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Responding to Literature in the 21st Century: Tools for Collaboration

by Janine Schall, University of Texas-Pan American, Edinburg, TX

We know that collaboration can help students create more sophisticated responses to literature. As students think together through oral or written dialogue they hear multiple perspectives, challenge others’ thinking, and revise initial responses. While children have always talked with friends about the books they read, today reading is increasingly social in new ways. Informal talk on the playground is being supplemented with a variety of online resources. For example, a very quick Google search brought up multiple online sites for fans of the Harry Potter series, including a message board, wiki, and fanfiction site.

These sites are sometimes run by a publisher or author, but they are often started by children and adolescents who want to share a reading experience with others. These children are building, maintaining, and moderating the sites. In addition, they are contributing a tremendous amount of content through writing, artwork, and video.

It is clear that children love to talk about books with other children in these informal, out-of-school contexts. How can teachers harness some of that impulse towards social interaction to support thinking about literature in school as well? In this post I will briefly discuss three online possibilities that can help with this: social networking, wikis, and voicethread.
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