Registration

Can we register with our sister school to form one Loose Canon community?

Yes. If you’d like to pair with another school, you can register under one name and one account. Each student and teacher should use his or her regular email address and login. Just remember that you are the one determining the boundaries of the community and that all members of that community are visible to one another. Think carefully about how big you want to make that community.

Can we register as a district?

Sure. Call us or email for pricing. Depending upon the size of the district, we recommend setting up several communities within the district, probably one community per school. Remember that you are the one determining the boundaries of the community and that all members of that community are visible to one another. Think carefully about how big you want to make that community. For example, do you want 12th graders to be able to see what fifth graders are reading and writing? And vice versa? The answer to that question will depend upon the nature and culture of your community.

What if I want to have a dialog with other schools in other states or countries?

It's possible to create a "community" with a distant school. That said, Loose Canon is designed more to transform and energize your own school community, on the principle that students care most viscerally about what their peers down the hall are reading and thinking. 

Can teachers who aren’t in the English or Language Arts department use Loose Canon?

Yes! We love it when librarians, science teachers, history teachers, and anyone else uses the platform.

Can parents be part of the Loose Canon community?

If the organizer (usually an administrator or teacher in the school) includes parents in the subscription, they’ll have their own logins, and can set up their own reading resumes, etc. We recommend this option only for very small communities (like homeschooling pods) in which the parents and students know each other already. Carefully consider this question: do you want parents to be able to view the reading resumes of all students? That answer will depend upon the kind of culture in your school.

Will my students have to “friend” other students?

No. Loose Canon is designed to be an all-inclusive and interactive community. That means neither you nor your students need to “friend” other people to be recognized by them.

If my colleague and I register as community organizers, can we “find” each other’s classes?

Yes, if both of you (typically teachers in the same school) agree. Go to “My Community” at any time and send your colleague an invitation. Once they accept, all your students will have interactivity. But you and your colleague will continue to hold separate subscriptions.

The teachers in our school just convinced our principal to pay for our existing subscriptions. What should we do?

Your principal should set up a subscription and an account. Then the principal can “sponsor” anyone in the school. They can go to “My Community” to send out sponsorship invitations to teachers. Once teachers accept, their accounts become absorbed by the school’s account and the school will be billed instead of the teachers.

Why does the registration page ask for a link to my library?

If you choose to include a link to your library, your students can quickly check to find out whether a title they’re looking for is available. If you don’t have a school library, you might want to include your town library.

How do I register as a homeschooling parent?

If you’re a homeschooling parent, give yourself the role of “teacher”, which will enable you to make assignments and to moderate students’ work.

What does “sponsored” and “unsponsored” mean?

Sponsored” users are the ones included on a subscription. Someone else (typically a school) is paying for them to be a member of the community. All students are sponsored, usually by their teacher or by their school. Some teachers pay for their own subscriptions, including their own classes, and are therefore not sponsored.

If our school registers, who is included in the registration?

Whomever you choose. Many schools include every student and teacher and administrator in the school. (Your IT specialist will probably have a database of all members of the school community that they use for other school-wide applications.) However, it’s possible to register a subset of the school community, for example, only the seventh and eighth grade teachers and students. It’s also possible to register a handful of classes, for example, two or three teachers who want to incorporate more peer-driven reading.

If our school registers, will all the teachers in the school have to set up all their assignments through Loose Canon?

No. Some teachers may choose to set up their assignments that way, and some may not.

My Community

What if a new student joins the school?

Your best bet is to add that person by hand. Go to the Member Home page, then My Community.

Who’s in my community?

Your community can be any learning community. Typically, a community is a school or a set of classes within a school, which is what we recommend. However, it’s also possible to form a community of classes from different schools or from one or more homeschooling pods.

Who determines whether users are students or teachers?

The organizer of a community will enroll educators as “teachers” and young people as “students.” However, a homeschooling pod may decide to designate parents as “teachers.”

How do we add students to a community?

Schools and teachers may add students by CSV document at the whole-school level, which is the most efficient method. Or, if the organizer enables it, teachers may add the members of their classes themselves, either one at a time or by CSV upload.

If I set up a community, can I expand it later?

Sure. You can go to “My Community” at any time and invite teachers and students. You can also combine your community with another one if both organizers (typically teachers in the same school) agree. Go to “My Community” at any time and change send your colleague an invitation. Once they accept, all your students will have interactivity. You and your colleague will hold separate subscriptions though.

