Random Thoughts

Focusing on reading in the 21st Century

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Off to a great year at ISB. I find myself starting our fourth week of school and still standing…which is a good thing.

The elementary school is focusing on two content areas this year. Reading and Science.

What does reading look like in the year 2008-2009?

As I’ve been training students on the new laptops these first couple of weeks I ask them a set of questions that to most probably seem out of context with a focus on reading.

How many of you have your own cell phones? (At least 3 in every class 3-5 grade)
How many of you have your own laptop? (At least 3 in every class)
How many of you have access to the Internet? (100%)
How many of you have a Nintendo Wii? (By far the leader in the gaming console category)
Play station 3?
Play station 2?
Nintendo Cube?
XBox 360?

By this time most teachers are looking at me like I’m speaking another language. Then it gets really interesting.

How many of you play Club Penguin? (About half of every class 2-5)
How many of you play Webkinz? (About 30%)

The students then get all fired up and start shouting out different websites and games that they love to visit.

What does this have to do with reading?


More to come……

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Jeff,

    I’m getting ready to present a keynote at one of the oldest communities in the U.S. What keeps nagging at me, as I’m planning my presentation on contemporary literacy is, how do the teachers read?

    Where do they go to learn something knew?
    How do they read it?
    How often have they used an index, table of contents, or Dewey Decimal system in the past month?
    How often have they used Google?
    How often have they used Wikipedia?
    How often have they asked questions about the answers that they found?

    Frankly, I’m a little apprehensive about the answers 😉

  2. The cell phone answer surprises me a little for how many have them. The laptop answers surprises me a little, too – for how few do. Nothing else in the post surprises me. I’m eagerly awaiting part 2!

    I am in charge of a reading club at our elementary school (I’m a parent volunteer, not a teacher). In the past, only 20% of kids were in the club – reading Caldecott and Newbery award books. I was told by another parent that “4th grade boys don’t read and WON’T read for fun” – and she had a high performing 4th grade boy!

    By the end of the year last year, we had a school record 75% participation in our club from ALL 2nd through 4th graders. We had 4th grade boys high-fiving each other after they’d successfully completed book reports.

    They can, they will, and they want to read – if the incentives and rewards are right.

  3. Asked some of those questions last year to nine/tens through a google form and had kids look at the data using tinkerplots. Was interesting. Wonder how things have changed with my change in countries. Will have to try it again with the 6-10 group I have now. Would be interesting to get a lot of data, from multiple countries, and have the kids analyze trends. Would also be interesting to get teachers where I am at to try the questions above. Do not think I would be apprehensive about the answers though.
    Love this increase in size of the comment box plugin?… as my eyes age I am starting to appreciate the ability to change font sizes. 🙂

  4. Jeff,

    “What does this have to do with reading?

    More to come……”

    I hope so because this is a just in time conversation for the beginning of our school year. I am looking forward to hearing what you are thinking!

    We are off to a good start and have done a lot in our first 3 day inservice BUT David’s comment also strikes a note. He asks on contemporary literacy is, how do the teachers read?

    “Where do they go to learn something knew?
    How do they read it?”

    For most of my staff it is still from primarily print media ( I have even printed out blog posts just to get them to read them). They know about digital literacy, work on teaching it, know it is important but that does not mean they use it.

    So now what…or does it matter?

  5. Loved this post!! I have to agree- very interesting that 3 of them already have cell phones! I’m glad you’re asking them what sites they’re reading and about Club Penguin and Webkinz. These are definitely sites they are totally interested in, and if we tie this in to reading and using the library we get them hooked!! Can’t wait for the next post!

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