The Subtext Experiment

Two years ago I approached one of our English teachers about experimenting with one of the novels from the curriculum. Would she be willing to read it electronically? Students were given the option of iPads, nooks, kindles, and a few other assorted readers. You can read about the experiment in the article here: , but the upshot was that the teacher felt that although she was committed to the experiment, she couldn’t do without her dog-eared, margin noted, highlighted, well-loved paper copy. I had the feeling that the kids were ambivalent, that although the surveys showed them as flat, I feel like her comments about it in class made it less desirable to the students. At any rate, she was adement that the paper was still vital and although she liked reading for pleasure electronically, not so for class books.

Well, here we are two years later and I have been watching the rollout of Subtext. An iPad app that allows conversations about electronic copies of books. You can join a group, and then the group can add comments and discussion to the experience.  Each year, our school, like many others, does an “all school” read. The students and faculty from all the grade levels read the same book, then an afternoon is set aside at the start of the school year for an all school discussion led by the AP Eng students. In the past years we’ve added electronic components, like a moodle quiz, and a lino discussion board.  This year, with the help from the good folks at Subtext the faculty and student discussion leaders are reading it “together” via the app. So far, it has been interesting. Already some of the teachers have left comments, questions to point out items to the students, or to get them to think more deeply about passages. When you see the little icon from your teacher’s comment, I can’t help but think the students are going to love having the teacher input while they are reading. This should be helpful for students to see as they are reading rather than the delay that often occurs between their reading, and the class discussion that sometimes doesn’t take place until weeks later. subtext

Another advantage I see is that the class group can move together to a shared comment/note, rather than searching for a place within the text. For this, after all, was one of the hardest parts of the shared reading with multiple devices, trying to find passages across the devices where “pages” don’t exist and locations are tricky with multiple font sizes associated with top left corner rather than page bottoms. Anyway, stay tuned as we continue with our journey, but for now, loving the ability to comment together and see other input while reading through Subtext.

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