‘Technology in education’ has become the buzz phrase for cutting edge classes that are plugged into the latest education trends. Not surprisingly, it takes a lot more than a room full of computers, iPads, and apps to turn “tech ed” from marketing to mainstream.

For parents, where schools fall on that continuum — mostly marketing hype or taking the necessary steps to integrate tech — is critical. When you start at a new school (or classroom, or teacher), it’s important to understand the part technology will take to improve educational experiences for your child. Here are fourteen question you can expect stakeholders to answer — in depth:

Who teaches students to use class digital tools?

Many teachers (too many) think students arrive at school as digital natives, with all necessary digital knowledge downloaded into their brains. This myth exploded when students taking the year-end online tests didn’t know basic tech skills like copy-paste, keyboarding, using dialogue boxes, and more. So it’s a legitimate question: Who teaches students how to use the school’s digital devices and what training do they get to support that responsibility? Is it a one-off PD day or ongoing? Is there a tech ed curriculum to ensure topic coverage and that teaching is done “the right way” or is it up to the teacher? How does the school handle an unexpected tech need — say, programming for December’s Hour of Code?

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44 Takeaways from the San Diego Writers Conference

08 Feb

#sdwcA few weeks ago, I attended the San Diego Writers Conference, sponsored annually by San Diego State University. It was my second time at this event (here are my takeaways from last year’s event) so I knew it would be cerebral, well-worth the time and money, leave me motivated to get back into the trenches with my keyboard and red pencil, and introduce me to lots of like-minded writerly folks. Keynote speakers included Jonathan Maberry, R.L. Stine, Sherrilyn Kenyon, and J.A. Jance. I can’t believe how entertaining these folks were while imparting some amazing nuggets that I will likely never forget.

Here are my top 44 takeaways:

  • Jonathan Maberry writes 4000 words a day, five days a week.  Here are a few tips from him:
    • He doesn’t believe in writer’s block. It usually means you’re facing a challenge.
    • He writes in a bunch of genres. Doesn’t see any problem with that and wants to try them all.
  • Audio books in 2015 were worth $1.7 billion.
  • Use social media to encourage efriends.
  • Focus on just a few social media platforms. Pick the ones that work best for you (I heard this from multiple people).
  • Champion and promote other people’s stuff.
  • Bob Mayer says end matter (the stuff you put after the end of your story) can only be 5% of the book. More from Bob Mayer:
    • Half million titles were uploaded to Kindle in 2016.
    • Self-pub authors make more than traditionally pubbed authors.
    • Don’t be an a**hole! Be polite, helpful, and convivial to online friends and acquaintances (I heard this from at least three presenters).
    • Have a good reason to break a rule.
  • Tips from JLStine (the author of the Goosebumps series):writing
    • There’s no good answer to the question ‘where do you get your ideas’. Start with a title and let it lead you to an idea.
    • If you get bogged down in the story and can’t get to the ending, start with the ending.
    • Always say yes to every opportunity (having to do with marketing your books).
    • He outlines his books first. He thinks that allows him to write more books.
    • He does no research for his books. He makes everything up.
    • Twitter is a great way to stay in touch with readers.
    • Social media provides good marketing tools.
  • Justin Sloan’s tips (this guy writes multiple books a year–he was amazing):
    • It takes a really long time to get traditionally published.
    • Your goals will help you decide which way to go. Traditional is better for winning awards. Self-pub better for quick publishing.
    • Bookbub is the gold standard for promoting your book.
    • What you get out of traditional publisher is heavily dependent upon the agent you have.
    • The average self-pubbed author sells six books a year.
    • What are called ‘Whale readers’ read several books a day.
    • Offer your first book free to get readers to buy the next.
    • Use Instafreebie to promote your book. You’ll get everyone’s email address when they sign up for your free book.
    • Add an offer at the end of your book, such as a free story if they subscribe to your newsletter.
  • Have a thirty-second elevator pitch. That’s five to eight sentences. Include who you are, what your book is about, what you want people to do about your book.
  • Have ten questions about your book that you are prepared to answer.
  • Have a short and long bio.
  • Develop three to five pitches.writer
  • Be quotable. Have quick blurbs that listeners find quotable.
  • Give your media appearance a second life on social media.
  • You must become a performer once your book is written.
  • A book trailer is 90 seconds and could be as simple as you answering the ten questions.
  • Tips from Penny Sansevieri:
    • 95% of book sales are from personal recommendation.
    • Number one thing readers want to do when they finish a book is to engage with the audience.
    • Photofunia.com–add effects to pictures to make your marketing pop
    • Befunky.com–more photo editing tools for your marketing efforts.
    • You need seven touches to sell a customer.
    • You can sell on Pinterest now.

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How to Prepare for the SAT Essay

02 Feb

sat-assessmentSeven million students took the SAT test last year. While it traditionally is an assessment tool for college-bound seniors, more and more high schools are choosing it as an exit exam for graduating seniors (such as these changes in Ohio and the State of Washington). Driven in part by the educational imperative to minimize student testing, what better solution than a test already heavily vetted as being inclusive and cross-cultural that many students are familiar with.

