Monday, July 12, 2010

Digital Reading and Texts

I must preface this post with a personal note: I was a sophomore in college before I read any book front to back, word for word. It was a novel by Danielle Steele (I like to think of it as historical fiction rather than smut). I thought books were boring. I read 300 pages of Ivanhoe (a personal best up to that point) for English class until I realized it was on video. I got a "B+" on the test. I'll talk about the implications for finding a kid's passion and assessment practices at another time :-)

While on vacation, I picked up a book to read solely for pleasure. As I struggled to find time to read the novel admist pool time, family time, and time demanded by a 3 year-old and 7 month old, I came to the realization that I am much better at reading tweets, online articles and blog posts than I am novels. I read an article linked from a tweet about how reading is changing in the screen filled, digital world we live in. I thought immediately about how it connected with my day. I thought about how I read so much more than ever before, and I don't find it boring. I had to write.

An article in the Des Moines Register on Sunday, July 25 also talked about how reading is changing. It's much more interactive and takes more skills than just reading words from left to right. It's knowing what an advertisement looks like on a webpage; it's scrolling and skimming for information; it's gathering information from images and sounds as well as text. What's this mean for our teachers and classrooms? I just purchased textbooks for an algebra class and the ebooks we received have links to websites, video clips, and explanations through audio.

How will this change teaching? Do we teach reading in a manner that takes this into account? What's the impact to the first grade teacher as well as the high school teacher? Reading is still critically important... do we even define reading the same way anymore? My fear is that this won't impact teaching, that our teachers don't even know where to begin to teach all the skills for digital readers, that some teachers will continue to think this isn't their job. My fear is that the definition of literacy and reading for some hasn't changed since the use of 16mm film projector.


  1. Jenn,

    Couldn't agree more. Also in the discussion are audio books, which I like to have to compliment the hard copy that I too, struggle to stay focused on. Staff that don't see this dilema are those who don't use the tools that you refer to. We need to keep pushing staff to engage themselves into digital content so they feel comfortable working with the tools kids like.

  2. We don't grow by the status quo. I need pushing too, so I can appreciate your comments about pushing teachers (and kids) to engage themselves in the digital world in ways they haven't done before. So often I find we assume all kids are already good at this. When asked if kids in an advanced math class wanted a digital text or textbook, almost all still wanted the paper copy "just in case".