If I set up a community, can I combine my community with another community?

Yes, if both of you (typically teachers in the same school) agree. Go to “My Community” at any time and send your colleague an invitation. Once they accept, all your students will have interactivity. You and your colleague will hold separate subscriptions though.

We just convinced our principal to pay for our existing subscription. What should we do?

Your principal should set up a subscription and an account. Then the principal can “sponsor” anyone in the school. They can go to “My Community” to send out sponsorship invitations to teachers. Once teachers accept, their accounts become absorbed by the school’s account and the school will be billed instead of the teachers.

Can I expand my community if I’m not the one holding the subscription?

It depends upon the way the community organizer has set up the subscription. The organizer (typically an administrator or teacher in your school) may allow teachers in the community to invite others, or they may not. You can ask your organizer to change the settings in “My Community.”

Can my classes interact with classes that are on different subscriptions?

Yes, if the organizers of both communities (typically two different teachers) set those permissions up. If you want to do that, go to “My Community”, then “Edit My Community.”

What happens after we add teachers and students?

Loose Canon will send them notifications if you want us to. Otherwise you can let them know by yourself when you’re good and ready.

Why does the registration page ask for a link to my library?

If you choose to include a link to your library, your students can quickly check to find out whether a title they’re looking for is available. If you don’t have a school library, you might want to include your town library.

What does “sponsored” and “unsponsored” mean?

Sponsored” users are the ones included on a subscription. Someone else (typically a school) is paying for them to be a member of the community. All students are sponsored, usually by their teacher or by their school. Some teachers pay for their own subscriptions, including their own classes, and are therefore not sponsored.

Assignments and Assessments

How do I set up assignments?

Go to the Member Home page and click on “Create Assignment.” You can set up assignments in which you choose the individual books, or you can set up assignments in which students can choose any book from a certain combination of grade levels and filters (for example, any 11th grade book that’s “Nonfiction” + “Historical” + “American Experience”). Or you can choose the books for your assignment using a combination of these methods. (Select “I want to cherry-pick my books.”)

How long will my old assignments and reading challenges appear on my page?

Until you delete them or mark them as hidden.

Can I set up assignments for the whole school or the whole grade?

Yes.

Who can see my assignments and what my students are reading?

You can make make that material visible to your class or to a bigger group, like your whole school. That said, your students do have the option to mark their material “private.”

Does Loose Canon quiz students on their reading?

Loose Canon is fundamentally a social media site and not an assessment tool. We set up the platform to create a reading environment that doesn’t feel transactional. We also feel that the best assessments come directly from teachers and not from digital interactions. Most teachers have a host of great assessment tools, and we’ve suggested many others on our site under “Resources.” These are assessment tools that can be used with any book.

Can I set up assignments for extracurricular groups and book clubs?

Yes.

What’s the difference between an assignment and a reading challenge?

Typically an assignment involves reading a book or two for a book club, project, or literature circle. The “Reading Challenge” feature is better suited to students on their own reading paths, for example, students trying to read as much as possible in one semester. A Reading Challenge prompts students to record how many pages and minutes they’ve read each day. The software tallies those numbers daily.

Can my students use any book in the world for a reading challenge?

That’s up to you and how you set up the assignment. If students want to use books that aren’t on the Loose Canon list, you can add them from Google Books.

Browse Books (the “Loose” Canon)

I imported a book onto the Loose Canon “Browse Books” page, but it doesn’t show up on the booklist when I use the appropriate filters. Why not?

It’s still a “new import,” which means it’s been added within the past day or two. You can see it, and the members of your school community can see it and use it for assignments immediately. But it won’t show up on the Browse Books until Loose Canon has reviewed it.

I’m an author. How can I get my book on the list?

Your best bet is to find a classroom teacher who is using the book and have them import it or recommend it to us. We aggregate teacher recommendations.

Does Loose Canon give my students and me access to books?

We show you where to get any given title, but we don’t publish material online. We do link to the Internet Archive which publishes thousands of classics online and free of charge. These are titles in the public domain.

How does a book get on Loose Canon’s “Browse Books” list?

All our books are teacher-tested, which means they’re on our list because teachers are using them in the classroom, in some cases for all-class readings, in some cases for book clubs, in some cases for independent reading.

