This month’s book review and give-away is incredibly unique. It’s called Reading Amplified: Digital Tools That Engage Students in Words, Books, and Ideas by ninth grade teacher Lee Ann Spillane. The book is from Stenhouse’s new line of Read & Watch books which bring together text, video, and audio.
What I love about this format is that you can read about a teaching strategy and then watch a video demonstration of the strategy all within the context of the book. You can also leave comments on each chapter to ask questions of the author or exchange ideas with other readers. If you use a free service like Diigo, you can even highlight text and take notes on the pages.
To access the various chapter sections, you just click “Next Page” at the bottom of a page or click the section title in the navigation bar. I skim and scan a lot when reading online, and I’d like to have a “View All” option so that I can see the entire chapter on one page. However, I can see how other readers might prefer to have the book organized the way it is, because it speeds up loading time, more closely resembles a real book, and prevents the reader from becoming overwhelmed at the large amount of information on one page.
Here’s a video to show you how the Read & Watch books work:
In this particular Read & Watch book, Reading Amplified, Lee Ann Spillane explains how she guides her students to deeper reading and engagement using digital tools. Though Spillane teaches at the secondary level, the tools she demonstrates in the book are easily adaptable for a wide range of grade levels (such as the Google Book search concordance feature, comic strip software, and my personal favorite, Voicethread).
Spillane takes a very practical approach to the topics she tackles (which range from fluency to vocabulary to comprehension skills) and she writes and speaks conversationally in the text and videos. She includes photos of student work samples, audio samples of her read-alouds, and video tutorials to show you exactly how to implement the strategies she’s shared.
The book also includes lots of links to other resources where you can learn more about the topic or connect with other educators through forums, wikis, Twitter, etc. Usually when I read professional texts, I end up Googling something every few pages to clarify a term, learn the research or opposing views to what I just read, or see how teachers are actually implementing the ideas in their classrooms. When I read Reading Amplified, this wasn’t necessary: each time I thought Oh, that’s amazing, I want to know more!, I’d find in the very next sentence that Spillane had linked to a high-quality resource that was exactly what I was looking for.
It’s very tempting to turn a book about technology integration into an obsession with “cool tools”, but Spillane does a remarkable job staying focused on deep learning. It’s obvious from the instructional strategies she chooses that Spillane’s ultimate goal is to motivate her students to become passionate and independent readers. Her approach is holistic and always practical–she speaks to the classroom management and technology challenges that teachers face in real classrooms (I love the section called “What If It’s Blocked? A Work-Around That Won’t Get You Fired”).
Spillane also deserves credit for making the book accessible to teachers at all different levels of tech proficiency. I’m pretty tech savvy, but never felt like I was reading a re-hash of every other tech-integrated reading resource that’s out there: I learned about lots of tools I hadn’t heard of and discovered new ways to use familiar tools. And because of the straightforward language and descriptions Spillane uses (not to mention the video tutorials that are included), I feel very confident in recommending this book to teachers who are in the beginning stages of learning to integrate technology into instruction.
In addition to Reading Amplified, there are two other Read & Watch books now available on the Stenhouse website: Word Travelers: Using Digital Tools to Explore Vocabulary and Develop Independent Learners by Lee Ann Tysseling and Digitally Speaking by Erik Palmer. Each of the Read & Watch books is available for less than $20 for a limited time.
A big thanks to Stenhouse for providing the review copies for me and offering copies of ALL THREE Read & Watch books for FIVE fans of The Cornerstone! Enter the contest below to win–you can enter daily until the contest closes at midnight EST on December 12. Good luck!
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