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.