Can I suppress certain filters on the Browse Books list? (coming soon)

The community organizer (typically an administrator or teacher in your school) can suppress filters on the Browse Books list (for example, if they don’t want their 7th graders to see 11th, 12th, and college-level books, or for example, if they don’t want to show graphic novels). Go to “My Community”, then “Edit.”

Can I suppress certain titles on the Browse Books list? (coming soon)

The community organizer (typically an administrator or teacher in your school) can suppress certain book titles. They may want to do this, for example, if they think a certain title may not be right for their community. To suppress a book, go to “My Community”, then “Edit.”

Can I add new titles? How?

You can add them from Google Books. Search for a book on Browse Books and check “Include Google Books.” Google Books will show you options on the right hand side of the screen. When you click on that book cover, you’ll have the option to “import” the book.

What does “new import” mean?

A “new import” is a book that someone in your community has recently added. You can see it, and the members of your school community can see it and use it for assignments immediately. But it won’t show up on the Browse Books until Loose Canon has reviewed it.

What are the criteria for making a new import a permanent addition to Browse Books?

Several schools are using the title.

Can I use a “new import” in my assignments?

Yes.

What does it mean that a book is “Loose Canon approved”?

It means we’ve reviewed the book, and we think it’s a good choice for students. We’ve also determined a target grade level and which filters best describe it. The book will show up when you or anyone else in the world searches for it in the booklist.

Which books can students see on the “Browse Books” list?

Students can only see the books that are “Loose Canon approved”.

Can students import books?

Students can import books for the purpose of adding them to their reading resumes. Those books don't show up on "Browse Books" unless Loose Canon reviews and approves them. 

If a student imports a book into Loose Canon, who sees it?

The student will be able to see it on their reading resume.

What does the filter “No Controversial Bits” mean?

That label literally means that, as far as we know, there are no parts of the book that have (up to the present), caused a controversy in American schools. In broad terms, books that have “no controversial bits” don’t condone violence, graphic language, illegal activities and drug use, under-age sex, witches and warlocks, theories about global warming, or explicit homosexuality. Elementary-level books in the “No Controversial Bits” category don’t include mature topics such as death of a parent or divorce.

Why does Loose Canon include the filter “No Controversial Bits”?

We included the “No Controversial Bits” category especially for conservative families and students because we believe that, for reading choice to be successful, all families have to feel comfortable with it. Readers should be able to make informed choices. If you have a recommendation for a book that should or should not be included in this category, please let us know.

What does the filter “Change My World” mean?

Change My World” books are books about people in real life situations who have made a positive difference in their world. Some may be historical figures, like Eleanor Roosevelt, and some may be fictional characters who take a stand for real world issues, like a 5th grader who stands up for some larger issue they believe in. Not included are characters who suffer unfairly but are unable to make a difference in the larger world. Not included are fantasy characters who are slaying dragons or seeking to save fantastic or futuristic worlds. Not included are characters solving mysteries.

How does Loose Canon determine the grade level of a book?

We look at Lexile levels, Fountas & Pinnell levels, Booklist recommendations, School Library Journal recommendations, AR levels, and publisher recommendations. Then we try to find a mean. However, when there’s a difference between a book’s content level and its reading level, content carries more weight. That means, for example, that a book about high-schoolers grappling with high-school problems will be rated as 9th grade and up, even if it’s written at a 5th grade reading level.

If I import a book from Google Books into Loose Canon, who sees it?

You’ll see it as a “new import.” So will the members of your community if you’re using it on your reading resume or for an assignment.

Will that book ever become part of the Browse Books list that all schools see?

Yes, if the staff at Loose Canon thinks the title is one that other schools and teachers will want to use as well.

Reading Resumes

How do books get into a student’s reading resume?

Students can add books themselves, either as they finish them, or from memory. They can do it by title search or, if they want to add a lot of books, by bulk. Also, every time they complete a book for an assignment, they’re prompted to add and review that book. Often teachers make these reviews part of the assignment.

Can a student add books to his Reading Resume that aren’t on Loose Canon’s booklist?

Sure. Students can import whatever books they like from Google Books. Those titles, and the student’s reviews of them, will show up on the student’s Reading Resume.

Who sees a student’s Reading Resume and lists?

