Tagged: updates

 /  By  / comments Please comment!

A new look for Iserotope

favicon After four years, it was time for a change. Iserotope got its first redesign over the weekend. I hope you like the new look!

I wanted something simple and clean and professional and a little more modern and confident. After trying about 30 WordPress themes, I chose Blaskan, by Per Sandstrom. (My new housemates are Swedish, so maybe this was meant to be.)


I’m proud to say that I made a few modifications to the theme without breaking the site entirely, which has happened in the past.

The biggest change is that I chose a serif font, Old Standard TT, instead of the default Helvetica Neue. There’s nothing wrong with Helvetica, but my print journalism roots make me lean serif. Plus the Helvetica was huge and overbearing, which is no good.

Then I played around with column widths and the number of columns, and although the trend in blog design is toward expansive one-column themes (see Medium), I opted to keep my sidebar. (It has fun extras.)

My favorite part of this new look is how much white space there is. Yeah, maybe there’s too much, but I like the confident minimalism.

I’m still making some tweaks here and there, and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Maybe you don’t care at all and would rather I just write more. Or maybe you care a lot one way or the other. Please let me know by leaving a comment! favicon

 /  By  / comments 1 comment. Add yours!

Back from summer vacation, ready for the new school year

favicon Hi again! I hope all of you had a great summer and are ready for the new school year. I am! It’s been a busy summer. But it’s also been fun to relax and recharge.

Let me catch you up.

The biggest news is that my partner and I moved from San Francisco to New York. After spending my entire life in the Bay Area (except for a year in graduate school and several summers in other cities), I wanted to try out a new adventure. It’s a little crazy — and some of my friends and family have made sure I know this — but so far, I’m feeling great feeling stretched.

Unfortunately, the move meant having to leave the great job I had last year as an instructional coach. Though I don’t reveal my employers on this site (to honor their policies regarding technology use), I can say that it was tough to leave the teachers with whom I worked. Together we made significant progress in figuring out what it means to teach high school students how to approach reading in a new, joyful, visible way.


The good news is, I was able to find a new job here in New York that is extremely similar. Instead of working at four schools, however, I will work exclusively with teachers at one school in the Bronx. Along with another instructional coach, my role is to promote the teaching of literacy across the curriculum and to help develop teachers’ confidence in teaching specific reading strategies.

The only major difference (as I see it, though this might change) is that I’ll likely be working with more beginning and inexperienced teachers than I did last year. My preference, of course, is to work with veteran teachers (for many reasons). It’s more easily and immediately fun. Yes, that’s selfish. Nevertheless, I also understand how crucial it is for teachers to receive high-quality coaching at the beginning of their careers. I remember my mentors in Cambridge and Fremont, and I hope to return the support and inspiration I received.

The weird part is, I always have trouble starting at a new job. Maybe that’s one reason I stuck around my San Francisco school for 12 years. (There are many other reasons, too!) It’s hard for me to get to know people; they probably feel the same thing about me. Doubts creep up: Um, do I really know anything about literacy, anyway? Where’s my credential? What makes me think that the teachers will find me helpful? I’m no expert, after all.

But over time, I trust, things will smooth out and take care of themselves.

Sort of rambling here, but I’ll leave you with one last thing (and go into more depth in an upcoming post). The Kindle Classroom Project has seen steady growth over the summer, and I’m happy to report that I’ll be receiving the 70th Kindle in the next few days!

All of the Kindles safely made the transcontinental move, and I’m eager to get them ready for the new students. Why didn’t the Kindles stay in San Francisco and Oakland? After tons of thought, I decided the program would be stronger if I’m nearby. Keeping all the Kindles up and running — not to mention the ebook library — takes constant care, and troubleshooting across the country just didn’t sound right. I look forward to meeting with the ninth grade teachers at my new school to get them hugely excited about getting their students involved.

