My Bookshelf

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Can Book Reports be Fun?

Name: A Mini Book Report by Nth Fusion LLC
Designed for iPad
$0.99

The book report goes digital! Any parent who has ever experienced the 11th hour rush to motivate their child to get a book report written will be intrigued by this app.  Well, there's a genuine reason that most kids don't like writing book reports: they're boring.  This app is designed to eliminate some of that tedium by providing a little splash to the classic regurgitation of facts with colorful graphics and...colorful graphics.  Essentially, the structure of the book report remains static with students inputting the familiar architecture of characters, setting, problem, solution, and overall opinion of the book. Children also have the option to share their book report via email.

The Good:  Children who are currently expected to write book reports by their teacher will of course gravitate to this colorful app.  Any kid will choose the iPad over paper.  Novelty is fun. The option to convert the book report to a PDF is also an attractive option for those teachers who require book reports.

The Bad:  It's a book report, must I go on?  Okay, let's talk some basics of reading comprehension.  The book report provides teachers a snapshot of basic literal understanding of facts.  Students tell the setting, the characters, the problem, solution, and if they liked the book.  Hmmm, I bet 98% of kids could gather those facts from the back of the book. Moreover, let's say they read the book, how well are they able to understand the text at a higher level?  Can they demonstrate inferential thinking?  Does this app allow teachers or parents to observe that?

Comprehending text is a complex act and in my opinion, shouldn't be reduced to a book report. If we want children to demonstrate their understanding of a text, then we need to provide rich literacy experiences that not only facilitate reading comprehension but provide ongoing assessment opportunities. Wiki's, online discussion boards and good ole fashioned book clubs are tools that can both simultaneously instruct and assess.  It is through language and discourse with others that our students build their understanding.  Save yourself the $0.99 and go buy your child a cup of hot chocolate and discuss a great book together.  I'm willing to bet that a trip to Starbucks and a book talk with mom or dad will trump this app any day of the week! 

I give this app Thumbs Down

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