Category Archives: TRLD

Instructing students in the new literacies of online reading comprehension


I had the pleasure to meet Jill Castek and Lisa Zawilinski at TRLD this year. They gave an excellent presentation entitled “Instructing Students in the New Literacies of Online Reading Comprehension.” Both of these ladies are members of the New Literacies Research Team at the University of Connecticut. Their excellent handout is on the TRLD site. They went into a lot of detail talking about ‘Internet Reciprocal Teaching’ which is an instructional model being developed to instruct students in online reading comprehension in classroom settings. Their research is done in a very participatory way. They actively partner with teachers in order to develop these skills and strategies with them in the classroom environment. They believe this is a flexible way to look at pedagogy. It is not a series of step-by-step concrete lessons. They look at a wide variety of content areas – reading, writing, listening, speaking, and content areas. There are three phases

  • Teacher led stage – teacher models strategies and the discussion process
  • Collaborative stage- teachers and students interact to support strategy development
  • Reciprocal & Inquiry stage – students apply strategies by facilitating student-led discusssion during authentic reading events based on student -direct inquiry projects.

View video clips showing student-led Internet Reciprocal Teaching groups.

Check out the blogs they have built with the students:

Wildcat Class Blog

Wildcat Student Blogs

Idea Exchange

Nierlich Students

Also, take note of the wiki they have built with their students:

Nierlich Class

The pictures below will show some of their slides and you can see how they used instant messaging to clarify assignments with the kids through the process. They said this really worked great with the quiet students. They ranked sites as to their relevancy and the students were really active in this process. They have to scaffold within each stage- a scaffolding with strategies. They turn the job of introducing new strategies to students – groups of experts who will teach their peers. Again as Leu noted in his keynote, many of the weaker offline readers were quite strong online.

It was a great session led by two dynamic educator researchers. Take the time to browse through their site- lots of relevant and worthwhile information there.




More on Leu Keynote at TRLD 2008

First, I want to note the checklist of online reading comprehension skills that Donald Leu mentioned during the keynote. It could be used in any classroom to see who has these skills.  I referred you to this link for the keynote handouts. You will find the checklist in the document entitled “Leu et al Final chapterssinglespaced.pdf.”

Now, back to the new literacies of online reading comprehension.

  1. Identifying important questions or problems – Students need to know how to remember their question and not get distracted.
  2. Locating information – Students need to know simple search engines. They need to know how to put quotes around phrases.
  3. Critical Evaluation – They found six different areas – understanding, relevancy, accuracy, reliability, bias, and stance. These are essential. A Leu quote here “If you don’t think critically on the internet you are sunk.” He also went into detail about how kids evaluate reliability by the amount of information they find. They tend to believe that if there is a lot it is reliable, if there is just a little it is not reliable.
  4. Synthesizing Information – Communicating information using blogs, wikis – all these new tools require new skills and strategies.
  5. Communicating

Now I just hit the highlights here. Refer to the document above for much more detailed information. Also read Chapter 3 “What is New about the New Literacies of Online Reading Comprehension?” in this document handout, “NCTE chapter published.pdf.

Jill Castek and Lisa Zawilinski shared their experiences doing research with the kids in schools. It was really interesting. There are video examples of this in the session handout entitled “Leu, Castek, ZawilinskiKeynoteFinalHandout.pdf.”

In closing Leu emphasized that this is not an easy task to fundamentally reshape the nature of classroom reading instruction. It is a layered issue. We have to change all the levels in order to get anything to happen – instruction, curriculum, professional development, state reading standards, state reading assessment, school leadership, state funding, research – a daunting task indeed! Even the reading community itself is in some cases the last one to understand this movement from page to screen.

Jill Castek and Lisa Zawilinksi had a session after this keynote that I will report on next.

The work this team is doing is truly amazing…..

TRLD Keynote – Donald Leu

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!

Visual or Virtual Think-Alouds

I’m continuing sharing my learnings from TRLD. In Sara Kajder’s session on “Digital Reading, Digital Writing” she shared one of the best ways I’ve heard to make active connections by readers using technology. It’s a technique she developed to get students to really think about their reading and make connections. She walked them through visual or virtual think-alouds.

She uses the time line in iMovie. Her students use the visual lines by creating digital images of their own drawings or through the use of digital images. They are making a mental movie that encourages a great deal of rereading. They reread to determine what kind of images the reading projects to them. She really has them thinking with this process.

The second line is the audio track and it is the read aloud of that text.

The third audio line is where the student performs the think aloud.

She is having her students create these monthly. She has found that students are able to articulate what they are doing as readers. They also will have an artifact of their reading at different points in time and will be able to conference around this artifact. She said it was critical that the students owned the pictures they use. The other beauty of this technique is the multiple “visual think alouds” that will be created from the same piece of text. Now that is awesome for different perspectives.

outsideinNow I have just given you a brief outline and I still have much to absorb here. I have ordered her book Bringing the Outside In so I can really process this technique and learn more from Sara. I really love the way she mixes in the visual aspects of literacy.

Sara told us how proud the students were of their work. They valued them more than the book trailers they created. Sara explained that these are the times when they are working as readers. They have never particularly fit in that role before nor have they been valued in that role. Everybody gets to see everybody else’s text if they are willing to share. All of hers shared. Isn’t this powerful?

