Promote Virtual Book Clubs, Prioritize Your Inbox

By Dr. L. Robert Furman, principal of South Park Elementary Center, South Park, Penn.

Educators, particularly administrators, have to prioritize. Promoting literacy is a huge priority, and research shows that peer recommendations can promote reading practice. To do that, you need to create a reading community. But as we create 21st-century learners, why not think in terms of a virtual worldwide reading community? Thatís where our literacy focus is this month.

In terms of administrative duties, itís also essential to set priorities. Weíve talked about the importance of managing phone calls, but now we must address the ever-growing inbox whose contents multiply like a fungal infection on a locker room floor. Itís all a matter of time management, my friends, and guess what? Thereís an app for that.

Literacy Tech Tools: in2books, Book-Clubs-Resource.com, Skype in the Classroom Ė You know how, when you finish reading a book, you just canít wait to talk with someone about it? The ability to talk about books is critical. Not only is it fun but it also enhances comprehension. Virtual conversations simply provide us with a new and vital medium for booktalks. You just have to be willing to take that first step with technology. But once you do, youíll run with it.

in2books, a curriculum-based e-mentoring program at ePals.com, helps students create a worldwide learning community. Through the program, third- through sixth-graders are paired with carefully vetted adult mentors, together with whom they select, read, and discuss five books a year. The six to 10 online letters they exchange with their mentors include five to nine letters in which they discuss the books. So students are held accountable in their independent reading and also develop writing skills.

Book-Clubs-Resource.com provides another way for students and adults alike to connect with a reading community. The site is a comprehensive guide to book clubs, reading groups, links, and information for readers. Students can find tips for running a book club, finding an online club, guidelines for reading groups, and information about resources and discounted books.

Skype in the Classroom allows teachers and experts around the world to connect and collaborate on lessons. Itís also a great tool for virtual book clubs. This is so great because letís say you take a book such as One Grain of Rice by Demi. Maybe somebody in the United States would have a different slant on it than somebody in India. You can even consider connecting with me on Skype (user name Rob Furman) for a booktalk. Check it out!

Administrative Tech Tool: Hit Me Later Ė Principals get a minimum of 70 emails a day, and they keep snowballing. My father, who used to do presentations on time management, used to talk about red, orange, and blue folders. Red folders contained things that needed to get done at the end of the day. Orange indicated the next most-pressing items. The stuff in the blue folders, however, could wait. Thatís what Hit Me Later does for your emails. If you canít respond to an email right away, you can have it sent to you again four hours, six hours, 10 hours, or 24 hours later Ė you decide. If you see an email that catches your eye, have it sent back to you automatically before it gets buried a hundred deep. This is a great way to organize your email quickly and stay on top of things that can be valuable to you (or, likewise, lose track of the stuff that isnít). If I can make quick judgments about what matters and what doesnít, I can put the brakes on the snowball. Iím in control. I like that.

Dr. Furman is a guest blogger for The Huffington Post. Email tips or questions to him at Rob@FurmanR.com, or text him directly at 412-999-0449. Follow him on Twitter @DrFurman.
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