Thursday, November 5, 2015

Fanning the Flame: Reading and Writing in a Digital Age

Okay, I'm taking a deep breath as I type this, because I know this might start quite the conversation! But I think we’re ready for one.

As is often the case, I spent some time in a Penn Literacy Network class last  week, and we were talking about research related to literacy.

Research tells us that students should have 12 opportunities to write a day. That is not necessarily the standard 5 paragraph essay. It’s writing about content. It is writing as a tool for processing what you are learning. When students process what they are learning by collaborating, even better. Note-making is more powerful than note-taking. Research also says that we learn best when we form our own writing/letters (preferably in cursive). Typing, unless one is a fluent typist, has the least impact on learning, as the “writer” is not generating the actual letters. Why cursive? Writing in cursive fires a part of the brain related to creativity that no other type of note-taking or note-making does. That firing of the neurons promotes quick retrieval of content, even far into the future. Fluid writing, and yes, even fluid typing, builds a deeper connection with the content.  Writing ON the screen, with a good stylus, appears to have the same impact as it would if you were using cursive.

Students are doing research online and reading online textbooks. Research says that the most effective reading (close reading) requires our eyes to move in a Z pattern. This is how we read, while reading the printed page. We read in an F pattern, while reading something that scrolls and is back-lit. Research also tells us that annotating text helps students make meaning of what they are reading.

In his presentation, Joe Ginotti, PLN Director, cited:
Advances in Haptics, by Anne Mangen and Jean-Luc Velay,
National Centre for Reading Education and Research, 2013.

So, how are we addressing this and similar research in schools, particularly in 1:1 schools?

  • How does/should the research impact hardware selection? 
  • How does/should the research impact the teaching of keyboarding skills? 
  • What are the tools our students are using that addresses this research the best?
  • Some of our tests are now delivered online. How are students given the opportunity to apply literacy strategies? 
  • With so many LMSs now available, we provide our students digital access to many of our handouts. How are they doing text rendering?
  • What are the other questions we should be asking?

I know I have my own opinions, and some of you already know them. However, I’m hoping this blog gets a conversation started.

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