~The Best of Both Literacies
By: Margaret Weigel
~Does the Brain Like E-Books?
By: Alan Liu
~Digital Readers: The Next Chapter in E-Book Reading and Response
By: Lotta Larson
~E-Reading and E-Responding: New Tools for the Next Generation of Readers
By: Lotta Anderson
In today’s world, text is recognized as much more than written words and images.
Text has been described as being “a unit of communication that may take the form of something written down but also a chunk of discourse, for example speech, a conversation, a radio program, a TV advert, text messaging, a photo in a newspaper, and so on (Larson, 2009).”
As we forge further into the 21st Century with these new digital literacies available, it is important to consider the literacy experiences our students are encountering in and out of school. For the most part, school is still taught in the paper, pencil method. Yet outside of school, kids have nearly unlimited access to a digital world. How can we as teachers expect to engage them on their level if we are not willing to integrate the technology they have been literally born into?
“Any new information medium seems to degrade reading because it disturbs the balance between focal and peripheral attention…it takes time and adaption before a balance can be restored, not just in the ‘mentality’ of the reader…but in the social systems that complete the reading environment (Liu, 2009).”
I feel this is exactly what our society is currently going through, there has been a huge shift regarding technology and reading, and we are still trying to navigate these new waters. The technology is there, but we are unsure of how to best use this technology to aid in our learning and teaching experience. Arguments on the benefits and drawbacks of e-reading and other digital use are abound, and because this is still very new and little research has been done there remains little evidence and mostly just speculation. Unfortunately this speculation seems to come from many people who are very ‘set in their ways’. The adults who are the leading experts have grown up in a world of paper books. Few have made the shift to embracing digital media in the same way the younger generations have. I believe that once people are willing to embrace the possible benefits e-readers and various digital media may have, and be open minded to the shift to a digital culture we can learn and determine how to utilize these technologies to their full potential. Socrates once fought adamantly against the written word believing we would lose our ability to think deeply. We know now that this wasn’t true, but we had to wait for the shift in our understanding on how to effectively use written word as we do today.
At 28, I feel as if I was always just a little ahead of the larger technological shifts. In high school we rarely used computers. There was always the option of writing neatly in black pen or typing. Research was done using the huge tombs of research books photocopying pages and writing notes on index cards. I did my first powerpoint in my senior year. Today students probably would have no idea how to use books in the reference section. Two winters ago while visiting home, my neighbor who was 15 at the time asked me to help her with a research paper. Her teacher was requiring book sources in addition to online. I took her to the library, and she was completely lost. She had no idea how to search for books with the information she needed, no idea how to use the encyclopedias, no idea how to take notes from them. I was astonished because 10 years ago that is pretty much the only way we collected our information.
While today’s learners may have no idea how to use a reference book to gather information, what they are able to do with a computer is pretty amazing. During my student teaching, my second graders were creating powerpoints. At 7 and 8 years old they were effectively doing something I didn’t learn how to do until I was 18, and something I have seen many adults struggle to do. In a decade we have seen an entire shift in how our students learn, and if as teachers we don’t find away to foster this learning and keep them engaged in the learning that makes sense to them, we will lose them.
“The role of schooling is to provide them with the tools and guidance they need to acquire literacy skills in a developmentally appropriate, individually meaningful way (Weigel & Gardner, 2009).”
Students should have the skills to be able to use books in the library, but they also need the skills for accessing the online world. One of the biggest issues with information on the internet, is anyone can put information on there. We as teachers need to prepare our students in how to perform comprehensive searchers for accurate information and to be able to use their literacy skills to question what they find to determine the reliability of it. Not only is it imperative that we teach our students to find accurate and reliable information, instilling ethics is another issue. With the amount and ease of information out there, the temptation of plagiarism is there.
“The best way to guard against dishonest practices is to assign interesting work, examine interim drafts, allow a reasonable amount of time for completion, and encourage student’s natural curiosity to drive the process (Weigel & Gardner, 2009).”
