Monday, July 06, 2015

#CyberPD 2015 - Chapt 1-2 - Why consider digital reading?



Mike Licht, NoltionsCapital.com


Sara’s words from Bill’s focus group resonated with my experience with students in many of today’s schools when she stated, “But if I really want to learn something, I do that outside of school” (p. 5).  My nephews have expressed this sentiment to me several times as the books they are given for required reading don’t interest them (therefore they are not motivated to read).  However, outside of school, my one nephew is an avid reader of hunting, fishing and outdoor life magazines and websites.  He is well-versed in the local hunting regulations and how to skin and sell pelts. This did not happen in school. My other nephew is a gamer and deeply understands the development of online game structure and the connections to others that playing online affords him. 

As a teacher educator of undergraduate students, I have encountered many pre-service teachers who understand social media as a personal space, not as a learning space.  Like the authors state, “Just because students are “good” with technology does not necessarily mean they are literate in the digital age” (p. 6).  I continue to show college-age students how to use the settings on Facebook to provide the type of access they want (or don’t want) and other features that support Facebook as a learning space.  I try to help them see Twitter as a place for professional connections and networking, not just personal promotion.  It can be difficult though, to re-envision a tool under new circumstances. It’s like reading “99 Extraordinary, Creative and Unusual Uses for Ordinary and Everyday Objects” and realizing that tennis balls and Coke can be very useful items in the house. 

“When children are invited to be part of a community and to spend time in school participating in authentic reading activities, they grow in amazing ways” (p. 16). As a classroom teacher, I’ve advocated for the workshop approach in my middle school classroom (and a modified version in high school) since my first year of teaching.  Choice, authentic texts, personal response, and time has been the foundation of how I’ve tried to teach English Language Arts.  However, I’m still trying to help people (students, parents, and administration) understand that reading is an active process that requires more than just Q & A at the end of a reading.  For deep thinking requires time, re-reading, and discussion – a tough sell in an environment of compliance. 

I loved the questions that Franki provided to re-imagine her workshop and review her use of digital reading.  One especially caught my eye as something I haven’t thought much about, “Do I use keyword tags, comments, links, and search features while reading aloud?” (p. 19).  When I submit articles, I have to include keywords and tags, when I search for items, I use them – but I haven’t explicitly talked with students about what they are and how to use them within the context of the reading.  Sure, when instructing students on Google searching, Boolean logic and keywords are important, but tags are different features.   In addition, I’ve never modelled how I make choices on whether to follow a link or not when I’m reading.  This deserves some thought.

In doing this thinking, I want to consider what types of digital reading/writing I do:
·         Audio books on my smart phone (mostly non-fiction)
·         YouTube videos (mostly instructional – how to style)
·         Personal book blog
·         GoodReads account
·         Personal and professional Twitter accounts
·         Kindle reader – e-Reader – Ipad
·         Downloaded articles in PDF – read and annotate
·         Google blog lists and Google+
·         Lots of Internet searches – regular and Scholar
·         On-demand online courses with multimedia instruction and assignments
·         Museum tours with online access either through their technologies or my smart phone
·         Google Maps linked to reviews of places
·         Mendeley – a reference manager and PDF organizer
·         Personal writing apps – 750words.com, ColorNote, Gratitude Journal

My husband has been a technology director for several years and his motto has been “Don’t just teach the tools, teach the thinking.”  In addition, the tool shouldn’t drive instruction, instead, the tool should support learning.  Too often, we’ve seen teachers spend whole lessons on helping students learn PowerPoint or any other software, just for the sake of learning the software.  But, the software ages, changes or is discontinued and without learning how to approach a new tool, students (and teachers) can be intimidated.  Technological tools need to be part of the learning environment, not an add-on, and only when it makes more sense to use the tool than the traditional approach.  As Franki wrote, “Digital reading wasn’t an additional part of the classroom; rather, it became integral to the nature of our work” (p. 19).

“Figure 2.3. Differences between traditional and digital reading workshops” on page 21 is a powerful chart to show how a workshop approach can adapt to integrate digital technologies for both reading, writing and responding to texts. For me, I need to envision what something could look like, and this chart gave me the snap-shot I needed to begin to imagine how the workshop approach would look different when digital reading was intentional and not an after-thought. 

The authors’ statement of the purpose of their digital reading workshop is absolutely beautiful, “We want our students to be authentic readers and, at the same time, to be intentional, active, and reflective as they read all forms of media. Our workshops are therefore set up with beliefs, routines, and expectations that we hope lead them to live their lives in authentic, intentional, and connected ways” (p. 22). And the questions they ask their readers really help put the focus on the student and his/her active participation within the workshop.  It is NOT a passive place – and I know that some students really struggle with this in the beginning of workshop.  They are accustomed to being told what to read and how to read it.  But, having used the workshop approach for years, I know that it is a powerful way to engage students in reading and learning.

12 comments:

  1. With all the standards and testing Reading Workshop seems to be falling to the wayside. Without continued support and PD many teachers fall back on what they are familiar with in their own learning - the traditional basal and worksheets. I love workshop and am dedicated to providing a authentic literacy environment for my third graders. Yes, it is very difficult for students and parents at first because they are accustomed to being told what to read! But I find when students have choice and ownership in their learning they are more motivated to do their best. I see digital literacy as the next step in making students reading and writing authentic and meaningful. So exciting to see what all these fabulous teachers are thinking and doing in their classrooms.

