Thursday, April 30, 2015

Pondering a Virtual Book Club to go with #OpenTeachingOU chats...

Thanks to a #Rhizo15 post which reminded me just how much I like the book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi — Getting into the Flow: a post for #Rhizo15 — I got the idea that we could maybe have a rhizomatic book club and, in particular, I would really like to get something like that happening at my school (University of Oklahoma), building on the good energy we got going with our Twitter chat experiments for #OpenTeachingOU this semester.

Our Twitter chats benefited so much from what I learned by watching and occasionally participating in various edu Twitter chats over the past couple of years, and I would LOVE to get ideas and advice from people who participate in virtual book clubs about what has worked best for them!

Those Twitter chats grew out of a phone conversation that Rob Reynolds (NextThought guru, and formerly of OU), Stacy Zemke (OU OER goddess) and I had back in February... we had fun talking on the phone together, but we realized it would obviously be even more fun — and useful! — to get more people in on the conversation, and sure enough, some people from OU participated, and some other people joined in too, which was just great: by making the conversation open and online, we managed to get some people together who come from different parts of OU, and also some people who are not at OU but who were interested in the topics at hand.

So, when I was thinking about how fun it would be to read Flow together with Rob and Stacy and any/all the folks I know online who would be interested in doing that together, I got the idea of proposing an "online book club" that might even be sponsored by our Center for Teaching Excellence. They offer all kinds of great face-to-face workshops, but so far they have not done anything with online workshops that are asynchronous, taking advantage of different kinds of online spaces to connect and share. If CTE would sponsor the book club so that the OU participants could maybe get the cost of the book covered (Flow for Kindle, for example, is $9.95), that would be really cool... but of course even without such sponsorship, we could make it work! So, I'm going to just brainstorm here some of the cool things I would like to see happen as a result of this.

Here are some thoughts in no particular order:

1. Read/re-read some COOL BOOKS about learning, education, communication, etc.! I know I would get so much more out of reading books together with others. Some of the books I have read in recent years that had a big impact on me and which are of general education interest would be Csikszentmihalyi's Flow, Daniel Pink's Drive, Gleick's The Information (AMAZING book, IMO; I loved that one), etc. And then of course there are all the books I have on my book list that I have NOT read and which a book club would prod me to read, plus I would benefit from other people's suggestions about what to read.

2. Have a chance to talk ABOUT READING with people. This is something I am increasingly obsessed with as I work on my classes: I am very happy with how the writing components of my classes work, but the reading components need so much improvement. What do we do when we read? How do we read? Why do we read? It would be so great to make this both a book club and a meta-book-club about reading itself.

3. Support DISTRIBUTED CONVERSATIONS that happen via blogs and other online spaces. I have been so happy with the results from curating a #Rhizo15 blog feed (more about that) — it took so little time and has resulted in a fantastic source of stuff for me to read and explore every single day! So, I know feel really confident about using Inoreader as a way to consolidate and re-share blogs and also Twitter and Google+ content so that conversations can take place across spaces. Given the size of #Rhizo15 (there 62 feeds now), I haven't been collecting the comment feeds for the blogs also, but it is do-able of course (I follow comment feeds for my students' blogs), so I know we could build a really cool distributed network of blogs, comments and additional online presence, just with simple use of Inoreader, nothing fancy required.

4. Support faculty in building ONLINE PRESENCE. For those distributed conversations to take place, faculty need some online presence: a blog, Twitter, Google+, something that lends itself to crossplatform connections (Facebook does not do that very well). I've found it very easy to get my students up and running with blogs on the first day of my online courses, and so I am confident we could get faculty up and running too, especially with the opportunities provided by which allows them to own their own domain online if they want to do that.

5. Integrate book chats into our TWITTER CHAT schedule. I am hoping that we could carry on with our OpenTeachingOU Twitter chats, and once every two week seems a good schedule for that, in which case it would be easy to fold in some book chats into the mix over the course of the semester. I am thinking the book chats would not be 100% focused on the book itself, but instead would be a chat topic INSPIRED by the book, which would go in whatever directions it goes in, but which would be of interest to anyone reading the book for the book club.
Week 2: Chat topic whatever
Week 4: Chat topic INSPIRED by Book 1
Week 6: Chat topic whatever
Week 8: Chat topic INSPIRED by Book 2
Week 10: Chat topic whatever
Week 12: Chat topic INSPIRED by Book 3
Week 14: Chat topic whatever

The idea is that people would participate in the Virtual Book Club whatever way they want with the book club: blogs, Twitter, Google+, other online sharing... and for people who want something synchronous, there would be these Twitter chats, along with support for people getting started who might never have done a Twitter chat before.

So, I am curious what people think... people who do book clubs online... people who have been participating in our Twitter chats... OU people whoever you might be! What are good strategies for virtual book clubs? What really exciting/useful books would you recommend?

Update: Thanks to a rhizo15 connection, I have found this VERY idea-filled post from Laura Gogia: A Gathering Together: My #TJC15 Connected Learning Experience.

I'm going to try to write up a proposal for CTE next week sometime (since I'll be out of town May 11-15), so any ideas, suggestions, etc. would be much appreciated! The success of our Twitter chats was so encouraging... so I am being so bold as to hope for more. :-)


  1. I love this idea!! We are planning an on-ground book discussion this summer around Teaching Naked from Jose Bowen and I would love to do something like this!

  2. That book is a great example of why it would be so nice if our CTE would sponsor the club for people at my school. Since it's from Jossey-Bass, it's more expensive than a typical mass-market paperback like Flow et al.,, but if people weren't having to pay out of pocket, it looks like it would be a great book to read!

  3. This would indeed be so much fun, Laura. Of course, at some point, I would suggest a real throw-back title such as the book that had a big impact on my early teaching career -- Postman and Weingartner's Teaching as a Subversive Activity. Being subversive never goes out of style. Naturally, I also liked and was influenced by The Soft Revolution.

  4. Hey Laura,

    Yeah we have a small budget to pay for some of the books but I am hoping to have more participants than I can buy books for... soooo I partnered with the library and they are going to have a couple of copies for check out and there are some available through interliberary loan too...

    So just trying to make it happen.

  5. Hey Laura, I'm resurfacing after a couple of weeks of travel and other events, and wanted to come back to this idea (which I really like). #1 and #5 seem like good variations on the traditional book club theme. I do like using content as a point of focus, and I think the fact that you will have different books/chapters will allow/encourage different audiences to participate.

    On the other hand, #3 and #4 are extremely valuable from a strategic development perspective, and these certainly resonate with me and my preference for online presence and working out ideas via blogging. I'm wondering if it might make sense to focus on #3 & #4 as a strategic plan, but to bring the community together synchronously via chat at intervals that make sense (monthly, bi-monthly).

    Just thinking out loud.


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