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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  1. Kelly Holland-Mazzoli

    How cool! I plan to tell my principal about these books asap! Watching this brief video and reading the Cornerstone review got me hooked!

  2. Christa

    Very cool! I am currently working on integrating more technology in my classroom through the pixie program where students read and record their own writing. It is so motivating and a great tool to develop and improve fluency:)

  3. Nicole

    I love to use mp3 players so kids can listen to audio books. I have a huge collection of digital audio books. I used to have ipads at another school. I would like to get some or some kind of tablet so student can use Scholastic’s storia app. It is amazing and I think could really help struggling readers.

  4. Angela Piccoli

    I would like to use my iPad more to track students learning towards reading proficiency! I love the apps out there but would love apps that allow you to track what the students are working on so they can have fun and you can gather data!

  5. Jill

    As an IB teacher, I love that technology can put my kids in touch with kids ALL OVER the world! And I’d die without my Mimio and my document camera 🙂

  6. Cindy

    Just what I need to enhance my reading lessons!

  7. Amanda

    With common core this is exactly what my kinders and/or my middle schoolers need to add enhance their reading! yup, I teach both and love it. Thanks for highlighting this and for the opportunity.

  8. Jayne

    I love integrating tech into learning, but I am always anxious to learn more.

  9. Darcy

    We finally entered the 21st century this year at my school and it’s so exciting to be teaching with technology again!

  10. Emily

    How neat! I use technology with audio books and using the projector to show short video clips, etc.

  11. Deb

    I am excited every single time I see someone weaving technology into our student’s reading opportunities. They really are the digital natives (Marc Prensky)

  12. Christy Herron

    I try to use technology in every subject I teach. In reading, I love to use Tumblebooks, and I project graphic organizers with my document camera to fill out as a group. I have a Mimeo, which is similar to a smart board. I use this to explore websites, do activities, and play games in class.

  13. Elisa Waingort

    Thank you for this opportunity. I am finding more and more books of this kind – that are interactive and up to date in terms of technology tools and uses. I’m glad to hear this book is for advanced social networkers as well as beginners. I feel that I am an intermediate user because I know about a lot of tools and have dabbled in some but I am still gathering information, but mostly courage, to try these out in full force.

  14. Heather P.

    This book sounds awesome! I need it.

  15. Heather P.

    And my favorite way to integrate… it can be challenging, especially since my students have limited technology access at home. But, I have used Google Docs, and GoodReads with students. Love both!

  16. Erik Palmer

    Great to hear you love the format! When I wrote Digitally Speaking I wanted in part to offer a sort of flipped instruction to teachers concerned about the lack of coherent oral communication we often witness with students. The “books” provide that so teachers can see in action the ideas presented. Thanks for the good words (but I do have to point out that I am Erik, not Eric).

    • Angela Watson

      Erik, thanks for stopping by! I’ve made the correction to the spelling of your first name–my apologies. I’m looking forward to delving further into your book!

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