A huge concern regarding online content is what Seymour Papert called the grasshopper mind. So much information is right there at your finger tips. On one hand you can stick to a search and delve into researching a specific topic that will engage in some deep learning. On the other hand, the constant information overload may keep the learning only on the surface level, never engaging long enough in anyone topic. Sandra Aamodt says “Distractions abound online-costing time and interfering with the concentration needed to think about what you read (Aamodt, 2009).” Yes, I am guilty of being that person who has my facebook or other page open while I work on something else. I take break from assignments to scope out what is going on in the internet world frequently. And while I know this procrastination definitely hurts the amount of time it takes me to get work done, I do get it done and I think I do a decent job of thinking critically and engaging in what I am working on while I am working on it regardless of the time in between. It is something I would like to work on though. To not feel that pull to check my facebook or e-mail constantly just because my computer is open. This is another skill we will want to instill in our students, the same as would want to strive to fill them with the drive to complete an assignment on time. We can’t blame the internet for our procrastination. Sure it’s there, and it’s convenient, but it is a matter of instilling self control.
“Guiding the peripatetic mind may be the primary challenge of educators in the digital era (Weisel & Gardner, 2009).”
A challenge yes, but not impossible. We must teach our students how to search and read on the internet in an engaging way. Instead of being overwhelmed in information, hyperlink, and popup window overload, teach students how to narrow in on what it is they should be working on. Learning to fully utilize the internet and engage in deep reading and understanding is a skill as much as any subject learned in school. We as teachers need to come to understand it ourselves and learn how to instruct our students in how to stay engaged.
Both of the studies Larson has done (Larson, 2009 and Larson 2010) in regards to using e-readers in the classroom has shown the positive side of incorporating digital media.
“Findings suggest that using digital reading devices with second grade students promotes new literacies practices and extends connections between readers and text as engagement with and manipulation of text is made possible through electronic tools and features…engage with the text and put reader in greater control than when reading printed text (Larson, 2010).”
One of the areas of her studies that I found interesting was in how the students in her study used the e-readers. E-readers seem to promote an individualized student support system. Whether the reader is a struggling reader, advanced, or average reader, e-reader seem to have the ability to heighten the engagement and overall learning experience and to fit the reader’s needs. With an e-reader, you can do much more than just read a book. You can change the font, which while it doesn’t seem like a huge deal, I think that it is something that can be done to enhance the reading experience. Some readers may find they read better with larger font, others may need more bold. This seems so minor, but it is important to consider that we do not all read the same. Having the ability to change a font to better suit your needs makes reading more suited to individual needs.
“They began using the highlighter in unique ways that reflected their personalities in individual reading styles (Larson, 2009).”
My best friend and I absolutely love having the ability to highlight, bookmark and take notes in our e-readers. I love finding quotes in what I read, and have taken to keeping a notepad and a pencil near me when I can in case I want to write something down, but I can’t always do that. With my e-reader, if I see something I want to remember for later, or jot down a quick note to look back on I can do so easily. Many of the researchers have talked about how e-reading and using electronics takes away from deep reading. After reading the articles by Larson I couldn’t disagree more. The students involved in her study seemed to really enjoy highlighting and taking notes and they read.
“By using the note tool, they engaged in new literacy practices by envisioning new ways to access their thought processes to engage in spontaneous, instantaneous response to the e-books (Larson, 2009).”
I felt these learners demonstrated what we call deep reading. They were engaged in what they read, made notes that reflected their thinking, highlighted areas that spoke to them and really made a connection to what they read. How often is this done with paperback books? I remember growing up and being scared to mark in a book or fold a page even a little bit. The book had to stay in pristine condition. So I would complete my reading, then I would take the time to reflect or write something if required to for school. I do not remember ever jotting down notes and thoughts as I was reading. I would sometimes flip back through, but that was it. Over the years, I have taken to marking in books if needed and I often fill the pages with post it notes, but that isn’t always something that can be done. In using an e-reader, you can take notes and highlight something you want to look back and remember without the fear of permanently ruining a book, or having to stop and write something down and potentially losing the paper you wrote on. Students are able to fully engage with the text in this electronic manor on their own level.
For many people I find their issue with e-readers is based off of the uncomfortable nature of using an e-reader.
“found that the reading venue, or physical environment, context, the reading position, largely affects the overall reading experience (Lawson, 2010).”
With a book, you can comfortably curl up and lose yourself with your reading. That is a little more difficult to do with a PC. Although not impossible. As a teenager over a decade ago, I drove my Mom crazy by dragging a recliner in front of the computer desk and stretching out while I engaged in some e-reading. Still not to practical. Over the years since getting a laptop I have found it easier to find comfortable positions while I was reading on the internet, although still not as easy to cuddle as a book.
