Goodreads with my students now for over a year and we love it. Okay, I love it and most of them like it more than I thought they would. Last spring I started using it with juniors and this year I have used it with my freshmen all year long.
Students can set up a Goodreads account using their Google login information. That's a great short cut for them. I haven't tested that with a Google Apps for Education account, so I'm not sure if that would work. Students do need an email account to create a Goodreads account, so they should be at least 13.
My students add me as a friend on Goodreads and then I can see their updates about the books they are reading, and their book reviews. They also friend (v.) each other. I don't require that. They just do it naturally. I have noticed that students with more friends on Goodreads tend to read more. I think seeing their friends updates regularly creates a little positive peer pressure about reading.
I am amazed at the insights Goodreads gives me about their reading behavior. Last year one of my Junior boys added Memoirs of a Geisha to his "to read" shelf. I happened to have that book, but I never would have thought to recommend it to him. He told me he had been looking for a copy for a while. I never would have guessed.
With my freshmen this year I found they needed a push to read independently. I found it helped if I asked them to read and review two books a month. I feel some ambivalence about setting reading expectations that way. Kids who were not reading at all certainly read more (and even liked it) to meet that simple goal, and kids who naturally read a lot continued to do so, but I know there were a few students who read two books and stopped because they met the requirement.
Today I asked students to use the recommend feature to suggest books to friends and me. That was a lot of fun and hopefully will give some of them ideas for summer reading.
NOTE: Good reads will suggest recommendations for you if you have rated over 20 books. My students like that. The process I had them use today was to go to a page for a book they already read and find the recommend button there. After that it pulls up a list of their Goodreads friends and they can check off the ones they think will like that book.
*My original post about Goodreads in the classroom.
I want to answer some of Rachel's questions in the comment below.
1. I grade reviews by having students submit a form with the direct links to their reviews. This makes it much easier to find their work and saves me a lot of time. The form is embedded on a tab in our class blog here http://imdoingmyhomework.blogspot.com/p/book-reviews-independent-reading.html
2. I don't worry about my students seeing what my friends are reading. (Disclaimer, I teach high school.) I don't worry because my students will only see my friends activity if I interact with their posts. So yes, if you "like" your friends review of an inappropriate book your students may see that. There is no private on the internet. Act like a teacher at all times when online. And you students have probably already read the books you are worried about anyway.
3. What to do about former students? Keep them. I love seeing what my former students are reading. Most of them drop off in their Goodreads use after my class, but a few keep going and it is great to stay in touch. The model for a book review I gave my students this year came from a student I had two years ago and he wrote it this past August. Two years out of my class and he is still writing reviews I can use as an example. I have a colleague who deleted all her students from last year. Many of them are my students this year. They were very hurt to be unfriended. If you are using a Google Form to collect URL's of reviews from current students then you don't need to worry about former students making it hard to find current students.