As I was reading through chapters 6 and 7, I was struck with the theme of re-thinking our existing tools and re-visioning them for reading in the 21st century when “reading” is so much more than just consuming text. Most of us have the foundations of good instruction, assessment and parent communication but we (meaning I) need to spend some time thinking about how our traditional methods translate into digital modes.
Tool #1: Audio Books: Is it reading?
One discussion that was brought up yesterday on the #CyberPD Twitter feed was a conversation about audio books. Is this really reading?
Mandy Robek @mandyrobek had been prompted by something @MrsWeberREAD had posted and Mandy replied, “I think about shared reading and shared writing as interactions with text, why not audio.”
Heidi Weber @MrsWeberREAD said, “Makes me re-define “reading as interacting with text…”
Franki Sibberson @frankisibberson chimed in, “I like what @Professor Nana says about audiobook… “I read with my ears.’”
To which @mandyrobek replied, “Interesting question from @frankisibberson “Have you ever read an audio book? I would of said listen to. Hmm, rethinking.”
In his book The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life Steve Leveen wonders if we could have a word for listening to books, and he makes up the word “ristening” to books. In the past, I know audiobooks in schools have often been used as either a reward, a fill-in, or as remediation. But what if we (meaning I) re-thought what is means to read and really recognized that reading is interacting with text - any text – print, digital, audio, visual – and began to explore how to help our students navigate all the texts that they encounter in a day.
Tool #2: The Beginning of the Year Survey: Privileging Print
Like many teachers who have used reading/writing workshop, I too used the standard survey with my students that privileged print books over any other media. As a teacher educator, I continue to unconsciously privilege print books over other forms of text within my teaching. Although I have explicitly stated in my syllabus that an e-book is an acceptable form of the course textbook, I have not really helped my college-level students look at the affordances or disadvantages to reading through different mediums. In class, my students tell me that they like the search feature to return to sections they have read. But I need to ask myself some questions: What other forms of text am I putting on my syllabus and in my coursework? Am I privileging print over other forms? What message does this send to my students and how will they take that into their classrooms?
Tool #3: Assessment
It may seem like an obvious question, but what is the purpose of assessment? For many people, including myself, that answer tends to be, “To see how my students are doing.” Frequently this entails comparing the student against a standard or grade level peers. But, what if we (meaning I) re-thought the purpose of assessment and focused on the individual student and how he/she could increase their learning, not be stamped with a letter or number? The authors of Digital Reading state, “We believe strongly in this stance [that of the NCTE position that formative assessment is a verb] and agree that our assessment techniques should be about moving readers forward in their learning” (p. 90).
Tool #4: Conferences
Franki discusses student-led conferences, which is something I have used in the past. However, the conferences I had my students conduct were still very paper and print based. It still required parents to take time to visit school at a designated time that was mostly convenient for the school, not for the parents, and all of the work of the quarter was discussed in a 20 minute conversation. Digital portfolios or blogs can be updated regularly, viewed at the convenience of the parents, and even be interactive with comments. Plus, the work submitted can include audio and video of the student actually working, not just the finished piece. This seems like a win-win all around.
Now, I need to think about how this translates into teacher education. One of the things I’ve been thinking about this summer is a way to make my coursework more integrated throughout the semester. I think my current assignments are too much of the “stand alone” variety that, once graded, gets forgotten. I am thinking about how I could have my students create their own learning logs throughout the semester with each of the assignments building toward the overall goals of the course. Yep, that would be a portfolio.
Tool #5: Parent Events
Schools have a tendency to fall into the routine of “that’s the way we’ve always done it” and parent events are no different. In each school I’ve taught at, the Back to School night followed a similar schedule – an introduction by the principal and then the parents followed their child’s class schedule with 10 minutes in each class and a reception afterwards. Although this quick meet-and-greet gets parents into the classroom, the big question is, would they want to return? The authors of Digital Reading provide some essential questions on page 105 for planning parent events. Now, the authors gear it to “Considerations for Parent Outreach Events on Digital Literacy” but these questions would apply for any parent event and even teacher in-service events. The essential questions are:
- What is our focus?
- Who is the audience?
- How will this event support students as digital readers?
- What resources do we want to provide our community?
- Is this event for families or is it specifically for parents or caregivers?
- How does this topic relate to them as parents and to their kids?
- What is the call to action?
By using these questions as a planning guide, any event would be more focused and meaningful.
Final Thoughts on the Book
As I’m finishing this book, I am also beginning an online course about using Infographics in my teaching. Several months ago I signed up for this course, not knowing I would be reading Digital Reading this summer. But, both the book and the course have a common theme – that it is important to re-envision our teaching and our students’ learning to balance traditional reading and writing with digital and multimedia interactions but not to lose all the great pedagogy we already know are effective practices. We just need to be reflective and adapt!