Sunday, September 27, 2015

Linking Our Book Reviews to QR Codes to Share with a Wider Audience

In the last three years, two factors led to a major decline in the number of books being checked out from our school's media center: Changing from a block schedule to a traditional, seven-period day schedule and putting a Chromebook in the hands of each student through our 1:1 technology initiative. Honestly, I fully support each of these changes. Teaching on the block schedule held some advantages, but I struggled with forging strong relationships with students when they knew they'd spend just a semester with me. I hated the feeling that they left me, never to return, when I had finally figured out how to best help each of them. I welcomed the traditional schedule for these reasons, and my relationships are stronger and my students are growing more. I also love technology; our Chromebooks have allowed experiences and creations we would never have been able to do without them, like Epic Rap Battles and Digital Text Annotation.

But the traditional, seven-period day made so many of my colleagues feel the need to rush. Even though they had the time, the shortened periods made them feel like they had less time. The first things they cut were projects that required even more time by leaving their classrooms and going to the media center. The media center also used to be a popular place for students during study hall before a Chromebook was available to them 24/7. I would write passes each day for students who wanted to access technology in the media center during their study hall time, for the media center housed the majority of tech in our building. Our Chromebooks enabled them to have even better access without making the extra trip.
Creative Commons photo via Flickr

As a language teacher and lover of books, hearing my colleagues in the media center lament the drastic decline in circulation made me sad. I have so many amazing memories of book talks with my school librarian, participating in summer reading programs and book clubs, and those few teachers who would set aside time in class for us to read books that we had chosen for ourselves. And so I decided to take action rather than remain sad.

If I want my students to read and visit the media center, then reading and going to the media center need to be priorities. I need to take time for class visits and time in class to read our choice books. Even more importantly, I need to talk to students about their books, help them find the right books for their interests and abilities, and help them share their opinions with each other, our school, and the world.

To share with each other and the school, I decided to have students record book reviews, link them to QR codes, and received permission from our media specialist to place the QR codes on the books in the library. This way anyone with a Chromebook (which is everyone in our school) or a smart phone could easily listen to the reviews and get advice about choosing that particular book! Here's the assignment I gave my students!
Creative Commons photo via Flickr

As for sharing with the world, I have asked all of my students to seek parent permission to set up "professional" Twitter accounts using their school email addresses. Through these accounts, I have encouraged them to share photos of their books using #shelfieWednesday and even promoted the Sunday night #Read4fun chat where people (mostly educators) share reviews and recommendations. While not all of my students are there yet, they're slowly getting on board with my love of reading and they love any excuse to use social media!

Our media specialist has already noticed a sharp increase in circulation, as well as a decrease in overdue books. Since I paln to do the same or a similar project each quarter of the school year, we should be able to provide many reviews as we reshape our media center's identity!