"Teachers must also ensure that children have access to reading materials that are relevant to the kind of writer they are interested in becoming at a particular moment. Teachers must recruit the authors who will become the children's unwitting collaborators."
Frank Smith, Joining the Literacy Club
But my students have taught me that the experiences they have with digital texts at home are mostly limited to viewing for sheer entertainment. They have said, "We are good at watching videos for entertainment, but not to get information or learn." Much of their viewing is based on videos or shows like iCarly. I LOVE iCarly and her web show makes me laugh. But I notice that when kids try to create narrative or tell stories digitally, they fall back on the kinds of things they've seen. Like this popular iCarly clip.
Funny, right? I can already think of other episodes I would love to create and this video has sparked ideas of videos that would be fun to create for friends' birthdays or other holidays. As a teacher, I need to know what my kids spend their time viewing so that I can build on and teach from that. But the types of things kids are viewing are not necessarily the things that will help them learn to grow as writers. So, I also need to find mentors that better match what I am hoping they will create. And as Kevin Hodgson mentioned in his post yesterday, "...with some exceptions, there is still a decided lack of digital examples of composition with technology that we can turn to as educators and provide as samples for our students."
I am a person who is is constantly mentoring myself to experts. The internet has been so instrumental in my learning. As a beginning blogger, I evolved as a writer because I read other blogs and got to know the genre and the culture of bloggers. When I started making cake pops and more fancy cupcakes, I followed blogs that shared the process of decorating and focused on those that could move me forward. And as I start toward a fitness goal of running, I look to others who have very recently started the process so that I learn from their experiences.
But in order to do that, I had to be comfortable on the web and with digital texts without an immediate need to learn something specific. It is the same with our students. If we want them to be composers of quality digital pieces, they need to be immersed in these types of things as readers. As Troy Hicks mentioned in his post on Friday, "It’s the difference between handing them a flip camera and giving them an hour to pull something together as compared to spending time talking about the craft of digital writing."
If we want students to create more sophisticated pieces, or use digital tools for authentic purposes, we need to make sure that we don't just pull those samples out quickly during writing workshop time--to study for a day or two. Instead, we need to think about how digital texts fit into all of the pieces of our literacy workshops. We need to use pieces of quality media throughout the day and rethink the ways we integrate all forms of reading into our day.
I have realized lately how much is out there for our students to learn from. There are many non-quality digital resources out there, but there are also many amazing sites for students. Some of my favorites are Wonderopolis, Pebble Go, Meet Me at the Corner, DOGONews, ToonBookReader and Tumblebooks. But I am also realizing that if we do not value al types of media at school, all day, every day, we cannot expect our students
Do I choose to read aloud only texts from traditional books or do I share digital texts, audio books, blogs, etc. during read aloud?
Do we use web resources such as author websites and book trailers to help us dig deeper into the book we are reading?
Do I read aloud from websites and blogs?
Do we use online resources for book previewing and book selection?
Do I limit students' independent reading to traditional books or do they have a variety of options for their reading time? Do I place equal value on reading on e-readers, reading websites, etc. as I do on reading novels?
Do I help my students use online tools to support their lives as readers? Do I value annotation tools, bookmarking tools, RSS feeds, etc. as part of my readers lives? Do I model these tools in minilessons?
Reading and Writing Minilessons
Do I use digital texts or pieces when teaching minilessons?
Do I rely completely on traditional text or do I use film clips, blog entries, podcasts, etc. when planning minilessons?
Do I share process in my minilessons? Do I tend to share process only as it relates to creating text-based pieces?
Do I share my own writing process? Composing in several types of media?
Have I reflected on the resources I rely on for Shared Reading?
Do I include web reading and viewing when thinking about Shared Reading experiences?
How can I include a variety of texts for students to process through together?
Have I found sources for content reading that go beyond textbooks and traditional text?
Do I rely on newspapers for talk around current events or do I tend to focus more on sites like DOGONews and other sites that combine text and video?
How am I supporting the importance of visual information in the content areas?
I spend a great deal of time reading books so that I have the right book to share in a minilesson or reading conference. But I am working to rethink the messages I give to students as both readers and writers when I rely almost exclusively on more traditional texts for much of the day. I've been inspired by teachers like Andrea Smith who incorporates Wonderopolis into her Morning Meeting. I also learn tons from Katie DiCesare who has been thinking about this idea for some time. For me, it is about honestly reflecting on the types of "texts" I value all day, every day. And to expand the ways I use digital texts throughout the day. I know that if I want my students to read like writers, they need to be readers of digital text first. For my students to become creators of sophisticated digital texts, I believe that they need to be immersed in a variety of quality multi-media all day, every day.