Category Archives: eTextBooks

Running a Book Club using Moodle & Goodreads

bookwormsAs an English teacher I have always run book clubs as a way of encouraging reading for pleasure. Some kids loved it, some hated it, and the logistics were always messy and complicated. Kids would forget to bring in a book on the right day, and it never really had the effect I wanted – getting kids to read more. A few days ago I had a bit of a brain wave – why not create an online book club? After a bit of research I decided to use Goodreads. You can set up a free user account, and can even add an app to your phone which allows you to scan the ISBN number to call up all the details of a book. Users can rate books on a five-star system, add reviews and share recommendations. The site also allows you to set up private groups so it is perfect for a school.

Better still you can generate a widget which you can post on your blog, website or moodle page which pulls through books being recommended by group members – keeping the book club visible at all times. You can also run discussions, events and polls within the group. I have only just  set up the group, but already I can see that its potential far outstrips the once a term bring in a book to share approach I had been using before.

What sites,and apps like Goodreads does so successfully is bring together the real and digital worlds in a seamless manner. I have no doubt that the students I teach will do a great deal of reading online, but I do not believe that print books will die, and research seems to indicate that the cognitive benefits of print reading are enormous. Print supports sequential reading, the development of a coherent argument. On screen reading can be sequential and narrative, as in reading a novel on your kindle, but print seems to encourage a sense of knowing where you are in the logical train of thought. Screen reading also supports hypertextual readings which allow people to rapidly assimilate a wide range of inputs and get a sense of a field. The future will be one in which both types of reading, sequential narrative reading largely done on paper, and hypertext readings largely done on-screen, both have a role to play. Reading for depth, and reading to synthesise large amounts of information are both important cognitively and are supported by different delivery systems.

What I think an online book club adds to the mix is a commitment to valorizing both page and screen and making reading accessible to the ways in which we share our ideas via social media, and how this can be connected to the classroom.


Creating Byte Sized Books For Your Flipped Classroom!

slidedocsAs more and more educational content goes online, and more and more classrooms flip, we need to re-think how we as teachers present information. I came across a site called Slidedocs the other day, which allows you to download PowerPoint templates for creating book-like slides. These save as PowerPoints and can easily be posted to your Moodle page, Edmodo site or your DropBox for students to access.

The idea behind it all is that these days people prefer to receive information in byte-sized chunks rather than continuous text. Many use PowerPoint to create presentations, but you can also use PowerPoint to create content not intended to be projected onto a screen, but read through like a book. According to the website Microsoft’s PowerPoint® has been installed on roughly
one billion computers and an average of 350 presentations are given every second of every day. This must make PowerPoint one of the most ubiquitous applications around. Students certainly enjoy using it.

The site offers templates for creating your own book-like content. It includes a front page, contents page and different layouts which can be used and duplicated to put together a book-like slide-show, intended to be downloaded and read on screen.

With increasing interest in flipping the classroom, comes the question of how best to present information to students. Many teachers use PowerPoint for this, or create their own podcasts, vodcasts or screencasts. But there is also a need for more conventional “read” texts, and it seems to me that the idea of using PowerPoint slides and treating them like the pages of a book is a very powerful one. I found the template easy to use, but you can easily add graphics, text boxes or videos to flesh out your book. I see them as something of an alternative to the traditional handout or notes, or even worksheet. They are easily updated from year to year, and because they are downloaded from your learning management system, they cannot be left lying on a desk when the class is dismissed! My pet bug-bear!

I usually don’t blog about any tool unless I can see uses for both teachers and students, and slidedocs are no exception. They are an excellent tool for students to create their own content, be it in the form of essays, reports or creative writing. With a bit of organization they could be used to mash together collaborative class books.

The templates are very elegant and make for easy viewing. You can, if you wish, though, apply your own designs too, making this a very versatile tool. You can even print your book out if required.

I sense that I may be preparing all my teaching content in this way from now on.

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