Connecting Your Students with the World Book Review

Connecting Your Students with the World: Book Review (Eye on Education, 2015)

Overwhelmed teachers who want to collaborate globally are going to love Connecting Your Students with the World. This book designed especially for grades K-8 classrooms. I'm excited to review this book.

My favorite thing: The book organizes by month! You'll see all the opportunities by month with links and information about the project. You'll learn how to take part. There are tons of links and resources to get you started.

I knew when I saw this book several months ago that it was going to help lots of teachers and their students connect. Connecting isn't always easy. Teachers are busy and don't have time to ferret out what they need to do. This book makes it easier.

Connecting Your Students with the World

The authors of this book are often seen at conferences. (Sometimes one of them even wears a cape. 😉 Here we have (L-R) Billy Krakower, Jerry Blumengarten (the two pics in the middle) and Paula Naugle (right.) They are quite a team and have written a great book for teachers, Connecting Your Students to the World.

Mystery Location Calling How -To Guide

Some people call it Mystery Skype. Others call it Mystery FaceTime. They're right, we should take the tool out of the name of the practice. We can connect with anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Mystery Location Calling is the best way to get started. They've broken it down by how you get prepared. What you'll do to connect. And the roles for all  the students (including many I'd never thought of but make such sense.)

It is worth the book just to have this handy guide.

Connecting Your Students to the World on Amazon

Monthly Projects and Activities

Connect your classroom! A child's worldview will change. Everything changes. You can connect with the world much easier than you think possible.

With this book, you can plan your whole year. Although I teach high school, I'm going to use this book just to keep up with what is when.


And yes, the standards correlations for Common Core and ISTE are in there. So, if you need to meet a standard and want to do it with global collaboration (why not?), you can do it too.

My Book Review

Connecting Your Students with the World (K-8) is a must-purchase for all teachers in grades K-8 who want to collaborate globally. (Add it to your shelf along with Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds. Flattening Classrooms teaches you how to plan and construct your projects!)

This book has:

  • The practicality of Paula Naugle,
  • The zest and energy of Billy Krakower and the
  • Incredible curation superpower of everyone's favorite cybrary man, Jerry Blumengarten.

I hope this fantastic team cranks out some more books as helpful as this one.

I recommend this book for:

  • Elementary and middle school teachers (K-8)
  • Anyone who wants to do Mystery Location Calls
  • Curriculum directors
  • Anyone responsible for planning school-wide events and calendars. (Many principals do this job!)

Connecting Your Students with the World is a practical, useful book for teachers. I highly recommend it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Cover of a Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller - Book Review

Book Review: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years (Thomas Nelson, 2009)

So, what if you could edit your life — what role would you give yourself? In this book review of a A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story I share why this book is epic and unsettling. It is also one of my best reads of 2014.

When Michael Hyatt said  A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story was one of his favorite books of all time, it sounded odd. Written by the same author of Blue Like Jazz, this book challenges you to look at your life and edit it. In my opinion, it is a must read.

I STARTED THINKING differently about life when I met a couple of filmmakers who wanted to make a movie about a memoir I’d written. I wrote a memoir several years ago that sold a lot of copies. I got a big head about it for a while and thought I was an amazing writer or something, but I’ve written books since that haven’t sold, so I’m insecure again and things are back to normal.Donald Miller
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, loc 200

It makes sense. I remember reading some research in the early days of Second Life. (wish I could find it.)  They had found that when they took troubled girls in a program in Florida into Second Life to play out what was happening to them in real life that the girls would make changes. Why? Because they were able to see themselves in third person.

Maybe we should be doing that too.

Interestingly Donald Miller, the author, author takes the elements of story — specifically the need for conflict and the need for the central character to overcome that conflict — the need for a protagonist and other story elements– and encourages us to apply these to life. The thing is – we remember the big days of our lives. Those with monumental events. Those with story.

When Your Life Has Story

Like the day last year I sat and listened to my daughter give her valedictory speech. I didn't cry because her speech was epic. I cried because of the great story her life told that got her to that moment.

