Using Technology to Improve Reading and Learning

Book  cover of Using Technology to Improve Reading and Learning

When friends write a book, of course, you’re excited for them and can’t wait to read it.  What’s even more wonderful is when you read the book and it’s terrific – one that you know you will use in your own teaching. Using Technology to Improve Reading and Learning by Colin Harrison and fellow Literacy Beat bloggers Bernadette Dwyer and Jill Castek is just such a book.

I found this book to be exceptionally useful for many reasons, but I will highlight just two of those reasons here.

First, Colin, Bernadette, and Jill are not only experts in technology and new media; they are first and foremost experts in literacy instruction. They have taught children how to become engaged and successful readers and writers, and they have taught and collaborated with teachers on effective literacy instruction and technology over many years. Their deep knowledge and on-the-ground experiences with children and teachers is demonstrated in every chapter. They speak directly to teachers, acknowledging the realities of today’s schools and the pressure to achieve high academic standards with all students, while offering a vision and concrete classroom examples to inspire us to embrace the challenge.

Second, this book provides a comprehensive blueprint for integrating technology so that children are more successful with print-based reading and writing AND are developing the new literacies of reading, learning, and communicating with eBooks and on the Internet. Bernadette, Jill and Colin complement a chapter on reading eBooks and digital text with two chapters on Internet inquiry – one focusing on the search process and the other focusing on how to compose and communicate through multimodal products. These are areas where we need to make tremendous progress if we are going to prepare our students for a future world that will be more multimodal, more networked, and more dependent on individuals who are creative, strategic, and collaborative.

I’ve copied the table of contents below. You will see that this book offers teachers multiple pathways for moving forward on their own journeys of technology and literacy integration. Enjoy (I know I will)!

Table of Contents

  1. Using technology to make the teaching of literacy more exciting
  2. Strategies for capitalizing on what students already know
  3. Strategies for using digital tools to support literacy development
  4. Strategies for using eReaders and digital books to expand the reading experience
  5. Strategies for teaching the information-seeking cycle: The process stage of searching for information on the Internet
  6. Strategies for teaching the information-seeking cycle: The product stage of searching for information on the Internet
  7. Strategies for encouraging peer collaboration and cooperative learning
  8. Strategies for building communities of writers
  9. Strategies for building teachers’ capacity to make the most of new technologies
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Textisms: Violating Ye Olde Grammar Rules

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey

Are textisms ruining students’ capacity for using standard English? Textisms, J2LYK, are those abbreviations and other shortcuts kids and many adults use when writing in some digital formats such as short message systems (SMS- an abbreviation for short message system referring to those messages sent via wireless communication devices, usually a cell phone) or when using social media such as Twitter. Many people seem to think so.  However, the evidence is growing that this is not the case.

Sketch Texting

Sketch Texting by Guillaume Perreault (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Children, as they grow, are quite adept at understanding the contexts for different registers of language. If they are taught when a given register is appropriate and when it may not be, their ability to adapt to the context seems to increase (see Townsend & Lapp, 2010). Moreover, affinity groups often develop jargon that is unique or understood only by participants in that group. For example, those who participate in online discussions on Facebook or using SMS and are interested in horses, understand that “UD” is a textism for “unplanned dismount” (Cloud 9 Ranch, 2012). You can guess what happened to the rider. Online gamers have textism all their own, as well. Many other textisms are very familiar to wide audiences. LOL, OMG, ROFL–all good examples of those that many people recognize. Of course, textisms are mediated by the technology used to create and transmit the message, as well. The 140 character Tweet is an example demonstrating that a limited number of characters imposed by the technology might encourage use of emoticons, abbreviations, and so on.

A 2009 study (Plester, Wood, & Joshi) found no correlation, or relationship, between students’ use of textisms and their capacity to use traditional spellings and language features. A new study (Wood, Kemp, & Waldron, 2014) examines the  long-term results when children and young adults use textisms, especially as those textisms relate to purposeful violations of grammatical conventions as opposed to errors. The results demonstrated that the subjects in the study showed no negative correlations between their abilities to use conventional grammar appropriate to their ages and their use of textisms. The study seems to suggest that use of textisms means that students are adding a literacy skill to their repertoire rather than replacing one skill set with another.

References:

Cloud 9 Ranch. (2012). How many of these textisms do you use? [Facebook post]. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=235772239879305&id=222644657746917

Plester, B., Wood, C., & Joshi, P. (2009). Exploring the relationship between children’s knowledge of text message abbreviations and school literacy outcomes. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 27(1), 145-161. doi: 10.1348/026151008X320507

Townsend, D. R. & Lapp. D. (2010). Academic language, discourse communities, and technology: Building students’ linguistic resources. Teacher Education Quarterly, Special Online Edition. Retrieved from http://teqjournal.org/townsend_lapp.html

Wood, C., Kemp, N., & Waldron, S. (2014). Exploring the longitudinal relationships between the use of grammar in text messaging and performance on grammatical tasks. British Journal of Developmental Psychology. Early online release. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/bjdp.12049/full doi: 10.1111/bjdp.12049

Image Credit:

Perreault, G. (2010, December 5). Sketch texting [drawing]. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/guillaumeperreault/

Read more:

Texting Benefits for Teens
IM, SMS, Texting: A Glossary for Teachers
Spell Check and Writing Tasks in High School

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