#CyberPD is an online professional development learning community where teachers read and discuss a common professional development text. Visit Reflect & Refine for more details and links to connect with the group. This year’s book isDigital Reading: What’s Essential in Grades 3-8 by Franki Sibberson and Bill Bass.
Most often, when I discuss the use of digital tools in the classroom with my colleagues, I hear this common refrain: “Well, it’s just one more thing to have to do, and where can we fit it in anyway?” The idea being, I suppose, that digital tools are a separate entity entirely from the rest of reading workshop. This was a wonderful chapter to read because it points the way to authentic digital literacy and how it should be an integral part of our reading curriculum. If we “learn digital tools in the midst of learning experiences, not as a separate experience” (pg. 29) we pave the way towards seamless shift in our classroom practices.
Diana’s example (30 &31) was a beautiful example of what this looks like, I loved this part: “Diana quickly learned that she didn’t have to teach every single skill for every single tool; what she did have to do was explain herself as she was teaching so that students could not only see what she was doing with a specific tool but why she was doing it.” I, too, find that my kids are tech savvy out of school, but are unsure as to how to put that knowledge to use IN school – sharing our own process allows kids to make that transfer. This is definitely something I mean to do more of in the coming school year.
This chapter really resonated with me, beginning with the line:” Intentionality is the difference between thoughtful understanding and random clicking and scanning.” I had to gulp when I read this, because I thought immediately of those clickers and scanners in my classroom, and how their time in the computer lab so often yielded so little. Becoming “thoughtful, strategic, and intentional readers of all media” cannot be a hit or miss, random learning experience, where we throw a bunch of digital tools at our kids and let them have a go at it all, in the hopes that they will find something that will work. We need to “talk about how to navigate a digital text and understand the attributes of these texts that are unique to the digital world.” It’s this part that takes careful planning, modeling, and practice in class so that our kids understand what authentic and meaningful digital reading is all about. The table on page 60 is the foundation for this type of work, I think – they need to understand and practice with these attributes so that they can navigate through digital texts.
I also appreciated this: “Sometimes the best strategy for a teacher is to simply get out of the way and let students make some of the decisions that traditionally be made by their teacher” (p.63). One of the great benefits, after all, of the variety of digital tools that are available, is that kids can match the digital tool they choose to use based on their learning styles and needs…once they’ve learned how to navigate with intention in the first place. I am always amazed at the way my kids take take an app and fly with it, creating things I would never have imagined.
This was a rich chapter, it really made the case for why digital reading is such an important component of reading workshop. I read this many times, highlighting and starring it for future reference (it will definitely be a part of my back to school night presentation): “When students come to expect to connect with people and information to deepen understanding, their reading and learning change. They begin to see the unlimited possibilities for learning and can internalize it so that these practices become part of their own reading lives outside of school.” Isn’t this what we want most for our kids – that their learning lives are connected in this way?
I loved the resources and the way they were thoughtfully explained, and the voices of classroom teachers sharing “real world” experiences was really inspirational. The idea of the digital bulletin board, in particular, provided a solution for a problem I’ve been grappling with for some time: how to extend the discussions and ideas in social studies beyond the classroom in a meaningful way? How can my kids connect and extend the ideas and issues we grapple with in history to current events and debates? A digital bulletin board addresses this beautifully.