If Steve was right about a good story being a condensed version of life—that is, if story is just life without the meaningless scenes—I wondered if life could be lived more like a good story in the first place. I wondered whether a person could plan a story for his life and live it intentionally.Donald Miller
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, loc 530

She overcame the taunts of classmates who told her not to do so well on tests as she was making them look bad. Those who tried to get answers to homework with promises of her being included in events on weekends. She overcame and succeeded.

Great story.

What Role Should You Play Today?

But A Million Miles in a Thousand Years doesn't have us focusing on our past. It centrally nails us to today. If you look at your life right now. If you look at the conflict, the characters, and the great thing(s) you want to attain. What role should you play?

For me, it is a hard role. I've gained fifty pounds in the past 2 years after coming through a very difficult situation that almost caused me to withdraw from social media. I thought about quitting teaching and living life as a hermit. I'd be happy tending a garden, fishing, and writing the next Walden. I really would.

My uncle told a good story with his life, but I think there was such a sadness at his funeral because his story wasn’t finished. If you aren’t telling a good story, nobody thinks you died too soon; they just think you died. But my uncle died too soon.Donald Miller
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, loc 518

But being a hermit standing on a pillar isn't my story. Every single kid should have one great teacher and I want to be at least one of them. I want to be that pivot point that helps kids find themselves and their passion. I've got down the role of teacher and want to play it as long as I can.

Every time I put my head on my desk and wonder how I'm going to make it, I feel the vibrations of tens of thousands of heads on desks of teachers just like me and I know how they feel.

My sister says that these experiences of the tough side of teaching aren't wasted if I can help others through them. So sometimes the road I travel as a teacher is dark and hard and full of slimy gooey monsters who threaten to steal my joy and life's purpose. But as I kill the monsters, I can help other teachers kill their own. I can shine a light upon the heroes among us. Teachers are epic. I love them with a deep love. Telling their story is part of telling my own.

I was watching the movie Star Wars recently and wondered what made that movie so good. Of course, there are a thousand reasons. But I also noticed that if I paused the DVD on any frame, I could point toward any major character and say exactly what that person wanted. No character had a vague ambition. It made me wonder if the reasons our lives seem so muddled is because we keep walking into scenes in which we, along with the people around us, have no clear idea what we want.Donald Miller
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, loc 1258

But I'm afraid now because my story includes sweat. It includes some more running if I can get my knee to cooperate. Whatever it is, it is going to include not eating the Italian Cream Cake that my son won at the Fall Festival Last night. I may have to shun the ham and mashed potato casserole the lunchroom is famous for and eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead.

If I'm Going to Edit My Life

Because if I'm going to edit my life – I'm going to have to lose this weight. I'm going to have to join my son who has already lost 18 pounds as he loses another 15 or so and I am going to have to become healthy. If I'm going to edit my life.

Somehow we realize that great stories are told in conflict, but we are unwilling to embrace the potential greatness of the story we are actually in. We think God is unjust, rather than a master storyteller.Donald Miller
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, p 100

If I'm going to edit my life, I'm going to have to not only write this blog and tweet and these other things. But I'm going to have to make time to write the books that are on my heart. I'm going to have to overcome my fears of self publishing or my self-doubt that people may not want to read it. I see where I want to go with these books but I have to go there.

Overcoming Conflict Gives You Purpose

I remember being a sixth grader who was bullied beyond belief. I cried every single day for four years – from halfway through fifth through halfway through ninth grade. It was hard. I was one of those who ran for every election and never won one I couldn't even get elected to carry the banner for the Homecoming parade.

What I'm saying is I think life is staggering and we're just used to it. We all are like spoiled children no longer impressed with the gifts we're given – it's just another sunset, just another rainstorm moving in over the mountain, just another child being born, just another funeral.Donald Miller
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, loc 719

I remember it was in sixth or seventh grade and Mom and I were driving in the car to Albany to shop. I had my shoes off with my argyle sock clad feet on the dashboard. I told her that I knew deep down I was called be a leader but that no one would let me lead. That I had something to say and no one would let me speak.

