Donald Leu was the keynote speaker at TRLD in San Francisco this past January. Jill Castek and Lisa Zawilinksi also presented. they are all members of The New Literacies Research Team at the University of Connecticut. Julie Coiro is also a member of this extraordinary team. Last year I had blogged about Julie’s sessions here, here, here, and here. You can see I had much to share. The same is true from this year’s conference. The keynote topic was “How Reading Copmprehension Has Changed While We Weren’t Looking.” Here is a link to his handout with contains links to some excellent resources. His link is about halfway down the page but you will also get other presenter links from some terrific sessions.

Leu made the critically important point about the new literacies of online reading comprehension and how we really have to pay attention to the kids who need our help the most because right now public policy is making it such that they are being denied the opportunity to learn how to read online.

Hear! Hear! I couldn’t agree more.

The two main questions this research team is studying are:

1. How do we read and comprehend information on the Internet?

2- How can we help teachers to teach these new skills?

Leu pointed out how these questions are much more complicated than educational research questions have been in the past. He talked about how we’re changing our reading content today from page to screen in hugely profound ways. He than began his argument for:

1. The Interent is this generation’s defining technology for reading.

2. The internet requires new literacies, additional online reading comprehension skills.

I got really excited when he made this point:

“Our weakest offline readers often surpisingly are some of our highest online readers. It is incredible but it is hidden. Most people do not look for it. They do not expect it.”

I have found this to be true and have commented to others about it over the years. I assumed in part it was because many modalities were being used and the students had some control over their own learning more. I thought about it frequently but this team is doing something about it. Their research is really honing in on this. You can read more about it and even see some samples with kids’ reading. See the links on the handout page.

He had some statistics that were interesting (from September). There’s also a link to this site that updates the statistics that will be helpful for all of us to use.

Here’s some:

  • Finland has a national professional development model for all of their teachers for literacies on the internet. They have a national training model and give every teacher 5 weeks of paid release time for professional development. finland knows that their students need to be prepared to work in the global information age.

Now I ask, why don’t we?

  • Japan has broadband 16x faster than what we are getting here. The cost is only $22 a moth. The government there knows that students read more outside school than they do inside school. they are doing everything to prpeare their children for the future.

What do we do? We block them.

Then Leu focused on the U.S and said not a single state measures a student’s ability to comprehend on the intenet. No state includes the ability to critically evaluate information that is found online. Few states permit all sutdents to use a word processor.

Then he told us about the decision The National Assessment of Educational Progress made last year. Maine made a decision that will have an effect for the next 10 years. They decided not to include online reading skills. meanwhile other nations like the UK and Australia are already measuring them.

Oh my, we have miles to go….

Next he started discussing their research on the new literacies. His team started pulling together a reading model, a model of reading information on the internet. These are the five areas that are novel skill areas and in each one there are novel reading comprehension skills.

  1. identify important questions
  2. locating information – reading search engines
  3. critical evaluation
  4. synthesizing
  5. communicating

Now I told you there was much to share from this group. I am just getting started. My next post will share more details on these components that are in this model of online reading that they are beginning to develop.

I am so thankful that this group is doing this research. it is going to make a difference. We all need to be well versed in what they are doing and how we can help make change happen!