Learning to Read Digital Text

Learning to Read Digital Text

During presentations the comment: “So you think we should do away with all physical books?” comes up from time to time. Do I? When it comes to non-fiction books I believe at the Middle School and High School level we need to start thinking hard about where we spend our money. On non-fiction books that are outdated before they’re checked out, or take that same money, buy devices, show students how to find quality non-fiction up-to-date information on the Internet within their reading level? I think the latter is a better choice. Now when it comes to pleasure reading….I don’t care what form the material comes in. Books are great…there is a physical connection that some people have with books and so physical books are great…fill your library up with books kids want to read for fun. But here’s the thing…no matter where you are in your own transition into a digital reading world we all read more digitally. Emails, Facebook, News, this blog post (unless you printed it off). Just sit back and reflect for a moment how much of your day is reading digital text. Even if you like to read before bed you probably read more online during the day. Of course this all focused on our generation. A generation that in our childhood and schooling years grew up with book based media. The strategies we were taught, how we read, what we read all goes back to those early years. What happens however when your early years include digital text as much as, if not more than, print text? What happens when you can look not too far into the future and take a pretty educated guess that the majority of your reading life will be done digitally. I’m not saying it’s right…I’m not saying it’s wrong. I’m just saying that’s the way we’re trending. So if we’re really concerned about students and preparing them for their future we need to start teaching them the skills of reading digital based text. When Pennington’s seventh graders took the Smarter Balanced Assessment in English Language Arts on new Chromebooks last April, Pennington didn’t teach them how to use the test’s annotation feature. Students would have been able to highlight reading passages and take notes on the text to help them answer test questions. He thought it was too complicated for them to learn how to use well in...

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NYT Summer Reading Contest…What If

NYT Summer Reading Contest…What If

A teacher brought this contest ran by the New York Times to my attention the other day as they were starting to prepare for teaching summer school. This is the third time the New York Times has ran the contest where they ask students to submit 350 word responses to articles they read on the site or in the newspaper.  Each week they will choose a winner who’s winning response will get posted on the website as well as shared on Twitter and Facebook. A great way to promote student work through the NYT. Also not a bad way for parents to get their students involved in reading and writing over the summer. Reading and writing for a purpose around a contest.  But I think it could be more….what if….. CC: By Mike Licht What if students had a blog where they could write as much as they wanted and linked back to the articles they were writing about? From what I can tell the New York Times doesn’t show/allow trackback links which kind of stinks as then students would automatically be linked to the piece they were writing about. Of course the way around this is to simply leave a comment on the article or piece of media you are writing about. Just like I’ll do on the link above in a comment. What if your child or students where responding to articles and wrote 1000 word responses or 1500 word responses or 200 words? What if we connected those responses to the articles they were writing about, reflecting about and learning from? What if some other readers of those articles followed the links to the students’ blogs and continued to read their reflections there? What if someone left a comment, or tweeted, or shared on Facebook one of the students’ responses to an article? What if we taught students how to build a network, how to use hyperlinks, and how to write for the audience that reads the New York Times. Of course students could still enter the 350 word contest and in writing blog posts probably make those 350 words more precise giving them an even better chance as winning the contest one week to the next. Once students realize they’re writing is linked to the New York Times and they start getting readers, then we start talking about improving the writing, working on technique, voice, grammer, etc. Because now there’s a purpose to be a better...

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Tracking Independent Reading in high school

