The next adventure in my Digital Education Leadership program is well underway and this quarter I am focusing on the ISTE Student Standards and how I can use those standards to address challenges I currently face. This week proved to be a great life learning experience for me, it helped to remind me to ignore the box that I try to stand inside of and instead do what works for me. When serving on committees, collaborating with classmates or meeting with colleagues, I often find that I compare myself to classroom teachers. I forget to see that in my position as school librarian, I am afforded some wonderfully unique opportunities to connect with students and instead I focus on what I cannot do with my limited time or resources.
In my “I’m-not-a-classroom-teacher” state of mind, I was tasked with examining the first ISTE standard and determine how students can “demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.” Through this, I asked the following:
How can students use technology to demonstrate their understanding of a book to connect with other fans outside of the school community (fan fiction, global read-alouds) and, potentially, the author themselves (Twitter, Skype)?
I found that I was asking myself the following questions and not coming up with sufficient answers:
- What does it mean to “understand a book”?
- What literary elements am I looking for the students to demonstrate their knowledge of?
- Am I teaching literary elements during library class?
- How do I assess their knowledge?
I quickly realized that I was trying to address topics that were covered in the scope of the classroom curriculum and NOT during library class. Time to shift my attitude and embrace my role as librarian. I took some time to reflect and determine challenges I was currently facing in the library. One big challenge, low circulation rates due to particular grades of students that have a number of reluctant readers. Ah-ha! Now I was onto something. I revised my question to the following:
How can students use technology (student-created book trailers) to increase circulation rates and motivate fellow reluctant readers? How can students then share those products with one another, as well as the outside world?
First things first, why are some grades so heavy with reluctant readers? After some observation, I discovered that those students are not “reluctant” readers at all, they’re generally voracious readers but they think it’s “cool” not to check out books from the library. They read countless books at home, but they have it in their minds that not checking out is the hip message to spread. Time to flip that attitude and make checking out books from the library a fun adventure. With those groups of students checking out on a regular basis, I will instantly watch as books fly off the shelves and my circulation rates climb (hopefully).
What Does the Research Say?
There is no doubt that book trailers sell books… And reading. School Library Journal found that publishers are “spending as much as $20,000 a pop to create book trailers” (Springen, 2012). With a hefty price tag, for-profit publishers are clearly seeing results. Book trailers bring words to life, they are a “cinematic way to reach out to young people visually” (Springen, 2012). If book trailers have that much of an impact on selling titles, I can only imagine the power in student-created trailers that come complete with a sense of ownership and a means of artistic expression. Bob Dillon, author for Edutopia, states that digital stories, the broader idea of book trailers, are “now both easy to produce and simple to publish, an ideal way to energize learning and engage students at a deeper level” (Dillon, 2014). In addition, Linda Braun, former president of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) says that “book trailers can give libraries a powerful way to connect with kids and talk with them about books ‘in a way that’s appealing to them'” (Springen, 2012).
The research also states, overwhelmingly, that book trailers can be used to engage reluctant readers. Sara Kajder, Assistant Professor of English Education at Virginia Polytechnic and author for Educational Leadership examined one below-level middle school classroom as they created book trailers:
Students are screening their individually crafted book trailers, one- to two-minute digital videos designed to entice classmates to read specific books. The guest authors and experts and the students will work together to award three trailers with the highest honor—a place on the class’s weekly podcast, which is broadcast from the class’s password-protected Web site and has an audience triple the size of the total number of yearly hits to the school Web site.
To do this work, students selected books, read, wrote, reread, storyboarded, created, and revised, and finally presented and then evaluated their work with an authentic, invested audience (Kajder, 2008).
Time to Share
Because my focus is on encouraging reading for pleasure and increasing library circulation rates, I am not going to focus on the tools used to create book trailers (if you’re interested in knowing more, there are several resources here and here), I am going to focus on sharing the final product once the trailers are completed. The whole idea behind having students create book trailers is to get fellow students interested in reading those books, therefore, visibility and accessibility are key. The following are just a few options in making those two goals a reality:
- Posting QR codes on books that have corresponding student-created trailers, students simply scan the QR code and can instantly get “hooked.” Follett Software, a library management software company, has posted a great (but succinct) article on using QR codes in the library.
- Adding student-created book trailers to the school’s LibGuide page (for privacy reasons of my school, I have not included a link to that page, but it is essentially a virtual library that contains research guides and other helpful customized resources for my teachers and students).
- Featuring student-created book trailers at our weekly school assembly and in the digital parent newsletter.
- Curating student-created book trailers on TeacherTube, YouTube, TechSmith Relay or another comparable site.
Making it Happen
Because my library lesson schedule is rather limited, the book trailer project will either need to cover a (very) extended timeline or I will need to collaborate with classroom teachers in order to “steal” some of their time to write, produce and share these videos. In the meantime, I think it is important to examine other ways to create excitement about reading for pleasure and using the library as a resource:
- Have willing students (there would be many) write short book reviews to be attached to the inside cover of their favorite book. The reviewers would be proud to share their work and the reluctant readers would be getting recommendations from their peers instead of an adult.
- Creating an incentive program for checking out books that could be implemented immediately. My only concern with this option is that it is definitely an external motivation as opposed to the students wanting to read and share what they’ve read because it brings a sense of pride and ownership.
- Having a frank conversation with those students that are “closet” readers and get to the bottom of why they read at home but are not interested in checking out library books. If successful, this option could be illuminating!
What Can This Look Like?
Book Trailers for Readers: http://www.
Dillon, B. (2014, December 15). The power of digital story. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/the-power-of-digital-story-bob-dillon
Kajder, S. (2008). The book trailer: engaging teens through technologies. Educational Leadership, 65(6). Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/
Pierce, T. (2007, December 9). Child reading at Brookline Booksmith [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Child_reading_at_Brookline_Booksmith.jpg
Springen, K. (2012, July 1). The big tease: trailers are a terrific way to hook kids on books. School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/2012/07/