First impressions of Reading Cloud - Thorp Academy

The Reading Cloud exciting online reading community is now launched and actively being used in primary and secondary school libraries across the UK. Beth Khalil, library resource centre manager at Thorp Academy in Gateshead has started using the Reading Cloud with her students in a very proactive way.

As an user, she had seen the Reading Cloud demonstrated at last year’s SLA Conference and was struck by the student friendly interface and the ability to browse independently and search so much reading related content in depth including other library collections. She began to trial it with her library users starting with Year 7.

Beth began by assembling a team of Reading Cloud Champions who help other students learn how to use the many tools available such as video reviews and blogging, set up their profiles and avatars and access their library accounts. Many new users mentioned that they found it easy to search for books and check their library accounts and liked all the social networking elements and sharing of opinions, book requests and recommendations. Here are some of their first impressions:

“It was fun and easy to set up my RC account. I added all my friends and I would definitely chat to them from home. I used the search function and found the book I was looking for straight away which was great. I would use my account to check when my library books are due and to remind myself of the books I have borrowed”

“I find this website really useful, especially being able to search the library from home or on the computer at school without having to look through all of the shelves. My account is accessible all of the time and I can look through my past loans to recommend books to my friends. I can also check if I have read a book before taking an Accelerated Reading Quiz. I would like to write and record book reviews. I think this would be interesting”

“I used the search bar to find Sleepovers by Jacqueline Wilson and the paragraph about the book was very helpful. I was able to reserve the book so I am the next person to get it. I would maybe use the Who Next function to find new authors to read. I liked creating my biography and avatar. I would use RC from home to chat to my friends or recommend books I have just finished reading if I liked them. I liked how you could add your friends as this was fun. This programme is fun and different and the personal avatars are a nice touch!”

Also popular was the ability to catalogue your own books in the My Home Library area:

“This is a really cool website which has lots of things to do around reading and researching.  I would use the reading cloud to communicate more with my friends from home. I would also add my books to my personal library”

The school library’s twitter feed is displayed on their Reading Cloud home page and the school often tweets from the wide range of statistical data available from the Reading Cloud about their library usage such as the most popular books and authors for that week.

The aim at Thorp Academy is that by the end of the summer term to have all Key Stage 3 students enthusiastically aboard the Reading Cloud. A large library display has been set up in the library to promote usage, encourage review and blog authoring and encourage feedback with the use of feedback forms about the user experience which is then shared with Reading Cloud development team.

It’s early days yet, but it is evident that the launch of the Reading Cloud in this school has had a positive impact on students’ use of their school library and helped to foster an active and inclusive reading community both at school and online.

As Beth explains as she reflected on the first term of its use in her school library, the Reading Cloud has a wide appeal for a variety of library uses and users:

“When we first got our year 7 students to log in with their details they were very enthusiastic and the majority of the boys went straight to the creating of their avatars which they spent quite a bit of time on, laughing and chatting about the images.  There were groups of students who were searching books and sharing what they had read when looking at their past loans. It was lovely to see a class so enthusiastic about a library programme and I am pleased that they want to use this at home. Reviews have already started coming through and quite a lot of students logged on at lunchtime independently which was nice to see. One of our students who is visually impaired used his laptop with audio assistance and loved using the cloud, navigating around it perfectly and he said how brilliant it was to use! It was great that he could take part in the fun!”