As I started talking about in my last post, we’re in the process of setting every high school student up with a blog to use as an e-portfolio. To help you wrap your head around why we’re using blogs as our container for this, I suggest downloading and reading the Free PDF I produced at the end of last year. Once you wrap your head around the idea that these blogs are just a container that we can link into and out of then we can build our portfolio taking advantage of all the Web 2.0 world has to offer. You’ll be able to find everything I’m talking about on my school example blog here. I would suggest opening it in a new window so you can see how we integrated all the parts together making the blog the central location of content/knowledge storage. Our “one stop shop”. Independent Reading Tracker: First the teachers wanted to have a way for students to track what they were reading and what genres they were finding themselves pulled towards. On top of that they wanted to be able to encourage students to read genres they might not always read, and of course they wanted it in one place that was simple to use and see. Using our schools Google Apps account. The English Department, our high school librarian, and myself came up with a template that satisfied everyone’s need for information. I then took that template and created a Google Spreadsheet using it. I shared that template with the students at our school so that they could make a copy of it. Once each student had their own copy we shared that copy with their English teacher and then we made the document public, copied the link, and linked it to our blogs. On the example blog you can click on the IR Tracker page at the top to be taken to the template. Student blogs work the same way. Now readers to the blog can see what each student has been reading, and the teachers can see in their Google Docs account what every student has been reading. Picture if you will these 9th graders blogs and Google Spreadsheet four years from now when they are seniors. Think about how much information they will have, colleges will have, and teachers will have about how much they are reading, what their interests...

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At the speed of a click

(Scribefire, my blogging platform finally updated to work with Firefox Beta 4 so now I’m back!) I had the most incredible experience today. First of all I’m loving working with the high school kids. They just ‘get it’. I don’t have to explain things at a very deep level and we can just fly through the technology stuff and get down to business. And when I mean fly….I mean…..at the speed of a click. Today in a 45 minute session with eighteen 9th graders we: Logged into or created a new blog Had a refresher on how to blog and all the blog options Logged into Google Docs for the first time Searched for a Google Doc, made our copy, shared it with the classroom teacher, and linked it to our blog as a page Created an account at goodreads.com, talked quickly about how the site works (Facebook for books) and then connected our goodreads.com account to our blog so that when we write a review of a book on goodreads.com it automatically posts that to our blog as a blog post. Discussed why we want every high school student to have a blog and talked about the “Social You” of Facebook and the “Professional You” of the blog/efolio they are creating here. Now….even for me that’s a lot of stuff to do, and a lot of clicks to get it all done in. I did two classes of 18 students each in 45 minutes. In fact, I could not have talked or clicked any faster. Not one kid could not keep up, in fact I had two students who followed along, completed everything while still reading a book. Are you kidding me? Follow all those directions, and read a book? Yes…this generation has just grown up clicking! INSANE! The best part was in 45 minutes we got the students ready to start tracking their independent reading using all the above mentioned tools (see next post for the layout). Now that they are all set up, we can get down to business of reading, reflecting, and tracking what and how much reading we’re...

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The niche of books

One thing is for sure. When you work with a powerful team like Tara and Kim you have conversations that end up turning into a lot of blog posts. 🙂 I have a sticky note I keep on my desk with ideas. I have an idea book that I keep in my backpack, and I have thoughts in my head that keep me awake at night. All ideas and thoughts that poor Tara and Kim have to listen to whether they want to or not. 😉 At a team meeting, with the above mentioned, a couple weeks ago we got on the topic of books. Now I’m sure I’m going to get some push back on this one, but I’m hoping it helps me to frame what I’m thinking (and it might be wrong) a little clearer…so please….feel free to push back. Up until recently books are what we have known. They were the holders of knowledge, they were the all mighty, the all knowing. If you wanted to know something you went to a book. If you wanted to drift off into a fantasy world, you read a book. If you wanted to heart felt story…you could find it in a book. It a book didn’t have the answer you went to a divine power. Today….we just go to Google Books are great. I love them on planes, on the beach and by the pool. Yes, I think books have a niche in today’s world. I just think it’s smaller then what we believe it to be. Simple questions: When was the last time you read a book? When was the last time you read a web page? When was the last time you read a letter addressed to you in the mail? (A real hand written letter) When was the last time you read an e-mail? When was the last time you looked up a phone number in the phone book? When was the last time you looked up a recipe in a recipe book? When was the last time you used an encyclopedia? When was the last time you went to a book before the web for non-fiction/relevant information? When was the last time you used an IM client (chat)? Now, take these questions and go ask them to your class, to a kid on the street, or the kid sitting next to you. Are the...

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