I am also very happy that some of my passion for reading will not leave the Bay Area. My friend and former colleague Nancy Jo Turner, who works in Berkeley and is an excellent! excellent! ninth grade teacher, has agreed to take care of my physical book library and to launch a significant independent reading program with her students. She just completed cataloging the books — there are 512 in total! I can’t wait to share her updates from her classroom.

Update: I’ve decided to move back to San Francisco. More details in a future post.

So there it is, a rough update about what’s been going on this summer. I look forward to hearing from you, loyal Iserotope readers, and to share with you more stories this year. Let me know what you’d like to read about! favicon

 /  By  / comments Please comment!

Kindle Classroom Project update, May 2013

favicon I have good news (and charts and graphs) to share with you, so let’s get started!

1. The number of Kindles continues to grow.
Last month, we stood at 42 Kindles. Now we are at 46 Kindles. Not bad, considering that there were two Kindle casualties in April. At this pace, it’s possible to reach my goal of 60 Kindles, or three classrooms, by September 1. But it will be a push.

That’s why I’m thankful for Christine (Louisville, KY), Lynna (Mtn. View, CA), Lesley (Menlo Park, CA), Preeti (San Jose, CA), Brian (San Diego, CA), and Walter (San Francisco, CA), all of whom donated Kindles in April. (It was a California-heavy month.)

(Pretty fancy chart, don’t you think? 🙂 Don’t worry, there’s another one.)

2. The number of ebooks continues to grow.
I’ve said many times that books drive this project. Sure, I need Kindles, but without good books, the students are left with a pretty boring device.

The Kindle e-book library grew by 15 titles in April, from 232 to 247. As usual, all new books were student requests. The Pretty Little Liars series has staged a comeback after declining in popularity last year. Other popular titles include Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, and Feed, by M.T. Anderson, which predicts a future world where we have Google search implanted in our brains (um, yes, sort of like Google Glass).

I’d like to thank LeAnne (Fremont, CA), Michele (San Francisco, CA), Angela (Concord, CA), Denise (Alpharetta, GA), Tony (San Francisco, CA), and Nicole (Quincy, MA) for donating books. My appreciation also goes to Sarah from Logan, UT, who donated money to purchase books.

3. More people are following Iserotope.
There are nearly 80 people following Iserotope on Facebook, 120+ on Twitter, and nearly 150 on Google+. Even the Iserotope Instagram account (pictures of books and reading!) is getting some love. The bigger the network grows, the deeper and more widespread the impact!

4. There are more sustaining donors.
I’m still trying to find a term for people who donate more than once. Do you have ideas? Right now, I’m calling them “Sustaining Donors,” but there must be something more catchy.

I define these donors as people who have made more than one donation and/or have encouraged their friends (who might be strangers to me) to contribute.

So far I count 13 sustaining donors: Margie (Peachtree City, GA), Lesley (Menlo Park), Brian (San Diego, CA), Donna (Las Vegas), LeAnne (Fremont, CA), Angela (Concord, CA), Denise (Alpharetta, GA), Nicole (Quincy, MA), Iris (San Diego, CA), Laura (San Francisco, CA), and Michele (San Francisco, CA), Jenni (Berkeley, CA), and DSW (Saratoga, CA).

I have to say, this “sustaining donor” classification might need some work. After all, there are also people who donated more than one Kindle all at once. Shouldn’t they be considered sustaining, too? If so, then add Preeti (San Jose, CA) and Toni (Cary, NC) to the list!

5. It’s easy to find the Project on Google.
Want to get the word out about the Kindle Classroom Project? Sure, you can direct them to iserotope.com, or to the Project page (or the Contribute page). But if you’d like to impress your friends, tell them to search for “donate Kindle.” On the first page they’ll find two (or maybe three, depending) links to the Project. See how famous we are?

(On a side note, it’s interesting that potential Kindle donors essentially have three choices if they search in this way. They can donate their Kindle to American troops overseas, to schoolchildren in Africa, or to ninth graders in Oakland and San Francisco. I like being one of the choices!)