But as e-reading has become more popular, digital devices have become more user, and comfort friendly. In fact I have become a little spoiled with my e-reader. I can prop it up keeping my hands free, or just hold it with one hand. I do not have to worry about keeping the book open, or worry about losing my page if I slip. I often like to go to sleep reading on either my Nook or laptop because I can read in the dark. I don’t have to get up to turn off the lights once I have hit that relaxed state. I just need to turn my device off. I can take my laptop or Nook anywhere and can sit just as comfortably with either while I read.
I still enjoy settling down with a good old fashioned book on the occasion, but I find benefits with both. In addition to providing the same ease of reading as paperback books, e-readers offer a convenience in other ways. Here in Boone we lack a decent book store. So instead of having to do without, waiting to go into another city, or have to order a book, I can download a book instantly to my Nook regardless of the time of day. Many e-reader sellers also offer free books to download. Some are exclusive to e-reads, others are just good deals. I actually downloaded Gregor the Overlander months ago for free from Barnes and Noble and was just waiting for a time to read it.
One thing I really like about an e-reader is the ease of having so many books at your fingertips. Anyone who has had to move books from one place to another knows that books are heavy! While I have quite the collection of children, young adult and my favorite hardback books, I try to keep most of my pleasure reading on my Nook. This helps with my limited space and that dread of having to haul those books from one place to another when it is time to move. When I would travel, most of my luggage was filled with books I may read, now I just need to bring my Nook.
Recently I posed this question to my facebook book page: What are your guilty reads that you are glad you have an e-reader so that no one knows what you are reading. I admit this question came to me while I was reading a self help book titled Calling the One (Shhhh our secret) on my Nook at work. I was thinking how glad I was that no one could see what I was reading. Shortly after, I remember talking in class about some of the benefits of an e-reader, and one being a child wouldn’t have to be embarrassed if they were reading a lower leveled book than their peers because no one would know. This is so great for a struggling reader who doesn’t want to face the judgment of their peers. Many students who fall behind will just stop trying. Now we have a way to allow our students to read comfortably without the fear of possible ridicule.
With the main focus hear being on reading and information collecting, I would like to take a minute to discuss the huge benefit of the writing world on the internet. I am sure we are all familiar with the social world of facebook, twitter, tumbler and more. Places we can go to express ourselves in words and images. Blogging of course has become extremely popular. Anyone can create a blog and get their words out there. My best friend has a blog she uses to promote her photography, but also keeps a blog that she post on every few days just of her daily musings. I personally keep up a few blogs. My personal blog with my thoughts on various subjects, as well as a less personal one where I share quotes and books with others. I am currently up to 40 followers on that blog, most of people I do not know. How exciting that strangers are interested in something I have to say.
“Where the narrowing time between writing for and publishing on the Web is helping to kill the art of editing by crushing it to death. The internet makes words as cheap and as significant as Cheese Doodles (Gelernter, 2009).”
I couldn’t disagree more and I am actually a little offended by this Gelernter’s words.
Something that was mentioned in one of the articles was a reference to fanfiction. Fanfiction is extremely popular in the internet world. Pretty much people who are fans of something (books, movies, tv shows, video games etc) can write stories based on what they like. Sounds cheesy sure, but really I find it amazing. I personally have spent a good 15 years both reading and writing fanfiction. Have you ever read a book and wished it ended different? Watched a tv show and envisioned a different plot line? That is what fanfiction writers do. A huge fanfiction universe out there is Harry Potter. On the most popular fanfiction site called fanfiction.net there are close to 600,000 stories people have wrote based off of Harry Potter. People have wrote stories that alter the ending, fill in between areas, matched different characters up, created an alternate universe or reality, etc. Still sound crazy?
What is I told you that Cassandra Clare a current bestselling author of the City of Bones series (my favorite series up there with Hunger Games) got her start in writing fanfiction. That is how I discovered her. She wrote her own take of Harry Potter taking place after book 5. I even corresponded with her for a time while she wrote. There is even a part of me that prefers what she wrote to the actual Harry Potter series. I have seen her writing grow from an amateur playing around in the writing world, to becoming a bestselling author.
