If it weren’t for book clubs, would any of us actually read? Perhaps a few book worms would remain, but I’m willing to bet that the vast majority would leave great literature behind. This is because book clubs take what is essentially an isolationist activity, reading, and turn it into a communal activity, talking.
As humans, we know that reading is important for our intellect. But we often hesitate to do it because we have to do it alone, and we don’t like being alone. We humans are social animals, as Aristotle reminds us. We crave the attention of others, we desire the comfort of others and we need the companionship of others.
Teachers continue to encourage reading and assign canonical texts, but many of them act surprised if their students don’t do their homework. Why don’t students read if there is a quiz the next day? Won’t they be embarrassed if they’re called on in class discussion and they aren’t prepared? Teachers ask these questions without understanding that there is a possible workaround: Teachers can use digital technology to form online book clubs for their students to share ideas about reading assignments.
It would be naïve to assume that online book clubs can get every student to do the reading, but they can provide more incentive. In The New York Times, Judy Abel shares the stories of many readers who joined online book clubs and found them to be incredibly stimulating, precisely because they are social in nature. Among the most mentioned benefits: convenience.
Unlike traditional book clubs, which would require the physical presence of participants, online book clubs can be accessed from anywhere. This helps students who don’t have easy access to transportation or who have busy schedules after traditional school hours. Students can take advantage of mobile learning and participate remotely.
So how do teachers create online book clubs for their students? With LiveTiles Mosaic, a UI Design solution that sits on top of SharePoint and is free for any K-12 class with an Office 365 tenant, teachers can design a digital classroom without any coding experience. By using the convenient and user-friendly drag and drop function, teachers can add and arrange different tiles, or apps, on the digital classroom dashboard to make literature more engaging for students.
Teachers can use a number of tiles to make up the online book club, but three of the most essential are Yammer, Embed and Documents.
Yammer is the main discussion page where students will share their questions and insights about the readings. Teachers can set Yammer up so that only students in the class have access, and even though teachers can monitor the discussion to ensure that it stays on track, they should refrain from commenting and instead use the students’ comments to guide class discussion. Ideally, Yammer will be the social space for students to talk about readings without input from teachers, and then in class the next day, teachers can chime in and ensure that students are getting the main points of the readings.
Many of today’s students respond to visuals. Teachers can take advantage of this by embedding TED Talks or YouTube videos into the digital classroom with the Embed tile. These videos should compliment the readings. Let’s say, for example, that students read Night by Elie Wiesel. Teachers can add YouTube videos of Wiesel interviews or TED Talks about the Holocaust to get students thinking about the book’s main ideas.
What about the Documents tile? Teachers can use it to provide students with important resources for the readings, like facts about the author, information that explains why the book is important within the world of literature or discussion guide questions. Students can use this information to both enhance their reading experience and prepare for discussions with other students, making the learning process more collaborative.
To ensure that students make an effort, teachers can have online book club attendance be a required portion of the participation grade. However, teachers should only grade students based on their active participation, not the content of their responses. Content evaluation can be saved for other assignments. The purpose of the online book club is to get students reading and thinking about the great literature they’re reading. What do you think? Has your class tried online book clubs, and if so, are they successful?
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