Tagged: summer

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Kindle Classroom Project, news and updates: July 2014

This is a lot of what happens during the summer at the Kindle Classroom Project.
This is a lot of what happens during the summer at the Kindle Classroom Project.

favicon Hi there, loyal readers and supporters of the Kindle Classroom Project! It’s summer, which means that I’m resting and relaxing, but I wanted to share with you some quick updates about the Kindle Classroom Project.

After a donation slump that lasted several months, I’m happy to report that Kindles are again arriving. Even though there are more than 150 Kindles now in the collection, it’s still a wonderful feeling to receive an email (from the Donate Kindle page’s form) that someone wants to donate their Kindle to students in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’m always very appreciative of people’s generosity, and it makes me especially happy when total and complete strangers find Iserotope on the Internet, decide that the KCP is a worthy cause, and ship their Kindle to me. It’s pretty great.

Also great is that the Kindle library is beginning to grow again. My goal has never been to accumulate tons of titles; after all, anyone can go on Project Gutenberg and download out-of-print classics that no students will read (even though we might want them to). Besides, you don’t want too many books: It’s confusing to students, plus you don’t want to go over the Kindle’s capacity (~1,000 books for some models). But Kindles themselves don’t do anything until there are good books on them. That’s why I’m grateful for all the donors who have purchased books, either via the Contribute page or by checking out my students’ Amazon wishlist.

The past few months, several people have contacted me to ask why I’m focusing more of my attention on physical books. “Isn’t that taking away your energy from Kindles?” I definitely don’t think so. My goal has always been to spread reading among students; I’m not really partial to any specific medium. That said, I do believe strongly in what I call “classroom library mirroring,” where students can see physical books in the classroom and then access them on their Kindle. Without library mirroring, there’s no good way for students to browse and to discover new titles they might want to try out. Therefore, I’ve been working with teachers (via DonorsChoose, mainly) to build physical classroom libraries. If you’re pro-physical book and would like to make a contribution, please let me know!

Coming Up: This Summer’s Projects

Summer is a great time to get ready for the next year and to work on big ways to make the Kindle Classroom Project better.

I’m happy to report that the KCP will be in five schools in August — two in San Francisco, one in Berkeley, one in Oakland, and one in Hayward.

One challenge I’ve had is to build a robust data-gathering system I can study (with some scientific accuracy) the effects of the Kindles on students. Last year, I tried, but it was not too successful for a number of reasons.

So this summer, I’m creating an easy way (via Google Forms) for students to track the books they’ve completed. That data, when compared to their online reading achievement scores, will help me answer more clearly whether students who use Kindles read more and whether they become better readers as a result.

I’ll need teacher collaboration and support, of course, to ensure that students are reporting their reading. No one, after all, likes to fill out a reading log. (The Form won’t be a reading log, promise.) The good news is that I’m working with teachers (and one school librarian!) who are wonderful and incredible and understand the importance of the project. I’ll be introducing them to you beginning in August.

What else? Oh, another big project is to — finally — publish the Kindle library online, categorized by genre. I have procrastinated on this project for too long (for some good and not-so-good reasons), and it’s time to move. It’s not going to be perfect — no cataloging system is — but I’m going to do my best (and maybe ask my librarian-y friends for help).

There are tons of benefits to this cataloging project. First, it’ll be easier for students (and parents) to browse books if the classroom library is not yet mirrored. One copy of the Kindle library will be on Goodreads, so students can check out the book’s summaries and reviews to determine whether to give a book a try.

Second, it’ll make it much easier to organize the books on the Kindles. Students have access to nearly 500 titles (as long as no more than six students are reading the book simultaneously, per Amazon’s policy), and my feeling is that students will more quickly find books they want to read if they’re organized by genre. (This is very similar to why school libraries over the past two decades have moved toward cataloging by genre vs. by author for fiction and by Dewey decimal number for nonfiction.

OK, wow, this is a long post, and I can go on for longer, but I’ll stop for now. Again, I appreciate the support and the enthusiasm that you all have for young people and their reading lives, and I’m hopeful that 2014-15 will be a strong one for the Kindle Classroom Project. Thank you! favicon

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Back from summer vacation, ready for the new school year

favicon Hi again! I hope all of you had a great summer and are ready for the new school year. I am! It’s been a busy summer. But it’s also been fun to relax and recharge.

Let me catch you up.

The biggest news is that my partner and I moved from San Francisco to New York. After spending my entire life in the Bay Area (except for a year in graduate school and several summers in other cities), I wanted to try out a new adventure. It’s a little crazy — and some of my friends and family have made sure I know this — but so far, I’m feeling great feeling stretched.

Unfortunately, the move meant having to leave the great job I had last year as an instructional coach. Though I don’t reveal my employers on this site (to honor their policies regarding technology use), I can say that it was tough to leave the teachers with whom I worked. Together we made significant progress in figuring out what it means to teach high school students how to approach reading in a new, joyful, visible way.


The good news is, I was able to find a new job here in New York that is extremely similar. Instead of working at four schools, however, I will work exclusively with teachers at one school in the Bronx. Along with another instructional coach, my role is to promote the teaching of literacy across the curriculum and to help develop teachers’ confidence in teaching specific reading strategies.

The only major difference (as I see it, though this might change) is that I’ll likely be working with more beginning and inexperienced teachers than I did last year. My preference, of course, is to work with veteran teachers (for many reasons). It’s more easily and immediately fun. Yes, that’s selfish. Nevertheless, I also understand how crucial it is for teachers to receive high-quality coaching at the beginning of their careers. I remember my mentors in Cambridge and Fremont, and I hope to return the support and inspiration I received.

The weird part is, I always have trouble starting at a new job. Maybe that’s one reason I stuck around my San Francisco school for 12 years. (There are many other reasons, too!) It’s hard for me to get to know people; they probably feel the same thing about me. Doubts creep up: Um, do I really know anything about literacy, anyway? Where’s my credential? What makes me think that the teachers will find me helpful? I’m no expert, after all.

But over time, I trust, things will smooth out and take care of themselves.

Sort of rambling here, but I’ll leave you with one last thing (and go into more depth in an upcoming post). The Kindle Classroom Project has seen steady growth over the summer, and I’m happy to report that I’ll be receiving the 70th Kindle in the next few days!

All of the Kindles safely made the transcontinental move, and I’m eager to get them ready for the new students. Why didn’t the Kindles stay in San Francisco and Oakland? After tons of thought, I decided the program would be stronger if I’m nearby. Keeping all the Kindles up and running — not to mention the ebook library — takes constant care, and troubleshooting across the country just didn’t sound right. I look forward to meeting with the ninth grade teachers at my new school to get them hugely excited about getting their students involved.

I am also very happy that some of my passion for reading will not leave the Bay Area. My friend and former colleague Nancy Jo Turner, who works in Berkeley and is an excellent! excellent! ninth grade teacher, has agreed to take care of my physical book library and to launch a significant independent reading program with her students. She just completed cataloging the books — there are 512 in total! I can’t wait to share her updates from her classroom.

Update: I’ve decided to move back to San Francisco. More details in a future post.

So there it is, a rough update about what’s been going on this summer. I look forward to hearing from you, loyal Iserotope readers, and to share with you more stories this year. Let me know what you’d like to read about! favicon