Sara Kajder

Sara Kajder is a terrific speaker and a dynamite educator. She was kind enough to let me record her session at TRLD so much of this post is her voice. I was able to attend all three of her sessions. They were well worth it. Having it recorded is truly wonderful because when you get the opportunity to hear from incredible educators like Sara and then you can listen again it gives you to oppportunity to truly reflect on her message. She is an Assistant Professor of English Education and Literacy at Virginia Tech. She is also teaching full time in an 11th grade as part of a research project. She is a previous high school and middle school English and Chemistry teacher.

She talked about how what it means to read and write has irrevocably changed outside of school and then challenged us with the question:

“How much of what it means to read and write has changed inside your classroom?

She made reference to the Time magazine article that ran about a year ago on “What it means to be a 21st Century learner?” She said it was further implication of Mark Prensky’s idea that kids are digital natives, and we are digital immigrants. She doesn’t agree with his methaphor because it immediately deposits the kids in the position of OK they already know it, we teachers don’t have to teach it, they are just doing fine on their own, etc., etc., etc. She believes instead that kids might be growing up in a time where they are accustomed to the tools and they can think with the tools in ways that we might not be thinking with the tools but that does not mean they can communicate with the tools. It doesn’t mean that they know how to engage with the tools to do the kind of learning that we want them to be doing in the classroom. Those are 21st century literacies and they change and transform our roles as teachers. Her teaching and her teacher education has changed as a result. Professional development and the buildings she works in havechanged. Get this though, her classroom computer is an Apple Classic IIe. The faculty at Virginia Tech have offered to come and max it but Sara said no, she needs to work within the same conditions as her colleagures. There is a lab in her school building that is outfitted how she’d like to see the classrooms outfitted but the lab is for the business department.

Her first day in class she asked the kids to tell her about their writing in school. The kids wanted two lists – in school and outside of school. In school was pen, paper, pencil, typewriter/computer. Outside school was weblog, iMovie, highlighters, pods, video games, post-it notes, Wikipedia, digital cameras, Wikipedia, and cell phones.

Here what the kids argued was their best writing tool:

Sara didn’t talk about how to do old things with new tools. She wanted to talk a lot about how to do new things with old tools. Our teaching has to change to where kids are. We also have to choose how we assess what modality kids are writing in. It is a lot more complicated than she thought it was going to be.

First, she shared the things her kids wanted to be sure we

  1. If we had an internet connection in the classroom you are no longer, as teacher, the smartest person in the room. They felt about this emphatically because they all had a social studies teacher in 10th grade who teaches the most dynamic class she has seen. At no point in time is this social studies person the lone person in the classroom offering what’s coming. He has a Skype connection each day and has different experts involved each day, usually community of experts who are involved
  2. It is about knowing when and why to podcast or blog or “tweet”, not knowing how.
  3. The teachers they believe who they have been working with spend an awful lot of time teaching how to point and click. It’s about knowing this is the place where it is going to amplify my teaching. Teachers she works with don’t have any schema for what that looks like. (The Front Line special was about 90% on how we all should be afraid of what is online and shut it down.) There are some glimmers of hope.
  4. They don’t come to us not knowing how to work with tools. They are not multi-modal blank slates. They come in knowing how to podcast, video, but we aren’t taking any advantage of that.
  5. As teachers and administrators we don’t know what games our kids play. This is the first generation where we can unequivocally say that as a blanket statement. We haven’t played them. We don’t
    understand the ways in which they work, the literacies that are involved, the skills that they are exercising as they move through them.

Sara said that this was critical and that there is something really important there that we need to think about.

Her two guiding questionsfor the rest of the session were:

1. What are the unique capacities and limits of the tool that we are looking at? What can I do with this thing that I can’t do with anything else?

2. How does this tool allow us to do something better?

She starts with an instructional challenge and says there has to be a question or something about your teaching before the technology even comes into it. Book talks were a problem for her. So she tried movie posters. She asked students to create a poster that represented a synthesis of their reading of the text. She paired this with reflective writing. There had to be something compelling and important agout the way it was presented. She then took this a step further and challenged kids to create a book trailer. They spent time focusing on the genre of a movie trailer. They used a book that no one had checked out of the media center – The Number Devil. They only had 40 minutes to put it all together so Sara required to entry tickets to get in the lab – a storyboard and a script. When assessing this you have to try to look at all the different layers in this kind of writing- they are writing through the composition of a sound track, they are writing through the images, they are writing through the transitions that come between the images, the effects on the images, they are writing through the storyboard, they are writing through the script that they are doing. She pairs this with reflective writing to tell why they made the moves they did. She has now started to allow them to podcast that piece, lets it be an
oral recording – a talk aloud of why they have done what they have done.

Here’s one very key element of what she does:

She does what she asks the students to do—-creates a model
and shares with students.

Sara created a wiki “Promise Into Practice”. Check it out. Now I can’t wait to share what she does with visual or virtual think alouds. That’s another post. This post is getting a little long but it’s not everyday I get to come across educators of the caliber of Sara Kajder. She is making a difference!

TRLD Conference

I was fortunate enough to get to attend the TRLD (Technology, Reading, and Learning Difficulties) conference in San Francisco again this year. Once again, it was a great experience. My only complaint was that I didn’t get to have dinner with Chris and John. That was such an added bonus last year! I did make a silent toast to them as I enjoyed my “Chop Chop” salad one evening. The other downside of attending this conference is that I will be unable to attend NECC this year. Some choices are tough but the type of
reflective thinking and sharing that comes out of conferences like this plus having others to touch base with about the dilemmas as well as the promises of research just couldn’t be passed up this year. I’m determined to make the time to share some of the highlights. Those will follow this post.

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