When an online book club takes off

One of the great pleasures of teaching, parenting, or politicking is seeing the people involved cut loose on their own, being productive and creative on their own initiative.  I have always taught with this in mind, considering that’s how people learn best.  It’s also how they often get things done with other people, and where I have the most fun.

We Make the Road by Walking Conversations on Education and Social Change Search the full text of this book Search Myles Horton and Paulo Freire, edited by Brenda Bell, John Gaventa and John PetersCase in point: our book club reading of We Make the Road by Walking.  Inspired by Kristen Eshleman and Alison Salisbury, I start things off by doing some prep work: research into the book and participants, reaching out to people who might want to read along, blogging about the reading, scheduling things, emailing, more reading, and more tweeting.

There was some initial interest in the form of responses via email, Twitter, and comments on these posts.  I posted notes on the first three chapters.  And then things started rolling, entirely because other people, inspired and engaged, went to work.

On Twitter we hashed out hashtags together , settling on #HortonFreire, because nobody else was using it, and it’s both clear and reasonably short.  Once there seemed to be c consensus there, and before I could reload my Tweetdeck, *dozens* of posts appeared, using that tag as an anchor.

John Stewart went back to earlier content and tweeted it with the new tag, to make sure we got it.  Lora Taub fired off a series of fine quotes from the book, each identified with  #HortonFreire.


This is just a handful, all I could fit in one screen.

Ken Bauer showed us the tag in action in his Tweetdeck, along with links to his students and their classes.


Alan Levin quickly set up an instance of TagExplorer, so we can see connections between our tweets:


Paul Bond found perfectly named and tasty musical accompaniment.

Meanwhile, the blogosphere lit up.  Kate Bowles wrote up her reactions to the book’s first part and on the book club experience. Ben Scragg blogged up his thoughts on the reading so far. Adam Croom wrote a subtle, and heartfelt commentary on the book’s first two chapters.

Then, inspired by the hashtag, Adam whipped up an image from Dr. Seuss:

Horton Freires a Who! by Adam Croom


Don’t forget the reading resources Google Doc, created by Ben Scragg and subsequently added to by other folks.

Does this relate to what We Make the Road by Walking is about?  Absolutely.

Think of the educators’ insistence that learners possess vital knowledge that teachers often lack.  Ditto organizers.  In this case, as the reading’s cat-herder I have very poor image-hacking skills, so couldn’t pull off what Adam did.  I still haven’t mastered Tag Explorer, and am utterly unsurprised that hacking/media fiend Alan raced ahead on that score.

But it’s not just about technical skill.  Each participant brought their own perspectives, interests, and sense of humor to bear.  The result is far richer than if discussion were limited, xMOOC-style, to just my productions.

Thank you all for reading and creating.  Next chapter’s blog post is coming up on Monday!

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9 Responses to When an online book club takes off

  1. adamcroom says:

    Thanks for writing this. It’s been a ton of fun so far and quickly became a vastly different experience than I had originally conceived. At first, I had very personal reasons for wanting to join, but I’m now much more motivated by the social aspects. By the way, I’m including a link to an updated graphic of #HortonFreiresAWho as I originally misspelled Freire. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BwmJ1geUAPO0YjdQQmxUYmFESXM/view?usp=sharing

  2. CogDog says:

    Why can’t we have lecture videos?

  3. Susan Jeffers says:

    I just ordered the book – excited about trying this out – may not be able to cope with the social media / twitter / I’m pretty backward that way — but hoping to try!!! Thanks!!!

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