Summer is a busy time for many. Vacations. Family time. Housework. Yardwork. Painting. Hobbies. Reading. School book studies???
Summer is an opportunity when many educators dedicate time to read, find new ideas to implement in their classrooms, and brainstorm strategies to use the in fall. Teachers want to read, share, and learn together. There is actually now time to collaborate and share!
Traditionally, book studies are done in face-to-face meetings. Teachers choose a book to read together, plan which chapters to read, and then decide on meeting times to discuss those chapters. However, with varying schedules and planned commitments, finding a common time to come together to discuss a shared book multiple times throughout the summer is quite difficult. Families take vacations, their children have camps and other commitments, and thus meeting together with everyone is infrequent and often not well-attended.
So, with interest in having book studies from my staff, but dealing with tricky schedules, a different solution was necessary.
Through my PLN, I have heard and learned of different ways educators have held book studies. I have witnessed the growing trend of book studies on Twitter and on digital mediums. Educators from all around the globe are “meeting” at designated times to discuss particular parts of books on Twitter. Along with that, more educators are using blogs and websites to comment on books. I noticed this with the Indiana Department of eLearning book studies. Many teachers in Indiana were having great conversations about a particular book, but during times that were convenient for them.
While it may be uncomfortable for some, I felt this might be a good start. I decided a blended model of the traditional book study with the digital components would be a great way to integrate the face-to-face conversations that my staff were used to, plus adding digital pieces to build a virtual conversation in order to empower them to become more familiar with this format as well..
A blended model of the traditional book study with the digital components
From staff interest, I decided on three books for our summer book studies – The Daily 5 by Gail Boushey & Joan Moser, Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess, and Ditch That Textbook by Matt Miller. To get us started, we would have a face-to-face meeting for those who were available, and then end our book study in August with another face-to-face meeting to share overall reflections and strategies they would like to take into their classrooms in the next few weeks. The rest of the book study conversation would take place on two platforms – Blogger and Voxer.
I created a Blogger site, hosting all three book studies. I wanted a site that housed the information on the various sections of reading, a general page for how the book study would work, and tabs for each of the book studies. It would be one place every teacher could go to for the information and the conversation, particularly since many of my staff were partaking in more than one book study. I had to utilize a few tutorials on YouTube to fine tune my vision for what I wanted to create. These tutorials I found helped me set it up. It was much easier than I thought! Now, teachers just needed to click on the tabs at the top pertaining to the information and/or book study they wanted to find.
From here, it is easy to write posts with the questions, and teachers just need to comment on those particular questions in the posts. They can reply to one another as well, making Blogger a great tool to use for online conversation.
I have also found Voxer to be a wonderful tool as well. I am a part of a couple Voxer chat groups, spinning off the Twitter chats I regularly take part in. I originally had a free Voxer account on my phone, but in order to control these chat groups, I had to go Pro. Voxer Pro does have the advantage of being able to manage much of this online versus on my phone. So, with Pro, I set up each chat group, added members as they created their own accounts, and we will begin the conversation.
What is truly exciting in one of the book studies, I have connected with the author previously through Twitter, Matt Miller, and asked him if he would like to join our group. He enthusiastically joined, and so the power of digital tools was truly at work, with the author of the book adding his voice to our conversation.
With this blended book study model, anyone can take part in our book studies. Time and place is no longer a boundary. Teachers who were unable to take part in the face-to-face meetings are still able to join the conversation online and through Voxer. Even more than this, we have modeled blended learning and some cool tools as well. My staff utilized the traditional way of meeting, but now see the power in joining online conversations as well. Professional learning has truly expanded beyond the confines of the school walls, collectively sharing and discussing great strategies and ideas to implement in their classrooms during the next school year.
It all starts with a vision for learning, whether it is students or adults. We can take risks, empowering others through our modeling of digital tools to do the same.
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, FaruSantos.