Another great example is Marissa Meyer. I have been reading her fanfiction work for 10 years, and she just released her first published novel Cinder another amazing book. Fanfiction provides a lot of chances to grow. As a writer, the more you write the better you get. Through reviews and interaction, your writing improves, and it is done anonymously! I have been amazed at the quality writing I have stumbled across over the years. As far as editing, many people volunteer to beta for other writers. So here are people volunteering to edit, not getting paid, not getting a grade, yet are editing one another’s work. This could even be a learning exercise for a classroom. Use an internet page like mylifeisaverage.com where anyone can post a short paragraph about something that happened to them and have students edit it. And yes, I have come across plenty of terrible examples of writing, but isn’t it enough that someone has found the joy of writing enough to not only do it, but to publish it on the internet? And for someone who is unfamiliar with the fanfiction world it may seem a little strange. But as a teacher one of my favorite writing activities has always been to have my students write ‘another version’ or from someone else’s point of view. Activities like this are very similar to the fanfiction world, so why not introduce it to our students as a potential outlet for writing.
One digital resource out there for teachers to use are to Online Toon Books http://www.toon-books.com/index2.php On the site I chose to read Silly Lilly and the Four Seasons.
The read to me feature reminds me of the read to me feature I have on my Nook. Unlike my Nook Kids feature though, you have to click on the read to me button for each page. It almost felt tedious having to move my mouse and click to change pages than back to read to me. On the Nook, after you swipe your finger to change pages, it automatically reads to you. I think I like that better than having to click the read me button every time. I did like how the words would illuminate through the narration though showing the reader where the words were coming from.
I like that the Toon Books included a page for teachers filled with resources, lessons as links to more Online readers. This is a great way teachers can discover how to utilize a resource like this to the maximum.
I do think this could be a good tool as either a class guided reading, or a self selected reading. I enjoyed the comic format, and I think kids would be engaged as they read.
My concern would be in how easily an emergent reader could navigate the page and select books. While I liked the availability of books in other languages, how would an emergent reader know which to click on. If the point of the toon readers is that student who do not read well yet can do so with the toon reader, I would recommend a better and more easily accessible page. Of course the teacher would need to help them navigate initially anyway, but I think some students would still be unsure of what to click to be read to.
I found Inanimate Alice very interesting. http://www.inanimatealice.com/index.html
“Designed originally as entertainment, ‘Inanimate Alice’ has been adopted by teachers eager to connect with students through media they inherently understand. Created around a high-quality robust text, the content is suitable for the deep-reading and re-reading necessary for academic investigation.”
I think for the target audience, students would be capable of navigating the online story and utilizing the many feature included.
I was not bothered by the text, sound and moving pictures. I actually prefer to watch movies with subtitles, including animes and other movies in other languages, so it reminded me much of that. I actually often felt like I was playing a video game. Anyone who has played a recent video game such as an RPG or even a first person shooter would understand what I am talking about. Unlike a movie which you sit back and watch, with a video game you are in control of much of the action. A ‘cut scene’ will come up to guide you to the next area, but you have some control in what is going on. Traditional reading, no. But I think most kids will enjoy this kind of reading. It was engaging and you had to be aware of what was going on so you knew what to do next to move the story forward.
I feel that even with all the problems and barriers we are currently facing with how to effectively use e-readers and digital devices to enhance learning, once we are able to figure out how to utilize them to the best of their ability the learning and engagement that will take place will be at a level we have never before seen. There is so much information we have access to, so many different ways to learn, create, engage, socialize and enhance our lives. If we can effectively navigate a way around the few barriers, we can set our students up for the optimal learning experience using both the old ways of learning as well as fully embracing this new digital world.
Larson, L. (2009). E-reading and e-responding: New tools for the next generation of readers. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 53(3), 255-258. Retrieved from http://re5710.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/ereaders_jaal.pdf
Larson, L. (2010). Digital readers: The next chapter in e-book reading and response. The Reading Teacher, 64(1), 15-21. Retrieved from http://re5710.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/ereader_reading-teacher.pdf
Liu, A., Aamodt, S., Wolf, M., Gelernter, D., & Mark, G. (2009, October 14). Does the brain like e-books?. Retrieved from http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/14/does-the-brain-like-e-books/
Weigel, M. & Gardner, H. (2009, March). The bestof both literacies. Educational Leadership, 38-41. Retrieved from http://re5710.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/gardner.pdf