Was I going to have to live my whole life alone when I had these things inside me that had to come out? I felt like I was going to explode. I had stuff to share and do. Things needed to be done. And I was invisible.

Overcoming Conflict Writes a Great Story

So, Mom bought me a book. It was my Granddaddy Martin's favorite book after the Bible. How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. She  told me to read it until it made a difference.  I remember keeping the book in the bathroom and reading it while I took the long hot baths that have marked the end of my day since I was in the second grade. I read it. I read it. I reread it.

By ninth grade I understood that thinking of others first was the key. Of course, we all star at the center of our own play – as evidenced by my introspective book review here — but as you look at your goals, looking at others first will help you shape your own goals to be a more helpful person. Genuinely help others because you want to and in the end, you help yourself. You reap what you sow.

If the point of life is the same as the point of a story, the point of life is a character transformation.Donald Miller
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, loc 821

I stopped talking about what I wanted and started looking at what others wanted.

For for my next election I asked “What do ninth graders want?”

In my generation we wanted to hang out – boys and girls. Lights off and dance. Not this dirty dancing stuff they do today but in our day our music was considered pretty raunchy too. Careless Whispers and rock stars who dressed like zombies, wore one glove and grabbed their crotch. Naughty stuff, mind you. So, I ran on a platform of more dances. That election and every election after it, I was blessed to be voted the winner. Even through college and beyond. Not because of me but because I learned to think of others.

Transformed character through overcoming conflict. Story.

Overcoming Hard Things Makes Good Stories, Good Stories Make a Great Life

And that story is pretty cool. It is one I could tell my children and they can understand. I always tell my kids —

“Don't you know we always have to start off with nothing and earn it. That is who we are.”

My Recommendation

I highly recommend this book. While there are some religious overtones, I would recommend it to anyone. There's great clarity that comes from looking at your life in this way. And that clarity, like this book, is a gift.

Part of me wonders if our stories aren't being stolen by the easy life.Donald Miller
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, loc 1948

Awesome book. Great read. I've already given away two copies. It is that good. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is one of my best reads of 2014.

Show Your Work Book Review (Workman Publishing Company, 2014)

Austin Kleon has two great books you should pick up:

These are empowering books for writers and educators alike. They are so beautiful, though, you'll want to buy the print version. I particularly love Show Your Work! for two reasons:

  1. Kleon shows that sharing your work should be part of what you do every single day.
  2. Many of us are paralyzed by perfectionism. We don't want to “show” our work because our work isn't perfect.

Kleon convincingly shows how showing your work is part of a journey to better work. By sharing and showing, you get feedback. By getting feedback, you get better. When you get better and share more, you get more feedback. Thus, showing your work and learning from others as you do is the path to awesome. He puts into words what many of us who blog and share feel about our own journey. As I blog, I believe I learn far more than I share. The more I share, the more I learn. Crazy, isn't it? Not convinced — buy the book.

Be an Excellentist not a Perfectionist

Since reading his book I”ve committed to shun my desire to be perfect. I am now a self-proclaimed excellentist not a perfectionist.

Perfect is a lie. Excellence holds true. Perfection implies everyone has to love you. Perfectionism — for us mere humans — is unattainable.

Excellence is a commitment to do your best and to achieve a high standard of excellence in your field. I aspire to be that.

The term excellentist is one I coined as I was talking to two of my students who struggle with perfectionism.I had these two students wouldn't hand in a project because it wasn't perfect yet. Seth Godin talks about this also when he says to “ship it.” (Someone else may say this word too, if they do, I don't know it but it is a good term, so hey, I'm that.) 

Perfectionism is a problem that keeps us from being creative. It can limit your life and your ability to thrive. Excellentism is a much more worthy habit as long as it is something worthy of being excellent in. I am happy to satisfice and pick any old pen to write with, however, I want posts on this blog to be excellent.

Shun the Vampires

He also talks about shunning the vampires in your life — those people who suck all the creativity and joy out of you. He uses the example of how sculptor Constantin Brancusi wouldn't tolerate the life-sucking habits of Pablo Picasso. Before the years of Facebook, he “defriended” Picasso. Quite literally in real life.