6. You can now donate new Kindles.
Thanks to my friend Preeti, who came up with the idea, and Lesley, who affirmed it, you can now donate new Kindles. Check out this post or the Contribute page for more details. It’s pretty easy, and for $69, you give one student access to 247 high-interest books.

OK, loyal Iserotope readers, I hope you have a great May, and I’m hopeful that this is a month of strong growth for the Kindle Classroom Project. As always, let me know your thoughts and ideas to make this project a stronger one. favicon

 /  By  / comments Please comment!

Kindle Classroom Project update, 4/4/2013

comebackkingsfavicon Spring is here, and that means it’s time for another Kindle Classroom Project update. Although Kindle donations have slowed down, there are a number of exciting things to report.

1. The project launched its second classroom.
A few months ago, a friend and generous donor asked me, “Why don’t you think bigger?” At the time, I was happy with the Kindle Classroom Project remaining as a singular noun. But then tons of Kindles arrived, so I had to rethink the project’s scale.

This Monday, a second set of ninth graders — this time in San Francisco — got their Kindles. I can’t wait to share pictures, profiles, and more. It took several hours over Spring Break to get the devices ready for deployment, but it’s so much fun. The teacher leading the project emailed me on Monday night and said the students are very excited to read.

2. There are now 43 Kindles in the collection.
In the last update about a month ago, there were 41 Kindles. March added two more Kindles, and I am very grateful, particularly because they’re from generous people from far away.

Kindle #42, a Kindle Keyboard, came from Marc in Minnesota. He found us by doing a Google search and filling out the form on the Kindle Classroom Project page.

Kindle #43, a Kindle Fire, came from Chris in Louisville, Kentucky. She also found us via the Internet. (The Internet is a beautiful thing.) Her Fire came not just with a came but also a kind and encouraging note for the student recipient.

3. There are now 232 books in the collection.
Part of expanding to a second classroom meant that I wanted to make sure that each of the 18 new Kindlers had something perfect to read right when they got their new Kindle.

So I splurged and invested about $100 to build the ebook library. (Comeback Kings, above, was one that I bought.) That money, along with donations, increased the total number of titles to 232 from 197. Yep, that means the library grew by 35 titles — or by 18 percent, if you like percentages.

This is important. Kindles are great, but good books might be even more important to the growth of the project. I’ve read in several places (including from Kelly Gallagher) that a good classroom library has 20 titles per student. This means that if there are 43 students using Kindles, there should be 800+ good titles in the ebook library.

4.  Generous contributors are donating physical books, too.
Although I encourage students to read on Kindles (for many reasons), some prefer physical books. In addition, until we attain a 1:1 Kindle-to-student ratio, we need to make sure physical classroom libraries are bursting with real-life, made-with-paper, physical books.

To that end, last week I wrote a post that named a few books that African American boys want to read. To encourage people to donate, I mentioned the Kindle Classroom Project’s Amazon Wishlist (all student requests).

Then came the books — nine so far. The funny (and sometimes challenging part) is that sometimes, there’s no way to figure out the donor. The books often arrive with no receipt or packing list. (There are worse problems in life.)

Thank you to Michele (San Francisco, CA), LeAnne (Fremont, CA), Denise (Alpharetta, GA), and Angela (Concord, CA) for all the great reading material! All four of them are repeat contributors. They’re not happy — oh no, they’re not — with donating just once.

5. I won a $250 grant for books.
Every once in a while, I search online for quick and easy ways to get grants and build the project. And every once in a while, I’m successful. Yes, $250 isn’t too much, but it’ll get 25 more ebooks, and I’m pretty happy about that.

* * *
What do you think will happen next at the Kindle Classroom Project? Will an anonymous donor click on the bright green button at the top of the page and make a huge contribution?

Or will Amazon find us here and donate a class set of Kindles?

Please let me know your predictions. favicon