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    1. Debra,
      I know. I am seeing more canned programs being used in the name of standardization and providing "equal" opportunities for instruction. However, these programs don't engage students in authentic reading nor do they provide an environment that helps students learn to love reading. Choice, time, and responding to reading in real ways has shown to create life-long learners, not just test scores.
      Suz

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  2. Hi Suz,

    So happy to see you joining in the conversations again! Interesting to hear about your real life learning examples from your nephews to the view of social media of the pre-service teachers! Technology needs to bring voice and choice into learning -- and that tools can be used in multiple ways, but all students (little and big) need that modeling and explicit instruction. I agree, it can be difficult to re-imagine an old tool in a new way ... keep trying!

    I appreciate that you created a list of the digital texts and tools that you currently use in your personal and professional life. I thought about it, but didn't do it ... yet. I think I'm more "old school" and still like my books and printed text in my hands! I need to continue stretching my own comfort zone of utilizing more digital texts and tools.

    I also agree that 21st century learning isn't just about technology -- it's about critical thinking and tech tools should enhance instruction, not hinder the purpose of learning. It is a fine line, but keeping in mind authenticity and purpose when planning instruction is essential. I also marked figure 2.3 about the differences between traditional and digital reading workshops. It isn't a stretch to move to the latter -- I thought of it as a +1 in Google. It's starting with the traditional and adding one to boost the learning through the use of technology. I also appreciate that the goal is not to move to all digital ... sometimes we still need that paper and pencil to do the job! It's about a variety of resources and tools that are available and knowing when to pick what resource.

    Thanks for sharing your insights and look forward to this month of learning together! It sounds like you are doing great work with the pre-service teachers and this text is offering you more to think about in your own classroom as well.
    Michelle

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    1. Michelle,

      Thanks for responding to my post. Each year #CyberPD has selected a book that I might not have picked up on my own, but because of the community of learners here, I learn so much each year and find ways to apply the knowledge in my college classes. I love the glimpses into other people's classroom and I can relay the ideas to my pre-service teachers.

      Throughout the book, Franki continues to emphasize the need to understand how and why to move between tools. I need to be more reflective (or Intentional) about my own choices so I can open my process to my students.

      Thanks again for sponsoring this amazing opportunity to connect with other educators!
      Suz

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  3. YES! I was thinking about the use of digital text and how I have fallen into the thinking that "real books" are the only reading that matters. I was proud of myself for expanding my thinking to include magazines, and proud again this last year when I added graphic novels to my classroom library. But truthfully, I have the whole internet available, most of it for free, and I should be using it more. My husband hasn't read a book in years, but he reads things on the internet all day long,every day. This is real reading too. I like that the authors or pressing people to consider digital reading as a regular part of the day, not a special unit. I need to do that more.

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    1. Lisa,

      One of my graduate students completed an action research project on "alternative texts." She too tending to privilege paper books and especially fiction books as real reading. She immersed herself in exploring all kinds of different text that she knew nothing about - Fanzines, blogs, graphic novels, various kids magazines etc. At the end, she became more of a "wild reader" and wrote an amazing position paper about the need to teachers to expand their views of what "counts" as reading. I think we all have our comfort zones and preferred genres, which is why it is so important to really listen to our students and value what they bring to the classroom.

      Thanks,
      Suz

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  4. Hi Suz,

    As a fellow teacher educator, these words really resonated with me: “It can be difficult though, to re-envision a tool under new circumstances”. Darling-Hammon & McLaughlin write about teacher education involving ‘unlearning’ as well as learning and this definitely fits the bill. Our students use social media and technology for personal reasons, but it can be hard to get them to shift to using it professionally as well. As your husband states, if we teach the thinking behind the tool, perhaps we can get them to better understand the purpose behind such work. Thank you for such an insightful post.

    Stephanie

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    1. Stephanie,
      I would agree that there is some unlearning to do in education courses. With 12+ years of being apprentices through observation, many pre-service teachers have a narrow vision for what teaching and learning can look like based on their experiences. It is books like this - with the vignettes and clear descriptions - that help with the re-envisionment process.

      Thanks,
      Suz

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  5. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I especially appreciate your recognition of the dual problem of a) teaching how to use a tool but also b) teaching WHY to use a tool. Both aspects are critical for success!

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  6. Fascinating to hear your thoughts as a teacher of pre-service teachers! I connected with the Sara story, too!

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  7. Suz,
    Oh. My. Goodness. I really don't know where to start. There are so many strong points in your piece. There are three aspects of digital literacy that have made me push to learn more. The first has been the change in community. As students started to blog, comment on each other's blogs, and share their thinking digitally, they seemed to need me less and less. They started going to each other. It changed the dynamics of our classroom --- for the better. Secondly, there were the connections that reached beyond our classroom, extended our community, and gave us purpose/audience. Finally, I began to know things about students I wouldn't have known if they weren't taking time to blog from home. I wouldn't have realized the books my classroom library lacked if I hadn't been following their family Shelfari's. As you discuss, digital tools allow us to bring school and home together in the interest of learning. No longer do students only need to go home to learn as their are opportunities available in the classroom to do this too.

    Loved this line, "Tool shouldn’t drive instruction, instead, the tool should support learning." That's such a perfect way to say we should stay focused on learning and not the tool. It's so hard to do sometimes.

    It was also interesting to read all of the ways you utilize digital literacy. I may have to take a moment to create this a list myself.

    Cathy

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    1. Cathy

      One of my favorite quotes is "A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary. - Thomas Carruthers. I would agree that by providing an environment where students learn to ask and answer their own questions, the traditional view of teacher as expert is less important. Instead, we become curators, facilitators, and coaches. This is a dramatic paradigm shift, but one that is important for our changing times.

      Thanks,
      Suz

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