A chapter title from Steal like an artist, Austin Kleon's first book.

A chapter title from Steal like an artist, Austin Kleon's first book.

Sometimes the teacher's lounge is a hangout for vampires. If so, don't go there. Run away!

Great Graphics and a Simple Read

The other thing I love about both of Austin Kleon's book is the graphic appeal of it. He uses graphics, text, and even poetry in ways that are appealing. I have both of his books on my coffee table and read them when I need to be inspired to keep going and sharing.

Who Will Like This Book?

  • Teachers and educators who advocate helping students publish their work.
  • People who want to use social media but don't get the point of why they should share.
  • Perfectionists and creatives of all kinds will love these books.

My favorite of the two is Show Your Work! but that is kind of like saying whether I like chocolate ice cream or Moose Tracks — both are pretty doggone good.

Book Review of On Writing by Stephen King

Book Review: On Writing (Scribner - 10th Anniversary Edition, 2010)

Wow! On Writing  by Stephen King is a nonfiction book you can't put down. If you're a writer, an aspiring writer, or teach writing On Writing  is an essential read.

When my husband sees me engrossed in a Stephen King book, he gets worried. (Because I dream vivid nightmares about things that scare me, horror is a no no. When I read scary stuff, Kip prepares for a few nights of combat as I fight creepy things in my sleep.)

But this book isn't a horror, it is a joy. 

For the first section of the book, Stephen King does a great job of making himself his own character. He shares his raw quirks as well as insights into why he became… well, Stephen King. As a kid, he aspires to be a writer. His stories of getting in trouble in high school make me think twice about how I see my students. Everyone has their story about “that” teacher and King has a few teachers emblazoned in his mind (not for good reasons.)

I love when he gets into the craft of writing – from what makes a good book to grammar. Who makes a distaste for adverbs so vivid but the master of horror? When you DO action -adverbs are a waste of words. I now slash adverbs like one of King's demented characters.

He also explains why active voice is so important in writing. (FINALLY I understand!) This book is encouraging to writers. I like King's admission to authoring a bad book. (People who never write anything bad don't write.)

But the epic part of this book is his description of his 1999 accident. ( He admits being hit “by a character from one of my novels”). King goes on to show how writing helps him get his life back. 

In many ways, like Jesus making the good wine at the end of the wedding feast, King's last few chapters are the best. I found myself reading and rereading the end and wanting more. At this point, this book abruptly turns from the craft of writing to finding purpose in life.

I recommend King's aptly titled “On Writing” as one of the best books you can read on writing.

Writers and lit teachers should pick up this book  for page turning nonfiction. On Writing is a must read if you're doing or teaching any writing.



A K12 Student Note: Be warned, King is explicit about his drug and alcohol use. (Also how he overcame and is better for it.)  He also doesn't mind using profanity a bit. As one who doesn't care for profanity in books, his explanation of why he uses profanity makes sense. For this reason, I'd have this book but read aloud sections as you promote writing with K12 students. The section on adverbs and passive voice are fantastic explanations any writing teacher can use. This is definitely a book for college students and adults.

The book cover for Daily Rituals to go with the book review

Daily Rituals: How artists work – a book review

This fascinating book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work shares quick 5-10 paragraph stories of the rituals of over 161 creative artists. Writers, choreographers, and painters are included with perhaps a heavy leaning towards writers (just because I guess they write about it.) Today's book review gives teachers who inspire creativity an arsenal of stories of the greats of history.

Who will like Daily Rituals?

While this is NOT necessarily a book for kids (Thomas Wolfe's habits are a bit over the top, but then again, he was Thomas Wolfe.) This is definitely a book for literature teachers and those teaching students creativity.

It is notable that not every artist had a ritual all of the time, but when they produced work, they most certainly did have one. For me, it has challenged me to find and develop my own rituals to help me be more creative. I was struck by how many of the highly creative artists walked. Dickens took a 3 hour walk through the streets or countryside starting promptly at 2pm every day or Tchaikovsky's two hour walks each day when he was often known to scribble down ideas as he walked.

