Since 2011, #cyberPD has been an event to connect educators in collaborative professional conversation. Through blogs, Twitter, and the digital media, participants share thinking around a common professional title featured for discussion.
Though the main event is in July of each year, the conversations and connections carry across the year. This year the selected title for #cyberPD is Digital Reading: What's Essential for Grades 3-8 by Bill Bass and Franki Sibberson.
As a reading and technology specialist, this book appeals to several of my professional interests.
The authors first review the National Council of Teachers of English Policy Brief - Reading Instruction for All Students. The title reveals one key point revealed in the brief; all students, not just those in the early elementary grades require explicit reading instruction. The brief goes on to reiterate the need for well-trained teachers, effective instructional policies, and use of formative assessments to individualize and guide reading instruction.
Bass and Sibberson emphatically state that "merely reading on a computer does not make a digital reader" (p 1). They make a point that true digital literacy requires the ability to flexibly utilize digital tools with intentionality, and to synthesize information across multiple text sources (p 2). How does what we know about current best practice in reading and traditional literacy instruction mesh with the skills necessary to become digitally literate?
Some components of effective reading instruction remain the same.
- Readers must be matched with appropriate texts that they can read accurately, that engage and motivate them to read, and that they can comprehend using appropriate reading comprehension strategies and skills.
- Students need time to practice digital reading skills and strategies just as they need to practice skills and strategies when reading traditional text.
- Digital devices are merely tools. Students and teachers must consider the appropriate tool to utilize for any particular reading task just as they need practice in determining what type of traditional text meets a particular informational need.
- Digital reading experiences must be integrated into the reading workshop on a regular basis, just as reading and content instruction need to be integrated.
However, there are differences and as Bass and Sibberson point out the mere use of technology in class does not mean that students are digitally literate. Students need to have "a deep understanding of how the tools work, what the best tool might be fore a specific task, or even what other tools might be available" (p 6). In addition, technology evolves so rapidly that teachers must develop and teach flexible reading strategies that students can transfer to the next digital reading experience. Even though our students have grown up in the digital world, their experience with game and social media applications do not equate with proficiency in digital reading skills. Students will require explicit instruction and time to practice the essential strategies and skills that proficient digital readers utilize. "Learning to read digital texts must be embedded in the ways we do our literacy work on a day-to-day basis" (p 11) if students are to become truly digitally literate.
Much of this information only validated my own thoughts about the conjunction of technology and reading, it is Bass and Sibberson's focus on three anchor behaviors to drive digital reading instruction:
- authenticity - keeping reading a meaningful experience that extends beyond the classroom,
- intentionality - making meaningful choices as readers, and
- connectedness - finding and creating connections between texts, readers, and experiences (p 13)
As teachers we must adapt this structure and integrate digital reading instruction into the format with regularity and intention. The list of questions that Franki developed to guide her practice on page 19 will be extremely helpful in guiding integration of digital literacy instruction into the refined workshop model described in this chapter. I plan to copy and post the list near my lesson planning workspace. Digital reading cannot be an add-on to reading instruction, but must be an integral part of our reading curriculums.
In closing, Bass and Sibberson reiterate that digital literacy instruction "requires more than transferring traditional reading skills to a new medium. It's about changing the way we think about interacting with ideas and content" (p 23). This sums up the real difference between traditional and digital literacies. Digital reading is seldom linear, but offers a multitude of choices that requires readers to be more actively involved in the reading process.