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FETC 2011- Raising Reading Achievement in the Technological Age

Debra Berlin began this presentation with the bold and accurate pronouncement that “The world is going to change with or without you.  Get ready.”  She proceeded to then tell us about the ways in which literacy is changing, highlighting the impressive research that Donald Leu has done on new literacies.  Those of you from the U47 days might remember Leu as the keynote speaker at the NERA conference that we all went to in Augusta several years ago.  His presentation was really the first direct exposure I had to the whole concept of “new literacies,” and since that conference I’ve read much of what he’s written.

Leu and Berlin both focus on the fact that internet reading and print reading involve the same skills, used in different ways.  For example, kids today read online primarily to gather information and do research.  As a result, they need to refine their abilities to locate information quickly and efficiently, skim and scan, evaluate the context of text, quickly get the gist and analyze multiple sources.  This type of reading differs from print reading because it is question driven and a critical evaluation of content is far more important.  Online readers must be efficient and fast and they must be adept at skimming, scanning and scrolling for information.  Finally, in the online environment, reading and writing becoming integrated.

What are the implications for instruction?  Kids need tons of practice with online and digital reading.  We can no longer just teach them to read paper texts.  According to Berlin, if we neglect to teach new literacies, we are preparing our students for the past, using tools of the past.

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