It was also interesting to me how Agatha Christie balanced her home life and writing (flitting in and out of her family life and writing, she seems to have struck the ultimate balance of productivity and writing.)

Of course, many artists had their share of addictions with alcohol and amphetamines being among the top habitual excesses.

My Book Review of Daily Rituals

Overall I found the book fascinating just because I write. This book is an enjoyable read, very fast paced, and sometimes I'm left wanting to know more about some of these artists but that is the intent of the book.

Because the chapters are very short, you can also pick it up and put it down easily, so it would be perfect reading for your break or lunch. I do recommend reading this on ebook because I've already found myself going back and searching the text for stories and ebook searches are faster.

This is one literature, art, dance, and music teachers will want to reference because storytelling is often a powerful underpinning of great teaching. Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey is an intriguing book and I read every page. I'm keeping it on my Kindle as a reference book.

Book Review: Cover of Millionaire Teacher

Book Review: Millionaire Teacher

Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School by Andrew Hallam includes the 9 rules that International teacher Andrew Hallam used to amass a million dollar portfolio.

I've found that many school teachers are befuddled when it comes to looking at retirement planning and investing. This book is practical (the opening 32 pages should be a must read for everyone who wants to have any money.)

We've all got to make better use of our money, spend less and save more. But we also have to get a better return on what we are saving.

Who Should Read Millionaire Teacher

If you're making financial decisions for you and your household and are on a fixed income (like teachers), this is  a great book for you. If your hobby is making and investing money, some of these topics might seem a bit elementary, but if you're not making money like you want to, pick it up.

Caveats for Readers of Millionaire Teacher

If you want get rich quick and never make sacrifices mentality, don't read this book. I would argue that getting rich quick without hard work is rare, especially for those on a teacher's income.

“Responsible spending habits are often overlooked by people who want to be rich… If your'e a young person starting out and you see someone with the latest expensive toys, think about how they might have acquired them. Too many of those items were probably bought on credit-with sleepless nights as a complementary accessory. Many of those people will never truly be rich. Instead they will be stressed… By learning how to spend like a rich person, you can eventually build wealth (and material possessions) without the added anxiety. You don't have to live like a pauper to do it either…” page 17

Your financial planner may not like you reading this book as he does show you how to slash costs of hiring people to manage your money (who often take more than they give in advice.)

This is a book written by a real teacher but also note that he was an international teacher who often make a bit more money than those of us do who teach in our native country and also they can have perks including housing. (I've even known some who had a maid and gardener thrown in as part of their compensation package.) In other words, he may have made a bit more than you and me — the principles are still sound, however.

My Recommendation on Millionaire Teacher

If one of your New Year's Resolution is to be a better money manager, let this book be the next one you read (and perhaps consider Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University). If you're not serious about making the most of the money you make, don't read this book.

As for me, more astute money management is a goal of mine and so this book stays by my chair in the den so I can better understand and reread parts that seem a bit complex.

Compelling People Book Review

Book Review: Compelling People (Hudson Street Press, 2013)

Compelling People: The Hidden Qualities That Make Us Influential by John Neffinger and Matthew Kohut is an astounding look into the research of what makes people influential.

From things you cannot help (did you know African American men with “baby face” characteristics tend to be more successful in business than those with less ‘threatening' features) to things you can (posture, adopting open positions) this book is full of research that will befuddle and interest you.

“Strength and warmth are the principal criteria on which all our social judgements hinge.” (page xi)

I've shared and read some of the pages to my class because most students are sadly unaware of the impact of their body language, stance, and the “vibes” they give off and that, with practice, those things can be changed.

Who Would benefit from reading “Compelling People”

I recommend this book for those who seriously want to improve their influence or who get feedback that they give off the wrong kind of “vibes.” There are many people who are very competent who have a “perception” problem — this is a game changer for those people.

I also recommend this book to other teachers like me who want examples and stories to use with students about how body language makes a big difference and for college students preparing to enter the business world. For me, since John T. Molloy's “Dress for Success” this is a pivotal book for me.

