Monthly Archives: September 2019

Morrigan and Vasilia Save the Day

Two books filled my eyes and ears and mind this past week. Both featured strong young women as the main characters, young women who knew they were different and, over the course of each book, come to know the extent of their powers. Each woman was willing to take risk following unknown paths to save themselves and their families.

Cover of the Trials of Morrigan CrowWe meet Morrigan Crow from Jessica Townsend’s Nevermoor series as she awaits the end of the current age when, we learn, she will die. Morrigan is cursed, born on eventide 11 years before, the last day of the age, and she will die at midnight along with the other cursed children. Her father, a wealthy business man, had spent those years paying off the locals who accused his daughter of all sorts of calamities, even ones that were obviously not her fault.

But, on that fateful night, Morrigan is rescued, even as the Hunt of Smoke and Shadow is bearing down on her, and whisked to Nevermoor for an adventure that forces her to face her fears and learn to trust herself. She begins to find her place in the world as she discovers new powers that she must learn to harness.

I listened to this book over the course of several days both in the car  and at home. The narrator, Gemma Whelan, created a world with her voice, moving from character to character and into Morrigan’s own thoughts seamlessly. I am very much looking forward to the second book in the series: Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow, with the audio version ready to go on the phone.

Cover ot The Bear and the NightingaleThe setting for The Bear and the Nightingale, could not be more different than the fantas world of Nevermore. Vasilia lives in medieval Russia, just on the edge of the Russian wilderness with her family. They spend long winter evenings tucked by the oven listening to her nurse tell  folk stories. But for Vasilia, these are more than stories as she is able to connect with the spirits from the stories. They live amongst the people who provide them with small offerings in return for their protection and help. But, evil is growing stronger, moving closer to their homes even as the local priest encourages them to abandon their pagan practices and the villagers begin to brand Vasilia as a witch. And Vasilia seems to be the only one who can save them even if it means she must lose herself.

Unlike Morrigan, Vasilia seems aware of at least some of her powers. She knows she can connect with the spirits and animals in ways that others cannot and is willing to be open to the supernatural in a way that others would consider madness or witchcraft. The local priest is both fascinated and repelled by Vasilia and works with her step mother, who also sees the spirits but is frightened by them, to get rid of her. Despite their ill intentions, Vasilia connects with and confronts them, trying to help them see the damage they are doing by trampling on the old ways.

I can highly recommend both books. The Trials of Morrigan Crow is lighter with lots of fun fantastical magic the might appeal to the younger side of the young adult continuum. The Bear and the Nightingale is darker, the evil more dangerous and not as easily dismissed as in the other book.



Second Day of School

I teach a technology course for school leaders seeking a master’s degree. Most will become school or division leaders such as principals or curriculum specialists. Normally, the course is fully face to face during the fall semester.

This year, I am implementing a blended, mostly online approach, with weekly synchronous meetings.  We will have three face to face meetings. Last week, we met on campus to get to know each other and make sure everyone was comfortable with the tools we were going to be using to do our work during the semester. More on those tools in another post.

Tonight was our first online meeting using Zoom as our interface. There are 7 students in the class, which seems like a good number for an online meeting, particularly because I wanted to use video and audio. It was good to see their faces, and I think it facilitated conversation. My face to face class is very interactive. My students have a variety of professional experiences related to educational technology that can inform their understanding and provide diverse perspectives to their classmates. We talk a lot about how our work connects with standards and research and practice.

And, we did that tonight. We spent time making sure everyone was comfortable with the Zoom room. We used the text chat and then video discussion to explore the topic of technology transformation. My one technology glitch was that they couldn’t hear the audio on a video. I’ll explore that more this week as I do want us to have some communal viewings.

At the end, I asked what they thought, as many of them hadn’t had an online course or even used Zoom. I got positive feedback and am excited about exploring the possibilities. There are some drawbacks that I will explore in another post.

For now, I am a happy teacher: I had an engaging few hours with some thoughtful, smart educators that allowed me to be closer to my base while they could go home and relax a bit before we connected.

I did do one thing to make sure we would be successful: I am renting office space in the small town next to my farm. The internet at my house is problematic: our potential cable provider has refused to provide us with broadband so we are stuck with DSL, and it is notoriously unreliable. I didn’t want to take any chances with losing connectivity during class. It was the right decision.

I had honestly forgotten what good internet was like…I’ve already messaged the landlord about creating a co-working space. I don’t need daily access but knowing I had a place to go for important meetings and large file uploads would be reassuring.