In this article, I’ll focus on preparation for the SAT essay portion. General preparation hints include:

  • practice good writing with every school essay students write
  • use academic-specific vocabulary whenever possible
  • take practice tests
  • read a lot — and let that inform your writing

Here are three different approaches to preparing for the essay portion:

  • Khan Academy — work on the students’ unique writing problems experienced in their PSAT or earlier SATs
  • Revision Assistant — practice writing over a long term and receive targeted feedback to improve skill
  • Mindsnacks SAT vocabulary — develop depth in academic vocabulary that improves not only student writing but their understanding of what they’re reading

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How I’m Doing on Twenty-four Days I

31 Jan

indie authorI’m getting close to launching my latest WIP, Twenty-four Days:

A former SEAL, a brilliant scientist, a love-besotted nerd, and a quirky AI have twenty-four days to stop a terrorist attack. The problems: They don’t know what it is, where it is, or who’s involved.

If you read To Hunt a Sub and loved the AI Otto, you’ll be pleased to know that Otto gets not only a voice but a body. Also: Eitan falls in love, the only bad thing that happens to Sandy (the Labrador) is he gets locked in a closet, and another fearless woman is tasked with saving the world.

Twenty-four Days was briefly represented by a wonderful agent who put an awful lot of work into editing and rewriting, making the story tighter and more exciting than when he first became involved. Ultimately, we parted ways, but I’ll always appreciate the time and effort he expended on me.

With a planned publication date of May-June, here’s how I’m doing.

  • I’ve completed substantive changes like checking timelines, plot points, and character development (thanks to my wonderful former agent).
  • I’m self-editing using Grammarly and Autocrit, in preparation for submittal to my editor. This includes spelling, grammar, word use, adverbs, dialogue tags, and more.
  • My cover folks are working on a spectacular cover, with an expected completion date in February (the cover on this blog page is simply a place-saver).
  • I’m having banners, logos, and that sort of marketing created, to be used as needed.
  • I’m getting pre-reviews that will inspire readers to purchase.
  • When the book is complete, I’ll submit it to Kindle Scout. Lucky winners there get free publication!
  • I’ll have a blog hop to officially release the book to the world in May/June. Want to help each other? I’d be happy to trade honest reviews when you promote your book.

If you have any steps that help you get your book out, please share in the comments. I just know I’m missing something.

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My Year in Books–from Goodreads

26 Jan

Love this graphic shared by Goodreads! It starts with a summary:

year-in-books-header-2016

…and then lists all the books.

To view this bigger:

  • click the  image
  • click ‘view full size’
  • click the resulting image

my-year-in-books-2016-goodreads

Did we read any of the same books?


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thriller, To Hunt a Sub. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning. The sequel to To Hunt a Sub, Twenty-four Days, is scheduled for Summer, 2017. Click to follow its progress.

 
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What parents should ask teachers about technology

24 Jan

parent-teacher

‘Technology in education’ has become the buzz phrase for cutting edge classes that are plugged into the latest education trends. Not surprisingly, it takes a lot more than a room full of computers, iPads, and apps to turn “tech ed” from marketing to mainstream.

For parents, where schools fall on that continuum — mostly marketing hype or taking the necessary steps to integrate tech — is critical. When you start at a new school (or classroom, or teacher), it’s important to understand the part technology will take to improve educational experiences for your child. Here are fourteen question you can expect stakeholders to answer — in depth:

Who teaches students to use class digital tools?

Many teachers (too many) think students arrive at school as digital natives, with all necessary digital knowledge downloaded into their brains. This myth exploded when students taking the year-end online tests didn’t know basic tech skills like copy-paste, keyboarding, using dialogue boxes, and more. So it’s a legitimate question: Who teaches students how to use the school’s digital devices and what training do they get to support that responsibility? Is it a one-off PD day or ongoing? Is there a tech ed curriculum to ensure topic coverage and that teaching is done “the right way” or is it up to the teacher? How does the school handle an unexpected tech need — say, programming for December’s Hour of Code?

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10 Websites + 4 Apps that Make Geography Fun

17 Jan

geographyOne of the hardest challenges for teachers is how to engage students in core subjects such as geography. It’s about mountains and rocks and valleys that haven’t changed for thousands of years. Why is that interesting? If you aren’t a geography buff, you’re probably nodding. You know what I mean. But watch how quickly the fourteen resources  below morph geography from dusty to dynamic:

2-minute Geology

2-minute Geology is a collection of two-minute videos that address the geology of locations around the world. The presenter is clever, the taping professional, and the experience mesmerizing as students are immersed in the importance of geology around the world–in just two minutes.

Continents Explained

Continents Explained is a four-minute humorous video that discusses the difficulty of defining continents on our planet (with a brief cameo from a Minecraft-like character). I came away scratching my head, wondering how the heck the experts ended up with the seven continents we all accept rather than four–or twelve. The video is engaging, energizing, and informative. This is a must for any discussion on continents.

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