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Reading on the Screen: Why Supporting Digital Natives Matters!

Author // Emily Rozmus Wednesday, 13 December 2017

"If I need help with technology, I just ask my kids—they always know how to do it."

"I don't know how to use all the apps on my cell phone, but my students help me out."

"My grandson can turn on his favorite show on the television! He knows all the buttons to push, and he is only 4!"

Chances are, you have heard comments like these, or you have said them yourself. But is knowing how to use a device enough when it comes to using technology for learning? Despite the beilef in the superior technology knowledge of children and young adults, Angela Maiers reminds us that digital natives aren’t necessarily “infosumers or savvy participants in a digital space.” Knowing how to use a device or digital content for entertainment does not mean students know how to use them for learning. Today's digital natives are primarily "tech comfy," Teens may need to show adults how to use SnapChat, but age and experience help adults know more about how to evaluate the content on this platform and other digital spaces.

In order to create cricital thinkers who are able to comprehend, analyze, and evaluate digital content, educators must be intentional in preparing students for 21st century learning. That includes reading content on the screen from a variety of sources—blogs, social media posts, databases, articles, and forums.

There are many initiatives in education today that drive the need to teach students how to read on a screen to the forefront of digital literacy: blended learning, Google Apps for Education, 1:1 schools, and of course, online testing. While this is a relatively new field of study, there is some research that tells us that reading online text is much different than reading print. Maria Konnikova's New Yorker article Being a Better Online Reader shares these ideas about reading on a screen:

The recent focus on fake news has also increased the public's awareness that reading information on a screen is much different than reading an article from a newspaper or magazine. It takes a close eye, active engagement, and even a little research to not only read text on a screen, but also identify it as valid, truthful information. The task at hand may seem daunting, but INFOhio has been collecting research and best practices to help educators begin to teach digital natives how to be thoughtful, engaged, readers able to evaluate online text.

Best Practices

Where do you start? Begin by reading the Best Practices for Online Reading which was developed by the INFOhio Early Literacy Task Force. The best practices in this document were developed using research and educational articles. Best practices for the instruction of reading digital text include using digital text in a lesson, modeling active reading strategies using digital tools for annotation or navigation, and communicating with parents to let them know how important it is to include digital text as part of reading at home. The best practices are suitable for teaching readers of any age, and should not be considered a part of early literacy only.

For an overview of how INFOhio can support learners with digital text, read Using INFOhio, Ohio's PreK-12 Digital Library, to Lead Instruction in the Reading of Digital Text published in the Ohio Council of Teachers of English Language Arts Spring/Summer 2017 volume of OJELA. This article highlights the INFOhio resources which can be used for students of all ages as they read digital text.

Lesson Plans

Within the Best Practices for Online Reading document, there are several lesson plans that incorporate the practices in reading instruction. Each of the six lessons is aligned with the Ohio Learning Standards and uses INFOhio digital content. The grade level, topics, and INFOhio resources for each are:

Preschool—Reading - Opposites, Early World of Learning

Kindergarten—Reading - Friendship, BookFlix

First Grade—Reading - Physical FitnessBookFlix

Second/Third Grade—Reading - Physical FitnessWorld Book Kids

6th Grade—Social Studies/Reading - MapsWorld Book Student, World Book Kids, World Book Timelines, and the Digital Video Collection

High School—Biology/Reading - Cell Structure and Function, Science Online, and Explora 

Professional Development

In addtion to lessons for student instruction, the Learn With INFOhio professional development webinar series features several recorded presentations on helping digital natives engage and connect with text on a screen. Each Learn With INFOhio webinar is worth one contact hour. Participants can take short quiz after viewing and will receive a certificate. Early educators will learn about quality eBooks and apps and how to use them with beginning readers In Early Literacy in a Digital World presented by Cen Campbell, a School Library Journal Mover and Shaker. Skim No More offers readers background information on the digital text available from INFOhio and how to use it in the classroom to foster close reading. This webinar features several Ohio elementary and middle school educators' strategies and lessons for reading on the screen. Eric Curts, Ohio's most famous Google guru, presented Google Tools for Struggling Students. Many of the tools he shared in this webinar are for reading digital text. Most recently, Control, Alt, Read offers research, resources and easy to apply strategies to use with students of any age who are reading on the screen. 

Success in Six is another way that educators can learn more about how to help students comprehend, analyze, and synthesize text on a screen. The Engage Your Students With Reading Resources module is a self-guided learning experience where participants can learn more about the research behind reading on the screen, INFOhio's digital content, and specific strategies to use in lessons and instruction. Upon commpletion of the Success in Six module, participants take a short quiz, and will earn contact hours to use for their professional development plan. 

There are also blog posts that share ideas and approaches for teaching students to read digital text. Check out Close Reading and Analysis of Digital Text for English grades 9-12 and Engage, Connect, and Reflect: Using Digital Text in the Classroom. Other posts discuss Scholastic's digital text and resources, such as Use Storia in the Content Area Classroom for fourth grade and Scholastic Stuff for Students - Straight to Your Desktop!

Find It All In One Place

There are many different resources and tools from INFOhio that will help you support the digital natives in your classroom as they read, and ultimately learn from, digital text. The easiest way to get all these materials is to visit INFOhio's Educator Tools. Search for "online reading" or use the limiter under Instructional Trends. 

Developing readers who can tackle tough text on a device or in a book is a key part of preparing today's digital natives to be tomorrow's technology leaders no matter what path they choose for their future. Integrating digital text in many forms and from many platforms and asking students to engage, connect, and reflect on it is an important part of 21st century education. Let us know your ideas about reading on the screen. Stay connected and email, tweet, or post your use of INFOhio's digital text and tools and resources. Don't forget #INFOhioWorks! 

About the Author

Posted by: Emily Rozmus

Emily Rozmus is an INFOhio Instructional Team Specialist.  She has worked in education for 24 years, first as a secondary English teacher, and then as a district librarian. Emily has developed district growth plans, integrated technology, created instruction for information literacy, fostered teacher development, and worked on teams to implement curriculum. At INFOhio, she focuses on helping educators use INFOhio resources to improve early learning. She also works to share research and best practices for helping students be better readers of INFOhio's digital text. In her free time, she reads, enjoys time with her family, and plans for her next big adventure in life.

Emily Rozmus
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