Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Giving Them Books And Voice

Last week when I attended a session offered at the first #nErDCampBC , brainchild of educator, Colby Sharp, titled Motivating Reading and Writing Through Technology moderated by Donalyn Miller (@donalynbooks) and Suzanne Gibbs (@Suz_Gibbs), they offered up a variety of resources and examples of how they were used in their classrooms.  As the time drew to a close, I couldn't help but wonder if a website I remembered seeing on the new
2013 American Association of School Librarians Best Websites for Teaching and Learning might also be useful.  This website falls under the category of Manage & Organize, Standards for the 21st-Century Learner, 2.1.2 Organize knowledge so that it is useful; 2.1.4 Use technology and other information tools to analyze and organize information; and 3.1.4 Use technology and other information tools to organize and display knowledge and understanding in ways that others can view, use and assess.

LitPick is the result of the then fourth grade Seth Cassel and his father, Gary Cassel, creating a site called Flamingnet.com. It gave readers the chance to write the reviews.  Now a senior at Harvard College, Seth has founded LitPick.  Books, courtesy copies, are given to the site by publishers and authors who in turn gives them to student reviewers.

LitPick's mission is to help preteens and teens develop a lifelong love of reading by empowering young readers to share their opinions in a social community.  We hope to change the way students interact with literature and become a leader in the growing intersection of education and technology.

Upon accessing the home page a tool bar across the top offers opportunities for exploration.  From left to right users can connect to LitPick on their blog, their Facebook and Twitter accounts and through on RSS feed.  The search bar is for entering in titles which leads to the reviews.

When selecting the Student Reviewer/Member Login a box drops down.  You can login, sign up as a member or student reviewer, and access a forgotten username and password.  It is recommended that you use either FireFox or Google Chrome as your browser when coming to this site.

I elected to sign up as a member.  The registration form is more lengthy than usual because of the nature of the site.  You are asked to provide:

  • Username and password
  • First and last name
  • Website/blog address (optional)
  • Date of birth and gender
  • Email and postal address
  • Upload a profile picture and something you wish others to know about yourself
  • You are asked to read the terms and privacy policy.
A confirming email is sent listing all the data you provided upon registering.

A new window opens informing you of the benefits of being a member such as book giveaway offers, access to free book downloads, and author interviews.  You have the chance to read reviews of books before they are even released into the wild.  There are forum discussions where publishers, publicists, authors, student reviewers, parents and educators can converse.  

Beneath the top toolbar users can investigate further into LitPicks (About Us) discovering the members of the team, how the site evolved, how it works and testimonials of users.  In the Forum section registered users can start a thread which appears in a list showing the title, username of last post by, and the number of replies and views.  To start a thread click on Create a topic.  A new window appears with a variety of word processing options as shown in the image below.   The second image shows a single entry in the Forum.

When choosing All Books the titles reviewed appear in a list by publication date, newest to oldest.  You can search by genre, age or a combination of the two.  Each review contains an image of the book jacket, the summary, the option to add it to your wishlist, a tally of votes, the genre, age level and the opportunity to tweet about it on Twitter or post it on Facebook.  Below this the reviewer's username is shown along with the number of stars assigned to the title and content rating (age appropriateness).  Registered users can also leave a comment. 

The heading Submit Your Book for Review is informative for those wishing their title to be reviewed and for those wishing to read more about the process.  The FAQ section answers the most asked about questions such as these (and many more):
  • Who can become a LitPick student book reviewer?
  • Is parental permission needed for students to participate in your program?
  • Do LitPick student reviewers get to keep the book that they review?
Finally an easy form is provided to contact LitPick should you have any questions, concerns or comments about the site.

The Home page is loaded with information.  On the right is your profile picture with your username, the ability to edit or view your profile, your wishlist, membership date and the number of comments left in the Forum.  In that same column are the recently reviewed titles with book jackets and an option for signing up for a newsletter.  

To the left is a scrolling screen of book jackets with partial reviews with a link to the full review.  The red box with a link for educators allows the enrolling of students as book reviewers with lots of suggestions and help.  An additional column showcases top reviewers, top books and new releases.  And another column highlights the top topics on the Forum and the most talked about books.

If you are interested in enhancing your students' reading and writing through the use of online technology, then LitPick is a definite must.  I give the site high marks as well as the AASL for including it on their 2013 list.  Students will be attracted to a site specifically for them with reviews written by their peers.  

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