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What happens when a book request comes in

Book Requestfavicon Thanksgiving is coming, which means the 600+ students in the Kindle Classroom Project are finding themselves off of school — and ready to read even more.

This also means I’m receiving more book requests than normal. Over the past week, the average has been four a day. Here’s what happens when a book request comes in.

Step #1: I receive an email in my inbox. Before I get the email, the student has already searched for the book on his or her Kindle, not found it in the Kindle Library, and then logged on the KCP Website to ask for the book. The email looks like this:

KCP Book Request Email

Looks like Jazmine likes Octavia Butler! (Kindred is a book that some teachers assign, and it’s possible this student got hooked on Ms. Butler after reading it. One of the best ways to get students to read a lot is to encourage them to follow a series, author, or interest over the course of a number of books.)

Step #2: I confirm the book is not yet part of the Kindle Library. Sometimes the Kindle’s search feature doesn’t work perfectly, and as a result, students may request a book that already exists in the library. Until I finish adding all 600+ books to the KCP website (want to help? :) ), the complete Kindle Library is currently on Goodreads.

KCP Goodreads

In the bottom left corner, you’ll see that the status of this book is “want to read.” I change the status to reflect that the book is now part of the Kindle Library on Goodreads. (The Kindle Library now holds 587 titles, thanks to generous donors. Every book that is purchased comes from a student or teacher’s request.)

Step #3: I buy the book on Amazon. This part takes a few clicks. Just to be safe, the KCP’s gift card balance — where supporters’ generous donations go — stays in a separate Amazon.com account from where the students’ e-books go. This means that when I buy a book for the Kindle Classroom Project, I gift the book from account to another.

KCP Amazon Book Request

It looks like Mind of My Mind costs $6.15, much cheaper than buying the mass-market paperback at $16.14. To be clear, I’m not an enemy of physical books, but purchasing the e-book version means several things: (1) Jazmine starts reading the book immediately, (2) The book never gets lost or worn, (3) The book is available to other students, particularly if Jazmine recommends it to her friends.

Step #4: I add the book to the KCP Website and notify the student. This year is the first where the program has a dedicated website — where students can search for books, review them, and recommend them to friends. In addition, teachers will soon be able to track their students’ reading progress, and I’ll be able to see which books are most popular. Big thanks go to my friend and former colleague Brandon, who is volunteering his time and skill to develop this website.

KCP Website Page 1

You’ll see my administrator dashboard, which announces the new book requests. Mind of My Mind is ready to be added to the Kindle Library, and after a few clicks, Jazmine gets a personal notification that the book is ready for her to read. My favorite part is that I get to write a personal note to students. Even though the primary contact students have is with their teacher, I get to be interested in their reading lives, too, from afar.

So there’s the process! Usually I honor students’ book requests twice a day — once in the morning, and once at night — so that no student is waiting more than a few hours to get their book. Many requests come late at night — after school, after homework is done. This tells me that students see themselves as readers, and that they trust the KCP to deliver quickly on their reading interests.

If you would like to help a young person to read the book that he or she wants to read, please consider making a donation. Here’s the Contribute page, and here is a really quick way to donatefavicon


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Recommended Reading: “I’m Gonna Rise Above What I Was Doing”

favicon If you teach students who will be the first in their families to go to college, or if you teach urban students, this photographic interview, “I’m Gonna Rise Above What I Was Doing,” is important to read.

“Chicago taught Tavaris Sanders how to survive among gang members. Is there room for him to thrive at a liberal-arts college? Jonah Markowitz photographed Mr. Sanders throughout his freshman year at Connecticut College. Now a sophomore, he spoke about the photos with Mr. Markowitz.”

Tavaris — who earned a 4.2 GPA in his Chicago high school — experiences intense challenges, both academic and social, in his first year of college. The photograph of him checking his phone in the cafeteria is particularly startling. So is his resilience.

Source: http://j.mp/1MugLev (via Pocket). The Chronicle of Higher Education. You may also find this article in this Thursday’s edition of Iserotope Extras, a curated newsletter of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

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Here’s why I love Pocket, plus why I’m intrigued by its new features

Pocket iconfavicon Pocket is my favorite save-online-stuff-for-later service. I use it all the time, plus I’ve written about it a bit. (One of my claims to fame is that Pocket interviewed me for their blog last year.)

I like Pocket for many reasons. Here are some: (1) It lets me save articles (and other content) to read later, (2) It makes reading beautiful, (3) It works offline, (4) It works across all platforms, (5) The app is simple and beautiful.

Because I’m a big online reader (traditional news sources + Feedly + Facebook + Twitter + friends’ recommendations + Digg + Medium + TinyLetter and Revue newsletters + This. + other sources), there’s just no way I could read everything I want to read and organize everything I’m reading if Pocket weren’t around.

