This summer I was excited to learn about the cyberPD group on Twitter that was going to be reading the book, Digital Reading: What’s Essential in Grades 3-8 during July. As both a sixth grade literacy teacher and someone that enjoys using technology, I was excited to read this book and challenged myself to write about my reflections as I read. This has proved more difficult than I originally thought as the book is filled with both great ideas and questions to ponder. Thankfully I have my own copy of the book so I can freely mark the text as I read, then go back and reread, and then finally get my thoughts down on paper (digital paper in this case). One important take-away that I’ve discovered so far is that I’m terrible with deadlines during the summer, so while the #cyberPD group will be buzzing through this book in one month’s time, it may take me a week or so longer. This is just my reading/reflecting style (an important idea I need to remember when working with students). Following is my post for chapters 1 and 2.
As I began reading, Digital Reading: What’s Essential in Grades 3-8 by Franki Sibberson and William Bass, I felt fairly confident that I was already doing an adequate job of integrating digital reading into our daily reading workshop. I allowed to students to read novels on devices that they brought from home, students weekly read nonfiction articles on both Wonderopolis and Newsela. We even had online book discussion groups on Edmodo. However the issue of access, brought up in chapter one, had been a concern. What to about the students that did not have online access at home? How could I best help them feel connected? Then I realized that I needed to become more intentional about how I integrate technology use in our literacy classroom. There is more to helping students become literate in this digital age than just having them read texts online. I need to reflect on how we are using technology. Are students able to use digital tools in meaningful ways that help them feel more connected and improve their understanding of complex text? Are we using technology in an authentic manner?
I agree with the authors that as teachers we are preparing our students to live and work in a digital world, therefore we need to encourage them to view technology as a tool that increases and improves their literacy skills. I am concerned that many of the students I teach, while they have been exposed to technology all their lives, and most use it on a daily basis, are still at what the author refers to as the “superficial level.” They know how to text, play games, post pictures and videos, but they are not truly digitally literate. This is a golden opportunity for teachers to, “support our students’ literacy by helping them intentionally use digital tools for learning and make these tools part of their daily lives.” This of course means that as the teacher, I need to be more intentional in how I integrate technology into workshop. It cannot simply be an add-on. Technology must be integrated in such a way that students view it as a necessary part or of their day-to-day work activities, a tool that will help them to understand increasingly complex text.
The three anchors of workshop, of authenticity, intentionality, and connectedness help to provide a basis or framework for how we organize reading workshop and make meaningful choices to include technology. When planning lessons, our priority needs to be engagement. If students aren’t engaged, they won’t learn. We need to be intentional in our choices for both reading and technology. Keeping lessons authentic will help students see the meaning in the lessons and transfer skills they’ve learned, hopefully helping them to form connections, to see the relevance, and gain new understandings.
Using a workshop format to teach reading allows many avenues to include technology while still staying true to the basic tenets or workshop: time, choice and response. While I felt I already was doing a good job of integrating technology, the author’s list, “What Role Do Digital Texts Play in My Literacy Workshop?” gave me so many more questions to consider as I plan. For example, I had used nonfiction digital texts for mini-lessons, but why not blogs as well? This would be a great tie-in with writing workshop.
As a teacher today, I need to remember I’m teaching students that have always lived in the digital age. In order for them to grow as readers and become truly literate, they need to be comfortable using different types of technology as tools to help them make sense and interact with the texts they read. Digital tools need to be included in all facets of the workshop format, in both intentional and meaningful ways. This will challenge me to think in new ways, to look at my practices, to adjust my teaching, and to grow and learn alongside my students in this ever-evolving era of technology.