I had a chance this week to peruse the 2012 Horizon Report – Higher Education Edition – a publication of the New Media Consortium (NMC) that describes emerging technologies judged to be likely to have a near term impact in the world of education. I am frequently intrigued by the insights NMC provides, but this year, I was most excited by one of the trends they decided to leave out of this year’s final report. On the preliminary “short list” was an item that caught my imagination, “social reading.”
I agree with NMC’s analysis that this particular trend is still in its infancy and the technology to support it is not yet clear. But my solo practitioner, bookish heart is enamored with the possibility of being able to connect with folks who are reading the same material I am.
A glimpse of what is possible
A few years ago, I finished the third book of a fantasy series that was truly the most satisfying, spectacular ending to a series that I have ever read (Brandon Sanderson’s The Hero of Ages). Unlike when it seemed the whole world read the end of the Harry Potter series in the same weekend, I knew no one who was reading the Mistborn series and so had no one to share in relishing the outcome. Luckily, I was able to locate an online discussion board. I spent several hours pouring over others’ reactions, discovering some additional nuances and terrific discussions.
I recently participated in Karl Kapp’s blog book tour for The Gamification of Learning and Instruction, and was able to get insight into others’ reactions to the concepts that Karl brought forward. Because I was following that conversation, I became aware of a series of posts offering opinions both for and against gamification (discussed by Karl here). The posts challenge my thinking and called attention to aspects of gamification that I was not considering.
I have noticed this kind of conversation in the blogosphere when particularly intriguing or controversial books are published, and I have been enlightened and energized by those conversations – and occasionally have joined in through comments and my own blog posts.
These experiences demonstrate for me that “social reading” has a great deal of potential – well beyond online book clubs and review aggregators.
What my solo practitioner, bookish heart wants
While I can see the power in sharing highlights and margin comments (although that won’t work well for those of us prefer to read on paper), I am more interested in engaging in conversation about the ideas brought forward in a book. I want to find the other people – people I’ve never even met – who have been intrigued enough by the material to share a little of their insights into its implications and connections with other material. Reading those kinds of comments and connecting with people who share my interests would be very valuable.
There are places where this kind of thing is happening. In my online classes, I can see the power of getting students to engage in a deeper discussion of our text as we go along. But that conversation is closed to the people attending the class. And while authors and publishers are more frequently creating web sites for their books, they tend to aggregate reviews and press. Creating sites that generate open dialog would be more powerful, I think – especially if the site also helps to introduce me to other like-minded thinkers.
A brief perusal of some of the current tools (GoodReads, BookGlutton, ReadSocial) provides glimmers of hope, but are not quite what I am looking for…
So I will very much look forward to the day when “social reading” hits the top of the list of technology trends with powerful tools and an entre to finding a virtual book club that helps me to expand my thinking and enrich my reading experiences. Until then, my bookish heart can dream…