Thinking about Reading in a Digital Age

http://library.sdsu.edu/technology-update/borrow-ebook-reader
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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“Tech Goes Home” Goes National

Tech Goes Home LogoYesterday, I had the opportunity to speak with Deb Socia, executive director of Tech Goes Home, a non-profit based Boston that has recently launched a national portal with resources for parents, teachers, and community members interested in connecting families with technology. (Quick disclaimer: I was contacted by Intel with an initial press release, but followed up with Deb in an interview.) Here is part of the press release shared by Intel:

Founded in 2000, Tech Goes Home has trained more than 10,000 residents in Boston since 2010 alone, with more than 4,000 individuals now participating in the program each year. Through its impactful and cost-effective model to help families gain access to the skills and tools needed for 21st century success, Tech Goes Home has been committed to tackling the entrenched barriers to technology adoption and Internet access in Boston, and it will now spread this work across the country.

“The success of Tech Goes Home is the result of the amazing partnerships we have with Mayor Menino’s office and our Boston partners,” said Deb Socia, executive director of Tech Goes Home. “Thanks to the support of Intel, Tech Goes Home can now improve the lives of unconnected people across the country.”

The Tech Goes Home national program will virtualize materials so parents, students and teachers can take advantage of technology and learning no matter where they are. The program offers free resources categorized by work, school, finance, personal wellness, and cultural and recreational opportunities that help people make the most of their increased access to technology. The nonprofit also offers training toolkits to support formal and informal education settings, as well as virtual training groups where trainers can upload their own recommended resources.

More importantly, Deb and I had a chance to talk about many issues related to education, including her career as a teacher and principal, her efforts to bring a 1:1 program to her school, and how the resources from Tech Goes Home could be used to offer digital literacy programs for families. She described to me how families in Boston were provided with 15 hours of training in local schools and community centers, and then were provided a netbook or tablet for just a $50 co-pay. The TGH team then helps them get online with Connect2Compete and using ISP’s such as FreedomPop, which offers 1GB of 4G LTE each month for most low income families for, yes, free. Also, there is 500 MB for those who do not live in low income census tracks.

Deb clearly has higher aspirations than just getting everyone online. Her goal is to provide a three-pronged approach to improving digital literacy. “There is training, hardware, and access,” she explains. “With all three we can anticipate more success [for families].”

For me, I am trying to figure out a way that I can work with local schools and other community partners to make use of the resources provided by Tech Goes Home for parents, students, and teachers. I encourage you to do the same, and to share your stories so we can figure out how to make training, hardware, and access available for as many families as possible. I’ve already sent an email to our local library’s technology program director and a community organization focusing on technology skill development for adults.

What’s your first step?

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Brief Summary of #TheDigitalClassroom Hangout

Yesterday, I had the good fortune to be invited to an AdvancED webinar featuring:

  • Sean Cavanagh: @EdWeekSCavanagh (Moderator), Assistant Editor for Education Week
  • Angela Maiers: @AngelaMaiers Founder and President of Maiers Education Services
  • Jackie Gerstein Ed.D.: @jackiegerstein Online Adjunct Faculty for Departments of Education
  • Darren Burris: @dgburris Teacher & Instructional Coach at Boston Collegiate Charter

It was an incredibly fast-paced and informative conversation, especially because we thought we had to get it all in 30 minutes and were then allotted about 45. A few of us tried to keep pace with the #TheDigitalClassroom on Twitter.  A few retweets are still happening today, and I hope that other colleagues involved in teacher education and professional development may find this a timely and useful resource for sharing during workshops and methods courses.

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