(In fact, it makes me a little crazy when I find out that there are tons of people who still don’t use Pocket. These people tell me one of two things: (1) They read things as they discover them, (2) They keep tabs open. Both options are not ideal!)

Over the past several months, Pocket has worked on several new developments that push the service into new territory. They’re intriguing.

The first development is about discovery. Pocket is promoting a new “recommended” feature, which offers articles that may catch our interest. Here’s what it looks like on the computer:

Pocket Recommendations

The skeptic says, “I already have too much to read on Pocket. Why do I need more?” The answer is that Pocket — at least so far — is doing a good job of recommending excellent articles, and not too many of them. Though I won’t use Pocket as my primary way to discover new articles to read, I am liking what I’m seeing so far.

The second development is about curation. Each Pocket user has a profile (here’s mine), and now you can add your favorite articles to your page. It’s like your personal best-of list. Articles you add stay there unless you delete them. There’s a stickiness. In this way, what Pocket is offering is a sort of opposite to Facebook or Twitter, where what you post is ephemeral. If it’s true that “we are what we read,” then this feature also allows others to learn more about what we care about. (My gut says this curate-yourself trend will get big. Example: This. is similar but takes a different approach.) It’s brilliant.

Pocket Profile Page

The third development is about building a social reading community. If you like, similar to Twitter, you can follow other Pocket users and their public recommendations. I’m a bit more leery about this feature. It sounds great at first — after all, why not know what your friends are reading? Maybe I would like it more if more of my friends used Pocket. My worry is that there’s something personal and private about Pocket. If I want to recommend an article to a friend, I’d like to do so privately — via email, usually — and yes, I know I can still do that. Maybe I’m just worried that Pocket’s primary feature — to be my reading hub, my reading headquarters — will somehow be compromised if it becomes too much of a social network. Like a sort of dilution in a way.

Overall, I’m really happy with where Pocket is going. Online reading services (like Instapaper and Readability and Pocket and Reading List) are all trying to figure out the best overall experience (not too many features, and not too few), and I’m excited to see Pocket’s next steps. favicon


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A weird article about discipline in urban charter schools

favicon Robert Pondiscio, an adviser to Democracy Prep Public Schools, a charter network in New York City, wrote this fairly incomprehensible article in U.S. News and World Report.

Maybe you could help me make sense of it.

My understanding of Mr. Podiscio’s argument is that recent criticism of urban charter schools’ strict disciplinary practices (like at Success Academy) is unfounded because rich white suburban schools do the same thing — they cream, they suspend, they counsel out.

In other words, because elite schools are exclusive, then urban charters should be able to the same thing.

I just don’t get it. Do you?

“Let’s not kid ourselves that “creaming” and “counseling out” are rarities in American public education. But it’s in rich neighborhoods, not poor ones, where such practices thrive.”

Source: http://j.mp/1NX7goM (via Pocket). favicon

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What’s on your Kindle?

favicon KCP teacher Lara (Oakland, CA) sent me this great photo from her classroom whiteboard. Check it out!

What's On Your Kindle?

Have you read any of these books? Feel free to let everyone know in the comments! (I’ve read The Maze RunnerLet’s Explore Diabetes with OwlsTakedownThings Fall Apart, and Murderville.)

I really like what Lara is doing here. In a quick and informal way, she is celebrating her students’ reading, identifying good books, and building a reading community.

Reading is both a private and a social activity. On the one hand, we all need space to be with our own book and our own thoughts. On the other hand, reading offers an opportunity to connect. Young people have told me the exhilaration they feel when they talk to a peer about a common book they’ve read.

Thank you, Lara, for your dedication to your students and your hard work to promote reading in your classroom! favicon

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More reading enthusiasm at Oakland High School

13 Stack of Kindlesfavicon Good news continues to flow from Oakland High School, where students are reading a lot and appreciating their Kindles.

(Here’s a previous post about the enthusiasm.)

Teacher Jessica writes that her experience so far with the Kindles “is all very dreamy. I feel like I’m living in a movie about excited readers.”

Her students agree.

One student told Jessica: “I told my mom we were getting Kindles, and she was like, ‘Oh, you go to that kind of school now!’ ” (*positive tone*).

Then, during a not-so-interesting school assembly, Jessica witnessed “rows” of her students “slyly reading their Kindles.”

(I love it when students “misbehave” by reading.)

And then there’s this one: One of Jessica’s students approached her the other day and said, “I’m really turning into a reader! I just keep reading this Kindle, and I’m getting faster!”

This is wonderful news. The students at Oakland High School are eager, and they’re grateful, and they’re reading a lot. (You should see all the books they’re requesting!)

The Kindle Classroom Project isn’t doing anything to enhance the enthusiasm that Oakland students have for reading. The enthusiasm is already there. There’s nothing fancy or magical going on.

All the KCP is doing is giving students widespread access to books — whatever students want to read, whenever they want to read. The students and their excellent teachers are doing the rest. favicon