Education Week - November 9, 2016 - 10
What kinds of things do you read at school?
Sesame Workshop, a research organization for children's
digital media, found that 3- to 6-year-olds who read interactive e-books with their parents "recalled significantly fewer narrative details than children who read the
print version of the same story."
But some educators chalked that up to students not
getting explicit instruction on how to navigate online
text and transfer those print comprehension skills.
"I once had a kid say, 'I didn't know we were allowed to think when we read online,' " said
Sibberson. "They need to see it's the same
thing-sometimes with online stuff, they
think of play."
Young students also need instruction on how to self-regulate and
manage distractions in the online
world-when to ignore links, close
tabs, and stay on one text or app
rather than jumping around to others, for example.
"If you don't start thinking early
about managing distractions, you're
goi ng to be bu i ld i ng bad habit s,"
Fordham's Turner said.
such as Wonderopolis and Tween Tribune, and giving
them free time to search within those for texts they'd
like to read.
By 5th grade, though, Bass says students should have
opportunities to really search the web on their own.
Authentic Reading vs. Games
fo r E d
Search for Texts Online
Just as young students learn to choose books from
the library, many experts said they should also
learn to search for texts online. But, of course,
surfing the web is rife with safety and privacy
issues, so elementary students will need to do
that in a more limited environment.
Pelekis sets up wiki pages with links related to whatever her 1st graders are studying-for instance, students
can go there to get more information on chicks during a
unit on the egg-to-chicken life cycle.
She avoids search engines altogether. "I know some
people do [use them] but ... I did once, and it's a bad mistake I'm not making again," she said. Even YouTube's
education channel can turn up inappropriate content,
she said. (And don't even think about having students
Google the word "chicks," she mentioned offhandedly.)
That said, some teachers want to maintain authenticity in how students search for information online, both
because they will need those skills later and because
giving students a choice can motivate them to read.
"So often we say, go to National Geographic Kids,
open the article on giraffes, and read it," said Ziemke,
who co-wrote a 2015 book called Amplify! Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-6 Classroom. "I noticed I wasn't
giving students that same choice piece with digital
reading [as with print]."
Ziemke now recommends introducing 3rd graders and
up to a half-dozen or so vetted educational websites,
| Education Week * November 9, 2016
There are countless online games and apps
available to help students practice their foundational reading skills-phonics, sight
words, vocabulary, among them-and
teachers have been using them for years.
But digital-literacy experts caution
that there's a difference between using
games and having students do authentic online reading.
"People ask me what's the best
sight-word app for 2nd grade, and I say
I don't know, I don't use tech like that,"
said Ziemke. "I'm not against games by
any means, but when I look at where we
need to start, we can do so much with
modeling daily work and authentic ways of
Many games and apps aren't much more
than "souped-up worksheets," according to Hale,
the instructional-technology coordinator in Virginia.
More-authentic digital-literacy instruction would have
students working with the technology that readers and
writers use all the time-blogs, social media, moviemaking apps, bookmarking tools, audio recorders, virtual bulletin boards, and annotating tools, educators said.
"There are isolated skills you can learn nicely on the
computer, but overall for me, reading is all about thinking, and the more I can get them to think, explore, be
curious and interested, and have a desire to read and
learn, the technology helps you be able to capture that
and extend what they can do in the classroom," said 1st
grade teacher Pelekis.
"Well, right now
I'm reading Shelter
Pet Squad and I
have some other
chapter books in
my book bin and I
usually take notes
with my iPod
because there's [an
app] and I like to
use it to help my
Third grade student, Indian Run
Elementary School, Dublin, Ohio
Needless to say, incorporating digital skills into early
reading is easier in some situations than others.
For starters, there's the issue of access to digital devices. Many teachers said they simply don't have the
internet-connected tools they need to get going with
"We do have iPad carts and laptop carts, but teachers
have to sign up to use them, so you have to work around
everyone else's schedule," said Lisa Maucione, a reading
specialist for the Dartmouth public schools in Massachusetts, who also attended the digital-literacy institute
at URI. "And if there's testing, testing is the priority."