Everyone in the community sees a student’s Reading Resume and lists, but no one outside that community does. The student does have the option to mark titles “private.” The student may also at some point choose to share that Reading Resume with another party (for example, a college they’re applying to) if they choose.

With whom does Loose Canon share student reading resumes and other information?

We don’t share student or faculty information with anyone, including third party platforms, like Google or Amazon. Nor do we use it for marketing purposes.

If a student wants a book on their Reading Resume to be private, how do they do that?

Uncheck the "publish in" boxes. 

Does Loose Canon quiz students on their reading?

Loose Canon is fundamentally a social media site and not an assessment tool. We feel that the best assessments come directly from teachers and not from digital interactions. Most teachers have a host of great assessment tools, and we’ve suggested many others on our site under “Resources.” Most of these assessments can be adjusted to fit most books.

What keeps a student from “padding their resume” with books they haven’t read?

Mostly, the culture of your community. Everyone in your community can see a student’s reading resume, and their reviews, and most communities encourage students to be in conversation about those entries.

If a student selects a book for an assignment, and they’ve already read that book for an assignment, what happens?

Loose Canon will prompt the student to select another book. Also, the teacher who made the assignment will be able to see that it’s the student’s second time reading that particular title.

Can a student share their Reading Resume?

This feature is under construction. Students can print out the titles of their reading resumes, or they can send digital links that include cover images.

How long does a student’s Reading Resume remain on Loose Canon?

The organizer of the community (usually an administrator in the school) determines how long alumni book reviews will be visible in the school community (usually about a year or two). But individual students and alumni can delete their own information at any time, regardless of what the school wants.

Ratings and Reviews

Who can see the reviews that students and teachers write?

Everybody in your school community can see them, unless the user marks them “private.” Nobody outside the school community can see them.

Who can moderate and/or change inappropriate comments?

Any teacher or administrator in your community can change or moderate student comments.

How long should book reviews be?

That’s for individual teachers and schools to say and to model. Some schools grade their students’ book reviews as essays, and some don’t.

What if I don’t want students to be able to write reviews?

The organizer of the community can decide whether to allow written reviews. If your school doesn't allow prose reviews, then students will still be able to rate books as one, two, three, or four stars.

Can students comment upon one another’s reviews?

The organizer of the community can decide whether to allow comments on reviews. That person can activate or de-activate this feature at any time.

Can readers post video reviews?

They can post links to videos, but the videos are stored on other platforms, for example YouTube. We’re not affiliated with these companies and cannot vouch for the ways they use such information.

Most Popular Books

How are the “Most Popular Books” at my school determined?

Popular” is determined by the total number of stars a book has received in all community ratings.

Logging In

We’re registered but one of my students or teachers is having trouble logging in. We tried a password reset, but it didn’t work. What should I do?

Make sure the user is in the system correctly. Go to your “member home” page and search for the name of that user. If the student is not findable there, it’s because their email didn’t upload correctly. You can simply verify the student’s email address and then add them individually. If the software doesn’t allow that, it’s because your community organizer (typically an administrator or teacher in your school) hasn’t given you permission to add new users. Ask your community organizer to do it.

Book Access

Does Loose Canon give my students and me access to books?

No. We don’t publish books online, but we do show you where to get any given title. We link to your library and to the Internet Archive, which publishes thousands of classics online and free of charge. These are titles in the public domain.

Lists

How do schools use the “lists” feature?

The lists are simply electronic bulletin boards for students and teachers to share favorites.

What if I my students want to co-create a list together?

That’s a great idea. That particular feature is under construction.

Conversations

What will the “conversations” feature be?

This will be a place for students and book club groups to talk about books.

Book of the Day

What happened to the Book of the Day emails?

They are temporarily on hold as we switch over to the new site. More soon!

Homeschooling Pods and Micro-schools

Can I use Loose Canon as a homeschooling parent?

Loose Canon is designed to create community, so it’s well suited for homeschooling pods and micro-schools. We recommend that one adult hold the subscription and invite other homeschooling parents and kids to join into that virtual community. The subscriber will then be the “organizer” and can invite other parents as “teachers.” We recommend all educator-parents in your community have roles as “teachers”, which will enable them to make assignments and to moderate students’ work.

Alternatively, several parents could each hold their own subscriptions and then expand their communities by affiliating with one another. In the long run, this is a more expensive option.