Great Books Foundation rolls out digital platform


Educators who know how to spark student conversations around classic books can vouch for how the process can improve reading comprehension and literacy.

Now Great Books Foundation, a longtime provider of classroom reading and discussion materials, hopes to modernize that process with the launch next week of a new digital platform aimed at helping teachers easily track student progress and enabling students to complete homework and quizzes online.

“What we’ve got is a fairly robust platform that allows students and teachers to aggregate and share questions about a text,” said Joe Coulson, president of Great Books Foundation.

“But in addition, they can pull passages out, aggregate them in a separate list and then share those lists with notes” before, during or after class, he said.

Coulson told EdScoop the new technology platform doesn’t merely post materials online, but takes the underlying principles of shared inquiry, critical thinking and discussion, and extends them into today’s digitally interactive teaching environment.

“We’ve had e-books for some time, and have had downloadable PDF documents,” he said.

But in rethinking how to move forward into the digital classroom, Coulson said the foundation debated, “Do we want a platform to be a sophisticated tool around these [e-book] functions, or around the ability to extend the creative and active thinking and inquiry-based process — the idea of being able to extend the conversations?” He said they chose the latter.

The result is an online platform that lets teachers set up a set class roster, create a reading plan and establish various types of homework. But it also gives teachers the ability to track reading progress and compare the number of notes shared. And it allows them to post additional information, related to the texts, including videos and open resource content. The platform is easily available online, using any web browser.

The new digital platform is slated to launch Sept. 6, and will initially feature three books, each containing a collection of digitally licensed stories and discussion tools, for grades 3 to 5. The books will be priced at $15.95 per student. The teacher’s edition will be priced at $90.95.

Three more books are planned for the springtime and more books are in the works for higher grades, Coulson said.