I’ve tiptoed around using digital texts in my classroom, yet I read information digitally all the time—blogs, websites, and tweets. I tend to read more books on my e-reader than in print. It’s easier to carry around. My own children will not read books on an e-reader, which I find fascinating, given their tech-savvy phone usage. Our discussions at home remind me that all readers are different, yet I wonder if my daughters don’t use digital readers because they’ve never been taught specific strategies for digital reading.
I thought my own students were missing digital reading strategies, too. I made a list of core things I do as a digital reader to share with my students and to use as a guide as we develop our own reading identities.
- I use different platforms for my reading. When I’ve shared my reading life in the past, I’ve gathered various genres and paper formats, books, and magazines. I’ve never included my phone, e-reader, or laptop. This seems like a necessary first step in developing digital readers.
- I have different reasons for paper or digital reading. I tend to read books about teaching in a paper format because I can easily refer to them and find information. They also have more visuals and charts to help me learn, and I like having them on paper. I like to read “fun” books on my e-reader because it’s easy to carry anywhere and hold in my hand. My printed materials tend to be books or magazine articles. My digital reading includes books, blogs, tweets, and websites. I think it’s going to be important to help students learn the different types of digital reading we do.
- I select things to read. In the past we have spent a lot of time talking about book shopping and reading interests. I’ve introduced and organized our classroom library to meet students’ reading interests. I need to mirror this work with a digital collection of reading materials, including books and websites we can use to collect for a “To Read” pile. Perhaps keeping reading interest lists digitally would help me curate digital collections more easily.
- I recommend books to friends. We are great at recommending books to friends physically in the classroom. Often we create “We Recommend” bulletin board displays. We can also create a digital space for video recordings as an option to fuel our reading appetites.
- I ignore distractions. I’ve typically thought about distractions in our environment as we work together during our reading workshop. I’ve realized recently there are also many distractions in my digital reading world with sidebars, games, and pop-ups on websites. I’ve learned to ignore these distractions, and students will learn too.
- I study illustrations and images. Illustrations and images are a big part of reading. I’ve always modeled reading illustrations for more information in print and definitely need to model this with digital texts.
- I explore tools to navigate my reading. My students know how to physically navigate a paper text, and I think I need to let them explore navigating tools in different digital formats. How do we turn the page? How do we scroll? How do we start or stop audio or visual slideshows?
- I record my thinking. As a reader I tend to record my thinking in the margins of a book I own or on paper for books I borrow. However, I do this digitally with notes in my e-reader or by using the Comment feature in various digital tools. My students love to use sticky notes for our work in class, and as we read more digitally, they can explore the option of recording their thinking on paper or with a digital tool.
- I use tools to figure out unknown words. When I read paper books, I usually try to use the context to figure out unknown words and have modeled using a dictionary as a reading tool. As a digital reader, I know there are many built-in tools to solve unknown words. Students will enjoy learning about these options as digital readers.
Turning into “We” Statements
As I created this list and gathered these ideas, I realized that many of the things I do as a digital reader I also do as a traditional paper book reader. In the past I’ve always thought that digital reading ideas were a unit or series of lessons on their own. In reality, I’m a paper and digital reader simultaneously. So are my students. As we explore digital reading strategies, I hope that the “I” statements above can turn into “We” statements for our community.