Three Ways to Create a Digital Classroom Library for Your Students

Walk into an English teacher’s classroom, and you might be able to guess how long they’ve been there. Take a look at the classroom library. It takes time to collect hundreds of books for your kids to read, and veteran teachers have worked for years to amass those giant collections.

Luckily, modern technology gives us an alternative: extend your classroom library with free eBooks. There are literally thousands of free eBooks available for your students to read, and with free apps your students can turn their smartphones or tablets into eReaders.

The biggest logistical problem is turning that vast digital catalog into something more personal. You need to use a tool to collect a small number of books that you think your students will be interested in, and then put those books in front of them.

Today, we’ll look at three methods for creating and sharing a digital classroom library with your students. In all three cases, I’m going to assume that you have a source of free eBooks (Amazon’s Free Popular Classics, Google’s Play Store Top Free Books, or Project Gutenberg) and an app to read those books (Amazon’s Kindle app, Google’s Play Books app, Aldiko for Android, or iBooks for iOS).

Option 1: Create a Simple List with Linkli.st

There are a number of websites that allow you to create and share lists of URLs. Many of them could be appropriate, but I like Linkli.st for it’s simplicity.

You can create a list right from the homepage. Give it a title, and then find a free Kindle book on Amazon. Copy the URL of the book into the form on Linkli.st and click “Add.”

Presto! Instant list. Your list will be created with a shortlink that you can write on the board, put on a handout, or e-mail to your students. Of course, you’ll want to add a few more books to the list before you do that.

This isn’t going to give you much organizational power, so you’ll want to keep your list short – a few dozen books at most. This might be a good way to share a short reading list, like the options for an independent project or for summer reading.

Option 2: Create a Library with Springpad

Springpad is a web clipping app, similar to Diigo and Evernote. I found it in the Chrome Web Store, and I love it. You create a “notebook,” and then you can make entries into it called “springs.” The visuals are strong and appealing, but there’s a flexible tagging structure to help you organize things, and there’s awesome integration with Amazon.

First, you’ll need to create an account and create a new notebook. Make sure that you leave the “Public” option selected, so that other people can view your notebook. Then add a new link, and copy and paste the URL of a free kindle eBook.

Springpad will recognize it’s a book, grab the thumbnail image, and grab the description. It’ll also create a “Buy on Amazon” link that takes you right back to the book’s listing. Of course, “Buy” is a loose term. You’re “Buy”ing that free eBook for $0.00.

After you add a book, you should tag it in some way. These tags will allow your students to sort and filter the books. For example, you could tag each book by genre (Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romance). Or, you could tag it by mood (Happy, Funny, Tragic). It’s up to you; just make it intuitive.

Since the tags will help you keep organized, this is a much better choice for creating a larger library. The only thing I don’t like is that Springpad doesn’t seem to recognize the Gutenberg or Play Store books very well. This works great with Amazon, but not with other sources of free eBooks.

Option 3: Integrate It Into Your Classroom Blog

Let’s say you already had a classroom blog with a service like WordPress. You could create a digital library and integrate it there.

Maybe you wanted to create a complete library with a hundred or two hundred books. I would create a set of pages, titled by genre. On each page, create a bullet list with the title of the book, the author, a description, and a link back to the source.

For example, you might create a “Science Fiction Books” page and add The Time Machine by H. G. Wells as your first book.

This is going to be your most time consuming option, and it requires a larger skill set than either the simple list or the Springpad notebook. However, you’ll be rewarded with greater flexibility in how you include and display the books. This makes the most sense if you already have a classroom blog, because you won’t need to go through the added hassle of sharing another external link or service.

Choose an Option and Build a Library

At the end of the day, all three options are viable choices. They fulfill our main objective: creating a list of links to free eBooks and sharing that list with our students.

So choose the option that best fits your needs, and go make your own classroom library. I’d be interested to hear what books you include, so let me know in the comments!

Brian Rock is a high school social teacher in New Jersey and a graduate student at Rutgers University. He publishes Tech and Teaching, a blog about educational technology. He is currently researching the relative merits of tablets and Chromebooks in a one to one school setting. You can connect with him on Google Plus.

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  • Susie Highley

    And why not work with your library media specialist to see what other ways the digital library can be organized? In addition to specific resources a classroom teacher might want to spotlight, librarians can help develop a collection available to all. Some of this can be integrated on the school’s library webpage.

  • 3arn0wl

    There’s also an excellent database app called Tap Forms, which is powerful and easy to use.

  • Pingback: Three Ways to Create a Digital Classroom Library for Your Students | Angela Maiers, Speaker, Educator, Writer | digitalnews2000

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  • Brian Rock

    Hmm… well, I hadn’t thought of that. Frankly, my school hasn’t had a good history with tech savvy or forward thinking librarians, so I was thinking of how a teacher might handle it on his or her own.

    It’s a great idea, though. Springpad and most other social bookmarking apps allow for collaboration, so the librarian could help coordinate groups of teachers build school-wide or grade-wide reading lists. And yup, you could also do that through the library’s website, or use the website to link to the reading lists located elsewhere.

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  • http://jabbacrombie.tumblr.com/ Janet Abercrombie

    A couple other things you could do:
    1. List links on a wiki. Wikis are free and students can add books they find.
    2. Check out Biblionasium. It looks like Shelfari, but is safe for students. Teachers can recommend or challenge students. Many of my students have Kindles and order the books that are on classmates’ bookshelves or books that are recommended by the teacher.

    Janet | expateducator.com

  • Peter Vogel

    Good ideas. Small typo … “it’s simplicity” shouldn’t have the possessive apostrophe.

  • Brian Rock

    Nope, there shouldn’t be an apostrophe there. You got me! I’m just a lowly history teacher, so I’ll plead ignorance to grammar rules (even though I really do know better).

    @Janet, Biblionasium looks like a cool option for little kids. I wonder how GoodReads would work for something similar at the high school level. Someone invited me recently and I set up an account, but I haven’t explored it much.

  • Angela Maiers

    Thanks Janet!

  • Angela Maiers

    A good library media specialist is golden to a school.

  • CollegeBookRenter

    While I agree having e-books for children and adults for that matter are a great addition to any educational institute or even teacher, they should also remember that some books are better when they are in the hands of the reader. That is why I would much rather rent books from http://www.collegebookrenter.com and have a physical book than to have an e-book.

  • http://www.telusplanet.net/public/stonedan Doug Pederson

    Having your own personal digita library is Key. Every video, screen capture email and more should be at your finger tips. Web sites come and go. Keep screen captures of those comments along with the text. When your recent videos are at your fingertips like this … you can show them off..
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpN-Z0gjKs0

  • ipracticemath.com

    Brian, As a parent, I can feel this is really a very simple way to share the list among kids or among parents also.

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