Adam Watson has found a way to extend the literature discussions from his classroom to the web. His students’ podcast book commercials put the students of 2009 into books of this century and earlier as they promote their books to an audience outside their classroom.
"It's kind of weird because people all over the school know about it and they can listen to us talking about our books," said sophomore Abigail Houchens, 16. "Our parents can listen to it. It's weird but cool, I guess, because people can listen to what we think and it's not just a class thing."
“It's hands-on," Alexa, 15, said. "You're not just reading to read. You get through the reading because you want to be able to know what to say and do when you do your recording. That's pretty cool even for people who don't like reading." ("South Oldham High Uses Podcasts for Literary Chats," The Courier-Journal, January 21, 2009)
Through their podcast projects these students enjoy the benefits of two worlds—print and electronic—and they’re using critical thinking, collaboration , and authentic communication to meld the two. Could we ask for anything better?
One way to get started, of course, is with good texts—the texts kids want to read and those that have the depth to be “podcast worthy.” As NCTE member Kim Ford, chair of the committee that selected Amelia Earhart: The Legend of the Lost Aviator as the winner of the 2009 NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children, says "If we want kids to read for pleasure and for information, then we've got to give them the very best books we can find."
Then, it seems, how we help students promote those texts is up to us. Take the DC Area Literary Map an ongoing project produced by NCTE member Vivian Vasquez and graduate students and teachers from different schools in the area. This map features book podcasts centered around sites in the Washington, DC, area, and is yet another way that teachers and students can extend their “book-learning” beyond the classroom.