The caveats when reading Compelling People

The drawback is that it is easy to get overwhelmed with the many aspects because the book is so full of examples, but I do find it to be cohesive. It will be upsetting when you get to things you cannot change, however, if we just work on what we can change (posture, voice, etc.) we will find that we can improve how others perceive us and our ideas. I'll never forget the genius of a woman I worked with whose shrill voice made people cringe and not want to listen to her. With so much of communication our face, voice, and body language – we ignore these things at our peril.

Almost 18 pages of pithy notes are at the end of this book and are worth reading when you're done.

My Final Recommendation on Compelling People

This is a great book full of ideas, stories, and research but it could be overwhelming for those who want simple examples for self improvement. This is a manual of behavior and insight into human nature that will forever alter how you view the world, but for me, it was a good thing.

While I initially got the hardcopy of this book, I'm buying it on ebook to get my notes in the cloud as this is one I'll be reading and rereading for years to come.

Book Review: Sycamore Row (Doubleday, 2013)

Sycamore Row is the new edgy fiction novel from John Grisham. If you loved A Time to Kill then the return of Jake Brigance three years after the Carl Lee Hailey trial will be welcome to you. I finished this book in just a few days and found myself turning the last few pages late into the night even though I was very tired. (Sign of a good book.)

Why Sycamore Row appeals to me

As a person who lives in the South, I identify with the South who is slowly coming to its senses in agony of the past and wanting to work together for the future. It is very hard and trials such as the one in the book bring all the good and bad of humankind and the old and new south to the surface. It also subtly points out that knowing how someone thinks in the South just because of the color of their skin, isn't so easy any more — a point that I totally get and agree with. The Deep South no longer means deep hatred of another color, but deep roots make it hard to leave the shadowy past behind for many older Southerners.

I enjoyed the book and think it is a great read for Grisham fans who fell in love with the early books. Sycamore Row has an edge but is on a topic (no spoiler here, I'm not telling) that we could all serve to remember. This is fiction that is pure delight but also fiction with an edgy, harder purpose. Great Grisham and a wonderful holiday read.

What is your favorite fiction recommendation to teachers for the holidays?

How to make a viral video: Read the Viral Video Manifesto (McGraw-Hill, 2012)

Do you want to know how to make a viral video?

The "Diet Coke and Mentos" guys have shown how to make a viral video. They can do it and they can write too. There are a lot of fun examples if you're going to teach this to others.

The “Diet Coke and Mentos” guys have shown how to make a viral video. They can do it and they can write too. There are a lot of fun examples of how to (and not to) make a viral video.

Well, you can't go wrong listening to the “Diet Coke and Mentos” guys (Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe) who have shown us how to make a viral video over and over. This book is definitive guidebook to the very challenging task of defining the elements that make a video go viral.

The Viral Video Manifesto: Why Everything You Know is Wrong and How to Do What Really Works is a fast, interesting read.

While the first tip “Be unforgettable” can be challenging, I found that the book was full of practical advice.

Why the Viral Video Manifesto is the definitive guide on how to make a viral video

As a teacher who teaches students various film shots, camera angles, and styles, you just can't go to Hollywood on this one.

Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds: 7 easy steps to connect yourself and your classroom

Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds

The definitive book on collaborating globally in the classroom.

Based upon the work in the internationally recognized Flat Classroom(TM) projects by Vicki Davis and  Julie Lindsay , this book will give you 7 simple ways to connect yourself and your classroom to the world. This is the Flat Classroom book!

Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds: Move to Global Collaboration One Step at a Time is THE book to help you design meaningful standards-based collaboration in your K12 or college classroom without the frustration.

This is designed to be your guidebook into the world of the globally connected classroom.

This book will help you:

  • Learn the 7 simple steps to connect yourself and your classroom.
  • Complete the challenges at each chapter and watch your classroom become more exciting and engaging.
  • Learn the secrets that leading online teachers use every day.

Order the book at Amazon or on Pearson's website.