Digital Booktalks-Do they motivate reluctant readers?

I spent a great deal of  today playing in the digital sandbox.  I was trying to find a music video remix appropriate to show to middle years students-I now realize that is almost an impossible task!  As I was waiting for music videos to load on my computer I took the opportunity to read an article titled, “Digital Booktalk: Digital Media for Reluctant Readers”, but Glenda Gunter and Robert Kenny.

I am always in pursuit of anything that will motivate reluctant readers, as most teachers are.  The idea presented in the article is really not a new one, as it was written in 2008, but an idea that should not  be dismissed either.  It is a good question to ask and test as to whether or not digital book talks could be a motivating tool for the reluctant reader.

I am sure that most of you are aware of the push on differentiated instruction that is going on in the province right now-in our school division the push is hard.  Don’t get me wrong…I agree with it whole heartedly, except I hate when it is touted as the magical answer to all  classroom teacher frustrations.

The previously mentioned article states, “…tying literacy to intelligence can result in a mischaracterization  of  a person’s actual abilities.  It may be more correct to recognize the fact that everyone has their strengths and weaknesses.  Intelligence may be more accurately defined as having a skill in a particular medium…”.  The idea fits into differentiated instruction and finding the best way for each student to show what they know.

We might not all agree with that, but I am sure we would all agree with the need to get more involved  connecting our students to their digital worlds and start acknowledging that in our classrooms.  Maybe we are not using the correct instructional strategies to motivate our digital students toward reading and writing.  The most common thing to do when trying to improve reading levels in students is to find out what their weaknesses are and teach to them, as a learning support teacher I have followed this strategy many times.  The article got me thinking…

If we focused on students strengths, rather than their weaknesses, would we get some new insight on what would help motivate them to read?

The premise behind the digital book talk is to try to motivate children to read by having them make or watch book “trailers”  as a motivational tool to encourage reading of a particular book, just as they would see a movie trailer and be motivated to see a particular  movie.  The technology adds a hook to gain student’s attention and gives them the opportunity to participate in a curriculum outcome related activity without having to worry about their vocabulary or grammar level.  It also opens up the opportunity for collaboration and there are many places on-line where digital book talks can be published.

This is not an alternative for reading a book, but rather a motivating factor to prelude reading or conclude reading.  According to T. Hicks (2006, as quoted in the article), “It is not so much about the point that we can make a digital story; it is more to the point that we can make a story digitally.” (p.4)

I looked around for some of the information available on-line and found many different sites full of ready-made, digital booktalks such as digital booktalk.com from the University of Central Florida, as mentioned in the article  and MPL Teenspace You Tube Digital Book Reviews.

There would be never-ending tools that could be used for digital book talks, such as Microsoft’s PhotoStory and at least 50 others listed at Alan Levine’s Cogdogroo wiki.  I also liked the idea of using a podcast as a quicker, less time-consuming alternative.  In my search I did find another useful educational blog called The Edutainers posted by David Widener, on which he describes a booktalk project, but also countless other ideas and projects mainly geared at middle year’s students.  Check it out if you get a chance.

I am not sure if it will actually motivate the reluctant reader, but it  might be another interesting way to get students connected.