Peruse the 'Pandora of Literature,' Protect Your Privacy

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

This month our theme is connecting Ė helping students connect with books they will love, and helping educators connect with their school communities. Both can be a challenge. For instance, how many times has a student turned up his nose at a book you were convinced was a great fit for him? And how many times has your privacy as an educator been violated because you gave your private number out to parents or students?

However, we canít afford to give up on either count. Itís critical that we help kids connect with books that will motivate independent reading to help ensure overall success. Itís also critical to remain accessible to parents and students to ensure a true sense of community. The good news is weíve identified tech tools that address each objective. Check them out!

Literacy Tech Tool: Teacher Book Wizard
(http://www.scholastic.com/bookwizard/) Ė This free tool from Scholastic is one of my favorites. I think of it as the Pandora of literature. This book search engine can help you find a book for any child and generate book lists so students are never without a book. Type in an area of interest or a favorite book, and Book Wizard starts analyzing. Letís say I love percussion. (And I do.) The Leveled Search feature helps me find books at a particular reading level about my favorite topic. The BookAlike feature allows you to find books similar to one you have enjoyed but at higher or lower reading levels. This is so great because the reality is, you donít want students to feel as if they always have to read the most challenging books out there. Sometimes itís okay for them to read at their own comfort level, especially for struggling readers. As I like to say, just let Ďem read!

Administrative Tech Tool: Google Voice
(http://www.google.com/googlevoice/about.html) Ė This is one of the best-kept secrets out there for people like me who want to maintain communication with an entire community but also want to guard their privacy and their time. Using a Gmail account, this phone management system allows you to create a phone number with any area code. This phone number Ė though not linked to a real phone Ė links all your phones. It also provides voicemail and caller ID. The thing is, when people call that number, your cell, work, or home phone rings (and you can customize which phone rings based upon the caller). Then you can choose whether to answer or let it go to voicemail. You can even listen to a voicemail live before determining whether to pick up the call, or you can accept and record the call. When you call out, you can choose whether your actual phone number is displayed or whether your Google Voice number comes up on caller ID. This is a lifesaver for me because everyone in my district has my cell number. Theyíre free to call me 24/7. But that number they have is actually my Google Voice number. They can still have my ear, and I can still have my privacy. Itís a win all around. And no, I wonít tell you which number Iíve given you below.

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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