In his “This I Believe” segment on NPR, Matt Harding says, “People want to feel connected to each other. They want to be heard and seen and they’re curious to hear and see others from places far away.” If I had been sitting next to him while he recorded this segment, I would have nodded and given him the ol’ “me too” hand signal that means “same” in sign language. Incidentally, the beliefs I hold about online reading comprehension are also partly rooted in this belief that people want to feel connected to each other, and that the internet provides opportunities to do so.
I believe that students have the right to encounter and engage with digital texts in their classrooms. In today’s digital information society, students need to have access to digital tools and texts. Teachers’ feelings of inadequacy around digital texts and tools should not dictate the exposure students have to them; instead, teachers need opportunities to familiarize themselves with the 21st century resources that students will be called upon to interact with.
I believe that students need guided practice in focused online reading. There are so many distractions when interacting with online texts, like hyperlinks and advertisements, and students need practice in focusing on the task at hand. While online reading may have innumerable benefits and assets, it must also be approached with a level of caution in terms of attention demanded, and students should have the opportunity to practice this focused online reading in their classes.
I believe that students should not only know how to read online, but how to engage and produce online as well. Students are entering into a digital information society, and that society is not a one way street. Students need to know how to enter into digital conversations by producing their own texts using multimedia tools.
I believe children need to know how to identify and evaluate credible sources in today’s digital information society. I must call once again (for the second week in a row) upon the Mitchell Kapor quote: “Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant.” Because that Internet fire hydrant is so forceful and voluminous, knowing how to locate reliable information is an uncompromisable must.
I believe that the technology should not supplant the content, but rather enhance and transform it. In order to avoid being taken in by the flashy bells and whistles of new technology, teachers should go beyond measuring affordances and constraints and instead think about the learning goals of a particular unit and how technology can be leveraged to allow for significant task design and “the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable” (Puenredura).
I believe that there is no one “right answer” to any question, and that incorporating various online reading and writing strategies will help students to understand and express in multiple ways. As Hammerberg noted in “Comprehension instruction for sociocultural diverse classrooms: A review of what we know,” “More than using comprehension strategies in and of themselves… and more than using comprehension strategies to regurgitate an author’s meaning, we need to include discussions about the multiple answers, perspectives, and interpretations possible” (655). When teaching online reading comprehension, teachers need to recognize that students will and should have multiple answers, perspectives and interpretations, and that those can be explored and explained using a myriad of digital tools.
I believe that sociocultural context must live at the center of teaching online reading comprehension. Julie Coiro and Renee Hobbs’ Digital Literacy Curriculum Framework places the self, learners and community as the context at the center, recognizing that task or activity must be situated inside of that context, and that the standards, work products, instructional strategies, tools and texts will all be impacted by and grow out of that context.
This assignment and the last four weeks of readings/discussions have taught me not to get caught up in the “wow” factor of digital literacy. As an emerging new literacies teacher, it is my job to help students to navigate the digital world of information, and in order to do that, I cannot jump on board any exciting tool train that comes through the station; I must instead make careful, intentional choices based on my learning purposes. One experience in particular that has informed my personal views of teaching and learning online reading comprehension came last year when I implemented a unit with students based on all of the cool tools I learned from the 2013 Digital Literacy Institute. I had students do some preliminary research and then use various “cool tools” to share their research. The assignment was a little too light on the research and from that experience, I adjusted the unit and have adopted it for my SAT vocabulary unit this year. I know if I continue to be interested and engaged in digital literacy, my students will appreciate that I am recognizing the world they live in and doing my best to prepare them for it.
Coiro, J. & Hobbs, R. (2014). Digital Literacy Curriculum Framework.
Hammerberg, D. (2004). Comprehension instruction for sociocultural diverse classrooms: A review of what we know. The Reading Teacher, 57(7), 648-656.
Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2008). From ‘reading’ to ‘new literacy studies. In C. Lankshear & M. Knobel, New literacies: Everyday pracices and classroom learning. Berkshire, England: Open University Press/McGraw-Hill Education.
Puenredura, R. SAMR Model.