What Can We Do Digitally?
The NY Times writes today that, since schools have less money to spend (and time to give up) for class trips, museums are coming to schools tinyurl.com/27a3bvw To me this seems like the ideal opportunity for digital collaboration. How many of us have worked with experts at some museum on a book on science, nature, evolution, history, etc. etc. Well what if we were to go to that museum and suggest a digital classroom collaboration, where the author visits the class digitally, shares some or all of his/her book, and the museum provides further materials and resources? In our books we have already taken on the role of translators, docents, taking the knowledge of the museum staff (and the materials housed at the musem) and finding ways to interest young people, and to explain, or fill in, what they do not already know. So now we can serve as tour guides to the resources museums want to share with students — we just have to collaborate.
Speaking of resources and collaboration, a second person has contacted me to say he has developed software that makes the kind of micropayments for digital rights downloads that I advocated in my Op-Ed possible. Here is an example of a publisher who is using that system — allowing readers to pay for as much of a book as they wish to read: www.battleaxebooks.com/handar/ Serialization of this sort holds a lot of promise for those of us who write middle grade or YA nonfiction — since it means a teacher (or any reader) can select a chapter and pay for just that — so the hardcover price is no longer such a high bar to cross.
Finally, next week I will again be at U High in Bloomington, IL working with 9th graders who have read part of my book and race, and with whom I have been in contact through Shelfari. We got through a lot of intense, sometimes difficult, but important stuff in those email exchanges — now we get down to work, as I help them write their first research papers. I love having contact with them, and this kind of "author-in-residence" model is a real treat. I hope more schools and authors get to try it out.