Friday, January 8, 2010

Social Books Unlock Reader’s Voice and Provide Opportunity for Conversation

When Oprah launched her season 24 kick off party this year with the Black-Eyed Peas, like Oprah, I was going absolutely nuts!!! I couldn’t believe that twenty thousand people came together through the magic of the social networking to do one thing. Dance in unison to bring joy and happiness to a worldwide audience and themselves. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about click here.) What was so amazing about the event was that it transformed the way a concert was experienced. The audience, not the performers, became the entertainment and as a result the experience was better not only for the entire live audience but for the entire viewing audience as well.

Well now this concept has come to books…the last bastion of the old business model—the only major medium that still hasn't embraced the digital age. Every other form of media that's gone digital has been transformed by its audience. Whenever a newspaper story or TV clip or blog post or white paper goes online, readers and viewers begin commenting about it on blogs, snipping their favorite sections, passing them along. The only reason the same thing doesn't happen to books is that they're locked into ink on paper. (Wired magazine, 5/22/09)

Like the Oprah, Black Eyed Peas performance, reading is now being released to the readers with Book Glutton, a transformational tool that combines eReading with the social media experience. Readers can comment, chat, and discuss away. When I registered for the site I was thrilled to see some of my favorite educators (Susan Ettenheim, Paul Allison) were already onboard. They had formed a private group with 43 of their students and colleagues and were reading books collaboratively. Of course, I requested membership to their group. As I looked around I saw many other educators had also formed groups and were reading books this way with their students. And, guess what??? Many of these books are available free!

Here’s what Susan and Paul’s students are saying about BookGlutton.
"Reading on a website is much more convenient then having to flip the pages of a book or worrying that you'll lose your page. BookGlutton is a great way to encourage students to read, chat, and share their opinions!"—Ammym
“I'm a student and I like the fact that I can come to this website and read books that may not be available to me at school or a library. I think that this is a great site for students who, like me, like to read, this is a great way to encourage students to read. —Allesia

Why eBooks?
I love to tell the story of when I worked as a literacy coach and then as an instructional technology staff developer working with literacy coaches, I often turned to the literacy expert Lucy Calkins for guidance and feedback. When we discussed a one-to-one laptop program I was launching, she said, “Why on earth would you spend all that money to give every child a laptop??? I would rather give each student a lot of books.” I explained how every laptop was equipped with the Microsoft eReader which provides a portal, personal library of books (no special eReading device required) and that sites like
Digital Book Index (then, and Google now) provide links to more than 148,000 full-text digital books from more than 1800 commercial and non-commercial publishers, universities, and various private sites. More than 120,000 of these books, texts, and documents are available free, while many others are available at very modest cost. Additionally the eReader provides a much richer experience than paper allowing you to highlight, flag, write and comment directly on the book, adjust the font size, have unknown words spoken or defined, auto “Go to” any page, easy search for word or phrase and more. Now it started to make sense to her why one-to-one was so valuable. She purchased devices for her whole staff getting them started in using laptops too. Fast forward more than a half-decade, and devices have dropped to less the half the price, and now, there’s a way to make some offerings collaborative.

Ideas for the classroom
Once Books Have the Opportunity to Shed the Paper and Grow their Digital Wings the implications for education in general and literacy in particular are enormous. When I was in college, I would spend considerable time I the used-book section of the college book store looking for titles containing highlights, mark ups, and notes from people who seemed smart. I loved the connection I had with the never-to-be-met person whose name was scribbled behind the cover of the book. BookGlutton takes this to a whole new level. For those reading this thinking the comments and discussions might be too distracting at times, they’ve thought of that. You can disable or enable the feature to suit your heady desires.

Here are some ideas for how teachers can begin using this in the classroom today.

1) Engage your students inside and outside of class.
Students come to class already engaged in the subject matter by the time they arrive because they have the opportunity to have conversations about books all night or weekend long. This enables in-class conversations to be deeper and richer than they would have been otherwise.

2) Connecting students to others with the same interests.
While it’s great to be able to find students in a class with similar interests and reading levels, there are often times when you have some students who just don’t fit in with the random sampling in your class. This tool lets educators connect students across classes, across grades, and even across schools.

3) Take the ePals concept to a whole new level.
While many teachers have connected with partner classes across the globe about topics of interest, this tool enables students to specifically collaborate on books and make a whole new type of connection.

4) Free Books!!!!
Start with something free. Several of the titles are available at no cost. While the site is in beta and still growing, how many free books do you have for every student in your class today? Find a few good titles and instantly have an entire class set.

5) Encourage students to start their own book clubs
The club can be as open or private as you and the student agree to. Here’s a sample from one GluttonBooks Club: I love to read and I'd love it even more if others wanted to read with me. I like mostly Fantasy/SciFi/Paranormal stuff. Mostly Young Adult. I also really like Christian books... So this will be the type of books we will read in the club! I have like 200 books to choose we shouldn't ever get bored!!

6) Have students publish their own books!
Book Glutton allows members to upload and their own books enabling students to become authors with published pieces with which others can read and interact.

7) Connect with Authors
Have a favorite author? Ask them to join a group formed about their book. Think it’s far-fetched? Think again. I’ve talked with many book authors who lament the fact that books don’t provide the opportunity to engage with their readers the way other mediums do. My guess is that if there book is published in this format, they may consider it. I’m going to approach a book author and request we publish a chapter of his book privately for teachers I work with to have a conversation about it in this format. Book members will have also purchased a hardcopy of the book since it was not created for this format.

How it Works

Supporting students without access to a computer

The number of homes that have internet access is increasing rapidly, though, of course not every student has home access to a computer. This doesn’t mean you should make a decision for an entire school not to use technology. When I was teaching the number of students without computers was much higher than it is today. Here are some things I did:

  • Funded the school library which had computers to stay open late a few nights each week.
  • Connected students to local libraries. They all have computers. Talk to the librarians. Bring your students in and introduce them to the librarians…especially students who may be going there.
  • Help students buddy up.
  • Reach out to the community and see if there are any partnerships that can be made. We started a mentor program. The mentors can serve as a great resource for the students.
  • Connect with a local university to see if some of your students can get ID and access to the facilities. Great experience/exposure for students and many universities are happy to open their doors.

Even if you do none of these things, you’d be surprised. With intrinsic motivation students often find a friend or neighbor with internet access on their own.

Discovering Book Glutton

I never would have known about this site if not for my fantastic personal learning network in general and in particular from this Facebook status update:

Lisa Velmer Nielsen 21st century book dream: I subscribe to a book online that I can read w/others (think Google-docs or Diigo-ish, but better!). We can all comment on parts of the book. Discuss...even chat & have book talks. Wondering what others think.

I received 16 comments included this one:

Jerry Crisci
Jerry Crisci
How about using Bookglutton?
It seems to have some of the functionality that you are looking to use.

Lisa Velmer Nielsen
Lisa Velmer Nielsen
Jerry, thank you for sharing. Have you used this site???

Join Me on Book Glutton

Now that I’ve discovered BookGlutton and shared it with you, I hope you’ll join me on the site. Just look for the username, InnovativeEd

1 comment:

  1. 326,315 reasons to embrace ereading !!!