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Slotting 'Social Reading' Into the Classroom

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Jennifer Howard, over at the Chronicle of Higher Education, has a thought-provoking piece up right now that addresses the concept of "social reading" and what she refers to as "amplified marginalia."

The piece focuses on a sabbatical project created by Professor Stephen Duncombe, an associate professor of media and culture at New York University. Dubbed Open Utopia, the project blends aspects of Project Gutenberg (a digitized text in the public domain) with Wikipedia (crowdsourcing for information) and currently offers one book for perusal and comment: Thomas More's Utopia (1516).

Mr. Duncombe is exploring what form books can take now that they no longer need to be static, unchanging print volumes—a question we've touched on previously here at BookMarks—and has created a free, open access space where people can visit, explore, comment on, and enter into conversations about Utopia.

It's an interesting concept, and while the time and cost of the project is perhaps more than an individual classroom or school could bear (especially when copyright questions are involved), a similar digital discussion platform could appeal to high school students and broaden the scope of classroom discussions.

This type of open-access, social reading would integrate easily into online classrooms, which are increasingly finding their way into high schools as set requirements, or, more recently, as temporary solutions in disaster-stricken areas trying to get back on their feet. Blended-learning situations would also be a natural fit for this type of reading and discussion.

What are your thoughts? Would an online e-book designed to foster written discussion and conversation work as one aspect of your brick-and-mortar classroom? What challenges do you anticipate?

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