Pencil vs. typing. Writer’s notebook vs. Word document. Paper book vs. Kindle. Realizing it is not about the pencil, app, or an Internet address is the first step in transitioning toward an integrated digital workshop and shifting your thinking about digital literacy.
A powerful quote that I recently read on Twitter is now my mantra for the school year: “If you are doing the same thing on a computer that you can do on paper, then it is not digital literacy.” This resonated with my thinking and started my reflection on how I begin to build a rich digital literacy environment.
Transitioning to a Digital Workshop
My first step was to understand how my fifth-grade students defined digital literacy. I asked them to define their digital world. Here are some of their responses:
- Searching on the Internet
- Playing video games
- Reading on a Kindle
- Text messages
- Locating images, typically Google Images
- Social networking
- Typing reports
New Choices for Writing
Sharing my iPad, spiral notebooks, and my new writer’s notebook opened the conversation with my students. In addition, I had my file folder where I place cut-out words from magazines, sports stories, and articles. As we sat on the floor with all my notebooks, I asked them, “Which tools would you like to use this year in writing workshop?” Their responses included these:
- I’ve never had a choice, so I want to try them all.
- For sure the iPad, because I don’t have one.
- I like the little spirals. They fit in my pocket.
Allowing students choice in their writing notebooks will always be a component of my workshops. As I wandered around the room and eavesdropped, I listened to ideas about how it would be fun to type on an iPad because they could already text. Another student said she liked a spiral notebook because it helped her to draw pictures and then write. After one boy looked through and saw some of the different items in my folder (baseball scores, football articles), he thought it might be fun to start a combination of digital and spiral notebooks to collect ideas for writing.
New Choices for Reading
Reading tools, including paper books and Kindles, have shifted during the last three years in my classroom. My instruction in reading has also changed. Now I am
- sharing book trailers along with book talks,
- sharing read-aloud with my document camera,
- reading from my Kindle, and
- listening to books aloud.
Instructional shifts include having students show their evidence or points of confusion with the document camera. They underline their thinking, and then I save a snapshot to use later in a minilesson titled “What do readers do when they are confused?”
Several of them are now reading on Kindles. As I conferred with Andy, we had this discussion:
T: How does reading on a Kindle change your reading?
A: I write down my ideas while I am reading the story, and it’s easy to carry.
T: How else do you use the Kindle?
A: I love the built-in dictionary for vocabulary. I enjoy reading at night because of the light. It feels like a “secret” from my parents.
By integrating technology into reading workshop, students have a broader choice of tools but also are widening their digital reading lives through new tools.
Just a Starting Point
To be a writer you have to write. To be a reader you have to read. To understand technology you have to explore. Taking the time for all three is crucial in building a strong foundation within the digital literacy classroom. As the new year begins, exploration is crucial for students to be able to learn and use new tools.
Weaving technology into any workshop starts with the teacher being comfortable with the tools. Yet I also believe teachers need to learn along with their students. I have learned as much from my students as from attending summer workshops. The journey of a digital workshop is just the beginning for many of us. And the twists and turns will lead all of us down a path that will build stronger 21st century learners.