Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Point: Linking Students with the Community

In 2006, Linda Starr in Education World (available at the National Education Association website) reported on the success of the Literary Book Club online forums in Fayette County, Kentucky. The original Literary Book Club site is being shut down, but the club is alive and well at The Point, the Fayette County public schools blog. Through The Point, classrooms can also collaborate with each other and authors and illustrators can be scheduled for videoconferencing sessions with students.

The Literary Book Club was developed by three technology resource teachers -- Amy Ford, Cathy Brandt and Barbara Hardy -- to encourage students to read more books and discuss what they read. A side goal was to help teachers and students sharpen their computer skills. At The Literary Book Club site, K-12 students could write book reviews. Classroom teachers had to register for students in their classes to submit to the site; this also ensured there was feedback and help for student writing. The publishing aspect, according to technology resource teacher Mike Johnson, gave "students a purpose and an audience for their writing." He added:
"They like being able to log on to the site to see what students are writing, and being able to add comments to each part of the review. Teachers have reported that the site has increased their students' desire to read and write.

"Students are eager to have their work published online and they seem more interested when they're writing for a real audience...They can show their reviews to their parents at home, and e-mail the link to distant friends and family."

The reviews are now housed at The Point, "Fayette County's Student Online Writing and Blogging Platform." Students and teachers log into private blogs and forums. Public blogs offer information on school events, curriculum issues and upcoming technology projects and events. Two guest pages offer guidance for community members who want to collaborate with teachers: a general information page that allows authors or other experts to submit a request form, and a page that outlines the process for collaborating with a teacher and his or her class. Guests are screened and then registered in The Point's system. After that, forums can be accessed and even videoconferencing sessions can be scheduled to bring authors into Fayette County classrooms.

The Point has great information pages for teachers and students and about blogs and current and past projects. One page, Author's/Illustrator's Corner, announces upcoming videoconferencing sessions, such as one in mid-April with cartoonist Bruce Blitz, and websites of interest by or about authors. The only videoconferencing session described is for grades 3-5 but Fayette County's schools clearly have the technology and structure needed for remote expert access.

SOURCE: "Online Book Club Promotes Student Literacy" 2006
photo courtesy of cogdogblog, used under this Creative Commons license

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