As part of the #cyberPD group I am part of, we are reading the text, Digital Reading: What’s Essential in Grades 3 - 8 by Bass and Sibberson. This week, we are focusing on reading chapters 1 and 2 and discussing them by linking our blog posts and posting on our Google Community.
This book focuses on how literacy and literacy teaching needs to change based on the new and digital literacies that permeate our lives today. No longer are students reading only printed books in a traditional manner. They are reading digital texts, linking to online resources and sharing their thinking in new ways. This has new implications for comprehension, for teaching and for re-defining our definitions literacy and literacy instruction.
As a literacy teacher educator, I bring a different stance to this discussion than a classroom teacher would. My role is to help teachers change the way they think about literacy and literacy instruction, including critical, 21st century and digital literacies. As I read this book, I was continually struck with ‘a-ha’ moments about how I could change my own teaching within my on-campus and online courses to better help teachers have those same ‘a-ha’ moments and translate that learning to the classroom. I firmly believe that, if I embed digital reading practices and tools within my literacy teacher education courses and professional development, teachers can see how they might be used in real, meaningful and authentic ways in their classrooms.
I have to ensure that I am not merely introducing a ‘cool tool’ for teachers to try and use in the classroom, I have to ensure that the technology I am using serves a purpose: to better teach the content of our craft and collaborate with others. The goal is not to use technology on a surface level, as the authors write, it is to create digitally literate students, and I would add, teachers. Being literate in the 21st century is much more than just using technology…it is making connections, analyzing information, critiquing and evaluating and being ethical in the process. This is much more than introducing new apps to teachers. I have to introduce them in such a way that they truly see what the authors of this book are trying to tell us: that we can change readers’ lives through the use of them.
My lesson from these first two chapters is clear: I have to help teachers intentionally use digital tools for learning in real, authentic ways so they can see the power of using them with their students. The three big ideas of authenticity, intentionality and connectedness must start in teacher education. I need to base my graduate courses and other professional development on these three pillars and be very explicit about why and how I am doing so. It is not enough to model the kinds of classrooms we want our future teachers to create. We need to be very clear about the how and why of such work and give concrete examples about how teachers can transfer these principles from their own learning to their students. I created this simple printable to remind me of this task as I plan for my graduate students, modeled after the one made for elementary teachers in the text. I hope some of you find it useful!
This is my work ahead. I hope to connect with other teachers and teacher educators within this group to help chart a path for doing so.