My Digital Reading Practices, Part 1

Last week, I began blogging about my thoughts on digital reading. At the encouragement of my co-author, Kristen Turner, I’m going to work over the next few weeks to document some of my own digital reading practices as we begin to draft the book. I will be visiting classrooms, surveying students, and interviewing teachers as well as some randomly selected students during those visits. Still, along with getting data about what students and teachers are doing, Kristen and I both agree that it’s important to reflect on our own practices with digital reading.

So, this first entry about my digital reading practices essentially takes the tried and true method of highlighting and annotating the text and updates it with some digital tools. I don’t think that there is anything truly revolutionary about this except for the fact that I can annotate text easily and share it socially, which may be where the important elements of this could really come into play. For this kind of digital annotation, I can recommend two tools, although there are a variety of them out there.

Crocodoc Screen Shot
Crocodoc Screen Shot

To annotate existing documents, especially PDFs, and share them with others, I have used Crocodoc. With the same basic highlighting tools as the Preview program built into my Mac’s OS, I can highlight using different colors and insert comments as either point comments (like dropping a pin), area comments (as shown with the red square) or text comments (by highlighting a certain section of text that I want to comment on). I can then share or download the PDF with annotations. I could see a teacher using this as an option for students to mark up the text as a means of showing close reading. Certainly, students could also take a screen capture of pages from an e-book or even take a photograph of an actual book and then annotate it in a similar manner.

The other tool, Diigo, allows for the same type of highlighting, commenting, and sharing that is more suited for webpages. As a social bookmark service, teachers can create an RSS list of readings for their students, as well as groups where students can comments and highlight as well as see the annotations of others. One other benefit of using Diigo it is that it will archive a snapshot of the webpage the moment that you visited, so even if it changes later you will still have a record of the original text.

Given the number of edubloggers who have already used and documented their experiences with both of these tools — as well as many other tools such as Evernote —  a recognize that I’m not shaking the world by sharing these particular digital reading practices. What I would say though is that we, as teachers, need to be quite intentional in the way we introduce these tools outlined in the pedagogical goals. There are a number of smart books on comprehension strategies that have emerged over the past 20 years, and I can see that in digital tools like Crocodoc and Diigo, coupled with strategic instruction, could help make a difference for our students.

There will be more parts in this series of posts about my own digital reading practices, and I’m just not quite sure how many yet. As always, your thoughts about this topic are most welcome and I look forward to learning more about how others are using digital reading tools to support student learning.

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Thinking about Reading in a Digital Age
Image from San Diego State University Library

As the title of my blog says, I am certainly interested in the intersections of digital teaching and digital writing. Thinking about the ways that writers can use certain technologies to reach rhetorical goals has long been an interest of mine, and this fall I am turning my attention to the other side of the new literacies equation: digital reading.

My next project, in collaboration with my colleague Kristen Turner and many teachers that we know, will focus on how we are/are beginning to teach reading in a digital age. Here is the short summary of what’s driving our inquiry:

We wonder how this notion of rereading plays out in the digital reading of adolescents.  If the CCSS demonstrates an increased need for this kind of instruction related to print reading, we must attend also to reading in non-print forms.  We know from previous research that digital readers do not always read with focused attention on the Internet, and we can assume the same is true for their mobile devices.  How are adolescent readers navigating these spaces?  How might we teach them to read these complex texts critically?

Our work will be compiled into a new book for NCTE’s “Principles in Practice” series, and builds on the NCTE Policy Research Brief Reading Instruction for All Students. Our goal is to visit about 10 middle school and high school classrooms where we can see innovative digital reading practices going on.

As a part of this work, I am currently reading Jenkins et al’s new book, Reading in a Participatory Culture: Remixing Moby-Dick in the English Classroom, described in more detail in this blog post. So far, I have appreciated the stance that Jenkins and his colleagues have taken in the text, one that honors the deep, thoughtful types of reading practices that most teachers would find familiar and useful while also positioning students — as members of a participatory culture — in ways that demonstrate their unique abilities to remix and interpret texts.

It’s all very meta right now — studying digital reading while doing lots of digital reading and annotating myself. I look forward to getting into some classrooms soon to see how my colleagues are continuing to bring reading to life with a variety of new digital tools and literacy practices.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.